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Everything I’ve ever done or thought has been explored and contemplated by someone else who came before me. What makes me unique is the meandering path I choose.
Just like snowflakes, not one of us is exactly alike but yet we are all so similar. I find people simply fascinating. In particular, I marvel when reading about the ways people have achieved Financial Independence (FI) and/or are working towards it.
There aren’t too many novel ideas. We all have access to the same levers:
- Eliminate debt
- Embrace frugal living
- Discover what you value in life
- Practice minimalism
- Drive down your monthly expenses
- Develop a high savings rate
- Invest in low-cost index funds
- Study and choose to allocate a small percentage of your investments to single stocks
- Diversify with real estate and business investments
- Start a side hustle
- Embark in Geo Arbitrage
What makes each of our journeys unique is how/when we pull said levers and what happens to us in the process. Personally what I find the most enjoyable to read is the transformation that occurs in our lives. Many of us discover more joy, focus on strengthening our relationships, find more time for loved ones, and develop a sense of extreme gratitude.
I would like to take some time to talk about five characteristics that can be developed in a person through intentional financial living.
This is a hard one to develop. I don’t like sitting in rush hour traffic or waiting in long lines any more than the next person. Which, BTW, I try to avoid by my lifestyle choices. However, I know patience to be a virtue and the way to get it is through being in such situations.
It took me 3 & ½ years to pay off my debt and in the process, I lost a house to foreclosure. I paid off a total of $46,763 and at the start of the journey I was making $40K annually and by the time I paid it off, my salary was $60k annually. I just kept my nose to the grindstone and persevered. I wasn’t willing to think of the albatross around my neck (my debt) as a fixture in my life. I attacked it, I worked hard, I made sacrifices, I stayed the course, I paid it off, and became free.
And what do I have to show for it? Well, I now own my entire paycheck but also, much to my surprise, I’ve developed some patience. I was once told never to pray for patience because you’ll be given all kinds of opportunities to work on it.
I didn’t go into this thinking I wanted to become a patient person. Actually, quite the opposite, I thought I’d like to get this done as quickly as possible. I guess it’s relative if 3 & ½ years is long or short but I’ll tell you this, there were plenty of opportunities to give up and pay the minimum for the duration of the loan. Alas, I chose to be patient and you can too.
Aah, another hard one to achieve. I practice fasting occasionally and always think that helps develop my self-control muscles. Also, not buying everything that catches my fancy does the same.
This year, I moved into a little apartment and could have spent a lot of money furnishing it but I chose to utilize what I already had and was very selective about what I purchased.
I’d also argue that market investing requires self-control. To not panic and sell when the media is reporting a downturn in the market, requires discipline. With market investing it is best to just stay the course. Are you sensing a theme here?
You know how I said I sacrificed a lot during my debt pay off phase? Initially, it felt like I was making sacrifices when I:
- Moved in with my parents
- Consistently packed my lunch every day
- Limited the number of times I went out to eat
- Stopped highlighting my hair
- Stopped skiing (okay this one was a sacrifice)
However, as I continued down this road, I realized I wasn’t less happy. In fact, I even found more joy in the journey. Why? I think that reason is twofold.
Firstly, I loved working towards a goal and seeing the finish line get closer and closer. There was great satisfaction in staying the course.
Secondly, I learned to focus on the relationships I wanted to foster. I had to be creative in how to do this without spending a lot of money. Cooking dinner with friends, playing board games or taking hikes is just as much fun as spending a night on the town which costs a lot more.
Turns out that living with my folks was not a sacrifice at all. It actually was a gift. For one I realized the last time I had lived with them, I was pretty rebellious. Getting a second chance in my 40’s allowed me the opportunity to submit respectfully. It was kinda like a do-over.
Additionally, I utilized the library and started listening to podcasts which, BTW is totally free. Actually, that is how I discovered FI. A colleague turned me onto the ChooseFI radio podcast. We can all figure out the influence that one had on my life 😉
Oh yes, this is something I believe we all want in our lives. It’s an attractive concept. Heck, Dave Ramsey named his course after it, Financial Peace University.
Financial peace is something that eluded me for many years. I believe when we are lacking peace in one area, it spills out into other areas.
Inversely, when we gain peace in one area of our life, it starts to spread out into other aspects.
So what kind of peace came first in my life? Well, I got sober 8 & ½ years ago and undoubtedly that needed to happen before anything else could happen. Simultaneously I returned to faith. Through these choices, I found a new peace.
Eventually, I became ready to work on my fiances because once I had tasted peace, I wanted it in all areas of my life!
At first blush, this one may not seem so obvious but let me define it according to Merriam-Webster:
1: steadfast in affection or allegiance: loyal
- a faithful friend
2: firm in adherence to promises or in observance of duty: conscientious
- a faithful employee
3: given with strong assurance: binding
- a faithful promise
4: true to the facts, to a standard, or to an original
- a faithful copy
So when you make a financial plan and stick to it, you are being faithful. When you put up an investment policy statement because you want accountability in staying true to your plan, you are being faithful. When you pay off your debt because you made a promise, you are being faithful.
So there you have it, 5 characteristics that can be developed by taking control of your finances. And when you develop these characteristics financially, they’ll spill out into other facets of your life. Trust me, it’s inevitable.
What characteristics have you developed in your personal finance journey?