Today I’d like to talk about why I feel like the road to financial independence doesn’t have to be paved with broken glass you drag yourself across. I’ll share the one key strategy that I use to keep life fun and interesting along the journey to financial independence.
For context, let me be clear that I love money. I really love it. I save it. I spend it freely at times. I sing little songs about it and dance around doing my money dance sometimes. I love “looking” at my money too: pulling up my bank accounts and investments online to prove to myself it’s still there, and to celebrate its growth. I love it. I really do. (Insert maniacal laugh).
Anyway, while I’m comfortable now, I’m definitely not rich yet. I’m in the trenches, on the journey. The ultimate goalpost for me is financial independence.
When I grow a pile of money big enough that those little $1 bill soldiers will generate income that pays our bills so we don’t HAVE to work, then I’ll do a BIG money dance. That’s the ultimate goal. Why? Cause when I reach FI I will live a “work optional” life where I decide what to do when.
And maybe I’ll want to just do very non-work things for awhile. If there are phases of YakYai and I’s lives where we want to skip work altogether and spend time focusing on friendships, learning a new skill, developing our bodies or just doing creative hands on projects, that’s cool too. (Did I just describe wanting my adult life to be like Montessori school? I think I did.)
Breakneck Saving Speed? Mmm. Ish.
So, anyway, financial independence is kind of a sexy goal right? Early retirement. Freedom! And, if the reward is sweet sweet freedom and spending our days doing whatever the hell we feel like, you’d think we’d want to amp up the pace toward that goal as much as possible and save our asses off, right?
Well, yes and no.
The journey to financial independence is actually a journey, not just a destination. It usually takes years to achieve FI, and none of us are even guaranteed a tomorrow.
Which is why balance is so key.
In the FIRE movement many people talk about “Fast FIRE”, which means fast tracking your journey to FI. But even on the fastrack, the road to FI can easily take 15+ years. If you love your job, great, but if you don’t… ugh.
So, that’s where “Slow FIRE” comes in.
Slow FIRE is a philosophy that while you’re chasing FI, you aren’t doing it at the fastest, most punishing pace. Rather, you’re allowing yourself some joy along the way, all the while knowing that yes, spending on a few joyful guilty pleasures is slowing down your ultimate goal of reaching FI.
The Slow FI mentality is why I spend money, sometimes silly amounts, on things that bring me joy. And I make no apologies for that. In fact, I believe having a positive mentality around money (money comes easily and frequently) is key to your larger goal of attracting it into your life, so, ironically, this abundance mindset will work in your favor when you’re saving up.
Mega Deprivation Doesn’t Work Without Making You Very Grumpy
I see too many people on the journey to early FI acting like it’s some kind of death march – a time to buckle down and deprive themselves. And while I applaud their determination, I just don’t think that mindset is the healthiest way to FI over the long term. It’s full of dark clouds, worry and guilt.
Saving to the point of white knuckles is like going on a diet…restriction makes you feel shitty, and ultimately makes you want to binge even more when you finally do crack. Feeling grim and deprived makes you resent the process, and that my friends, is a recipe for disaster in most areas of life.
Instead, I believe that along the way to building up your cash coffers, you can actually have a joyful and abundant life. You can save AND splurge. There are things you simply shouldn’t give up: for you that might be high end coffee, a housekeeper or premium cigars. For me, it’s having a horse.
Yep, I own a horse. Does that make the FI diehards freak out to read? Probably. Here, it gets worse: I pay to board my horse at a facility ($575 a month), and pay for occasional riding lessons, bringing the annual cost of my horse to around $7,800, if all goes well.
Pulling out your hair yet? How can I have a blog about retiring early, achieving financial independence while dolling out that kind of money each month on an asset that arguably gives me nothing in return? Well, I can and I do.
My horse brings me joy every day. Life is short, and that kind of joy is something I’m absolutely not willing to forsake on the journey to FI. Reminder: I want FI so I can feel free and joyous. Sitting on my horse makes me feel free and joyous. Ignoring that little shortcut that gives me a taste of my ultimate goal each day makes no sense to me.
So how to get to FI while making some somewhat ridiculously spendy purchases? Become independently wealthy? Win the lotto? Well no, just give yourself some joy bucket accounts.
Joy Bucket Bank Accounts
I have a special joy bucket bank account called “horse” in a high interest savings account at Tangerine. I keep about $20,000 in it, which is what makes me most comfortable. I know that within reason, I can be the best horse mom possible and make the best choices for my guy with that amount of cash at my disposal. From that account, I pay Antonio’s “rent” each month, and any extras that come up along the way. I top it up occasionally, when I’ve had a good month work-wise.
Here’s the key to why it works: I have mentally written that money off. It isn’t part of my emergency fund, nest egg, or anything. It’s just magic money that sits piroutetting in an account and that makes my horse world happen. I love the feeling I get from setting things up this way.
With my Joy Bucket Horse account there’s no stress, no guilt, no icky feelings or money strings attached around this wonderful part of my life. Because if there was, that would defeat the whole purpose. Horses are a pure joy to me, and penny pinching this area of my life would make me miserable.
Does that mean I care less about saving or early retirement? Heck no. I care A LOT, and I am on a path to retire within the next five years. I am exceptionally frugal about some of the strangest things (you won’t catch me in the Starbucks drive through). However, I’m going to have fun along the way to FI.
Will I still have a horse many years from now, when I decide to pull the plug on traditional work for pay? Honestly, I don’t know. Maybe it won’t be feasible…but I can guarantee you I’ll be looking for creative ways such as volunteering to include horses in my life.
Joy is the goal, having a pile of money is nice, but it hardly ever nickers softly in your ear or lets you gallop around a field on it. The quirky thing about money is that it PAYS for that thing though… which is where the save-money-spend-money balance beam comes in, and where giving yourself a few Joy Bucket accounts can make all the difference.
What about you, what won’t you give up on your journey to FI?