Contagion Or Inoculation?

crispydoc Uncategorized 9 Comments

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…

Comments 9

  1. Congrats CD on developing a deep friendship and actually providing the inspiration for him to take an enormous step in gaining back his life.

    I like the inoculation analogy. Most people have no idea about the FI community but once they are exposed to it, the logic behind it makes sense and causes you to asses your own life.

    It is definitely wise for him to continue to read on the topic and not just jump in based on one blog or one book. And getting your partner on the same page is a must for it to work.

    Hopefully you created another convert. It almost seems like mission work trying to get people on the right side of the lender-borrower equation.

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      Your missionary analogy is apt, Xrayvsn. I feel like it’s this great thing in my life, but I am wary of proselytizing and don’t want to come off as a sanctimonious prick.

      The only thing I feel qualified to do is let the friend know the feelings are legit, and that it will take a little time to sort out the desire to redo everything from scratch and reconcile it with what is important to sort out right now without rushing into an irreversible change during these throes of financial renaissance passion.


  2. Crispy Doc, “The Inoculator”!

    You reached out to someone and he was ready for a transformation. I like how he’s thinking creatively now, especially about negotiating his commute.

    Great job!

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      Thanks for stopping by, Mrs. G.

      I’m hoping it gets him to a better place, and it’s exciting to see it take root. I get to see the incredible hulk muscles burst out of the confines of the former constraints as he takes the reins of his life, and I’m hoping it leaves him in a position of power.

      I’ll keep you posted!


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      I’d love to take credit, but it’s the idea that holds all the magic. You mean if I do these simple things I become an agent in control of my life instead of a passive unwitting supporter of a level of consumption that brings me no closer to happiness, and further from my values?

      That has little to do with salesmanship, and more to do with a ripeness for embracing change. Few folks are ready, but when they are, what a compelling story to become a part of!

  3. I kind of view this endeavor as a hobby. It has some drama and some weight to it’s substance since we are talking money, but it’s also pretty simple minded. You can wrap yourself up in testosterone of it all, religious mythology and pathos, but in general making some money with a relatively controlled risk is fun and if you’re any good at it you can be quite entrepreneurial but that’s more a matter of marketing chutzpah than brilliance. So share the hobby with your friend and have some fun watching your fortunes grow

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  4. I think some people (esp docs) have no idea it is possible to live a great life without buying a Tesla or a 6000 sq foot house. The more stuff like that you buy the faster the treadmill keeps rolling. It is good to find a few folks in your real life you can talk to.

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