14: Happiness Within Constraints

Happy Monday!

Last week was pretty light in terms of part-time creator work. That’s just how it goes sometimes with a full-time job. But, looking forward to stepping up my game a bit this week to make up for the lost time.

In this week’s newsletter, I’m playing with one rotating theme instead of the usual 3 (healthy, wealthy, and wise). We’ll see how it works out. This week we’re going with a “wealthy” focused one.


💸 Happiness Within Constraints

Lately, I’ve been diving deep into the world of finance and investing, gobbling up and reading as many books that I can get my hands on.

I’m currently reading The Simple Path to Wealth by JL Collins. So far it’s been a pretty great read (highly recommend). In it, Collins talks about how money can buy many things. Fancy cars, big-ass houses, oversized electronics, breathtaking vacations, and lavish dinners to name a few. The ultimate thing money can buy, however, is financial independence.

Financial independence is having the means to do whatever you want, whenever you want, regardless of the cost. It’s when you no longer have to worry about working at a job you hate because it’s your primary source of income. You work because you want to, not because you have to.

Collins’ formula for achieving financial independence is simple:

  • Spend less than you earn
  • Invest the surplus
  • Avoid debt

If you do those 3 things and nothing more, some years down the road you’ll never have to worry about money again. Obviously, this is somewhat dependent on how much you earn. But I believe, as Collins does too, the more important side of that equation is how much you spend.

When I was 22, I worked as an engineer at a nuclear power plant construction site. My salary plus per diem totaled about $130,000 per year. I put some money in my 401(k), some went towards my student loans, and the rest I spent on fancy electronics, nights out, and weekend trips to new, exciting places.

I spent excessively, with little regard for my future self or well-being. Don’t get me wrong. I had a blast. But without a doubt, I’d be a millionaire today if I managed my money back then the way I do now. Woof.

My spending at 22 was directly proportionate to how much money I made (and I made an awful lot of money for a guy that young). To no one’s surprise, I made some dumb choices. I could’ve saved and invested in my future. Instead, I chose to aggressively spend. Chalk it up to being young and relatively immature.

I believed, or maybe society led me to believe, that I needed to spend money in order to enjoy life. The literal definition of the American Dream. Today, I’ve done enough introspective digging to know that I don’t really care about most of the stuff I spend money on. Yeah, things like nights out and chef-cooked meals boost my morale, but there are only a few key things I need for true, in-my-bones-type happiness:

  • My health
  • Strong, positive relationships
  • Meaningful work
  • “Me” time (hobbies, relaxing, etc.)

I’ve had periods in my life where I’ve been forced to live well below my means in order to get out of debt and/or avoid taking on more debt. Those times were never “fun”, but regardless of the circumstance, I’d always been able to maintain a baseline level of happiness.

And therein lies the key to spending less than you earn: being happy with who you are and what you currently got.

If you can find happiness within the constraints of your financial situation, you’ll have no problem sticking to Collins’ formula above. After just a few short years of doing this myself, I can tell you that my happiness has actually increased as my unnecessary spending has decreased.

More importantly, financial independence is no longer a pipe dream for me. It’s inevitable.

In an old parable, the king’s servant says to the monk, “You know, if you could learn to cater to the king, you wouldn’t have to live on rice and beans.” To which the monk replies: “If you could learn to live on rice and beans, you wouldn’t have to cater to the king.”

Have a good (no, GREAT) week.