Today I want to tell you about a concept that you may have heard about.. Or imagined.. But that you may not have thought is possible for “normal people” or for you (not that you’re not normal)…
This concept produces so much FREEDOM and CALM about money and working.
And when you think about it.. Aren’t those 2 of the main stressors in our lives? When we hear about what causes relationship problems.. Aren’t they frequently caused by money and work? And if you asked 100 people on the street, what are you generally worried about? You’d get a lot of answers, including health, and climate, and relationships and family.. But wouldn’t 2 of the top answers be work and money?
Financial Independence is a solution to solve those top 2 worries. And it solves them by treating the cause and the symptom.
Treating the Symptom and the Cause
You know the analogy of a solution treating just the symptom (for example an aspirin to cure the headache) but not investigating what’s causing the headache.. Maybe an underlying medical issue, or even just a bad habit – the aspirin won’t solve for the cause. But if you investigate what’s causing the headache, then you can solve for that.. So, you can come up with a solution that solves the cause and the symptom, not just the symptom alone.
This is what I mean about Financial Independence being a solution to problems stemming from both work and money. Financial Independence solves the symptom of “needing to work” by solving the cause which is “needing money.”
So, today, I want to tell you how Financial Independence has changed my life – and my goal is, if you weren’t already aware of this concept, that you will realize that some people are financially independent.. and I really believe, if you want this for yourself, it’s a possibility for you too!
If you read one of my very first posts where I described the 6 concepts that changed my life, you read a brief explanation of what I mean when I say Financial Independence. And in last week’s post, I introduced you to one of my favorite teachers, Mr. Money Mustache, who is considered the patron saint of Financial Independence (or FI as it’s called for short).
To me, Financial Independence means having enough money to know that I don’t need to have a job if I don’t want to. It’s the independence of knowing my basic needs are already met for the rest of my life without being dependent on an employer. It provides freedom in my lifestyle because it means I can work if I want to – which I do. And I get to choose how many hours I work, what kind of work I do, how long I want to work and if I want to work for someone else, or if I want to work for myself.
It means I’m not tied to a situation I don’t want to be in because I need to collect that specific amount of money every month in order to meet my needs.
Thank U, Next
There’s a phrase in the Financial Independence Community called “F You” money. It basically means, if you have this money saved up, you have the option of telling a boss or an employer “F You” and just walking out. When I think of this phrase, I find it kind of crude. To me, it implies some kind of hurt or lashing out, so that phrase doesn’t really resonate with me.
Instead, when I heard Ariane Grande’s song “Thank U Next” in 2018, I really thought that it perfectly described how I feel about my previous jobs. In the song, she describes what she learned from all of her previous relationships, and then goes on to describe how she’s on her own and developing her relationship with herself and it’s so much better.
The first part of the phrase “Thank You”- shows gratitude and appreciation for what she got from her relationships. And the 2nd part of the phrase “Next” means she’s moving on. This is exactly what I want to think about my past career.
I had so many relationships with employers that taught me so much and gave me so much and provided so many opportunities for me to learn and grow and experience.. And now, I want to know that I can be on my own and look for my next thing for ME!
So, I like to refer to Financial Independence as “Thank U, Next Money”
So Many Options
And speaking of “thank you,” Financial Independence provides so much freedom- so many options- and saying “No, Thank You” to a job, an employer, a change in your work situation, is an option when you’re Financially Independent.
But I want to point out here- just because you are financially independent, you don’t HAVE to say “No, thank you” (or Thank U, Next).. Instead, it gives you breathing room to choose and to think that you may not feel like you had if you’re relying on and depending on a specific job with a specific direct deposit into your checking account every two weeks.
I’ve felt this myself and I’ve heard comments from other followers of the FI movement. It might look like being willing to challenge an idea at work – because there’s no fear of getting reprimanded, or fired for being honest.
I’ve heard of people declining “offers” to increase their workload or hours or projects because they knew they really didn’t want to to do them, and they were able to decline without feeling like they had to agree out of fear that it would negatively impact their job, and therefore their livelihood.
It’s so interesting that the acronym a lot of people in the Financial Independence community use is F.I.R.E. – “it means financially independent, retire early” – there are documentaries, and websites, and discussion groups and entire brands built up around FIRE – and as I was just describing the freedom you can feel with financial independence compared to the dependent feeling you may feel without it, it reminded me that I sometimes hear people talking about their “fear of being fired from their current jobs.”
And I’m realizing, my thoughts about that are probably totally out of synch with society in general because, when I hear that fear expressed.. I don’t worry with the person, I think to myself “GOOD! Let them fire you! Why do you want to work for them anyhow if you’re feeling scared in your job and that you don’t know how to please them?”
So, that’s my description of the “what and the why” for Financial Independence – and maybe now I’ve already piqued your interest a little.. Or renewed your interest – if you had heard about this before, but didn’t really think it applied to you.
