Notice: This post will be highly philosophical. Hopefully, I can inspire someone.
Everybody wants more
We’re working so hard, but why?
We want more. We want to have a bigger house, a nicer car than our neighbor, the perfect dress.
When we finally land that job which pays us 50 k, we soon aim for 60k. And then 70k, and why not switch job to 12 hour days and 100 k pay, so you can consume even more.
When the new TV comes out, we want it. We must have it. It will be life-changing you say.
Our society is build upon the model that everybody wants more. Recently an acquaintance of mine bought a house that was 3 times the size they needed. And the mortgage was sky-high. In the next two years, he said he will spend his 8 hours at work, and when he comes home from work he has to renovate the house to the newest standard (which obviously takes a long time!).
Even at the weekends he’s working with the renovation of the house. For 2 years. That means he works in order to pay down a mortgage for a house he barely lives in. And when the renovation is finished in 2 years, he has an even higher mortgage because of the loan for the renovation.
Is there any other people as well that think this is the wrong way to go?
But what would happen if everybody wanted less? What if I gave you the brand new iPhone X, but you replied: “Thank you, but I’m doing good with my old iPhone 5”. Or if I gave you a Louis Vuitton bag, but you rejected it because you are happy with the bag you have.
What would happen if we wanted less? Wouldn’t we be happier if we were content with what we already have? Then there would be no more objects to strive for. And therefore less stress and less grinding in the rat race.
How I discovered minimalism
When I was a child I wanted to become a reader or a writer. But the people around me told me that I couldn’t make a living in reading books, newspapers and writing stories.
I soon realized that it would be more realistic to become a fireman or a police officer, so that’s what I told those who asked what I wanted to be when I grew up. But deep down in my soul, I’ve always known that I’ve wanted to become an author, storyteller, writer, reader, or something like that. But I’ve repressed it because everybody told me to not believe in it.
Then I became a teenager and I didn’t any longer know what I wanted to pursue. After high school, I started to study economics, but I quit after three months because I missed my home town.
I started studying economics one more time. Because I didn’t know what else to study, and all my friends did it. I quit one more time, this time after 1 1/2 years. I saw no future in this university degree because I knew it trapped me in a cubicle for the rest of my life.
At that time I was really into strength training and I discovered nutrition. And then I found a university that taught “Nutrition and Physiology”. I was hooked. For the first time in my life, I finally made a decision to study something that I actually wanted to learn.
At that time I survived on a really small budget every month. I also had a part-time job to cover the study fees, but overall I lived extremely frugal. But to be honest I didn’t miss a thing. These were the best days of my life.
I finished the study with a bachelor’s degree, and my classmates were all stressed out about finding a job. I, on the other hand, had just started to explore life. Why would I want to work already when I had everything I needed now?
I wanted to both learn more and explore my country, so I moved to a new town to study biochemistry and environment. Now that I didn’t have a part-time job anymore, I had to be even more careful with money. But somehow I didn’t think of it as a problem to live on approx. 850 $ / month.
These years with studies and frugal living made me want less. I studied in the new town for a year, and it was, hands-off, one of the happiest years of my life. A year where I really discovered myself.
At the same time, I learned about the environment and Garret Hardin’s “Tragedy of the commons” in which he states that “The tragedy of the commons is an economic problem in which every individual tries to reap the greatest benefit from a given resource”. I also learned about how we can eradicate poverty by giving out microloans to the poor so that they can start something for themself (self-sufficient).
I learned about why it was better for the earth to eat vegetarian food, and why water scarcity was a huge problem.
And both of these things really stuck with me. I started to eat more and more plant-based food, and at the same time, I decided to get a master’s degree in water engineering.
At the university where I got my master’s degree in engineering, I learned so much about myself and how I could make the world a better place. At the time I remember I thought I could save the world. Like all the other years I had little money, but I anyway enjoyed life a lot.
Perspective on happiness
During this study, I traveled to India for a month, and then China 6 months later. These trips changed me. I saw people living on the street, people poorer than we can imagine. But I also visited villages where everybody was smiling, where they shared stories around a campfire and showed happiness. I asked one of them about how much they lived on, and he said it was approx. $3 /day.
This really got me thinking. How could they seem so happy with so little? And why do I chase material things at home? Because I always thought that would make me happy.
How often do you say: “When I get …. then I will be happy”. Or if I just work 1 more year, then I will go on the vacation of my dreams.
