So there was quite a turn-out at the London FI meet up last Friday.
I don’t know exactly how many people came (too many to count easily) but it was a lot. I talked to as many people as I could but still didn’t meet everyone…and I was there over 4 hours(!).
One thing that impressed me about the meet up was the sheer variety of people…London is a melting pot and the meet-up reflected that. The FIRE is definitely spreading.
I’ve written before about the benefits of real (not just online) community. Don’t get me wrong, FI forums on Reddit and on Facebook etc can be helpful sources of infotainment. But, when it comes to community, online is no substitute for the real world.
Other people are a rich source of ideas, information, love, friendship, support and inspiration. One way or another, all your income comes from other people. It comes from bosses, customers, clients, colleagues, employees, contacts and friends. The better you can deal with other people, the richer the life you lead.
No man is an island and even shy people need connection. Why do guys (and yes its usually guys) agonise in isolation over key life decisions or challenges they are currently facing? Why not talk it through with other people that have experienced the same issues? Every challenge you currently face, someone else has faced before and figured out successfully.
After the photos from the meet-up were posted on the London FI Facebook group, some wag suggested that we should’ve all been at home rather than drinking expensive alcoholic drinks and enjoying ourselves.
I think they were joking. But, as often happens, the joke reveals a truth. Maybe in the FI world we sometimes cross the line between frugal and cheap? Perhaps a lot of people don’t naturally see themselves as FI-seekers because they don’t like to be thought of as “tight”, “cheap” or “mean”?
There is a line between frugal and cheap. They’re not the same thing…and its not just a question of degree. In my book, going to the pub (rather than a posh restaurant) for a drink can be frugal. Not having a social life to save money is cheap.
You have to enjoy the journey
I wrote about this in Get Rich with The Process. On my way to financial independence, I did whatever I needed to do to make the journey sustainable and enjoy it as much as possible.
Yes, there were struggles along the way. I lost count of the late nights in the office and the
arguments discussions with my wife about spending. But there was no deprivation.
I used conditional rewards along the way: survive the week, make money, earn drinks!
Focus on value not price
Price is what you pay, value is what you get.
Apparently a pint of coke cost £3.55 in the pub. So £3.55 is the price. Now, its certainly true that person could have got a bottle of coke from a supermarket and drunk it at home for less. It’s also true that they could have drunk fizzy water and got a healthier version, lower cost alternative.
But this is small beer. £3.55 is not a lot to spend on an evening out in London. And its nothing compared to the value you might get. If you meet interesting people that inspire you to stick to The Path and achieve financial independence, that’s priceless.
Financial independence is not (just) about money
Financial independence is about optimising for happiness.
It would be a mistake to cut yourself off from the rest of the human race out of a desire to hoard money. That’s being a miser.
But it happens. Stories like that of Scrooge in A Christmas Carol are classics because they deal with themes that are universal across time.
Money should a means to an end (e.g. freedom, security) not an end in itself.
Focus on quality
Quality sometimes looks expensive…but offers the best value. This applies in all areas of life.
When it comes to possessions, have less stuff but better quality stuff. Think artisan quality rather than mass-market tat. Quality lasts.
In your career, focus on quality. Quality wins whether you are going for promotion or marketing a product or service in a competitive market. Over time, quality eventually prevails. Quality people attract other quality people.
In my investing, I focus on quality. I don’t buy junky companies no matter how cheap they might look. I don’t buy sub-prime debt (often re-branded as peer to peer lending). That’s like picking up pennies in front of a steam roller.
Don’t scrimp on knowledge
The best knowledge is priceless.
If you’ve ever read my list of life-changing books and ummed and ahhhed about whether to buy one of the books, then you’re doing it wrong.
If you can’t get it from your library, just buy the damn book. Reading the right books is the ultimate life-hack. Nothing else provides such an incredible return on investment.
Scrimping on books, training and knowledge is for losers.
Invest in yourself
Avoid a poverty mindset where you just focus on hanging on to what you’ve got.
Don’t be scared to spend money to make more money, get more value and more life experiences. Invest in yourself. This is a growth mindset.
I remember Alan, one of my early financial coaching clients and founder of The Pop-Up Business School, telling me that he and his wife had booked to go to the FI chataqua in Ecuador. One reaction would be that that was a lot of money to spend for a holiday.
But Alan went and met Mr Money Mustache and ended up running one of his excellent (free) classes on how to start a business in Longmont, Colorado. Alan’s business is thriving (deservedly so) and there are now plans for more Pop-Up business schools in the USA. That was an investment that paid off. As well as a great life experience.
Experiences are better than stuff
What have you got at the end of your life? Just a bunch of memories and experiences.
Humans are terrible at accepting this truth. Always have been. Go to The British Museum (its free) and look round the Ancient Egypt section. The Ancient Egyptians stuffed the tombs in the pyramids full of bling that the Pharoah could use in the afterlife. That’s materialism gone mad.
You can’t take stuff with you and you shouldn’t even want to. It’s better to travel light. The less stuff you have cluttering up your life, the better. Use cloud storage for your possessions.
Get rich with soul
Seek out community activities that feed your soul. Small is good, local is good. This is one reason why I love Parkrun.
If that sounds a bit woo-woo for you, let’s put it another way. You shouldn’t really be paying big corporations to entertain you…that reminds me of factory farming…where you are a chicken.
Compare 2 forms of large-scale paid entertainment. You can either go to Disneyland or you can go to a festival like Glastonbury. I’ll take Glastonbury every time…even if both had Mickey Mouse headlining. That’s because Glastonbury is run by a farmer (not a big corporation).
Like I said though, small is beautiful. So personally I prefer the Latitude festival to Glastonbury.
Where are you on your journey?
If you have credit card debt, you shouldn’t be buying be buying Mojitos in Ibiza. In the immortal words of FI-legend Fergie, speaking at an earlier Meet Up:
If you ain’t got no money, take your broke ass home.
Unfortunately, no one wants to tell millennials this…just in case someone’s feelings get hurt and an angry mob of peasants with pitchforks and torchlights forms on social media.
If you’re young / broke / new to FI, then the more subtle differences between being frugal and cheap don’t matter…if money is leaking out of your life like blood out of a neck wound in Game of Thrones, you need to plug the fucking leaks. This is an emergency.
But later, after you are financially secure, you can spend freely on things that don’t harm the environment and which bring you pleasure.
Don’t scrimp on your health
If you want to set The Escape Artist off, tell me that you have an injury but, to save money, you haven’t gone to a physio. Or that you went and sat in a shopping centre just because you had a shop voucher for free cake. Arrggghhh. Noooooo!!!!
Your health is THE most important asset you have. Bar none. Do not scrimp on your health.
Reasonable people can reasonably disagree on most things. But if you disagree on this, then I’m going to have to fight you. It’s for your own good. As the owner of a bar I was in somewhere in middle America once said (in an accent straight out of The Dukes of Hazard):
Them’s The Rules. Them’s the only rules!