Straight to the Point
- [FIST] = Financial Independence Score Test / FI Score Test.
- FISc = FI Score – a number to help track your progress towards FI.
- [FIST] takes the FI Checkpoint 1.0 to another level.
I wanted to find a fun way to track my progress towards FI and link it to my work in some way. That was when I came up with the FI Checkpoint 1.0, expanding on some of the ideas by Joel at FI 180 and JD Roth at Money Boss.
It really wasn’t meant to be something serious. I wanted to ‘gamify’ the whole process of tracking my FI journey. My intention was through answering 20 very simple questions, it will help people think about what area of their personal finance could be improved on. For example, getting rid of credit cards, paying off student loans, build up an emergency fund or generating more passive income.
The feedback I received was overwhelmingly positive. Everyone has been so forgiving of its flaws and accepted it for what it was meant to be. I wrote a follow-up post about some fascinating results from the poll. Since it was released, thousands have given it a go. It has given me the motivation to develop the idea further with FI Checkpoint 2.0, from hereon [FIST] – Financial Independence Score Test / FI Score Test.
[FIST] has more checkpoints and the score it produces is based on real numbers which you input. Unlike the original version, [FIST] does not heavily rely on passive income to determine your result. The main improvements are:
- Guided by Safe Withdrawal Rates research by Early Retirement Now.
- Asset allocation option.
- Length of retirement.
- Forecast FI date.
- Success rate.
- Value of your home.
- Anticipated extra spending in retirement.
- Basic personal tips to help people improve you score.
- No maximum score so there is always room to improve your score, even if you are at the final checkpoint.
- Your score will not reveal your net-worth for those who want to keep it secret. So sharing your score is not a problem!
- A progress bar included.
- Plus lots more!
This post will be a bit long, so I have broken it down into three parts for those who wish to skip different sections.
I also want to be completely open and explain what powers the test in the maths section. This is so that you can make suggestions and highlight any errors. This tool is designed for the FIRE community and it wouldn’t make sense for me to be secretive about how the FISc (FI Score) is calculated.
I hope to keep improving on this so long as people find it useful.
- Instructions – recommended read before taking the test.
- Maths – not a requirement to take the test.
Oh, and my results card is right at the end.
There are now 29 Questions in total. Originally I wanted to keep it real simple, but based on the general feedback, I got the feeling the community wanted something a bit more to it. As a result, I needed to increase the number of questions to be able to generate some meaningful results.
Before I briefly explain some of the questions, I should point out that there are 18 Checkpoints to FI now. This is to break the journey down a bit more:
I have worked on some rough definitions for each. The likely characteristics column indicate what financial position someone is likely to be in given a certain checkpoint position. Not all characterises need to be present but the majority would be.
Now to the questions in the test themselves. I’ll skip the self-explanatory ones, but if they prove to be not as obvious as I think, then just leave a comment and I’ll update the instructions :
Question 2 – The target FI Level lets you choose a level you want to reach before and after FI. This could give you a closer checkpoint to work towards. You can only select from ‘Tiny FI’ onwards (at present).
Question 9 – If you want live it up once you retire and think you will spend more in retirement than you do now, add this additional annual expense here.
Question 10 – Enter here only the amount of passive income you earn. Use this with caution. Passive income means money you receive requiring no work (or very little). I would personally exclude blogging and property investment. Both takes a great deal of work and I would include these in your total income for question 4 instead. Something like money received from dividends is what I have in mind or a business you own which is extremely hands-off.
By entering a value into this section, your ‘Years to FI’ will reduce. For example, if you input £10,000 per year as passive income and your total annual expenses are £20,000. Then, by definition, you are already Half-FI. You are basically telling the calculator you don’t need to work and you still earn enough to cover half your expenses.
Question 12 – The percentage of your investments in stocks as compared to bonds. For the sake of simplicity, consider any portion of your portfolio which is invested in property as stocks. The success rate is loosely guided on the research by Early Retirement Now. It gives the probability of your money lasting the period of retirement you set.
Question 15 – The percentage you hope your investments will grow by each year. This has a significant effect on the Years to FI forecast. If you are unsure, choose between 5% – 7%. The former being more conservative and will provide a date further in the future.
Question 26 and 27 – I’ve renamed the F U Fund to Freedom fund. The British in me got the better of me. It’s basically the F U Fund.
Question 28 – If you intend to include the equity of your home as part of your FISc, then you need to be sure you factor in alternative plans or add in extra expenses in question 9 to cover the fact that you won’t have a home to live in.
