Over the last 12 months I’ve been obsessed with the concept of financial independence (FI). Essentially FI allows you to design a life you want without taking money into consideration. For me, embedded in the goal of FI are concepts of freedom, self-reliance, optimism and the sense of endless future possibilities. At its essence, the path to FI is relatively simple – spend less, save more, and optimize the difference. I’ve realized though, it isn’t all about money.
Being more conscious about our finances and spending habits has meant my perspectives on societal norms has shifted. I look around now and see how many people (I was one of them) are caught up in a machine cycle of rampant consumerism. The short-term focus of corporations and investors, and an economic obession with growth, social media and ever-present personalized advertising, fashion, packaging, etc. all perpetuate and encourage our desire to spend, spend, spend! Goods are not only consumed for their designed use, but even more so for what they symbolize or (temporarily) make us feel.
Unfortunately this isn’t just a problem for individuals and their bank balances, but increasingly it’s impacting our collective futures, standards of living, the environment and the sustainability of our planet. The current Amazon fires and ongoing deforestation to make way for more agriculture and other development is just the latest warning sign that President Trump, other world leaders and society seem to be ignoring, while we go about our lives pursuing self-interested short term goals.
I sometimes feel like I’m now seeing the world from outside the matrix. My transition from a mindless consumer to someone who is becoming increasingly conscious and mindful of the impact of day-to-day decisions on our health, finances and broader ecoystem has me evolving my FI ambition.
Balance and sustainability are becoming as equally important to me as having enough money to be “free”. In some respects, the pursuit of FI can be quite individualistic. Surely we have to think bigger and more holistically. This is why I’m redefining my goal as Financial Independence Live Lightly and Simply (FILLS) rather than just FI.
The acronym may need some work but I wanted to capture the idea of not just saving/investing money but also having a more sustainable lifestyle; leaving some legacy and setting a positive example for my kids. The two ideas, financial freedom and a sustainable life, should also be complementary in many instances. Some examples:
- Use reusable water bottles and cups – It’s a little win but avoids signifcant wastage and a small, but daily, hit to our budget. Instead of buying a huge container of small water bottles from Costco or a soda/ coffee out, I now carry a useable water botter.
- Eat less meat – I love a nice steak but the impact of industrialized agriculture is quite appauling – deforestation to make way for livestock, methane emissions from cows and fertilizer use, pollution of waterways etc. Aside from the environmental impact, there is the ethics question. Eating less meat has to be part of my ambition to tread a little lighter on this planet. It should also have a positive impact on my grocery bill.
- Walk / cycle more – We are currently a two car family, but again I’d like to adjust our behaviour and habits to achieve more than just my financial goals. Reducing our reliance on a car will require some longer term changes, such as moving to an area with better public transport or closer to work. It also needs a mindset shift for those day-to-day decision points where it seems easier to jump in the car. Convenience isn’t often a good idea for either my wallet or the environment.
- Sustainable housing – In the near future I’d love to buy/build an eco home which is more energy efficient, uses sustainable materials, designed for minimum waste and is low impact. Sure, this will undoubtedly require a greater investment upfront, but in future years our heating/cooling costs and water bills should be lower, again positively contributing to our finances and potentially insulating us from rising costs as we become more self sustaining.
In a similar way that I’ve educated myself about personal finance over last 12 months, I now want to immerse myself in how I can start implementing the Live Lightly part of my FILLS ambition. I’d really appreciate input from readers with links to good resources (blogs, books, podcasts etc.) where I can learn more.
Thanks for reading,
Mr Simple Life