And, as I love to do.. Let’s do a resistance check to find out if you have any thoughts of fear, or threat or scarcity coming up for you right now when I talk about being able to purposefully F.I.R.E yourself from having to work (pun intended) – are you noticing any resistance to anything I’ve mentioned?
Whatever it is, that’s good to know.. Those thoughts may be long-held beliefs you don’t need to believe anymore- let me know if you want to work through them in a coaching session.
First Awareness of Financial Independence
I’ll tell you about my first seeds of awareness about financial independence and then I want to tell you about ways to consider this for yourself, if you’re interested.
One of my first FI-related memories that I can recall was during my first semester of college, I was a freshman at Arizona State University, 18 years old, and living in an apartment off-campus with my older sister. I wasn’t adjusting well to my first major life transition.. So, during those months, I skipped a lot of classes and spent a lot of time alone, contemplating my life and what I wanted to do and be (since, it turned out.. I didn’t want to be a college student at that moment)…
I remember thinking the ideal situation would be to own a duplex, and live in half of it and rent out the other half and let the rent be my income – and this would be enough because my life would consist of a very simple existence of reading library books on my porch all day, so my expenses would be very low. I hadn’t figured out how or when, but I imagined the duplex would be paid off, so I wouldn’t have a mortgage payment and the rental income would just cover what I needed. So simple! Right? I didn’t know it at the time, but this is the vision of many followers of Financial Independence.
Another early FI-related memory I can think of from before I even knew what FI was, happened when I was a flight attendant in my 20s. I remember checking in for a trip and meeting one of the flight attendants I’d be working with over the next few days.
He was probably 15-20 years older than me, and I don’t know how we got on the topic, but he ended up describing to me that he and his partner had decided to totally scale back their lives so they could meet some immediate financial goals they had – I remember hearing what he said they had decided to do without (like maybe cell phones and eating out – sounds kind of normal to me right now, but at the time I heard it from him, it sounded very extreme!) and I was like “why would you purposely give up those conveniences.. And necessities?” and he was like “we know what we want, and we know this will get us what we want and we can do without those things for now so that we can have the life we want.”
So that’s not a direct quote obviously, this was a conversation from 20 years ago… and I can’t remember the specifics of what he described to me and what their goal was or even what his name is – I think it’s Rick- but I DO remember the gist of his explanation..
And I have frequently thought about that discussion over the past 20 years, again, before being introduced to financial independence as a concept and lifestyle- because Rick and his partner knew what they wanted, they made a plan to get there, they knew the “sacrifice” wasn’t forever and the reward would far outweigh the sacrifice and they were just doing it, with no drama, with no victimization.. just working, and paying off their house and any other debt so they would have freedom to do whatever they wanted.
I’m realizing now how much I learned.. And gained from that 30 minute conversation with someone who was basically a stranger to me – I wonder if Rick remembers our conversation – probably not, he was just telling me about his day-to-day.. But it made such an impact on me! I used his example a number of times over the years in my own decision making, and then when I learned about FI as a concept it all clicked into place for me and I recognized – that’s what those guys were doing!
Why does this Work?
I got my first credit card when I was a senior in high school. My parents set it up for me through their bank, and I specifically remember the day my dad handed it to me- we were standing in our dining room and as he passed it to me he told me something along the lines of “smart people earn interest, dumb people pay interest.” (at least that’s how I paraphrased it in my mind all these years).
Even though I ended up testing that truth for myself – both as the smart and the dumb person- I always remembered that my dad had told me that.. And I thought he was SO smart to have come up with it.
Only recently did I hear a similar quote, attributed to Albert Einstein:
“Compound interest is the 8th wonder of the world. He who understands it, earns it; he who doesn’t, pays it.”
So, am I saying my dad is as smart as Albert Einstein? Absolutely!
Back to the 8th wonder of the world- compound interest. I love that Mr. Money Mustache (who I adoringly described in the last post) uses the analogy that being in debt is like having your hair on fire. It’s the most urgent and important thing to take care of before anything else!
If you’re considering any level of Financial Independence for yourself.. I really want to echo MMM here and encourage you to look at your debt today, and figure out how to get rid of it.
Mr. Money Mustache also wrote an amazing blog post explaining the simple math of achieving Financial Independence. He basically just gives you a chart of how long it will take you to retire, based on how much of your current income you can save.
And what I love, is as soon as your brain believes it is simple, and just matter-of-fact, and possible, your brain can also start going to work for you solving how it is possible for you.
Unless you have any resistance, in which case, your brain will just keep believing the resistant thoughts.. And you may never go after what’s actually possible for you. For example, maybe one of your resistant thoughts is that you could never walk away from your current job (even if you had money saved) because you make too much to walk away from it.
