Principles of Financial Independence

The Principles of the Financial Independence Retire Early movement are a set of principles or guidelines which form the foundation of the movement, and guide your behavior in a way that helps you achieve happiness and success on your journey. I was recently inspired by the article 9 Surprising Lifestyle Benefits from Following the FIRE Lifestyle by Keepin it Frugal, which made me want to dive into what the principles of the FIRE lifestyle was to me.

Noun

“A fundamental truth or proposition that serves as the foundation for a system of belief or behavior or for a chain of reasoning.”

Oxford dictionary

To me, they are: Leadership, Frugality, Minimalism, Sustainability, Philanthropy, Creativity, Gratitude, Self reliance, Self-care, Automation, Discipline and Presence.

Barefoot investor

Leadership

To me, one of the core principles behind the FIRE movement is leadership. Leading by setting the example and doing what is right, and having the morale courage to stand up for what you believe in when challenged. This requires empathy, excellent communication, demonstrations of skill and success (i.e. don’t tell them what you will do, show them what you have done and are doing), and at times will require the mental fortitude to make unpopular choices and decisions for the greater long term good.

If we don’t stand for something, we will fall for anything

Irene Dunne

See, if you aren’t a leader and you instead just go along with the pack, you just sort of end up going where everyone else is going. You allow yourself to possibly be led astray by people, corporations or misleading advertisements, which typically all act in their own best interests and not yours. This can have a significant erosive effect on your health and well being, especially your financial health.

It is much better to be the leader and to take charge, leading the pack somewhere that is better for everyone, and somewhere specifically that you want to go. As a leader though, it is your responsibility to look after your followership and act in their best interests – a good leader always puts their team first. A great thing to remember about leadership and success is that you can get whatever you want, as long as you help other people get what they want along the way.

In this context leadership is an important aspect of FIRE and pioneering a life that is right for you. It is important that you are able to help others by leading them on this path, influencing them to adopt mutually beneficial choices. An example is with your family; if you can sustainably lead your family into adopting more reasonable spending choices such as being more mindful with energy usage at home – your ‘frugal efforts’ won’t be ‘white-anted’ from within – this is where your saving and investing efforts are offset by spenders or waste from within the family. Successful leadership means you end up creating a positive, meaningful and lasting change within the home.

Sustainability

Sustainability is one of the big ticket items for me. When you learn to consume sustainably, you make significant progress on your journey to FIRE. For example, adopting an investment strategy where you learn to sustainably produce an income from a portfolio (such as using the 4% rule) is probably one of the most important aspects of FIRE. But it’s not just about finances, a focus on sustainability has a huge positive influence on many aspects of our lives.

Sustainability is a systems design paradigm which lets you build systems that ultimately do not need attention; they are sustainable outright in themselves. This makes it a complementary strategy to automation, where we build a system and then can ‘set and forget’. Sustainable systems save workload, and make your life easier.

Ways I have implemented sustainability is through my choice of an index investing approach – this is very easy, and requires very little work. I do not need to agonize about stock picking, tracking company performances, quarterly reporting or press releases. The tax and accounting is easy (and automated for the most part thanks to Sharesight). Because it is easy, it is sustainable. I am not going to be annoyed, or get sick and tired of putting in effort and want a change.

When it comes to my FIRE journey, I have tried to maintain a very high savings rate. Looking back, targeting an 85% savings rate probably was not a sustainable choice. Although on average I seem to be hitting a baseline that is around the 75% mark, when you target such a consistently high savings rate there is always the possibility of burn out. You should always aim high, but setting more realistic saving and investing goals is probably going to be more sustainable in the long term.

When we are discussing the environment and society, sustainability is important too. It is easy to make a few simple changes to avoid things like single use plastics or other unnecessary packaging, start recycling (just so you know, many places will actually give you money for recycling your bottles) and composting food scraps. Most of my family now all have nice little permaculture set ups where kitchen food scraps are given to chickens (which free range through the orchards) or directly composed, which ultimately is used to nourish the orchard and the veggie patch. In this way, scraps that would have previously gone into landfill are now being turned into fresh eggs and produce which goes back into supporting the household and lowering our food bill. I even grow a nice little food garden on my Sydney apartment balcony (although there are no chooks up there!).

