A month ago, my wife headed over to a friend's home for a book club for mothers from the local elementary school, leaving me on dad duty with the kids.
I reached out to a fellow father in similar straits, and invited him to bring his kids over for a casual taco night and playdate at our place.
After dinner, the kids scurried off to play some board games while my friend and I continued our conversation over a couple of beers.
This is a friend who, for whatever reason, has been receptive to deep dives during the ordinary conversation opportunities that occur in our tight-knit suburban parent community - end of the year swim parties, family fun nights and the like.
The past couple of times we'd spoken, we had blown past the superficial conversation topics and gone straight for the bone. So although I tend to stay somewhat guarded for fear of isolating folks who have not chugged the FI Kool-Aid, he asked and I shared an honest assessment of the financial rebirth I'd been going through, and the consequences of shifting gears and reorienting work to better accommodate life.
He opened up about what was going on his life, we had a great get-to-know-you evening, and our friendship grew a bit stronger. I offered that if he ever wanted to delve further into talking finances my door was open, and I didn’t think much more about it.
Fast forward a couple of months. The friend and I just went out for coffee, and he’s feverish with talk of financial independence. Mind churning in a thousand directions simultaneously. Home school the kids? Sell the house down the line and use the equity to leap across the finish line and reach his FI number? Negotiate a reduced commute and work from home more days during the week? Fire his financial advisor and assume primary responsibility for running his portfolio?
Turned out he went home after taco night and started reading his way through the Mr. Money Mustache blog, the gateway drug to FI. He’d started looking over the past few months’ bills to see what expenses might be cut. He’d started thinking about money as currency to purchase freedom instead of stuff.
I heard him out, reassured him that this was a process, and that with a little more reading under his belt the multitude of vectors shooting out of his brain would settle into a single clear path that was right for him.
I also warned him that he’d need to give his wife time to understand his enthusiasm and buy in over time, giving her veto power over scrapping any items or services that brought her great joy even if they constituted a significant expense.
Was this contagion? It seemed more powerful than that. Exposure to a compelling idea doesn’t guarantee you’ll see the world in a radical new way.
To the contrary, this was inoculation. He no longer felt susceptible to the conventions, material temptations and restrictions that applied to other households. He felt empowered to live his life according to his own values.
There is something absolutely magical in the promise of wresting back control over your life and understanding your finances well enough to choose your destiny.
It’s a strange analogy, but a little over a decade ago I took a young intern through placing his first chest tube. The patient was a local college student with a collapsed lung. The intern went through a series of transformations as I bore witness: trepidation, then wonder, and finally an irrepressible sense of pride in accomplishment.
Watching the notion of financial independence take root in my friend felt good in the same way.
More updates to come…