I understood that I didn’t let myself be happy, because I was learned that happiness comes from material gains. And with material gains, you can never be happy, because there will always be more to reach for. It’s a forever run in the hamster wheel.
With these thoughts in the back of my head as I traveled, I started to welcome the simple life. I stopped buying new things, simply because I didn’t have enough money anyway. And as a consequence that I stopped buying new things, I stopped wanting new things. And as I stopped wanting new things, I noticed that things didn’t have any effect on my happiness at all.
Hello and welcome to 9 – 5
Two years later finished my master’s degree and entered the cubicle 9 – 5 world. So inspired and ready to make a change about all the exciting problems that was out in the real world (which we learned about at the study). And it all started well.
It was all new to me and I was curious to learn. It even felt like I was playing a video game where I was the main character (that fun it was in the beginning!).
And I got a paycheck of approx. $3,300. Almost four times as much as I had lived in the last 8 years. I remember I thought: “What am I gonna spend them on?”
I bought an apartment with a 300K mortgage and was happy…at least for a while. My spending was still around $950/month, so in the absence of anything better, I began to aggressively pay down my mortgage. This meant I had over $2,000 extra to spend per month, but I didn’t want anything new. I had the things I needed to be happy.
I read books which I borrowed at the library, I met family and friends, I played games and traveled occasionally. Everything was perfect, except that I was in deep debt.
Then I started to wonder why everybody wanted me to chase a life of excess when in reality I already had everything I could possibly need.
I started to sort through my clothes, which had accumulated over the years. Therefore I began to give away a lot, and only kept the clothes I actually used. I remember it felt so good to declutter. Instead of wanting more, I wanted less. And slowly, I realized I’d been chasing the wrong things all along in my earlier days.
Turning into a zombie
After a year at my 9-5, I started to feel bored. At the study, they told us about how we could use our engineering skills to help those in need. But here I was, improving solutions that already worked. Making my country 0,00001 % better. At least that’s how it felt.
I started studying project management after work, in the hope of getting a meaningful job environment again. And it worked. I had that “video game” feeling again for a year. But it passed.
Discovering “the sweet escape”
Then my brother told me about index funds, and I was completely hooked. Was there really a legal escape out of the 9-5? I couldn’t believe it! It was too good to be true.
The whole FI community indirectly (through blogs and podcasts) helped me raise my salary by changing my job. But I didn’t want to earn more because of my spending, I wanted more so I could escape the 9-5 sooner.
For 3 years I now have been working 40 hour weeks for the purpose of buying more and have more. But all the way there was nothing I wanted to buy. So what good was a job for me? What was I supposed to be working for?
Nothing, except for buying me more time by investing in index funds.
But suddenly it stroke me that I didn’t need to work five days a week to continue the life I live. It is enough to work 1-2 days a week to cover my lifestyle, and if I work 3 days a week I can invest a good share in my index funds as well.
This will not let me be completely free of work. But I sure think it will give me valuable time to pursue things I’m more passionate about. Writing and reading for example. Because how can I be good at it if I don’t try?
And if I succeed, maybe I can earn a few bucks of it too? Then quit my day job. And if I fail, I’ve learned a lot and I can safely work full-time again. This is eventually something I really consider.
What I dream about
I remember a quote which said something like: “The most important thing is not to be rich. But to feel rich”. And I feel rich because there is nothing more money could buy in material terms for me. The only thing I want more of is time.
I live in a big city right now, but what I dream of is a quiet life with some nature around me. I dream of waking up without an alarm clock, to do work that I like, read, write, spend time with my wife and coming children, workout, and hanging out with friends. A modern version of Thoreau’s Walden.
I dream of the years to come to be the richest years of my life. Without the burden of a full-time job. I dream of a house with a smaller mortgage and a house empty of stuff. I want to spend full days on more fulfilling activities such as writing, reading, learning, cycling, exploring, exercising, cooking, relaxing, and as you know, all of these things are free.
And by time, eventually, I will become FI. I will live like a retired millionaire, just like the Mexican Fisherman did all his life. The difference between me and a retired millionaire is that I got a lot less money.
Start asking questions like:
-Who do I want to be?
-What would I do in life if money was no object?
-What do I want to learn and experience through life?
Because what makes you rich and unique is not what you have, but how you have lived. It’s in the stories you’ve collected, the lives you have touched. It’s in the memories you have to take with you.
