Here’s what’s in it for you…right now

Saalbach

As I may have mentioned before, the benefits of financial independence lie in the journey as much as the destination.

If financial independence were all about the destination, then lottery winners would all be happy, well adjusted people.

But very often they are not.  About one third of lottery jackpot winners end up bankrupt.

People are actually more likely to go bankrupt after winning the lottery jackpot than if they never won the lottery at all. What does that tell you about human nature?

Well, it tells me that money is not the answer to all problems. Not having money is a problem…but so is not having meaning, purpose and challenge in your life.

It also tells me that people don’t value things that they haven’t worked for as highly as things that they have worked for. Think about the things in your life that you are most proud of? Are they the easy things (like switching TV channel) or are they the hard things (like raising a child)?  To ask the question is to answer it.

Happiness comes from the pursuit of tough but achievable goals. The discomfort during a marathon is an essential part of The Process. The pain fades after you finish the marathon but the quiet satisfaction lasts forever.

Was there ever a more over-rated fantasy than the idea of just retiring to the beach to count the grains of sand? I’m not knocking people who fantasise about holidays or about quitting work. God knows, I’ve been that person. Its an understandable reaction to stress or burn-out or boredom at work.

I’m not glamourising pain either.  I sometimes see people grumbling about the stoicism element of financial independence (in simple terms: what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger). Grumpy geeks call that pseudoscience because they don’t know which cell in their spreadsheet to put that into.

*Sigh*

I wish it were possible for us humans to learn and grow whilst staying in our comfort zone, always safe, never making mistakes, never getting our feelings hurt. The tragedy of the human condition is that it doesn’t work like that.

Getting to financial independence is not easy and it takes time. In that time there are no guarantees that life won’t kick you in the nuts.

But here’s the good news. You don’t have to wait years for the benefits of financial independence. That’s because many of the benefits start to kick in the very first day that you stumble across the concept of financial independence.

Benefit 1: You have a mission

Having the goal of FI gives your life direction and something to aim towards that’s better than where you are now.

Begin with the end in mind. In other words, have an idea of where you want to get to and what that will look like for you.  Its important that its your vision.  No one else can decide this for you.

And did I mention that financial independence is not binary? So maybe your mission is not retirement by 40. Maybe your goal is to get out of debt?  That does NOT make you a second class citizen in FI club.

Everyone is different so it matters less what your precise goal is than having a vision in mind that sustains you through tough times.

Benefit 2: Learning

Lifelong learning has become a cliche that’s over-used by politicians and earnest media presenters.

Which is a shame because its actually a great concept. The idea that you do all your learning in school and college is utterly ridiculous.  Those places teach conformity and they certainly don’t teach most people how to think for themselves.

Most people stop learning by the time they are 30. Look at people actually spend their hard-earned money. How many parents spend a small fortune on little Jemima’s clarinet lessons yet stop spending anything on their own learning and development?

Modern society seems to make children out of us.  Its easy to become infantilised outside your own specialisation. But you need to become a generalist not (just) a specialist. A fox not a hedgehog.

I often see professional people at the start of their FI journey panicking because they don’t immediately know the “correct” fund / platform / savings rate / tax-sheltered account / whatever. Relax guys! It took me 25 years to learn everything that I know about investing.

I didn’t wait until I was comfortable before getting started. It’s more important to get started and learn to enjoy problem solving: the “Aha!” moment when you put another piece of the jigsaw into place.

Benefit 3: Exercising your frugality muscle

Everyone is different. For some, frugality comes naturally. For others, quitting shopping as a leisure activity seems to be like quitting heroin cold turkey.

When I read getting out of debt blogs, I can see how hard it can be. You can feel the pain as the writer talks about sacrifice and deprivation when going past stuff in shops without buying it.  Their frugality muscles have become weak and flabby and their monkey brain associates buying shit with a “shoppers high”.

At the start it takes willpower to pump up your frugality muscle. But the good news is that it gets easier and easier.

Neuroplasticity is your friend here. In other words, the associations or “pleasure pathways” in your brain can be re-wired over time.  I now wince when I think of driving and queuing to get into a consumer hellhole shopping centre, but that was not always the case.

