What motivates your financial choices?
Reading a variety of FI and finance writers, it has occurred that those who blog are a rag-tag bunch. You have to be a bit different to move away from the credit-to-the-eyeballs herd. The reasons to go down the various financial paths, and then write about it are even more nebulous. A scientific mind led to attempts to discern some patterns among the noise. One such pattern is the writers motivation, and where the drive to save/ live frugally/ be financially independent arises.
For some, it seems the drive to be frugal is innate, inherited, learnt behaviours from early childhood. LittleMissFire talks about it as leaving the ‘shop floor mentality’, the mindset of a household living week-to-week, month-to-month, without financial planning (1). The crux of her post about the ‘shop floor mentality’ is the drive to better oneself, and leave behind the stress, envy, anguish and heartache of poverty (1). Understanding financial planning and making frugal life choices are just a short psychological hop from FI, and there seems a lot of overlap between frugal living and so-called ‘lean-FI’.
This drive to leave behind an unpleasant situation also appears prevalent on the FI forums I frequent, but here it’s less about a memory or experience of struggling for money, and more miserable working environments. For example (2):
And an example reply (2):
Small talk, alarm clocks, office politics, performance reviews, managers talking about you behind your back, tracking metrics, spreadsheets, deadlines, cubicles, dress code, meetings, daily existential crises, passive aggressiveness, emails with manager cc’d, scrum meetings, being taken advantage of, erosion of self esteem, etc. Etc.
I assume it was among those so miserable in their work that the term “Fuck You Money” arose (3). You’ve built up enough cash to say “Fuck You” to that miserable environment and walk away… but what then? How do you adapt your austere lifestyle out of work, with it’s focus on minimising all outgoings, to your new-found freedom (4):
I sort of class myself amongst the running towards school-of-thought. I enjoy my job, to the extent that I am happy to go into work every day to perform it (especially after a slight change into a less front-facing role). I would probably keep doing it to some extent even if I wasn’t paid, because it is my ‘ikagai’ – a Japanese word whose closest translation is ‘the reason for which you get up in the morning’ (5, 6). Despite this I think the world is full of wonder, and I could spend whole other lifetimes doing different things. There are too many things to do and not enough time to experience them all whilst also working to support myself. FI, as The Frugal Cottage puts it, “gives you the option of spending your limited time however you want” (7, 8).
Just enjoying the run
This seems to be the final stage in FI nirvana fulfillment. Some suggest that by it’s nature, being frugal has a sort of contrarian cool (9). An echo of the counter-culture in a rejection of consumerism (10). More hippy than hipster I hope. Some bloggers, like TEA, enjoy the journey to FI and beyond because they developed an enjoyment of “the process of wealth building” (11) TEA writes about learning to enjoy these things by using conditional rewards; a big juicy carrot for the FI stick, training your brain to associate putting the financial graft in for a reward (11). Or writers like FIREvLondon, who enjoy the writing about their process, discussing ideas, commenting on experiences (12). This is a far better path to happiness, where any goal you set or any target you make can bring you fulfillment. Enjoying the process of blogging, the sharing of knowledge and community.
Why does it matter?
Understanding your motivation is inherently tied to your ability to complete the goals you set yourself for financial independence and frugal living. If your goal is off from what you truly want you’ll lack motivation, and if you’re motivated for only a specific purpose you may find yourself unfulfilled and lost when you reach that goal, or unable to reach it altogether. As I’m setting my goals, I’ve been noticing many are around things I’d do after being FI. I risk that there will always be one more goal or target. It’s time to think about my enjoyment of the pursuit, and I would urge others to ask, why do I want FI?