It took me most of a decade to figure out what things really mattered to me in my adult life. My family. My closest friends. My sense of right and wrong. My values and morals. Writing. Reading. Playing a game with someone whose company I enjoy. Cooking and then enjoying a good meal. Teaching my children something new – or just playing with them. Enjoying the outdoors.
As long as I have those things in my life, my life is good. I don’t need anything beyond those things. Almost all of my time and energy is absorbed by one of those things – and when I’m absorbed by those things, I’m at the very least content.
These things are my foundation. Much like the foundation of a house, they’re the things upon which my life rests. If I provide that foundation with care and love and support, it will last throughout my days. Everything I build upon it can grow tall, crash to the ground, and be built again, but if I stay true to that foundation, it will remain, no matter what comes.
Even at the lowest point of my financial journey, I had my family. I had my friends and my values. I had access to books and to paper upon which to write. I could always go outside and take a walk.
These things were constants. They were there for me at the times of greatest need in my life. They have been there for me every day since, when I’ve seen success and when I’ve seen failure. They provide me constant joy and value, each and every day.
Thus, it makes sense that with my time, my energy, and my money, I do all I can to preserve this foundation while still enjoying it.
How do I do that? Simply put, I minimize the energy and money and time I spend on things that aren’t directly part of that foundation. I don’t desire or need a new car, so I’ll keep driving my ’04 Pilot until the thing’s falling apart. I don’t need new clothes, so I’ll wear my t-shirts until they’re starting to get holes in them. I don’t need to go out to expensive places when I can just make a meal or a drink at home.
Instead, I try to spend the extra money, time, and energy I have preserving that foundation. I’ll spend time with the people I care about.
For example, I’ll call my parents a few times a week, an experience I enjoy. In theory, I could be doing things that might on the surface be more fun than talking to my mom about a long-forgotten third cousin, but that relationship I have with them runs deep, and they’re there for me whenever I need them.
I could buy myself a new computer, as the rusty bucket of bolts I’m using right now has some ongoing hardware problems that cause me to reboot it regularly and makes it so I can’t use any programs that tax the processor much at all. But why? I don’t really need to use it for anything beyond writing and accessing the web.
What do I have instead? I have a well-stocked emergency fund which will help feed my family during a short-term emergency, and I have life insurance that would help with other situations. I have no debts other than my mortgage. I have a good marriage and three kids that squeal with delight whenever they see me because they know they’ll have my attention for the next few hours. I have a circle of close friends who are there for me when I need them and share a laugh with me all the time. I have a pile of books to read and a pile of ideas in my head to write about.
My foundation is secure. It brings me joy and fulfillment.
What else do I really need?
What else do you really need?