Frugality

Repeat after me: “Frugality is not a dirty word”. Being frugal just means being mindful, or being careful with your resources. With Scottish heritage maybe this just comes naturally to me (apparently the Scottish are generally a savvy bunch – winter is coming after all!). Just like Keepin it Frugal the more I progress along my journey to FIRE, the more frugal I find myself being.

Maybe it is my training as an engineer coming out but I take great pride in this because I feel like I am living efficiently. Consuming responsibly and sustainably makes me feel like I am operating economically, and therefore not wasting precious resources like time and energy. Because ultimately when we talk about spending, we aren’t really spending dollars we are spending hours of our own time – if you want to explore this concept more check out Your money or your life by Vicki Robins.

Some really great ways I have engaged my frugality muscles include home cooking and meal prep (planning, cooking and freezing meals or parts of meals ahead of time), whole food plant based shopping, growing my own food, servicing my own car, riding my bicycle (and even buying a $1000 e-bike), avoiding video game culture (not owning a console myself), trying to avoid any form of monthly payment and finally modern day couponing using the entertainment app.

When it comes to dating, I hear girls love nothing more than a man who whips our his phone with a nice e-coupon! In all seriousness though, it is actually a good source of ideas for dates in the first place, and if your having a great time and paying for everything like I seem to do anyway, who gives a crap if you used a coupon. Generally though, rather than spending money on activities, I try and preference spending time in nature like going to the beach or river, picnics in the botanic gardens, hikes and nature walks – I’d rather spend $100 on epic picnic supplies than at a restaurant! I find this has a heap of benefits over the conventional ‘bar or restaurant culture’ – firstly your outdoors in nature soaking up the sunshine and fresh air, secondly you can actually have a decent conversation (ever tried to talk at a club?), and thirdly exercise or working out together is a great way to build attraction (if you don’t mind getting a little sweaty together in the process). It is also a great way to secretly suss out whether the other person is outdoorsy or fit as well haha!

Frugality is a principle of the FIRE movement that is about being deliberate with your spending choices in order to maximise your happiness, rather than just being a stinge. Which means Frugality only goes to far – if you are starting to stress out about how much you are spending and trying to always get the best deal then perhaps you have missed the point on Frugality. Frugality is supposed to make you happier not stress you out, so in that case I would say chill out, relax the purse strings and spend a bit more freely – your time and mental health is worth more than a small saving. If you want to try and be a bit more frugal I suggest first going for the big three ticket items in your budget expense – these are usually Accommodation, Transport (your car!) and Food.

I even wrote an article where I suggested a few rules of thumb I use for FIRE frugality. Although you might not agree with them all, they could be a good starting point for establishing your own. To me though, the bottom line on frugality just means being sensible and not being wasteful.

Minimalism

Minimalism is something that I continue to aspire toward, but I’m probably not what you might conventionally think a minimalist to be. Whilst it is different for everybody, to me minimalism means only using what you need, and being efficient.

When I was working in software engineering and coding, we would always take pride in doing a job with the least overall lines of code. This meant that your code was more efficient and you fully made use of tools within the language structure. Having less lines of code (appropriately tagged and commented by the way) made it much more manageable, easy to use and maintain by others. This made the whole process more sustainable, productive and efficient.

As a professional pilot, I similarly take pride in packing exactly what I need when I go away on trips. I take minimal luggage – just what I need (with a few spare pairs of undies of course). It is just not practical otherwise. Similarly, I don’t load myself up with gadgets and electronic whizzery and flim flams. I have colleagues with watches that order Uber eats, sunglasses with speakers and shoes with the internet. I’m not joking – its like they can’t spend their money fast enough. When I go away I take my phones, iPad and laptop and even that feels like overkill!

