While I was away in August, I noticed a recent theme in many bloggers talking about happiness and even more dangerously, pursuing happiness. Since our emotions play a major role in building and sustaining wealth, I wanted to share our experience on how Financial Independence and Happiness have interacted in our journey.
This blog is about pursuing financial independence which is ultra healthy imo. Stepping onto this FI path inspires us and allows us to live our lives based on our values. So the best path is taking it step by step, and enjoy the road ahead.
…that’s a different story altogether.
If we wrap ourselves in the pursuit of a feeling, then we won’t ever quite reach the feeling, since happiness isn’t a destination.
Financial Independence and Happiness
Definitions can be hazy and yardsticks can change, so it helps to have some clear intentions from the start.
Which leads to the first topic.
Define Your Metrics
If me and my fiancee had only imagined ourselves being happy with a freshly furnished new home, then we would still be unhappy since our benchmark has not been hit.
Sure, we could spend $1000’s more on furniture to “fill up” our new place, but we LOVE our minimalist mindset. It helps us keep things decluttered and we get to accelerate our student loans while investing as much as we can.
If we had set Net Worth targets in the past instead of a Savings Targets, then our happiness would constantly be at the whim to the market’s ups-and-downs. Not a healthy long term plan.
Words have precise meaning, so be careful what you attribute your happiness to. If it is external, such as receiving money, then that’s okay BUT, the deeper level of happiness might be receiving validation for our hard work, and/or knowing the money can be used for family needs.
The money is a symbol of that value in the instance above, but money shouldn’t be considered the SOURCE of happiness.
Instead, I encourage you to create your our own benchmarks, not dictated by society or friends or family.
This is similar to what many people say when they mention, “Pursue your dreams and the money will flow from there.”
Can We Be Happy AND Pursuing Financial Independence?
For anyone not interested in happiness and only focused on money, then just consider the overlap the two have when it comes to spending.
The happier we are with what we have, the less we need to buy anything else. Someone who wants more, will never have enough.
The wise man knows what he desires and pursues it to the ends of the earth, while the fool might lay content with the wooden sticks he found on the ground.
You may have also heard Ray Dalio’s famous line,
“We can have anything we want, but not everything.”
From this perspective, absolutely we can pursue building wealth at an early age AND be happy doing it. If we were trying to do everything (say furnishing our place right away to continue with that example), then we would be significantly less happy as we’re derailing the bigger picture.
Don’t Get Caught in the Early Retirement Rat Race
Some bloggers I see try to equate early retirement and financial independence with some permanent state of happiness. This can create a new trap. Running away from the desk job becomes an escape of pain, rather than a pursuit to something greater.
“Retire to something, rather than retire from something.” – every financial blogger ever (myself included)
That small distinction will go a long way in clarifying your pursuits and feeling happiness in your life.
How has happiness helped or hurt your path to financial independence? Did you have to rewire some negative or old patterns that previously led to unhappiness with money?
P.S. Pro Tip – Try Inversion to Identify What Makes You Happy and Saving More
If we can’t solve the maze by beginning at the Start, then perhaps we will have an easier time by working backwards from the end.
When it comes to money, Inversion becomes almost a game-changer overnight.
For example, instead of thinking “What makes me happy?”, try asking yourself, “What purchases do I later regret? Or- Which purchases bring that ping of stress down the road?”
By identifying the roadblocks we wish to avoid, it becomes easier to reach our goal.