I strongly believe in creating contracts, documents and manifestos. To me, the written word is powerful. I think it's because I am an NT (ENTJ). My husband doesn't care for the written word as much (ISTJ), but he humors me.
Together we developed an Agile Personal Finance Manifesto. Which is essentially a strategy for pursuing Financial Independence in a manner that aligns with our values. Although many people associate financial independence with time freedom, we recognize that we have a lot of freedom to choose a life right now. Our plans and our desires may change, and we want to manage our wealth in a way that reflects this.
Over the next few posts, I'll be explaining more about this manifesto, in the hopes that it will inspire you to develop your own strategy (and whys) for building wealth and pursuing financial independence (or whatever it is that you are pursuing).
I should mention that the use of the term financial independence refers to the state in which paid work is unlikely to be required to meet our standard consumption behaviors. This is commonly thought of as either 25X your expenses in the stock market, or passive cash flow (through either dividends or rentals) exceeding your active consumption in perpetuity. Nobody is ever foolish enough to say that they've achieved independence from their need for the financial/monetary system, or that there is a 0% chance that they will never need to work again for money.
It seems to us that this level of wealth is a good amount to shoot for, after which we can really focus on giving to the near exclusion of investing.
The core tenets of Agile Personal Finance
Through this endeavor, we have come to value:
Ongoing financial contentment over striving to fulfill temporal desires
Financial simplicity over financial optimization
Shared life vision over freedom from working
Embracing relationships over embracing plans.
That is, while we value the items on the right, we value the items on the left more.
Ongoing Financial Contentment
Our desires for nice things, and fun experiences are high. We don't think of these desires as evil, but we do see our tendency to really love these things more than is good for us. It is our desire to remember that God has given us many good things, and that improving our character (especially enjoyment of God, gratitude to God and contentment) is more valuable than things and experiences.
If we seek to fill all our wants with things and experiences, we believe that we will discover that our desires are truly infinite, and can only be sated by finding joy in God.
This quote by CS Lewis helps to explain our thinking, “If we find ourselves with a desire that nothing in this world can satisfy, the most probable explanation is that we were made for another world.”
In this tenet, we aren't trying to deny our desires. Instead we are recognizing that contentment in God is better than anything we can naturally find in this world.
This tenet comes from Matthew 13:22 which is part of a longer parable, or a story that Jesus told. The verse says, "The one who received the seed fell among the thorns is the man who hears the word, but the worries of this life and the deceitfulness of wealth choke it, making it unfruitful."
From this verse, we learned that anxiety and wealth can choke out our faith. We don't take this to mean that wealth is bad, or that we should be stupid with our money. Rather, we take it to mean that we should not let worries about wealth and our finances keep us from having a productive faith.
Practically speaking, for us, this means keeping our finances simple. We share all our finances as a married couple, and we will endeavor to share them with our kids when it is both age appropriate (and we have the patience to say no to a lot of things). We try to avoid get rich quick schemes. We don't take on debt of any kind. We don't churn credit cards, or hack our way to great deals. We no longer try to pick stocks or anything like that. It's not that these things are evil or bad in any way. It's just that small actions can be triggers for worry and anxiety which will choke out our faith.
For us, simplicity helps give us room to grow our faith. If we lose out on some wealth, and some airline miles we will still be just fine.
Shared Life Vision Over Freedom From Working
This tenet is based upon the verse Psalm 90:17, "May the favor of the Lord our God rest upon us; establish the work of our hands- yes, establish the work of our hands."
Very simply, we believe that God uses work (both paid and unpaid) to grow our faith. God is showing favor to us, when he establishes our work. Why would we choose to forgo this favor?
However, the question isn't work or no work. It's what are we working towards? Since our ultimate goal is to glorify God by enjoying him, time freedom is a much lower goal.
We would rather choose to give money now, than waiting until we are wealthy to give (ideally, we choose both). We would rather travel to see our families than forgo these opportunities. We would rather wisely walk a path of helping our kids transition to adulthood than kick them out to save a few bucks. We would choose to help our family and friends in times of need rather than give up working.
We are happy to make costly choices at the expense of our "freedom." We would rather have to work than forgo values that we place higher than freedom. In fact, we might even go so far as to say that we are free because we can choose to work.
Embracing Relationships over Embracing Plans
It's okay that we can't stick to our plans. We can still love each other fiercely. My husband showed a tremendous love for me as we went through a massive life upheaval that ultimately left me really unhappy. My husband and I are a team, and we are committed to life together even if our life together does not look the way we expect it to.
We feel comfortable choosing relationships over a plan because we believe that God keeps his promises to us. "God is not a man that he should lie, nor the son of man that he should change his mind. Does he speak and then not act? Does he promise and not fulfill?" Numbers 23:19
Practically speaking, this means that when we started this journey, we thought we knew how we would achieve financial independence, and since that time, we've changed our mind. I've changed my mind about my vocational aspirations, my husband has changed his mind about his. It seems like every day is a new season of life, and one that we are excited to tackle together.