Spending so much time on the road (or in the air?) means when I come back to the apartment I can see things for what they really are – clutter. Growing up the way I did means I do sometimes have a tendency to ‘Magpie’ or ‘collect shiny things for the nest’ (which has led to the unfortunate nickname of ‘the bower bird’ by some of my friends) so looking at my possessions objectively through the lens of minimalism helps me to prioritise what I actually need to keep in my life. This focus on minimalism has helped thwart consumer spending and hoarding, and I have successfully turned tens of thousands of dollars worth of ‘stuff’ back into cash which has been invested in profitable index fund ETFs to grow the FI portfolio.

I like having a ‘light footprint’ which has helped me move around the country chasing my flying career – I am at over a dozen moves which if your tracking, is something like once per year since leaving school (and a fair few before then too). To me, a focus on minimalism means you can afford whatever you want, just not everything at once. I could slap down some cash and buy a Lamborghini if I wanted to, but clearly that is a ridiculous thing for me to do and I would rather have a growing income stream from an investment portfolio.

Whilst I’m not suggesting you need to sell all of your stuff and live like a monk, cutting down on clutter certainly does make your living space feel a lot bigger. I personally have been able to feel a lot more calm at home by getting rid of a heap of stuff I don’t use. It felt like a weight had been lifted, and I take solace in the fact I can always buy something back if I ever need it again. This is in direct opposition to the older generations like my parents who are boomers, who seem to feel they might not have an opportunity to ever repurchase something – which might be why they seem to hoard things. I no longer have ‘crap’ draws full of random stuff, and everything has a neat place.

Great places to start paring things down are collections. Things like Books, CDs, DVDs, toys or clothes that you don’t wear anymore can all easily be donated or sold. It can be harder to part with sentimental things, so go for the low hanging fruit first until you build up your ‘decluttering muscles’. If you want a bit of a helping hand, check out The Life-Changing Magic Of Tidying Up by Marie Kondo.

Presence

Presence is the principle I am working the most on, and probably my weakest area. Presence is about enjoying the moment – not dwelling in the past, or stressing over the future. Here in the FIRE community we can tend to be guilty of getting wrapped up in planning for, and sacrificing some of our present for a better future. This might mean working longer shifts, overtime, weekends or a even taking on a few side hustles or finding passive income ideas like these suggestions try and boost our income and hence our saving rates for investments. Basically the whole movement is about delayed gratification, but we also need to remember to enjoy ourselves along the way

As I touched on earlier, sustainability is an important principle of FIRE. Presence in the here and now makes the journey more enjoyable and therefore increases the chance that you will stick with it. If all you ever do is work and dream about the future, that doesn’t really sound like a recipe for a happy life. I know the value of a hard days work though, and certainly subscribe to the ‘work hard play hard’ train of thought.

I envisage that my 20s is more about learning and hard work, and that my 30s will be a bit more relaxed, focused more on family and recreation and primarily working smarter not harder using passive income rather than trading my time for money. Ultimately there isn’t really a way around this – you need to work hard and sacrifice early on in your career to build your investment and get the snow ball started. Once it reaches a decent size, over time compound interest starts doing the heavy lifting and you can ease up on the gas pedal if you want. But we know that for hardcore, short FIRE journeys, saving and investing will do the bulk of the work.

One way that I have prioritized living in the moment has been disconnecting the TV aerial. I do sometimes still use the TV when I cast an episode of Netflix or a tutorial video from YouTube onto it through the Chromecast which is handy and useful for entertaining, but I try to avoid watching too much stuff in general and aim to spend an equal amount of time reading as I do screen time. I find this helps stop time ‘evaporating’… but then again Netflix binges are also an essential part of the hangover process.

I also breathed new life into my laptop by ordering a new battery for it on Amazon – spending $30 but saving thousands on what a replacement might cost me. Now I can take my laptop outside with me, and I enjoy working writing on the blog in the sunshine. Right now I am actually parked under a big plum tree in my Mum’s orchard. This is so much nicer than being locked inside in an office. I have also been writing on my iPad, which is a little bit clumsy to publish on directly, but is a great way to gather thoughts and put ‘digital pen to paper’ whilst on the move.

One of the most important things I have made a commitment to is when it comes to meals. Meal time should be enjoyed together with friends and family, and I am prioritising it as such. This means no phones, no TV in the background, closing the laptop and sitting down to eat together at the table. This has really helped me connect with my friends and family and is a great way to have a proper conversation. There is something very wholesome about this.

