Money is not the most important thing in life, and probably isn’t even on the top ten list.
Time is the true currency of life.
But money has the power to control how we spend the majority of our waking hours during the best years of our lives. No one wants to be stuck on a forty year treadmill and then end up with nothing to show for it at the end.
But there is another way, a better way, that can lead to financial independence at an early enough age to devote your time toward what really matters. This might mean continuing in your current occupation if you love it, although liberated from the necessity of doing so. Or it could mean spending more time with your family, devoting time toward volunteer activities, or simply opting for more recreation.
No matter what the motivation, there is always intrinsic value in financial independence!
There’s an unfortunate negative connotation associated with people who carefully monitor their personal finances: We can be perceived as “stingy”, “cheap”, or “tightwads” by people who, themselves, probably have no savings.
There are ways to be Spartan with money without being a cheap, stingy tightwad!
This means spending money on what matters.
And it means avoiding waste on things that add no value or actually detract from our overall well being.
Above all, the Spartan mindset requires acting honorably, ethically, and generously in the situations we choose to place ourselves in.
The Spartan mindset is not cheap, but intelligent and mindful regarding life choices, and this goes far beyond money to encompass our lifestyle as a whole.
Financial independence provides the ability to control our time.
A person who has no control of his or her time is not truly free. And time is the currency of life. But a strange thing happens at a certain point: we reach financial escape velocity. This is the magical point at which our assets begin to generate more income than we require for our day-to-day lives.
It is nearly inevitable that the Spartan will eventually have the ability to become a Spendthrift.
Wealth grows at an exponential rate, not a linear rate. In simple terms, this means that saving money has momentum that appears to start painfully slowly at first but soon gains speed. Pretty soon, you have a snowball growing rapidly as it coasts downhill. Those with a Spartan mentality toward life will, more likely than not, soon have far more financial resources than they are accustomed to spending.
Being a Spartan Spendthrift doesn’t have to imply selfishness!
The Spartan Spendthrift can choose to spend money on himself, but more likely than not will choose to spend money on others, whether than means something as simple as picking up the check at dinner with a friend or giving generously to charity. The point is that financial freedom allows us to become a spendthrift where it matters most: with the currency of time. And we can become spendthrifts with our money as well, if we choose to, once the miracle of compound interest manifests itself.
It Can Be Done!
I reached “financial escape velocity” in 2008 at the age of 35 and “retired” from regular employment soon after that point. Although I had a well paid job in the software industry, at no point did I earn anywhere near the kind of money that is par for the course in Silicon Valley today, nor did I have any decisively large financial windfalls.
What I did throughout my time in traditional employment was act as if I earned about half of my actual salary, saving and investing the rest.
I have made my share of serious mistakes with spending and that probably delayed my financial independence for a few years beyond where escape velocity should have come into force. Nevertheless, financial freedom 30 years prior to traditional retirement age was achievable without being cheap, stingy, or a miserable tightwad.
This website attempts to provide timely and timeless content on personal finance and early retirement topics that goes beyond the tired cliché of avoiding the daily latte at Starbucks as a route to financial freedom. There are steps that can be taken relatively easily to allow for substantial savings without sacrificing much, if anything, in terms of quality of life. In some cases, adopting a Spartan mindset can save money while also improving your life!
Admittedly, much of the content will not apply to the very poor. The core idea here is to dramatically underspend income. If someone is earning a very small income, there are still ways to save but the focus should be on increasing the income side of the equation. But I am not targeting only the well off. The vast middle class is the group I hope will benefit the most.