Chugging, chugging along. We had a spendy few months, so I’m not expecting our progress to be huge.
- Home (Estimated Market Value): 80,000
- 401(k) combined: 63,589
- Cars combined: 2,000
- Cash Savings: 9,094
- Total: 154,683 (+351)
- Home Mortgage: 105,080 @6.5% –> PMI makes it effectively ~7.1%
- Student Loan (Chief A): 2,918 @0.1%
- Student Loan (Chief B): 11,211 @6.5%
- Student Loan (Alchemist A): $2,586 @0.1%
- Student Loan (Alchemist B): $25,693 @6.5%
- Roof Loan: 10,971 (no interest before March 2015)
- Total: 158,459 (-2,470)
Net Worth: -$3,776 (QOQ +$2,821)
Net Worth (liquid assets only): -$85,776 (QOQ +$3,321)
Savings Rate (Delta NW/ Net Income): 23%
Communicating about finances is something every partnership* needs to work on. The Alchemist and I are no exception. For us, we struggle explaining our individual perspectives without letting too much emotion get into it. Charged words like wasteful, deprivation, and other things come into the mix.
The journey to financial independence is just that: a journey. And with any journey, the way is just as important as the destination. There’s the post-FI lifestyle, with little to no required work. Lots of travel, if that’s your thing. The freedom to work on hobbies. Learn subjects with little to no economic viability. My vision of retirement is busy, but it’s a great kind of busy.
Sometimes it’s easy to get excited about the end of the FI journey, to the point that the present is neglected. “You only live once” is an easy way to justify reckless spending that’s both financially and environmentally destructive, but the literal meaning of the phrase is correct. We only have one journey on this planet (that we know of) and even the most optimally aligned vision of human flourishing requires material nourishment.
The typical form this discussion takes is wants versus needs, but portraying wants and needs as simultaneously dichotomous and clearly demarcated is counter-productive in our first-world abundance. For the vast majority, satisfying survival needs is trivial. What’s far more challenging is keeping your money outflows aligned with your personal values. If you successfully do this over the long term, the need to budget disappears, deprivation is never felt, and you can honestly say you truly have all that you want – even if, in many cases, you spend very little.
Communication is essential to align your mutual values, both values of the end, and those of the journey.
Values of the End
- Freedom. This is what financial independence is all about. Someone with enough money, invested correctly, can say F-You to wage slavery.
- Self-Actualization. For ourselves and especially our kids: a life of no regrets. Mistakes will be made, but they will be learning experiences, not decisions which shear off entire possibility spaces that we wish we could have explored.
- Sustainability. Freedom should not be attained on the back of irresponsible environmental practices. We are “free” to shit where we eat, but the long-term effects of pollution and the squandering of resources drastically narrows future generations’ degrees of freedom. At the same time, emotional hand-wringing about every last decision cripples decision making. In this case, freedom and self-actualization trumps sustainability.
Values of the Way
- Mindful spending. Our wants aren’t perfectly aligned with our earning potential and the primary end goal of freedom. So we track everything to make sure advertising and misaligned appetites aren’t causing us to self-destruct.
- Knowing the material requirements for flourishing. Just as leisure time is a relatively recent concept in human society, human flourishing requires something above basic survival provisions. Establishing just how far “above” is the challenge. If you’re not already familiar with them, learn about concepts like lifestyle inflation and hedonic adaptation. They are why phrasing things in terms of needs versus wants is perilous for the end goal of freedom. What feels like a ‘need’ is often nowhere near the baseline, and is in fact far above the baseline of a more enlightened view.
- Honor each other. If one partner does the spending tracking, share the results of your mindfulness with the other. Propose (and be willing to accept) changes either way. We recently discovered the need to change the way our personal spending money was funded to keep each other happy about the length of time it took to save up for large hobby purchases. I also added another “sinking” fund which will be for gifts, and to capture any spontaneous spending or surplus above and below our $600 of “necessities” spending.
- Alcohol. It feels weird to give a chemical substance its own value, but there it is. We go back and forth on this but currently the taste of a good adult beverage enhances our life more than the health and financial costs. My position on alcohol over the past year’s journey is probably the most tortured and contradictory of anything.