Other things I am doing is of course maintaining my morning runs and exercise breaks, as well as trying to establish reasonable boundaries. This includes with work and side hustles, which means increasingly saying no to potential projects or activities, and shutting down the laptop at a reasonable time. I am pushing myself to ‘get out more’ and engage in more social activities each weekend, and not feeling guilty about spending money on these kinds of things.

Philanthropy

History has shown us that inter-generational wealth is typically lost within three generations, and the majority of today’s millionaires are self made (and that actually, one of the most burdensome things you can give to someone is unearned wealth). To me, Philanthropy is similar but a little different to charity; it doesn’t mean just giving away chunks of money. Philanthropy means helping to promote the welfare of others, it means being generous and passionate with your resources – including money but especially your time.

I used to think that when I reach FIRE or become wealthier that then I would give back more than I do now, but the truth is that Philanthropy, like most things, is a muscle and needs to be trained. Money is only a multiplier: If you are generous as a pauper, then you will be generous when you are wealthy, you won’t suddenly get ‘rich enough to start caring about others’. Being on the path to FIRE doesn’t mean being a total tight arse, it simply means prioritizing your expenses according to what you value.

Accordingly, on my journey to FIRE I have learned the value of giving and the joy in helping others. I take time out of my busy schedule to help coach, mentor and share my experiences with those who need it, especially when it comes to either goal setting, finances or aviation career guidance. I make time to help repair, grow and build things for family, friends and those who ask. Whilst I am in ‘hardcore save and invest mode’, I still do try to provide a little financial assistance where it can help. Whilst it might sound a little ‘non-FIRE’ to some, I think employing people and outsourcing specific tasks can actually be a great way to help others in need – I have been paying a VA (virtual assistant) to help with some of my websites which has provided her with an income source during COVID-19 unemployment.

There are so many ways you can practice being philanthropic on your journey to FIRE, and ultimately start building an amazing community around you. You could join a buy nothing community group (try Facebook) and donate some of your things you don’t use or need anymore, take the time to help a struggling single parent, share some of your skills with the community by hosting a dinner or potluck, helping clean up a local park or beach, or start a community garden. You don’t just have to give money, and the possibilities are endless.

Automation

Automation is a key principle of FIRE that can be used greatly to your advantage. By automating your processes you remove the human in the loop element, which is a key aspect of making them more sustainable in the long term (as discussed above). This helps prevent decision fatigue and lets you focus on what actually matters in your life.

One powerful way I have adopted automation in my journey to FIRE is through a regular index investing approach. I am actually pretty excited by the AutoInvest feature by the new Aussie share investing platform Pearler which allows investors to set up a regular investment based on simple rules (such as least weighting in a portfolio to try and even portfolio splits) and it will be interesting to see if Selfwealth will follow suite and provide a similar tool. We all know that removing the ‘background noise’ of the media and share price volatility, and simply continuing to dollar cost average into the broad market index each payday is the best way to generate long term wealth.

Not only is regular investing a form of automation, but the investment vehicle of an ETF or a LIC is also a powerful automation tool. I let the investment vehicle do all the work for me. They can deal with tracking the index, monitoring performance, buying and selling the companies and of course distributing me my franked dividends. Meanwhilst I sit back, live my life and do whatever I want as I watch the portfolio value snowball over time thanks to compound interest.

When it comes to my garden, automatng my watering was a huge win. Whilst I like being out there and watering my garden, having the automated system means I can rely on it to water my plants when I have something better to do. This keeps my plants luscious and green, and providing lovely crops for me. The automatic watering especially helps during really hot days, where I can choose to do an additional hand watering if I want, too. Can you see how this is already a metaphor for investing? This is why when the stock market goes down I like to invest extra (and for example why I sold more of my physical posessions earlier in the year to free up cash to invest more during the COVID-19 market downturn).

There are a number of tools you can use to help automate your process to FIRE, one of my favourite being Sharesights trade integration. I set up the sharesight email notifcation function so that whenever I make a trade, the brokers confirmation email gets sent to Sharesight and the trade and the stock gets added to my portfolio without me needing to manually import it. This automation was a huge win when I set it up, as manually importing trades was previously one of my most disliked chores.

