A couple of days ago I was talking with some folks and one person remarked that I seem really preoccupied with money. In fact, when she read my blog (and apparently they read regularly) they noted it was always about how to save more or get out of debt or whatever and it connoted for them the image that I am “obsessed” with money.
I admit I probably did the German Shepard stare where I cocked my head to one side trying to figure out what she was saying. And perhaps she is right to an extent. I do like to talk about money. I like to talk about saving, investing, paying off debt. I fully admit I encourage my students to think about student loan debt and investing when they graduate from college. I don’t want them to have to go through what I went through. I wish others had given me this kind of advice. Mrs. ROB turned me onto listening to podcasts and the only ones I really listen to are financial ones and political ones. And I also have a personal finance blog where I chronicle my own journey and hope I pass along important tidbits along the way. So she might be right I might be a little preoccupied with the topic of money.
However, my preoccupation with money is not necessarily about money for money’s sake but it is what I can do with that money. It is nothing more than a tool for me. I am not Ebenezer Scrooge. I have no desire to accumulate vast amounts of wealth and hoard it all. Instead my thoughts have always been about questions surrounding: how much money do I need to be financially independent? How long might I stay at my current position? How long before my student loans are forgiven? What does the future hold for me regarding a potential family with children? Should we move to be closer to family and friends as they get older? How long am I going to want to work? What do I want to be when I grow up? What aspirations do I have in my career? Etc?
All of those questions, while money is a part of them are really about two more important subjects: time and freedom. Becoming financially independent gives me the potential time to pursue the things I really love to do. The truth is, however, I have a job that I do love and I already get to pursue the things I love. But the ultimate question with my current place of employment is will it be my “forever” place or will I want to go somewhere else or closer to home? Those questions are motivated by the fact that my parents and Mrs. ROB’s parents are getting older. Mrs. ROB is an only child and she would probably like to closer to her family as they get older. Moreover, most of our closest friends are in our home state. While we love many of the people where we live now they don’t necessarily provide the deep friendships that we have back where we grew up. I miss that. I long for that. Being financially independent gives us more time to reconnect with family and friends because we can take longer vacations. We can build better bonds than ever before.
Becoming financially independent also gives me the freedom to make these kinds of moves. If I had my FI number right now I might very well apply for positions that some would interpret as demotions, but might actually bring us closer to family or might bring my career even more prestige. Financial independence gives us a specific floor and some stability in case Mrs. ROB and I don’t have the ideal position. At the same time, I have worked really hard to get to where I am at and giving that up, or at least it appears giving something up, is hard for me to think about. It is hard for me to swallow because of the different questions that go into a job change or even a full on career change. That change might mean a demotion, a pay cut, having to fill out new documentation for public service loan forgiveness, adjusting to a new situation, etc. Is that really the right move to make at this moment when there is so much flux in our lives? Being financially independent might ease some of that burden.
So I would say that I am certainly “obsessed” with money but only to the extent about what money can do for us. This has never been about money. This has been about using that money to achieve something larger, to give me more options, flexibility, and freedom to make maneuvers where I might make mistakes, but if we fail, finances are the primary issue. Money helps me reach for and achieve a semblance of balance. It gives me a little bit of peace of mind. And in this tumultuous climate a little peace of mind goes a long way with me right now.