The Happy Middle-Ground Of Financial Independence


If you’re reading this post, the odds are pretty good you’re looking to escape from the consumer rat-race, like I did.

Maybe at one point in life you really liked working.  You were good at your job, but somewhere along the line things changed.  The job ceased to be fun.

It probably happened somewhere between the endless commutes, office politics, and those ever-torturous “performance reviews”.  

Maybe you realized that job wasn’t going to fulfill all your dreams.

A lot of these so-called ‘dreams’ are often about excessive consumption anyway — keeping you drowning in debt, and working until the day you die.  Nobody dreams about that.

Did you dream of a big house, or maybe a penthouse apartment?  How about fancy cars, long luxury vacations, and endless meals-out at restaurants?

When did you realize all those things wouldn’t make you happy?

Did you wake-up one morning and realize that fancy car would only be carrying you to work in the same commute traffic as everyone else?  

How about that big house?  It just keeps you chained to a stressful job, paying down that giant mortgage.

Maybe you finally realized those luxury vacations were never going to be longer than 2 weeks a year…because that’s the longest vacation your manager would ever approve.

Did you dream of a life with endless exotic vacations?  Better check with your manager first!

How about the endless meals out?  Eventually all the high-calorie meals will make you incredibly fat and unhealthy.  It’s not a sustainable lifestyle.

This difference between consumer-dreams and consumer-reality can be frustrating.  For most, that frustration won’t stop the cycle of “earn, spend, and repeat” in the search for a happy life.

 

Invert, Always Invert

You could take the opposite extreme in life — completely end consumption by detaching from the modern world.  

Yes, you could just head into the woods and forget modern society.  You could live a life based not on consumption, but entirely on what you produce with your own hands, or gather from nature.

This kind of life isn’t as abnormal as you might think — people have been doing this for years under the fancy the brand-name of “homesteading“.

While I have no personal experience homesteading, I’ve known a few people over the years that tried it.  They gave-up lucrative careers to become simple homesteaders.  Some of these individuals were quite wealthy, but consumer society didn’t fulfill them.  

Instead, they chose the opposite end of the consumption spectrum to find a fulfilling life.

My personal observation is that it’s a good life, but one filled with a lot of physical hardship.  Living off the land isn’t easy, and it’s very hard physical work.  Are you ready to be physically active all-day every day?

Because of this, homesteaders become extremely physically-fit individuals, in contrast to the relative flab of consumer society.

homesteading
Could you grow your own food, milk the chickens, and feed the cows every single day? It’s a ton of hard work to produce enough food for a family.  Going to Costco is far easier!

It’s not an easy life, but it is a life filled with freedom, self-reliance, and personal accomplishment.

But is it a happier life?

For those that adopt the lifestyle, yes — they do appear to be happier.  Homesteaders enjoy living-life on their own terms, and producing with their own hands.  It’s not a terribly social life however.  

Homesteading typically means living far away from the urban centers of consumer society.  Homesteaders typically spend most of their time in a natural environment, producing food and maintaining an active homestead.

 

The Happy Middle?

Those are the two extremes — one life dependent on spending money, and another life that eschews spending in favor of self-reliance.

Fortunately, life gives us plenty of other options.  We don’t have to choose just the extreme ends of the spectrum, there is a happy middle-ground to be found.  

For most people, I think the happiest possible life is going to be somewhere in the middle of the two extremes ….

A life partially unplugged from consumer society, but still able to enjoy its benefits.  A middle-ground where negative elements are removed (jobs, commuting, stress, high prices, etc) and many of the positives are added (freedom, self-reliance, personal accomplishment, and low monetary requirements).

You don’t have to be a hermit in the woods to build a happy life! (thank goodness for that)

Financial independence is just another word for finding that middle-ground — Having enough money to live the kind of life you choose, but absent from all the chains of a consumer lifestyle.

 

The Tako Middle-Ground

Today, I like to think the Tako family sits somewhere in the middle of the two extremes.  We still use a considerable amount of money, but our core expenses are typically less than $20k per year.  

We earn enough dividend income, that our modest consumption level is sustainable indefinitely without jobs or debt.

It’s a free life, and we’re pretty happy with it.  Instead of buying new all the time, we simply live with used things.

Yes, that means I tend to do a little more DIY-repair than average, but I don’t mind.   

By maintaining a small Economic Garden we’re able to produce some of our own food.  Not a lot, but enough to keeps the costs low and our food healthy.  We cook most of our food at home.

It does take a little extra work to live this way, but we enjoy it.  That’s our equation for a happy life, and it works for us.

Financial independence allowed us to maximize the positives in our life, and remove as many of the negatives as possible.

So I implore you — try it for yourself!  Reach financial independence, and start finding your own “happy middle-ground” today.  

What kind of lifestyle brings you the maximum amount of happiness?  Please share in the comments!

 

[Image Credit: Flickr1, Flickr2, Flickr3]


27 thoughts on “The Happy Middle-Ground Of Financial Independence

  • April 29, 2017 at 1:02 AM
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    Mr. Tako, I definitely agree that living a balanced life (i.e. “middle ground”) is key to finding some contentment after early retirement. Your family definitely does do a great job of keeping expenses down, but simultaneously keeping the fun up!

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  • April 29, 2017 at 2:52 AM
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    “Moderation in all things, including moderation!” 🙂 I just read that quote recently. Yes, I really like the idea of the middle way. Truth is, most people could improve their finances tremendously with small tweaks, with moving their lifestyles toward a more balanced, restrained lifestyle. I am seriously impressed that you keep your core expenses under $20K! We are slloowly cutting our expenses but we’re nowhere near you!