Make a game of it and enjoy the process. If you can learn over time to get the same highs from stashing money that you used to get from shopping, you are winning.

Benefit 4: Exercising your actual muscles

Time and again, I see people really “get it” via their experience with exercise (whether it be hiking, running, cycling or lifting weights). The idea of work now leading to greater rewards later (not to mention general non-whineyness) comes naturally to people that exercise.

Yes, there are cost-savings from walking and cycling around your local neighborhood rather than jumping into your car and sitting in a traffic jam.  But this is far more about quality of life than it is about penny-pinching. I’m with MMM when he talks about muscle over motor. If you don’t walk or ride a bike to get around, maybe there is something missing from your life?

What starts out being about cost saving, ends up being about a better quality of life. This is what I’m talking about when I say you come for the money, you stay to save the world.

Benefit 5: Being a grown up

How can you tell if you’re a grown-up?

Grown-ups accept that life is a series of choices and trade-offs. You can afford anything, you just can’t afford everything.  Financial independence means making the most of your choices: being intentional about how you spend your time and your money.

Grown-ups don’t complain when someone suggests they try walking rather than driving or that maybe donuts aren’t that good for you. Grown-ups have stuff to do in the real world so they do not spend their time leaving whiney comments on the internet.

Benefit 6: Finding your tribe

Before discovering FI, you may have felt like you were surrounded by consumerism, operating deep in enemy territory.

Finding FI means finding your tribe as you realise that many other people have similar values and goals to you. And you can connect with them either online or at a real life meetup.

I’m not saying that you should just choose your friends only from FI club: I certainly don’t. But its good to know other people that are living well without worrying about keeping up with the Joneses.

There’s truth in that old saying that you are the average of the 5 people that you spend most time with. You should actively manage your own life and choosing your friends is part of that.

Benefit 7: Peace of mind

Loads of stuff feeds into your sense of well-being: your money situation, your work, your relationships, your hormones, physical fitness etc etc. It’s complex.

But there’s no doubt that anxiety can be a sign that you have not got your shit together, either financially or physically.

If you don’t know what’s going on in your pension and you feel a sense of unease when thinking about the future…well, maybe that’s no co-incidence?

For me, there is peace of mind in knowing that I played the hand I was dealt as well as I could. Yes the stockmarket is volatile. Yes, life is random. But even if bad things happen, there is peace in knowing that you did the right thing.

Now is good

These are the immediate benefits of financial independence. The reason to do this stuff is because its the right thing to do NOW.

The immediate benefit of FI is the sense of making progress in life. You have a clear goal. You have a way of measuring your progress.  Its very tangible. 

FI offers a code to live by. But not a strict Taliban-style ideology set by mad old men wearing dresses, clutching books that only they can interpret.

No, you get to create your own code.  Ultimately you are coming up with your own rules for life.

 


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15 comments

  1. Another great post. Thank you again for such wise words, helping to live in the now and not always in the tomorrow. I feel like it’s easy to focus too much on tomorrow while we are on the quest to FI, so it’s important to find the right balance, being truly excited when we buy index funds, the same as if we were buying whatever new toys. But hey, I want to be happy now, and tomorrow 🙂
    Thanks for brightening up my day,
    Claire

  2. I like the message your spreading.You need to balance saving for the future with being happy today.

  3. Once again you have hit the nail on the head, great post.

  4. TEA gets it right again!

    1. Hi Ladyaurora
      Have created an event in Financial Independence UK

      FRI, 27 SEP AT 18:00 – FIRE MCR Meet Up – Rain Bar, 80 Great Bridgewater, Manchester M1 5JG

      KittyD

      1. ladyaurora · · Reply

        Hi kitty. Yes I’m aware but I carnt go as I’m on holiday next day. Well done , let me know when next Manchester meetup is to be. Miffed I carnt be there.

