I'm pursuing financial independence and early retirement as a Black woman, and I think other marginalized professionals should do the same

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  • I don't want to spend my life dealing with workplace microaggressions just to earn a paycheck to keep the lights on.
  • Because of that, I'm pursuing FI/RE — Financial Independence/Retire Early — and I think other marginalized professionals should do the same.
  • By becoming financially independent, I can spend my time on Earth doing things that make me happy, like spending time with family or taking a vacation without worrying about my PTO balance.
  • Use Blooom to analyze your 401(k) today and see how you can grow your retirement savings »

Dealing with workplace microaggressions takes a mental, emotional, and physical toll on employees of color. That's why I'm pursuing FI/RE (Financial Independence/Retire Early), and why others should, too. 

What led me to FI/RE

When I graduated college and got my first full-time job, I thought that I was being lazy because I was overwhelmed by the fact that I would be working at least 40 hours a week with only two to three weeks of paid time off for the next 40+ years. For context, I was just coming out of school with winter/summer breaks, and I thought to myself: "Surely, this is not sustainable. How do people live like this?" 

The exchange of spending 40+ hours a week at work in order to pay bills was not something that I wanted to keep doing in the long term. I was stuck with these conflicting feelings because I didn't know about FI/RE — the Financial Independence/Retire Early movement. I just knew that something wasn't quite right. 

Navigating Corporate America as a Black woman is unnecessarily challenging. It's not as simple as me doing my job and then going home. There are so many microaggressions in the workplace, and despite many companies' efforts to bolster inclusion and diversity, it's not enough. Plus, a company-wide policy doesn't fully protect marginalized employees from an individual's actions. 

Some examples of workplace microaggressions and more overt acts of racism in the workplace that I've experienced include: 

  • Having to seriously consider if your natural hair texture/style is deemed "professional" enough for the workplace
  • Biting your tongue when your peers greet you with "THERE SHE IS!" when you join a Zoom call on time
  • Being the "token" diversity hire
  • Comments that solely attribute your success to being a "diversity hire"
  • Becoming the unofficial, international spokesperson for your entire identity
  • Being told that you're "one of the good ones"

There are certain things about my life and identity that I have to hide or downplay in order to be seen as suitable for the workplace. I worry that my natural hair won't be accepted. I have to take the trauma of seeing my people routinely murdered on the news and still be expected to function at 100% at work. Us marginalized professionals have to deal with comments about our "deservingness" for our roles, which breeds imposter syndrome and stress. 

Having to deal with someone calling your hair unprofessional, or saying that the only reason you got to where you are in your career is because they needed a "diversity hire," or having people make snide comments about your community and look to you as "one of the good ones" is so draining. Because of that, I want out. 

Why I think FI/RE is an imperative for marginalized professionals

As a Black woman, I urge all marginalized professionals to consider adopting a FI/RE mindset. Why? Because many traditional workplaces are not friendly to: people of color, women, the LGBTQ+ community, people with disabilities, any intersections of these identities, and more.

I love pursuing education, I love being a high performer, and I love elevating my career, but unfortunately, that's not all that working in Corporate America encompasses. There are a lot of politics at play, and it's a losing game. Instead of spending most of my life in an environment where people don't respect me or my community, I'm going to respond by optimizing my earnings and retiring early. 

Adjusting my savings rate to achieve FI/RE

A standard budget allocation ratio advised for most people is a 50-30-20 split (50% necessities/30% wants/20% savings/investing). Well, no wonder retirement is normally for people in their late 50s, 60s, or 70s! When you only stash away at most 20% of your take-home income, you're not going to be able to harness the effects of compound interest with enough vigor to retire any earlier. Think about it: With that allocation plan, 80% of the money you take home eventually goes to someone else.

I finally understand why I felt so frustrated in my early career. It turns out that FI/RE was the answer I was looking for. With FI/RE, I am taking back control over my life and how I want to spend my short time on Earth by making my money work for me and generating passive income from my investments — the sooner I start heavily investing, the sooner I can reap the benefits. 

How I want to spend my time on this Earth

I don't have an issue with the concept of work. That being said, I do have a fundamental discomfort with being forced to tolerate microaggressions and outright discrimination (that happen at work) in exchange for the ability to pay my bills.

I want to spend my short time on Earth doing things that truly make me happy. I want to be able to spend more time with my family, take a refreshing vacation (and not have to worry about a quickly dwindling PTO balance), and most importantly, I want to be able to have a cushion available if I have to leave a toxic work environment. It's easier to leave a bad situation when you don't depend on it to keep the lights on.

FI/RE means more to me than early retirement. FIR/RE is an approach that I consider to be imperative for all marginalized professionals. By taking a proactive approach to our retirement plans, we're able to give ourselves the power that flawed workplaces cannot.

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