But let me tell you, from personal experience and from seeing other people happily do it, being debt-free and Financially independent is feeling secure, not resistant, in walking away from a high-paying job. For me, Financial Independence, means I do what I do because I want to, not because I have to. It’s knowing I’ll always be fine.
How I Decide to Spend Money
When I have a goal in mind for how much money I want to have saved and invested, or when I know the timeline for when I want to have a mortgage paid off, it’s usually pretty easy for me to decide – when I’m faced with an impulse purchase – would I rather put this $20 towards this cute shirt.. Or would I rather put the $20 towards my mortgage?
And, because I have been thinking this way for so long – that specific question doesn’t usually come up for me. I’m usually not really ever faced with that kind of decision making- because I’ve pretty much decided those decisions already, so I usually don’t have to reconsider or re-negotiate in the moment.
I rarely find myself asking myself that question anymore- the pre-made decision just happens automatically. And, now that I’m sharing this, I’m wondering.. Can I get even more intentional about this.. Because like anything, once we stop giving attention to something, it can slip and we can develop other habits .. unintentionally.
So- I’m glad we’re talking about this right now! Because now I’m going to start thinking about how I can recommit to those pre-made decisions about how I spend or invest my money.
What about You?
What relatively tiny actions and changes can make an impact for you with hardly any interruptions in your life? Maybe you already noticed some during our unplanned time-out from normal life. For example,
Evaluating eating out habits
I still love a nice meal on a beautiful patio (especially if it’s dog friendly). I love ordering delicious drinks and enjoying an interesting new-to-me appetizer or salad.. But, when I evaluated how and when I would sometimes eat out before and I realized.. I don’t really enjoy “chain-style” restaurants that give big portions of inconsistent quality food in a cafeteria-like environment – especially when the service or the ambiance isn’t great.
As soon as I thought about it like that- I dropped any of those eating out habits. Now when (I can), when I (do) go out to eat, it won’t be out of convenience, or boredom, or routine. It will be because I really like a place.
Surrounding yourself with like-minded people
There are so many people out there who delight in this lifestyle- you can find communities- both in person and online. And, if you’re interested in this concept or curious about it.. I really encourage you to find these communities and wade in, to test the waters for yourself.
By reading comments in online FI groups and forums you can get tips and tricks that you can start to experiment with and implement in your own life. You may read an account of how someone else solved a problem that you currently have, that you didn’t think there was a workable solution to.
By going to real, in person FI meet up groups (when those happen again), you get to spend time with people who have the same mindset and goals that you do. And don’t worry, it’s not just a full 2 hours of people talking about compounding interest and diversifying portfolios. My experience has not been that most of the people just want to talk about how to live a hyper frugal lifestyle – although there are some people out there who may be like that. I’ve met really delightful, friendly, interesting people who share some of my same values and who also introduce me to ideas and possibilities I may not have considered on my own.
How to start
If you are curious about this concept, and you want it.. Or something like it for yourself, think about what first steps seem natural to you – is it education.. Do you want to read books, or articles, or watch documentaries about how other people are doing this?
Or is it action? Do you want to review your own spending and saving for the past 6 months just to get awareness around what you do spend your money on?
Or, is it connection? Do you want to find other people who are interested in this lifestyle and read and hear what they’re doing and how they’re doing it?
Or, maybe you are curious.. But you also have resistance to the concept.
You may be noticing thoughts like:
I don’t want to change.
I can’t change
I don’t want to give up or sacrifice.
That wouldn’t work for me
I wouldn’t be able to.
I don’t know how to start
If you do notice these kinds of thoughts, just know it’s completely normal and natural for your brain to offer them to you. Your brain wants to conserve energy and keep doing things the way it’s currently doing things.
Change represents a big expenditure of energy- so naturally your brain would think “don’t change anything!”Also, the changes I’ve suggested can represent a “threat” to your current “pleasure” and a possible increase in “pain or discomfort” so of course your brain is going to tell you NOT to cut the pleasure and increase the pain. That’s all just evolutionary thinking! So normal!
By noticing those thoughts, and seeing them for what they are, you can have more decision-making power about if making some changes and pivoting on your goals will have long-term advantages for you.
And when you compare the long-term advantages against the short-term advantages, your logical, rational brain might be more interested in investing in the long-term advantages.
Working with a Coach
Get awareness around what you’re thinking right now – both consciously and subconsciously. If you are curious about if you could adopt Financial Independence for yourself.. And you want someone to talk this through with, someone to help you get awareness around your thinking, and your beliefs, let’s work together!
Book some time with me and I will help you dig into your thoughts! I’ll show you what you’re currently believing.. That may not be serving you.. And that is totally optional!I’ll help you figure out what results you DO want for yourself- financially, or in other areas of your life, and then we can work together to help you get those results!
You will LOVE the transformation! You will be so proud of yourself!