  5. Fretful Finance · · Reply

    I definitely need to learn to focus on the here and now a bit more. I can get a bit obsessive about how great life will be once I reach my goal. In a way the “mission” part can get rather unhealthy if you’re not careful. But I do like the way I am learning so many new things: about investing, about how to operate a blog, ways to earn extra money etc. I’m not sure how I filled up my free time before. And it is certainly nice to find other people who don’t find retirement planning boring!

  6. I think the post has helped crystalise my thinking that the RE bit of FIRE, i.e. retire early, is just one of the goals one might aim for. For me financial independence comes alongside other aspects of taking responsibility for yourself and being authentic which could be described as emotional independence and physical independence too. FI can be seen as one of the pillars of being a well balanced, autonomous adult and would have been a more mainstream behaviour before consumer culture was invented in the 1950s. I am glad I had a father who grew up in the 1930s and instilled these values in me at an early age.

  7. Great post on ‘the journey’ not matter what stage you are at.

  8. I used to be a bit of a spender. I always selectively been “tight” on things I didn’t think I needed whilst spending somewhat frivolously on things I valued at the time. Since I discovered the F.I.R.E. movement a few years ago my focus shifted from spending on clothes, cars and socialising to spending on my future freedom. I think for people like me there isn’t much difference physiologically, I’m still “spending” all my wage every month. Its just diverted towards accumulating assets rather than things to clutter my life.

    I now feel like I have a purpose to my spending, which on one hand is great because its given me fresh impetus to achieve more in my career and make further efficiencies in my spending. On the other hand though its made me incredibly impatient to progress on the numbers side and changed the way I think about work. I increasingly look at work as solely an activity which takes up an enormous amount of time, sucking the life energy out of me rather than taking a more balanced view by including the many positives that work offers too.

  9. Nadeem Korim · · Reply

    One of your best mate. Very motivating and revitalising to those on the journey and starting the journey.

  10. I have studied and worked in education most of my life so I love learning new things and am really enjoying the sense of achievement in learning new things about finance, investing, the stock market, behavioural finance etc – I feel like I have progressed a lot but am motivated to learn more and like in many aspects of your life the more you learn the more you realise how much you don’t know (thought courtesy of Einstein!). I am now retrospectively shocked at my financial illiteracy – luck has played a key role in my current financial position e.g. employer DB pension, having tax payer funded education, buying my property in the nineties and current low interest rates.

    I think many of us, I was and many of my family and friends are children in terms of our financial education. Your comment ‘I often see professional people at the start of their FI journey panicking because they don’t immediately know the “correct” fund / platform / savings rate / tax-sheltered account / whatever. Relax guys! It took me 25 years to learn everything that I know about investing.’ resonated with me as I have two friends who want to take the next or first step in investing but don’t know where to start, feel paralysed by the volume of information available and ‘don’t want to lose’ their money. I know I had to consume a lot of information and see a Financial Adviser to to shift my thinking and to start taking independent action.

    I share my knowledge and the blogs, FB groups and podcasts (Maven Money, Meaningful Money, Money to the Masses and ChooseFI), but have you, any blog readers got the one favourite post, podcast episode or book which helped them be bolder financially?

    For those that want to Find your tribe in MCR – Friday 27th September, 6pm, Rain Bar, Great Bridgewater StreetManchester, M1 5JG – join the Financial Independence UK Facebook group and sign up for the event. I don’t want to be sat on my own!

    1. ladyaurora · · Reply

      Hi kitty. Well done on stating a place and time to get the Manchester fi group kick started. I’m desperate to attend ,but I go on holiday the following day. It’s a holiday full of sightseeing and travel so I carnt be shattered at the get go. Otherwise I’d be sat with you in the pub! Anyway I’m sure this is only the start of Manchester to meetups.

  11. Lincoln · · Reply

    hmmm.. more food for thought.. i havent really put too much effort in the muscle over motor theory… dammit i need to stop procrastinating again.

  12. Words of wisdom, thanks for sharing.

    In my work, I’ve rarely found clients who have inherited money to be as successful as those who have built it.

    Financial independence is as much about the journey as it is about the destination. Having the right mindset and applying good financial behaviour along the way is 99% of the battle.

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