Creativity

One of the realizations that you come to along the path to Financial Independence is that you pay a hefty price for both convenience and innovation, when you buy it from others that is. However, if you are able to get creative with some lateral thinking skills you can often save yourself quite a bit of money, time and effort. Re-purposing (or recycling) items rather than turfing them out is a great example – when it comes to life on the farm, barely anything gets thrown awau because everything has multiple potential uses and multiple lives;

  • Long branch cuttings from pruning the orchard become stakes for bean or tomato tee-pees in the veggie patch, saving the need to buy stakes. Otherwise cuttings can get chipped and used as ground cover or to make pathways (which prevents weeds and enriches the soil as it breaks down) saving the need to buy bark or wood chips, or finally can be sawed into smaller chunks to be used in a smoker and gifted to friends or sold for this purpose – a source of income!
  • Old 4 stroke motor oil from the car and tractor gets repurposed for the two stroke saws and whipper-snippers, we use it for both chain lube and making two stroke fuel mix (don’t just go and blindly do this or you might damage your engine, do your own research first but it hasn’t been a problem for us).
  • Wire or wire fencing is never thrown out, wire can be cut and used to repair fences or be used for ties in the garden
  • An old barbecue cover becomes a great water proofing cover in the winter for the chooks nesting box hutch (where they lay eggs)
  • Saw dust is collected and used to soak up oil spills in the garage, which then makes excellent firelighters. As do citrus peels when collected and dried out.
  • In winter, soups, sauces and other similar dishes are cooked on top of the combustion heater rather than using the kitchen gas stove.

Back at my apartment, I have used inspiration from farm life to come up with a few simple things – such as keeping old newspapers to clean windows and mop up spills rather than buying lots of paper towels, using pickling strength vinegar (double strength) as my primary cleaning product rather than expensive chemical products, and even growing most (if not all!) of my salad greens and herbs on my balcony in pots in the sun – I also make use of some communal veggie growing spaces in my area too.

I try and trade and barter with my local community as much as possible, which is a great way to engage with other people and make friends, share skills or even pick up new skills yourself, and reduce waste (eg local buy nothing groups). In doing so, I learned how to make Kombucha, Sourdough bread and even my own pasta! Your only limit is your creativity. See if you can use your lateral thinking to reduce, reuse and recycle in order to cut down your waste and your living costs, as well as create new opportunities to collaborate and work together.

Gratitude

Wealth is a state of mind – you can feel wealthier by either acquiring more, or desiring less. Similarly, happiness is also a state of mind which is strongly linked to gratitude. By acknowledging all the amazing things in our life we can avoid getting bogged down in the negatives or desiring more, and instead celebrate and be grateful for all the things we do have.

I have personally started a gratitude journal, where I write down everything I am grateful for in my life. I make time every morning when I wake up to make a note of what I am grateful for, and at least include one thing per day. I try and say it to myself out loud (but I feel a bit corny doing this if I have company). I even have a gratitude pal, and we message each other every day to tell each other what we are grateful for that day. By consciously focusing on the amazing life I lead and the incredible opportunities that I am afforded every day, it really helps put things into perspective.

Logging into social media can be fraught with danger when it comes to gratitude, because what we are really seeing is a highlight reel. No one really posts the down days, the struggle or the constant grind. No one wants to post their darkest thoughts, raw emotions or insecurities. So what we can end up with is really just a bragging platform and extension of ‘playground politics’ which can feel pretty fake or in-genuine. A platform for ‘keeping up with the jonses’, envy or jealousy – which all sounds pretty anti-gratitude to me. This is why I generally avoid using social media for personal accounts (not least because you can also get sucked into the time hole of endless scrolling). If I am honest, there is nothing like 10 minutes scrolling on social media to make me feel like my life isn’t enough – beautiful people smiling through expensive veneer dentistry, fake tans and make up, luxury cars, yachts and other expensive hobbies etc… you name it. The consumer culture is real, and it is very insidiously linked to social media: “People would rather look rich, than actually be rich” .