I’m an introvert and a thinker, and I just love to sit and reflect on life. In my lunch break at work, I more than often stay for myself to think through things, and the one thing I always tend to think about is happiness.
Like I did myself, many of you are chasing that dream house, a brand new Tesla, or a cabin by the sea. And if you win the first prize in the lottery, you will get all that. But will all those things make you happy? What if you got all that tomorrow.
Now, close your eyes and imagine it. What would be your next move? Would you continue to work?
Probably you would answer that you were going to spend the rest of your time on Earth doing the thing you loved, eg. travel, spend time with your loved ones and finally catch up on all your hobbies.
If you find yourself unhappy, not having the time or money to live the life you desire, start asking yourself, why? What are you missing in your life? I’ll bet you’re spending too much time working, and not enough time on the things you love. But what are you working so hard for? What do you need to buy that you don’t already have?
-You can buy a car for 10.000 $, or you can invest that 10k in index funds which will pay you 700 $ every year for the rest of your life. And of top of that, you get compounding. No coincidence that Albert Einstein said that the compounding effect was the world’s eighth wonder.
-You can buy a 1.000 $ TV, or you can buy a really nice vacation in Europe which will give you lasting memories.
-You can buy a 1.000.000 $ beach house with an enormous mortgage, or you can choose a cheaper lifestyle and eventually become FI.
Think about the stuff you’re buying. Is it bringing your dream closer? Or pushing it further away? Maybe you don’t even know what your dream life is, and therefore it’s not a weird thing you are wasting money. But you have the chance to take a grip of your life. To dream about what you want. To control your own destiny. Like Christopher McCandles says in the movie “Into The Wild:
What is your ideal lifestyle, and how much does it cost you to live that? For me, I think 2000 $ a month is enough, you can see my expenses here. My investments in index funds pay me now approx. $500 every month even if I sleep, workout, or go on a vacation. That means I’m paid simply to exist. I dream of reaching my crossover-point, that’s were my monthly FI-money will be 2000 $ or more every month.
At the same time, I think about maybe working fewer days a week, to pursue more of the work and hobbies I love now. That means it will take more time to FI, but does it matter if I can do more of what I love to do now?
What about you? How much money do you really need? If your lifestyle is too expensive, want less. Everyone has a choice between living with more and working more, or living with less and working less.
Which will you choose?
I do not spend my daydreaming of things to buy, but rather reading about ideas things I want to learn, writing about things that are on my mind, and occasionally seeing places that I’ve always wanted. I walk, I exercise, I read and write, I explore and I relax. That is my perfect day. I’ve been liberated by simply living a life of minimalism. I no longer believe in the lie that success consists of earning more and buying more. I buy only what I need, and I simply live.
The problem with buying expensive things is that you need to loan money. And because of that, you can’t stop working. You can’t travel, spend more time with your family or pursue all your hobbies. You can’t quit your job because you do need that money to pay the loan. Your entire day, your entire life becomes about earning more money to pay for your excess needs.
Who owns your time? Yourself or your employer? Minimalism and FI is about taking your time back! I highly recommend you to read “Your Money And Your Life” if you want to start taking control of your own time. Here you can read how it changed my life.
So you spend your time working 9 – 5 almost 50 weeks a year, when the weekend finally comes you have two precious days free, but you need to spend it maintaining your lifestyle. You have to clean the house, the car, the boat, the second house, the clothes, the garage, the garden.
But if we turn it around. What if you had nothing? How much simpler would life be? Nothing to clean, nothing to fix, nothing to solve. Just you and your time to do whatever you want. How much more time would you have to pursue your dreams? You could sleep in late, read, write, look at the stars, do sports, yoga, meditate. You could do anything!
It’s only the stuff that stands between you and all your dreams. So why not pursue a more minimalistic lifestyle. Instead of wanting more things, isn’t it better to want less? Empty your closet instead of filling it up. Give away things and get warm smiles from the people you help at the same time. Instead of buying something every weekend, sell something. Instead of wanting everything, want nothing at all.
You are here to decide what you want in your life. If you want fewer things, you need less money. And if you need less money, you don’t have to work for money. And if you don’t have to work for money, you’re free. The choice is yours.
What do you think about minimalism? Do you feel the same way as me on this subject?
Feel free to contact me at: post@route2FI.com or comment on something below.
Until next time!
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