Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Financial Independence and "Enough".

My husband and I read aloud to each other.  He read all of Dante's Divine Comedy to me just before we got married, for example.  But usually, I read to him.

One of the few financial books I read out loud to him is "Your Money or Your Life" by Joe Dominguez and Vicki Robin.  It's a really engaging, thought-provoking book that looks at how our money relates to our own personal philosophy and life goals.  It's the one I chose for the second book report of the week.

Dominguez was a stock broker who realized early in life that if he cut down on a bunch of his material expenses and focused on saving, he could retire early.  Getting himself free from the need for paid employment was such a draw to him that he cut his expenses way low and quit his job while he was in his 30s.   In that sense, he "retired".  But he was also a guy of boundless energy, and he turned immediately to helping others with their own finances, so in another sense, he worked until the day he died.  (Check out the Financial Integrity wiki that his efforts started).  The difference is that he did not need to be tied to a particular job or a particular paycheck.  He'd become "financially independent", or "FI" as he called it.

The notion of being FI is one that has made this book a continual best seller since its first publication in 1992.  That's what appealed to my husband: the notion that his need for paid employment is for a finite amount of time, and that he has way more control over that amount of time than he'd originally thought.

For me, who absolutely loves my job and would probably do it even if I weren't paid, there was another aspect that appealed to me.  Part of being ready for retirement is having saved a bunch of money.  How much money?  "Enough".
These graphs (I love graphs!) show how we get happier as we get more stuff, until the point where we have "enough".  Then our happiness starts going down when the stuff becomes clutter.
It's the concept of "enough" that hooked me on this book.  We're brought up to think we all want more and more and more.  But there comes a point when more stuff means less happiness.  (Think about feeling yucky when you've eaten too much food, or being dismayed at how hard it is to clean up all those toys, or agonizing in front of an over-full closet because you don't know what to wear today).

For me, this book gave me the added little kick I needed to get me out of buying things just for the sake of buying them.  I'm working toward my husband's financial independence.  But I'm also doing my best to spend my money only on those things that matter most to me:  people rather than things, conservation rather than consumption.  I'd love to get to the point in the graph pictured here, where instead of reaching that plateau of "enough" and plummeting down the other side, I see my happiness skyrocket by sharing my more-than-enough with others.

1 comment:

  1. this class looks intense, something divine comedy refers of as a level of hell.