The main one is that anything you do not spend is automatically considered to be invested. So if that is not the case, increase your expenses as a proportion of your income accordingly.
There are more assumptions which relates to the mathematical formulas but let’s keep it simple for now.
There are literally millions of possible combinations of answers, each needing to correspond to a particular Checkpoint. As a result, I’ve deigned it to capture what I think most people will enter.
Due to limits with Excel, or the maths itself, extreme values will return an error. For example, if your net-worth is highly negative, then the results cannot be calculated. In which case, my best advice is to tackle your debts first. See the FI Patrol Plan and FI Patrol Kit for some useful resources.
There may still be calculation bugs left in the spreadsheet. If you spot any, then please let me know and I will fix them as soon as I can.
I’d like to thank the following people who has helped to spread the word and as been very enthusiastic about this project: J. Money, Joel, Laura. I am sorry if I have missed anyone out. It has been a crazy week! I’ve only recently been made aware that FI Checkpoint 1.0 was featured in Business Insider. It is still very surreal that a random cop in a small English county town has managed to generate a bit of interest for a silly little game. I am humbled.
I am also grateful to the volunteers who kindly gave up their free time to test [FIST] so that as many of the bugs can be removed before release. They are: Joel (again), J. Money (yup, again), Alan, Dan and HCF. They were all strangers a week ago. I am still amazed by the power of the internet.
Thank you to Big Ern for kindly allowing me to incorporate his research into the test.
Finally, I want to be clear that any errors in the test are all mine and mine alone. The testers are not responsible. If I have misunderstood and misapplied Big Ern’s research, then again, that is my fault and nothing to do with his research.
[FIST] – FI Score Test
DISCLAIMER: I am not responsible for any decision you make as a result of taking this test. Do NOT make any financial decisions using it without doing your own research or seeking professional financial advice.
Thinking of using this to decide if you should hit the FIRE button? I have two words: “HELL NO!”. This is purely a guide and should be treated more for entertainment purposes.
The test is in its development stage and there may be some undiscovered errors.
Every question needs to be answered, so don’t skip any.
The test is best completed on a laptop, desktop or tablet. It is possible to complete on the phone but it can be a bit fiddly.
If you get an error, try refreshing the page. If the problem keeps re-occurring, have a read of the limitations I’ve described above. If they do not apply, then please contact me and I’ll look into it.
Lastly, please complete the poll to see how the rest of the community are doing. If you want to be kept informed about future fixes and updates to the test, then sign up to the blog.
I wanted the FISc (FI Score) to be as mathematically robust as my simple cop mind can make it. I considered leaving this section out in case it puts people off. However, I felt on balance that disclosing it will provide transparency in the hope that it can be improved upon. There are far smarter people out there, so this is my best crack at it.
As you will see from below, FISc takes into account several variables before giving you a score to help determine over time how you are progressing. This includes how much you give to charity and your savings rate. It is not a simple FI ratio number, i.e. how much income your net-worth could potentially generate to cover your expenses.
FISc = FI Score
FR = FI Ratio
CR = Charity Ratio
YTF = Years to FI
FI Ratio Formula
NW = Net-worth
FN = FI Number
TA = Total Assets
PIV = Passive Income Value
TL = Total Liabilities
FI Number Formula
AS = Annual Expenses – this is the current annual expenses
FE = Future Expenses – this adds any extra annual expenses after retirement on top of AS
Charity Rate Formula
AC = Annual Charity – amount spent a year on charity
AI = Annual Income
Years to FI Excel Function
NPER = Number of Periods for an Investment – an MS Excel function
Rate = Inflation Adjusted Growth Rate
PMT = Amount Invested Monthly
PV = Current Net-worth as per NW formula
fv = FI Number as per FN formula
type = 1 – payments at the beginning of period
Not all the exact numbers from the above table completed by Early Retirement Now has been incorporated in the test. Only some of them.
The tax year ends at the end of the month so my numbers have not been finalised. However, using last year’s tax returns covering April 2017 to April 2018, I scored 471, checkpoint 11/18, Slight FI and at Chief Inspector Level. I got DEMOTED when compared with version 1 of the test. Ah well, that’s life and there is no point fooling myself. Perhaps this is a more accurate measure?
The main thing which is of concern to me is that my charity rate is zero percent. It has alway been on the back of my mind and have been meaning to research trustful charities which align with my values to donate to. Now that it is spelt out like that, I am very embarrassed and ashamed (?). This is a priority for me to rectify going forward.
What has your FISc revealed about yourself and what are you going to do about it?
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