The onset of Christmas brings with it for many a sense of refuge. The promise of a few days when our everyday worries are neutralised by a haze of twinkly lights, booze, food, and family bonding. As long as we can just get there…
I felt I recognised a touch of that pre-Chrimbo fatigue in a comment from Monevator reader, Sarah, requesting a motivational piece on Financial Independence (FI) in the face of evaporating savings rates and warnings of muted equity returns ahead.
Actually, reading that comment from Sarah gave me some cheer. Not because I’m a git that revels in the misery of others, but because it helps to remember that I’m not the only one who finds the FI going hard sometimes.
It can be a tough old plod, and I think this is partly because even the followers of FI generally think of saving the way the rest of society does – as a sacrifice.
Yes, we’re deferring consumption today to enjoy consumption tomorrow, but we don’t have to swallow the notion that every pound socked away until Independence Day is somehow happiness denied.
Because that’s thinking like a good little consumer. Falling back into the trap that we can buy off our lows and woes with a new iPad, hair extensions, or a posh meal out. Essentially acting like a caffeine addict who staves off the headache with another Venti latte.
We’d do better to cheer ourselves up with the thought that whatever comes our way, the FI good times start long before you smash off the final shackle.
I want to break free
I believe the journey to financial freedom can itself create a profound sense of personal change for the good:
- You realise you’re thinking for yourself and that’s something to be proud of given societal pressures to conform. You’re no longer accepting the world as it’s presented by family, friends, and the advertising industry.
- You stop looking for answers in the wrong place. A desire for power, status and trinkets is replaced by the values of freedom, fellowship, and a sense of true worth.
- Perhaps most of all, you gain a sense of purpose. When you have a bad day, week or year, you know that it wasn’t for nothing… your efforts are still moving you towards your goal.
Like any other worthwhile pursuit, FI sharpens your skills. You get better at it. You stop seeing yourself as a number on a pay check. You’re able to value things because they make a difference to your life rather than because they’re fashionable or because they offer an off-the-peg sense of identity.
“I must be successful because I drive a BMW.” That sort of mind-rot drops away long before you reach FI.
Just knowing there’s a finishing post fills your lungs with oxygen, but something amazing happens as the financial furlongs slip past. You gallop faster and faster until you feel like you’re running downhill.
“Hey, you know what? This is easy. I feel great! I feel less vulnerable. Even if my wages are stagnating and growth rates are tunnelling out the bottom of the graph, I’m still better off than if I’d never started this thing. I’m living on 90%, 70%, 50% of my income – I didn’t even realise that it was possible before and I don’t feel any worse off.”
That’s how it can feel when you look at it through the spectacles of optimism rather than the soap opera glasses of pessimism.
The choice is not freedom or consumption. We need both.
The choice we’re making on the way to financial independence is being free to consume only what we need and to spend the rest of our time gorging on the most amazing good of all: freedom.
Take it steady,