Is FI a net worth pissing contest?

The Manneken Pis in Brussels - statue of a little boy doing his thing :)
The Manneken Pis in Brussels – statue of a little boy doing his thing 🙂

Money is a dangerous beast. You start off using it as a tool but it slowly gains a hold on you and becomes your master. There comes a point where if you are not careful, money will become the be all and end all, instead of a means to an end.

I write this after reading a post on another blog where the author bemoaned the fact that she sometimes goes on some of the well-known FIRE blogs whose authors are very open about their net worth and gets depressed after comparing their numbers to her own. I can understand where she is coming from. Man is a competitive animal and ultimately we are all too prone to getting pulled into a pissing contest. It happens to the best of us, whether we want to admit to it or not.

However this is not what FI blogs are about, is it? It is not about who has more money than who, but rather about setting goals and working to achieve them, getting encouragement and learning along the way from others who have already walked along the same path before you.

In my case it is also about gaining inspiration. I love reading about how people all over the world have chosen to leverage their financial independence in different ways. There is the couple who sold all their possessions except their car and who went travelling around South America, and several couples with children in the US and even in Europe (hello Mr W! – whatlifecouldbe.eu)  who have jumped into early retirement and are spending lots of quality time with their families. There are people who have chosen to set up new businesses and others who have thrown themselves into voluntary work. There is also a guy (The Voluntary Life) who sold his business just like me and who then sold all his possessions and took off on a trip around the world (thank you The Personal Economist for bringing him to my attention!) Last but definitely not least there are people who have achieved financial independence and who do not really need to work, but who choose to continue working because they absolutely love their careers and would not want to do anything else.

Ultimately that is what it is all about. Financial independence is a totally personal thing. It’s about finding out what kind of life you want to live and what is worthwhile to you and working towards that reality. It is not about a magic number, or a number that is larger than the blog-next-door’s number. It does not matter how your net worth stacks up against that of other people. We are all prone to moments of financial voyeurism and that’s OK – however if that is what your journey is about then you are never going to get to your destination because the truth is that there will always be someone who is richer than you.

Don't let a number define you. Start living your dreams now
Don’t let a number define you. Start living your dreams now

So I would say that we should worry less about net worth and more about life goals. Our financial goals should be in place to support what we want to achieve in life, and not simply numbers with no anchor. So if your goal is to be able to spend more time with your family, then aim for that and to hell with your neighbour’s net worth.

There is also another danger with getting too obsessed with a financial target. You end up putting the rest of your life in a holding pattern as you strive towards that number, forgetting that it is actually possible to start turning some of your dreams into reality a long time before you reach your financial goals. It is totally a case of missing the wood for the trees.

Let’s take one of my life goals for example. I have set up a foundation with the specific aim of helping children overcome challenges they are facing in their lives. It is something that is very important to me and yet there are times when I lose sight of that. If this goal matters, and to me it does, then why on earth should I put it off until after I reach an arbitrary number?

Children sometimes need some help to blossom and thrive.
Children sometimes need some help to blossom and thrive.

Working towards financial independence is not a competition of who is more frugal than who, or who has the highest monthly saving rate. It’s about wanting to live life on your terms. So at the moment my main goal is to push ahead with rolling out the first pilot project of my foundation, putting in place a support system for children coming from difficult backgrounds and helping them to blossom. Achieving this goal will be an important milestone in my journey, even though it will not add a cent to my net worth.

So keep your eyes on the prize and do not get distracted. This is about living the happiest and most fulfilling life possible, not about being crowned king or queen of the net worth prom.

Author: Mrs Smelling Freedom

After selling my business my priority is consolidating my family's financial independence. I blog about Entrepreneurship, Financial Independence and living life to the full!

8 thoughts on “Is FI a net worth pissing contest?”

  1. I can’t agree more with you! Comparing net worth and savings rate is a race doesn’t mean much.
    I got it. Savings rate is key. But cmon…it’s by fat not the most important thing on the road to a happy life.
    What I like to ask people: what do you prefer ? 500k Dollars as a one off thing, or 1500 monthly for the Rest of your life?
    So, you can have 0 net worh, but if your passive income covers your expenses (a business for instance), you are fine and you can focus on things that make you happy.
    It’s interresting, how you wrote about your foundation. We just started helping / giving in a different way and we feel so incredibly happy about it. Looking forward to sharing the whole story on our blog soon.

  2. Hey – agree with you, it is not a competition, just to get inspiration and ideas. You think if you can apply them to your personal situation, if yes great, if not you’ve learnt something new. Thanks for the shout out, glad you found Jake’s story interesting. Getting down to just one suitcase takes some focus!

  3. Interesting post. Maybe some bloggers are doing it to boast, maybe some are just doing to share the whole picture. If someone blogs they’re trying to lose weight, we want to read about what food they eat, how they are exercising and ultimately what weight they are. I suppose the net worth is like how much someone weighs, everything they do will affect this number. (Without wanting to utterly plug) we very recently did a post asking “why are finances private”, some people’s answers were very interesting.

    Currently we share our dividend income, a broad income & expenses + savings rate. We don’t share our portfolio worth, we don’t share our net worth. Maybe we will in the future, maybe we won’t. We’re not sure.

    But you’re right about living. We are alive for our whole lives, not just the parts where we aren’t working. We must live and be happy throughout that whole time – what is the point of living otherwise? We are all saving, being frugal, investing etc so we don’t have to work forever, that doesn’t mean we can’t enjoy now too 🙂

    Nice post Mrs SF

    Tristan

    1. Hi Tristan

      thanks for visiting my blog – and for taking the time to comment 🙂

      I think there is a cultural element to sharing net worth. In Europe people are a little more reserved so on the whole I think they would keep their net worth to themselves. I like the way you do it, might take a leaf out of your book!

      Mrs SF

  4. Good point! Thanks for pointing that out and putting the whole FIRE plan in perspective. We shouldn’t compound the one rat race (job, at least for some) with an additional rat race toward net worth. Especially because net worth numbers can sometimes be stubbornly sideways moving, with equities doing nothing recently. That can get pretty depressing fast.
    And it’s good to know that some of the folks who have achieved FIRE use their new freedom to give back to society. Good luck with that!

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