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    • May 1, 2017 at 10:50 PM
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      Honestly, I don’t think our expenses are all that low. We could push a lot harder and get them under $15k I bet, but then again, we don’t like being too extreme. 🙂

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  • April 29, 2017 at 3:09 AM
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    This middle-ground concept is interesting to me. I never thought of it that way. I’m not too crazy about consumerism but not ready for homesteading either. Could the middle ground include people who still work a normal 9-5 job but live under their means to have more life style options in the future? Homesteading is just one option. It could be just a spectrum of lifestyles where you have more than one that fits anywhere along a line.

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    • May 1, 2017 at 10:51 PM
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      Absolutely! The middle ground is a wide-open space that’s got room for all sorts of people.

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  • April 29, 2017 at 5:13 AM
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    Good post. I too strive for a balance. For me, being extreme does not fit my temperment. We save 50%, 20% for bills, and blow the other 30% on what we enjoy.

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  • April 29, 2017 at 5:27 AM
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    My father, an incredibly wise man, has a phrase he calls “staying even”. “Staying even” also blends the aforementioned concepts with the premise with the idea that one must live well today while saving for tomorrow in such a way that if you died this evening you would not feel as if you had only lived for the future.

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    • May 1, 2017 at 10:38 PM
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      Interesting concept Bob. I’ve not heard this one before!

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  • April 29, 2017 at 6:15 AM
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    The Middle Ground = Financial Independence. This is great. I also call it Moderatism. Somewhere in between minimalism and consumerism….I like having a garden, but I also enjoy buying produce from the grocery store.

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    • May 1, 2017 at 10:37 PM
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      Indeed! If I tried to produce all my own food it would be an incredible amount of work. A single person doesn’t have the economies of scale that large farms do. It’s frequently cheaper and easier to buy a lot of the foods we eat…but there are some places where growing your own makes sense.

      The dance of Financial Independence between the two extremes, is figuring out where those places are.

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  • April 29, 2017 at 6:46 AM
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    I love the theory, Mr. Tako. I relate it (as with most things) to coffee. Does a frothy Mocha Cappachino with whipped cream bring tears of joy to my eyes? Yes!

    But a daily double intake of that libation would be a significant drain on my income and metabolism.

    Would a life without coffee be bland, boring, and possibly induce suicide. Science says yes and I agree! Thus the humble double espresso shot, made at home and transported to work in the Most Holy Thermos provides me with a life worth living without me sacrificing my economic edge.
    Jack Catchem recently posted…4 Reasons Cops Packing Lunch should be against Department Policy

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  • April 29, 2017 at 7:14 AM
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    The one thing that we have learned through this whole process is that balance is key. It’s a theme that comes up time and time again.

    Can’t be a hermit but can’t be flashy. You have to spend some, but what do you really need to spend?

    And make sure that what you are spending money on adds value to your life. Splurge if need be, but you have to understand the repercussions of that splurge and make up for it in other ways.

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    • May 1, 2017 at 10:34 PM
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      Sometimes we dance between the two extremes…sometimes a little more consumerist and sometimes a little bit more of a homesteader.

      You just go where the dance takes you.

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  • April 29, 2017 at 7:56 AM
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    When I think about FI and happiness I always remember what my grandpa used to say, “If you unhappy and grumpy person without money, you will be more unhappy and more grumpier (is it a word?) with money”

    Some people think that money is the cornerstone, and they try to achieve a milestone ($500K, $1M, whatever), but they forget about the big WHY. And when the dream comes true they continue to be unhappy and grumpy people.

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    • May 1, 2017 at 10:30 PM
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      Interesting perspective your Grandpa has. There’s definitely some wisdom there!

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  • April 29, 2017 at 3:45 PM
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    I’ve been in the Middle Ground for nearly 5 years now. I do mostly eat out though. Don’t care for my own cooking very much and I have a brown thumb in the garden!

    Also, I am human or cephalopod.

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  • April 29, 2017 at 6:38 PM
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    I’m definitely more of a moderation middle ground sort of person. Home stealing is great and all. My ancestors did plenty of it. But frankly I made decisions in life not to spend all my time in my career doing manual labor. I wouldn’t choose when I’m done it to then do that labor all the time. Only the manual labor I want to do after retirement. Live today and tomorrow, enjoying both.
    FullTimeFinance recently posted…The Importance of Umbrella Insurance

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    • May 1, 2017 at 10:28 PM
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      Home stealing? That doesn’t sound right…don’t steal people’s houses!

      You sound like you’re trying to have it all in life. Good luck to you!

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  • April 30, 2017 at 9:31 PM
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    Yes, all about that happy balance. Never too much of any indulgence but not denying it either. While I do eat expensive meals on business, I remind myself that the decadent dessert will taste just the same from the second spoon onwards so I stop with the first spoon – to avoid wasting, I indulge my host or guest to order a full dessert and take a spoon from them.

    We should remember that even the definition of “happy middle ground” varies from person to person. Your lifestyle may be that happy median for you but it will appear extremely frugal in some ways to others or even too spendy to many others. After all, spending $50k a year does put you in the top 5% of how the world lives.

    Discipline is with us if we choose to exercise it. I do agree that modern consumer society gives plenty of tempting opportunities to slack and become flabby.
    Ten Factorial Rocks recently posted…Retire in 30s via Real Estate Investing

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  • May 1, 2017 at 8:41 AM
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    The middle ground is huge. I’m sure most people can figure it out if they put their mind to it.
    It’s really interesting to see how every blogger approach FI. There is more than one way to do it.

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    • May 1, 2017 at 10:27 PM
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      Absolutely! That’s the great part about the middle ground — it’s so damn big! Room to do it however you want!

      Reply

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