I think honestly reflecting on what you have and your privileges is a great way to feel wealthier, and also be a bit more humble at the same time. Some of the things I am grateful for include;

  • I am grateful I have the opportunity to live in Australia and contribute taxes towards the upkeep of such a beautiful country and communal facilities
  • I am grateful that I am paying tax because that means I am earning an income.
  • I am grateful I have the opportunity and ability to work in such a specialised role where I get to travel the country and the world.
  • I am grateful I was given the opportunity to study and educate myself.
  • I am grateful I live in a brand new apartment that is so comfortable to live in. I am grateful for hot and cold running water.
  • I am grateful that any time I am hungry I can cook myself a lovely meal.
  • I am grateful that I can go to a grocery store and there is food on the shelves that is available to purchase, and also that I can afford.
  • I am grateful that I have a choice to drive a safe, luxury vehicle to drive.
  • I am grateful that I live in a society with fantastic roads and footpaths allowing my to ride my bicycle.
  • I am grateful that I live so close to public sporting facilities and trails.
  • I am grateful that the climate is so lovely in Sydney and I do not have to deal with 50*C sand storms or -40*C snow storms.
  • I am grateful for the clean air I am able to breathe when I step outside.
  • I am grateful for the access to clean water such as rivers and beaches for recreation and swimming.
  • I am grateful that nearly EVERYWHERE I go in this country I can
  • I am grateful for my health and fitness, that I can do virtually anything I want with my body like rock climb, build something or go snorkeling.

Self-Reliance

Self reliance to me means giving things a go yourself rather than giving up and paying someone to do them for you. It means using your ingenuity and learning to be a little more self-sufficient. Now you cant DIY everything (I’d suggest you steer clear of doing your own dentistry for example), but simple things like changing the oil in your car rather than getting it done by a mechanic or garage, or replacing a leaky valve in your faucet rather than calling a plumber are much more achievable. This might be more-so for some than others, so if you are not confident on working on cars, probably don’t try and service your brakes. You should always operate within your limits.

However, you might be suprised at just how capable you are to do a bit of DIY, and just how much it might help your bottom line. I am continually shocked at just how much Uber Eats my friends and family order. Mostly it is out of laziness and poor planning – which is why meal prepping and home cooking is such a powerful tool for your financial health. One of my friends went from spending $70 per day on Uber Eats ($500 a week!) to now working on a budget of $100 per week on groceries to cook at home during the week, and only resorting to take-away on weekends. In doing this, he saves over $1000 per month compared to his previous habbit, just by being a tad more self reliant.

Remember though, being self reliant doesn’t mean you have to do everything yourself. I personally love the idea that I am capable and can do most things myself if I want to, but I know that outsourcing can be profitable when it is done right too. Its a similar discussion to debt – some people say all debt is bad, but of course we all know that a mortgage on an investment property can be an incredibly smart tool and profitable move when done correctly. Similarly, there are things that are in your interests to outsource rather than do yourself. A way you can evaluate this is to put a dollar value on your time – if you think your time is worth $50 an hour, and estimate would take you 10 hours to service your car, then its probably better off to pay a mechanic $200 to do it. Having said that, I value my time conservatively at $100 per hour, and it takes me about an hour to service my car each year (including the time to pick up the oil, filter and other parts from an auto store). When it comes to this blog, it is not worth my time to manually type out a transcript for each podcast episode – so this is something I pay to have done for me.

Things that I personally do myself include;

  • Laundry at home rather than pay for dry cleaning
  • Clean my apartment myself rather than pay for a cleaner
  • Wash my car with a bucket and sponge rather than pay for a drive through or hand wash
  • Service my car myself….or barter with a mechanic friend (who reads this blog) when I am in too deep… Thanks mate!
  • Meal prep and keep a freezer full of ready to go home-cooked meals rather than order Uber eats
  • Read about and learn a basic working knowledge of finance and investing so I don’t have to pay a financial advisor to manage my affairs
  • Building and repairs on the family property – fences, retaining walls, pergolas etc.

