Author Chris Mamula shares an excerpt from “Choose FI: Your Blueprint to Financial Independence.” Hear him speak at at GreenPath Financial Wellness in Farmington Hills on Thursday at 8 p.m.
By Chris Mamula
I partnered with Brad Barrett and Jonathan Mendonsa on our new book “Choose FI: Your Blueprint to Financial Independence.” In the book, we share our stories as well as those of people they’ve interviewed on the popular ChooseFI podcast, which features people who have achieved financial independence (FI) quickly. Accomplishing FI in only 10-15 years, rather than the 40-plus years most people take between starting their careers and reaching traditional retirement age, requires a high savings rate.
The average American currently saves around 5% of their income. A typical savings rate for people featured in the book is closer to 50%. Many people hear this and immediately picture suffering, sacrifice and extreme frugality. But if that was the case, few if any people would actually do it. Instead, everyone profiled in the book are valuists, people who line up their spending with their values, enabling them to do what it takes to achieve this unusual outcome in life. The concept is explained in this excerpt:
What ties all of us together when we Choose FI is that we become clear on what we want and then align our lives and finances to work toward achieving what we value. A term has grown out of the ChooseFI podcast to encompass all of us pursuing FI: “valuist.” A valuist is someone who spends their time and money consistently with their values. You do not have to adopt anyone else’s definition of success or failure, but to gain traction on the path to FI you do have to determine what you value and then start spending your time and money accordingly.
People who Choose FI can seem strange to those who don’t understand the concept of a valuist. Jonathan originally learned of Brad when he heard him on another podcast talking about approaching FI in his thirties. Brad also discussed using credit card travel rewards to take a trip with his wife, kids, and the kid’s grandparents to Disney World. Jonathan was surprised the first few times he met up with Brad in person. Brad always wore flip-flops, shorts, and one of his assorted free T-shirts from FinCon, a conference for financial bloggers. Brad values travel and time with family, so he devotes time and money to those ends. He doesn’t value fancy clothes, so he doesn’t spend time and money trying to impress others with his wardrobe. He’s a valuist.
I had a similar experience when working. My coworkers teased me frequently about my “Pap-mobile,” a 2003 Chevy Malibu with cloth seats that I inherited from my grandfather when he could no longer drive. I drove that inherited car for nearly a decade while pursuing FI. Over that same period of time, I spent considerable money traveling the world in pursuit of outdoor adventures and other experiences, including major sporting events and music festivals. I value those experiences, but I don’t value fancy cars. So my time and money went to travel, adventure, and experiences while still saving a lot of money by driving a crappy car. I’m a valuist.
Some more extreme — and maybe gross — examples come from Bobby Hoyt of “Millennial Money Man” and Carl of “1500 Days to Freedom.” Bobby talked of his love of boating and Carl of travel when they came on the ChooseFI podcast. Both men publicly “bragged” that their wives made them throw away underwear and socks with holes in them. They’re not too poor to afford new underwear, nor are they too cheap to buy it. It’s just not a priority to go shopping, so they don’t bother. I’m not proud to admit my wife had to give me the same talk.
Being a valuist is pretty simple when you understand it. Be happy with simple things. Budget or track your spending so you know where your dollars are going. Align your spending with the things that are truly important to you.
Chris Mamula used principles of traditional retirement planning, combined with creative lifestyle design, to retire from a career as a physical therapist at age 41. After poor experiences with the financial industry early in his professional life, he educated himself on investing and tax planning. Now he draws on his experience to write about wealth building, DIY investing, financial planning, early retirement, and lifestyle design at Can I Retire Yet? Chris’ writing has been featured in MarketWatch, Doughroller, Business Insider and RockStar Finance. He is also the primary author of the book “Choose FI: Your Blueprint to Financial Independence.” You can reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.