I just got done reading a book called Doing More With Less by Bruce Piasecki. In it there were some quotes from W.B. Yeats, and they reminded me of financial independence. Maybe that’s a sign that I’m a crazy person, but I’ll assume it’s because I’m super awesome. Here’s the first one,
“There have been men who loved the future like a mistress, and the future mixed her breath into their breath and shook her hair about them…”
This brings to mind people who post on personal finance forums or reddit and say something along the lines of, “I really hate my job, but now that I never go out and do anything that I used to love I only have 9.5 years to financial independence.” They are totally in love with the future.
If you’ve spent much time reading about personal finance on the internet, you’ve met these kinds of people.
Now, there’s nothing wrong with getting serious about your finances and buckling down. There’s nothing wrong with looking forward to a future that’s better than your current situation, but it’s important to remember that the journey is part of the fun. The future is sexy, but nothing is more sexy than the present sitting next to you.
Should you skip the $500 plane ticket to see your family over the holidays? Probably not unless you can drive there for less money.
It’s important to have priorities and money should never be your top priority. For example, a lot of people who want to be able to stop working forever say they want to spend more time with loved ones.
Well it doesn’t make any sense to skip a $500 plane ticket to see family if one of the reasons for saving that money is to spend more time with family. Capiche? [Please read that last question in your best inner mob boss voice.]
The next quote from Yeats is,
“In the beginning of any work, there is a moment when we understand more perfectly than we understand again until all is finished.”
This sounds suspiciously like people who are working for financial independence.
I assume (because I’m not there yet) that after you’ve hit your numbers and you are financially independent that you get a sense of “this is why I did it.” A feeling that makes it very clear why you started the journey in the first place.
And in the beginning when you are first exposed to the idea your eyes get wide, and gears start rapidly turning in your head. You start playing around with spreadsheets and realize it’s possible. You get giddy and start making plans to trim your budget.
You’re just opening your eyes to the idea of financial independence and you know exactly why it is that you are reaching for it.
It’s exciting and it’s fun and, for most people, there comes a time when you squeeze things a little too tight. That’s good. It means that you are pushing your boundaries and really trying to optimize your spending. The expression “trim your budget ’til it hurts” comes to mind.
The problem is that it’s really easy along the way to just focus on the dollars and cents and lose sight of the bigger picture. Sometimes people cut things out so fast that it goes from hurting to serious injury. In my experience, there are two big obstacles when it comes to reaching financial independence.
- Not trying hard enough.
- Burning out.
Not trying hard enough is easy enough to understand. You don’t want to cut out cable TV, the lunches out with coworkers, new cars, the daily coffee, [fill in your favorite financial vice]. I get it. Everyone enjoys these things occasionally and only you can decide for yourself whether or not they are important to you.
Just know that you can’t have your cake and eat it too. If you want all those things you might be working until 65+. If you’re cool with that, then so am I.
On the other hand, burning out is what happens when you try for too much too fast and end up saying “this is too hard.” If you’ve already cut your budget ’til it hurts, then just be OK with that for a while. You might find that after a few months it doesn’t hurt as much and you can try to cut a little more.
But, if you ever find yourself in a situation where you are saying to yourself “I can’t do this anymore, it’s just too hard,” before you throw in the towel try adding a small luxury or two back into your life.
Look, just because you tried and it didn’t work doesn’t mean you failed. You just learned about your boundaries. That’s perfectly fine and, in fact, is a necessary part of the path to financial independence.
It’s supposed to be a little uncomfortable sometimes. That’s how you know you’re making progress.
Just don’t lose sight of the forest because of the trees. You are trying to create a better life for yourself. The money is only the means to the end, so don’t forget to focus on the things that make for a happy life.
Call your family or loved ones.
Get some outdoor exercise.
Make time for burning peasants (or whatever your favorite hobby is).
In the end, it’s up to you to strike a balance that you are comfortable with. You have to find the Goldilocks Zone: not too much, not too little…. just right.
No one wants you to succeed more than you do. Except me. I want you to succeed pretty badly so that I can have people to talk to after I’m FI 🙂
Have you ever cut something out of your budget and then realized that you needed it back for your sanity?