On Fulfillment

Continuing in the trend of answering questions posed on the MMM Forums on this blog. The following question was asked: http://forum.mrmoneymustache.com/ask-a-mustachian/how-did-you-come-to-feel-satiated-with-less/

Basically, the question is “How do you feel satisfied with less?”. Whether that is money, possessions, food, or verbal praise. For purposes of this discussion I’ll mostly stick with money and personal possessions.

I think a lot of this stems from your psychology and perhaps upbringing. I am sure there are other factors like social factors. Mental illness could cloud this as well. Some people are obsessive compulsive. Others have addictions to drugs, sex, or power.

But if the question is how does a normal person get along with less stuff? Then I think it is likely the same answer as how does someone stay in shape, or avoid certain self destructive habits. It’s about discipline. But more importantly, it’s about wanting. People do things because they want to. Every day we make choices whether we are conscious of them or not. It may be as simple as picking out what color shirt you are going to wear, or it could be a complicated decision like buying a piece of real estate, getting married, going to school, etc.

The choices we make all go back to our wants.

No one buys a Big Mac, fries, and a 32 ounce soda for lunch because they need one. They want one. They make that decision. Same with cheating on their spouse, or skipping the gym, or giving the guy that cut you off on the way to work the middle finger. These are all choices.

So how doe we become satisfied with less stuff? We want less stuff because we want something else more. Maybe that is simplicity, peace, freedom, financial security. It’s like wanting 6-pack abs more than another slice of leftover birthday cake in the office fridge.

In fact I think approaching this entire subject from a position of scarcity is the wrong way to go. Instead, I think it should be a focus on what you are really trying to do. What you really want. In the context of this question it is reaching financial independence by saving money and not frittering it away on useless crap. So it’s not about getting used to wanting less stuff, it’s about getting used to wanting more independence. It’s a re-allocation.

And it’s not necessarily a zero sum game. I think part of this is about having a healthy respect for money, and that it can be used as a tool to better your life by purchasing goods, services, and experiences. But it can also provide lasting security if you save and invest enough of it.

I’m not a shrink so if this is something you struggle with I can’t provide mental health advice. Certainly I’ve spent a lot of time trying to analyze myself and my own whacky situation. I think it all boils down to priorities. In that you may find peace.

I’m as guilty as the next person of wanting to buy things. For example, I have been ogling a Rolex watch for years now. Recently the temptation to buy one was really strong. I was checking them out daily. But over time that has slipped and faded away. I realized that I cant justify the $6,000-8,000 expense for a watch right now. I want a Rolex, but at the end of the day, there are other things that I want more right now. I want to invest that money. At some point, I’ll have enough money to where if I still want the Rolex I can buy it, but it makes no sense for me to spend that kind of money now. So it’s not about getting used to less. It’s about getting your priorities together and figuring out what you want more.

October Update

Time has flown and this blog has gathered some dust. I have been working on some other projects namely my affiliate site. My freelance writers haven’t been producing many articles, so I’ve stepped up to the plate. It has been fun to churn out the content. I mostly write product reviews, and it feels good to hit publish, knowing that each article is planting a seed that will result in more income. The Google gods have been fickle to my affiliate website. They always have, but in the past few months I saw traffic climb, only to plummet after a new algorithm update. In the past couple weeks traffic appears to have been coming back. Knock on wood. I won’t hold my breath, but I have invested so much time and energy into that site. It’s really a labor of love. It would be great to see it gain more traction and really take off.

I have also been spending a lot of time looking at real estate. I have been trying to study the market, and I even made an offer the other week. The offer was rejected without a counter, so it’s back to the MLS to hunt for more deals. I have been giving real estate a great deal of thought now that I have a little capital to invest. I was originally trying to buy based on pure cash flow, but I’m not sure that will work well. At any rate, I just need to buy something. You don’t learn anything sitting on the sidelines. I’ve been making a few moves and plan on making more.

So stuff has been going on, and I have a few draft posts that need to be polished up, but I wanted to put in an update.

I have been spending a lot of time with Personal Capital and reviewing my income and spending to date. I have found this to be helpful. So helpful, that I created a second account for my law firm’s accounts. This way I can get some more “on the fly” metrics and build some historical data. I think tracking expenses and income has been interesting and important as I try to get my personal financial life together, but I have foolishly not applied that to my law firm’s financials. Instead, I have been flying by the seat of my pants. I sent all my books to my bookkeeper this past week, so I should get some sort of idea from them, but Personal Capital seems like a great way to monitor things in real time and identify leaks in my business.

I have used Mint for almost 2 years now, and Personal Capital for about a year (for my personal accounts). Both programs are good, but for whatever reason I have been gravitating towards Personal Capital.

The stock market has been acting strangely. I am guessing the uncertainty with the election has something to do with it, but for whatever reason we appear to be treading water. I don’t know enough about this to make an educated comment so I’ll just leave it at that. I sense some hesitation in the local real estate market, but not enough to make it a buyers market. I am still investing monthly in my IRAs and brokerage account, and am slowly accumulating cash.

Things have been going OK with my law firm. I am right at my 4 year anniversary. Hard to believe this time next year I’ll have been practicing law for 5 years. I feel like monetarily I have done as well as I wanted to with my firm this year. I have been paying myself a relatively small salary, and chucking ~$1,000/month into a SEP IRA. I’m paying the bills, but it doesn’t seem like there is a whole lot left over. But I just made my last quarterly tax payment of the year, and a big insurance payment, so any cash I earn from here on out should be mostly gravy – unless I make more money and have to pay the IRS.

Things all seem to be more or less on auto pilot in my law practice. I have a few thorny cases, but most seem relatively routine. Each week I show up at the office, and legal problems somehow find their way to me, and I manage to get paid to solve some of them. There is an insane amount of stimulus between email, the phone, my employee, people in the office, and all the other things I do (networking related). Plus there is the actual practice of law. It’s a crush of stuff. I feel like most of my day is spent running around in circles. I have been working on the weekends to try to stay on top of things and get ready for the week.

Beyond that, I am still going strong with my limited drinking. I have been averaging a drink a week. I feel OK. The biggest impact has been on my wallet, although I think I look a little better. The changes, if any, have been subtle.

Things are beginning to cool off here a little in South Florida. It has gone from “hot as hell” to simply “hot”. Over the next few weeks lets hope it gets to “cool”. That would be a nice change of pace.