Discipline

Discipline is a key principle to reaching Financial Independence. And it all boils down to to delayed gratification – are you willing to sacrifice todays conveniences for tomorrows success? When I try to foster self discipline to my young nephew and nieces, I ask them;

Would you like one marshmallow now, or two marshmallows after you have had a snack?

Me, the worlds best Uncle

If you are not able to establish boundaries or are easily persuaded to give up on them, then working on your self discipline could be a great thing for you. Discipline will help you resist your urges, and stick to your guns. This could be the difference between ‘cracking’ on some take-away using a credit card, or instead going home to make a lovely home cooked meal.

But discipline isn’t just about spending. It is about setting a goal, establishing a framework and process to achieve that goal and sticking to it. For example, I want to become financially independent and I have learned that a buy and hold, regular investment strategy into index funds (ETFs and LICs) is the best way for me to achieve this (with some property investment and starting businesses thrown in there for good measure, too). If I panicked and sold my share portfolio every time I was afraid the market dropped or the media reported some sensationalized headline, then I would white-ant my progress. I would likely end up with much lower returns than if I just ignore the noise and dutifully continue investing as soon I have any the money to put into Mr Market.

Discipline is about doing what you know is right, even if you are a little nervous, or tempted to do something else. Discipline can mean going for that morning run, lifting those weights, and choosing to eat healthy. Discipline could mean sticking to your boring, thoroughly unsexy index investing strategy rather than riding the dizzying highs and terrifying lows of tech stocks like the BNPL craze. Discpline helps you continually make those awesome little 1%’ers that give you the slight edge that compound and snowball into massive, meaningful results and change.

Self-Care

Last, but not least on my list is Self-care. On the path to FI, we can sometimes get a bad wrap for extreme behavior – extreme frugality, extreme overtime, extreme stress… I am personally right now recovering from probably a bit of burn out at work, and taking time out to be with my family and close friends during a really tough period for my family. Doing anything to an extreme always puts you at risk, so its important to take stock and moderate your behavior sometimes, especially when it comes to self care.

For example when we talk savings rate, you need to consider bang for your buck. Increasing your savings rate from 70% to 80% might shave 3 years off your journey to reaching Financial Independence, but if it makes you miserable the whole time and you eat oats for every meal then I don’t think its worth it. This is something I am personally trying to work on and be less obsessive about. I previously tied up my sense of achievement with having a high savings rate (there is that hyper competitiveness in me coming out again!) but lately I am relaxing a little and seeing the benefits of enjoying some of my money now – one of my favorite things to do is spending on my young nieces and nephews.

But self-care isn’t just about spending. Its about looking after yourself. Its about looking after your sleep hygeine, your health, fitness, diet and mental health. Examples of things I am doing, or working on for my own self-care include;

  • No ‘scrolling’ of social media
  • No technology after 9pm (I suck at this rule, its probably the one I break most often).
  • Sleep hygiene – in bed, lights out by 10pm (can be tricky as a shift worker sometimes!)
  • Closing the laptop at a reasonable time – I try to have it shut by 6pm so I can cook a lovely meal.
  • Drinking at least 2L of tap water per day out of my ridiculous sized water bottle
  • Going for a half hour run or walk each day to get my dose of sun and fresh air
  • Weightlifting and functional resistance training
  • Speaking to a psychologist once per month
  • Limiting packaged foods, and instead eating a mostly Whole Food, Plant Based diet
  • Not obsessing about financial choices or purchases – a quick 80% decision is better than a right one that never comes! (One of the reasons I like shopping at Aldi due to their more limited brand range)
  • Visiting the physiotherapist once per fortnight to manage neck/back issues (very common for pilots – best to be on the front foot!)
  • Getting a massage once per month

Conclusion

The Principles of the Financial Independence Retire Early movement are a set of principles or guidelines which form the foundation of the movement, and guide your behavior in a way that helps you achieve happiness and success on your journey. To me, the most important principles behind the FIRE movement are Leadership, Frugality, Minimalism, Sustainability, Philanthropy, Creativity, Gratitude, Self reliance, Self-care, Automation, Discipline and Presence. By embracing these principles you are giving yourself the best chance of reaching Financial Independence.

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