Freedom is what we’re all working towards, but a freedom worth earning takes harmony to achieve. That’s why the values of the journey are so important. Your life shouldn’t change much on reaching FI, it just gets bigger. The black hole that is most jobs related to personal development collapses and the interests and desires you’ve cultivated get to stretch their wings and fly.
*I’m not trying to ignore single folks, but it’s just not a part of my adult life experience.
I’ve been wanting to get out and take a nice hike for a while, but weather and timing hasn’t quite worked out until today. While the morning was chilly enough that the bees were barely moving, that kept the mosquitoes off us for most of the day.
Hiking with goblins takes a few things:
- Patience. The walk is at their pace, and only ever at their pace. Every pretty rock, stick, and flower MUST be inspected. If deemed collectible, it MUST be stuffed in their pockets.
- Open eyes, but especially open ears. Sometimes I’m the one who spots or hears cool things, but my goblins always surprise me with their observation skills.
- The tenacity to “death march” them past their comfort zone. A self-directed child will rarely hike more than a mile. Today we did a bit over 5 miles, though it took over 3 hours to do. Yes, they complain, but they’ll thank you afterwards.
- Snacks and water. Granola works really well for us.
Besides the bee featured above, we also really enjoyed the “astronomy trail”, which is a scale model of the solar system built on just over 1,000 yards. It’s amazing how close the sun/mercury/venus/earth/mars are compared to the rest of the solar system.
Yesterday we had a 30 degree swing in temperature overnight. The cold weather stuck around today and the weekend won’t be much warmer. Yep, it’s fall!
I had to reach back in my brain for how to dress, balancing the fact that we needed to bike somewhere but biking with kids is considerably slower than biking by myself. For the goblins, I was really proud of them. After an initial shock (it’s cold Daddy!) they warmed up to the idea of being out in the cold. We ran a few errands but then played at the park for two hours at a windy 45F.
In fact, I was the one who gave in first. Since I was sitting down and reading, the wind started to cut through my layers, and I’d forgotten to bring gloves. One of these days I’ll even get gloves that let me work the Kindle.
Winter, with its even colder temperatures, salt, snow, and slush is its own beast – but I think yesterday was a good indication of how we’ll weather it.
A sense of place, and the tools to deal with it: to immerse, but also to dissect and subsume. This is my homeschooling philosophy in its broadest form.
With the oldest at 8, dissecting reality is limited, but we’re laying the groundwork via math. Alpha and Beta are responding really well to the interface of the Khan Academy program. I still have to prod them to get through the subject matter at points, but math is no longer a subject I dread teaching.
In science, our lifestyle constantly immerses us in the nature around us. While limited, being in an urban area, Milwaukee is a city blessed with a lot of green space – some of it surprisingly remote. We’ve taken 5 mile hikes within earshot of roads where you can barely see the cars through the forests, and at times the sound of the wind and water drowned everything else out. We climbed through a dry creekbed that turned not so dry further upstream. For the first time, they got to see (and hear) a squirrel eating.
There’s also formal education. The current unit is about bats, and each subsequent unit will start with flora and fauna from our region, but eventually broadening out past what we might encounter on our nature hikes.
Bats were also the subject of some silly stories, like:
The vampire bat was searching for a mammal. The bat was thirsty. It found cows!
When it found the cows, they were swishing their tails. The cows were in the forest, and it was light. Then the cows got scared of the bats. Then the bat was chasing the cows. Then cows got away.
Then it found a gorilla! It was eating bananas. Then the bat chased the gorilla, but the gorilla was too fast.
Of course, there’s more to humans than just their isolated interactions with the ecology around them. The social fabric of humans is its own ecology. So we’re learning about countries as well. The current unit is France. I’ll admit we haven’t learned a ton yet, but there’s no particular speed or requirement here. Plans include a day where we eat like a family from that country, and the cookbooks I’ve been poking through are at least teaching me something.
Which is one of the joys of homeschooling. The parent learns almost as much, if not more than, the child. Education isn’t about mass-producing an economic cog that’s finished at 18, with optional future upgrades. It’s about learning all along life’s journey.