We hear this question a lot: “What do you want out of life?”
Most people answer with something like: “I want to be happy”, “I want to be rich”, “I want a great career”, “I want to be famous”, “I want to be successful”, “I want to be a great pianist” and so on.
The problem is that this is the wrong question to ask.
Rather, we should be asking the question: “What are you willing to suffer for?”
At first, this might sound like a fairly morbid or negative question. Why focus on suffering? But therein lies its true value (some people even call it the greatest question anyone can ask yourself).
We all want a lot of things, but that doesn’t mean that we’re willing to put in the effort to attain them. How do you become a great guitarist for example? You can’t just want it and then one day wake up and be a second Jimi Hendrix. What you have to do is spend thousands of hours practising until your fingers bleed!
You have to suffer through the process if you ever want to attain your goal.
This holds true for many many goals in life. Having riches (or in our case, the goal is attaining financial independence) is one of them. Yes, you can be extremely lucky and win the Lotto or inherit a fortune, but for the vast majority, we have to suffer for it. We have to make the daily, weekly, monthly and yearly sacrifices to reach our financial goals.
So in what ways do we have to suffer to reach financial independence?
Humans are very poor at delaying gratification. We want to have new shiny things and we want them now! We’re not willing to delay purchases until we have the money for them, we buy fancy cars on credit, pay for vacations with our credit cards and so on, instead of saving up for these and paying cash for them.
Staying out of debt
This ties in with the point above, but I have to re-iterate it here. Debt is the enemy of your finances. Yes, I know sometimes it’s unavoidable, like when buying your first car or first house, but as far as is humanly possible, try to stay away from debt. And if you have to incur some, pay it off as fast as possible and don’t incur any more! The cost of debt (all that interest you’re forking over to the debt provider) is astronomical and will put an extremely large burden on your financial goals.
Learn to be content with what you have
This is the stoic in me reaching out across the ether to you. We have so much in our lives that are more than good enough. We don’t have to be constantly wanting more. You have a car, it runs fine, it’s paid off, why on earth do you get the itch to want a new shiny one? Be content! Your future self will be much more impressed with your current self if you don’t make that purchase and rather save (and invest) your cash.
Saving instead of spending
Don’t buy that new Ed Sheeran CD, or that fancy pair of shoes, or that shiny new car. Rather work towards lowering your monthly cost of living and increasing your savings rate. And then invest these savings.
Staying the course
But, we’re also human. We have new years resolutions which don’t even last until Easter. We go on diets and then lapse back into our bad eating habits after a few weeks. We’re not very good at staying the course. But for financial security (and ultimately, financial independence) we need to keep our focus, we need to be diligent, we need to suffer for it day in and day out.
Sticking it out on bad days
Some days I dread the hamster wheel. Some days a hate going to work, having to struggle through rush hour traffic, just to battle with issues at work and then having to struggle through traffic just to get back home when the sun has already set. But this is something I have to suffer through if I want to reach my goal of financial independence. And whenever I don’t feel like I have the stomach to face the coming day, I remind myself of the goal and reframe my mindset.
I am willing to suffer for the goal!
When we look back in a few years’ time, we’ll know that it was all worth it, even fun along the way! And as we change our habits and adapt our lifestyle expectations and get used to being content with what we have, we realise that the suffering wasn’t so bad.
It even made some things in life easier:
- Not having to stress about your finances every month, because that new car payment completely whiped out your little bit of monthly spare cash.
- Not knowing where to find some dough in an emergency because the big house in the suburb cost a lot more than you expected.
- Inflation wrecking havoc on your cashflow because you didn’t get a raise at work this year.
These are just some of the things you don’t have to suffer through anymore. Definitely a great side-benefit!
My wife and I have been on this (deliberate) path to financial independence (FI) for only a short while now, but the change it brought to our lives are already very real. We are more confidend in our plans for the future (we finally have a plan for the future!), we are happier in our daily lives and appreciate our home and family time a lot more. We stress a lot less about daily finances, we don’t fall prey to mindless consumer spending anymore and enjoy every day along the way!