OG2: There are some aspects that are universal or indisputable. Such as 2+2=4, the sun rises in the East or one of the kids will get on my nerves today. From the outside looking in, or at a high level, FI appears to be universally generic. ‘Live well beneath your means’, ‘Save 50% of your income’, ‘Get off the hamster wheel’, ‘Minimalism to the maximum’ or ‘Bustle with a Side Hustle’ (alright I made that last one up)..
Even though many posts or podcasts advocate that as an individual, you need to pick and choose certain concepts or methodologies that work for you, within the larger FI community this doesn’t always hold true. It could be just a matter that people are much more comfortable extolling platitudes from a keyboard, or maybe they truly believe they’ve lived all lives and have concluded their way is the only way. Even in person, from time to time, I have observed the push back if you aren’t perceived as doing all things frugally or for the betterment of everyone on the planet.
The bottom line (although this isn’t the bottom of the post) is that you need to be comfortable with your own path and your own definition of FI. When you think of all the things you spend money on, you will never meet the FImasses’ notion of full acceptability. There will always be some item that others will latch onto as a failure in your path to Financial Independence. In my case I’m certain there are many. And I don’t mean a few tic-tacky items. I mean big stuff. For some, I might as well be investing in slash and burn policies in South America.
To most in the FI community, my house is some monstrosity. A waste. An environmental thing that is killing all life forms on the planet. A monument to OG2’s family ‘making it’ to the Jones. You get the point. Yet, the decision to live in this home was much more simplistic. We moved from a HCOL metro where we owned a modest home when compared to where we live now. Our primary goals when looking for our new home in our new smaller metro area were modest: 1) We didn’t want to back up to anyone and 2) We wanted to be close to our primary needs (grocery, activities, my work, etc.). Honestly, when we were shopping around, finding a home that didn’t backup to another house was extremely difficult After some months, we found a great lot on a river, with heavy forestation on the other side. It was in a standard neighborhood and close to all the things we wanted. We had a few choices from the big box builder as to floor plans, but the size itself was preordained. Thus, from the FI community perspective we are all the negative things about “McMansions” listed previously. The reality, it met some basic wants that many in the community would agree to without a second thought.
Then there’s the truck. I’ll pause here while some readers collect themselves…….. Yes, I own a pickup truck. It’s fancy to me, but it’s the base model. For me, I need a truck. Not for work, but for all the other things in my life. Whether is hauling materials for our rental property, the occasional furniture shuttling and the gear I use for my hobby.
Here’s an eco and FI friendly item – Mulch. The dump nearby grinds up yard debris and turns it around as free mulch. I save $1,000 a year by hauling free mulch to my house. It would be difficult to pull off hauling that much mulch without a truck. But hey, if you want to fill up your Civic hatchback with mulch to prove me wrong, have at it. I’ll stick with the truck.
Finally, the small stuff. If I mention at a meet up that I still have cable, I can see the involuntary twitching and face contortions begin. What can I say? I need internet. Not just for the usual assortment of reasons, but Mrs. OG2 when not travelling, works from home. The internet is necessary for our lifestyle.
I set out to get rid of cable. When I called up our available competing companies, one was twice the other right off the bat. So I began the conversation of setting things up with the lesser expensive of the two and it turns out that going with a bundle that includes basic cable would be less expensive than trying to unbundle it. Thus, I have basic cable. Now even this is a bit of a lie. Our short term rental property has a more extensive cable channel lineup as a necessary amenity. Thus, I stream ESPN and the Weather Channel using those credentials at my primary home. I’m all for pruning down TV or screen time down to near zero, but that doesn’t change the fact that I have cable.
These examples are provided to declare a few things: 1) Don’t expect me to apologize for the choices we have made. Just know each, thanks to FI, has come with a level of consideration and intentionality. 2) You do you and forget the rest. Don’t worry about those dug into their positions on how things should be done. Just as important, don’t permanently dig yourself into any one position or view. Staying flexible keeps you open to new ideas AND it keeps you from getting twitchy around folks like me.
OG1: We had a local ChooseFI meetup last night and it was my first opportunity to meet a small group of individuals that were on a similar path. I found it interesting to hear the excitement of others, in simply being able to express their views on FI with a receptive audience. How odd, in what seems like a good and responsible approach to life, requires a meetup to find a comfortable atmosphere to converse on basic money or lifestyle options. But, the reality is that FI is not a mainstream approach to life.
Given the comfort in finding like minds to relate, I find it ironic that a community of like-minded people still attempt to find a ‘group-think’. Some mutual affirmation to the approach which is almost like a fence where X is clearly ‘in’ and Y is clearly ‘out’. OG2 points out facets of his life that are in direct opposition to the best practices of FI when looked at directly, I certainly have a pile of them myself and if you are new to the concept you will have them too. My input: there is no value in such a boundary. I’m not going to get hung up on whether I am doing FI correctly. My path iis absolutely correct for me in my current circumstance and will certainly be improved upon over time.
Like OG2, I have a house and cars that don’t align with FI. I’m not moving or selling the cars. I am, however, assessing all facets of my life and giving a critical eye towards change. I see things quite a bit differently since coming in contact with FI and I’m actually welcoming a more directed approach to life. I have observed a trend with the FI community that started with reflection on money and has broadened into reflections upon life & lifestyle. Perhaps I should say it strikes me as a journey towards understanding the VALUE of the things that our life structure is built upon. Then giving ourselves permission to rebuild those structures to provide more personal value to our LIFE. This is the one account that we cannot grow and must make the best possible use. I can think of several years I wouldn’t mind getting a ‘redo’ option on. Having the broader FI view will hopefully transition to my children so they don’t look back and wish for a ‘redo’.
For our journey, my wife and I have set the ‘machine’ in motion. We made major changes to our income and are now fully maxing out the tax-advantaged accounts that are available to us. We also set up feeds to our cash savings to bolster emergency funds. One of my largest course corrections was to begin culling my antique collection, a move that enabled me to fully fund both of our 2018 401Ks, start a Roth IRA and to even take advantage of the 2018 401K catch-up!
FI is an interesting journey and I am appreciating the opportunity to evaluate life, learn to understand where value is for me and drive it instead of simply going along for the ride. I see a wealth of value in the things I am learning from the FI community and from the opportunity to find what fits and works for my family. I am not concerned with what is INSIDE or OUTSIDE the mental boundary of FI. I am simply grateful that I finally found the school of thought and can apply the learning to make the remainder of my life better than it would have been.