The Concept of Enough
Getting to grips with the concept of enough has been one of the best things about my early retirement so far.
Yep, I know what you're thinking. Based on that statement, on a scale of one to ten for the world's dullest guy, you're wondering if I should even score a one!
We've had a pretty good life, good size houses, decent cars, some exotic vacations, and the kids seem to be turning out OK, although I'm still keeping my fingers crossed on that one. Hey, between 2006 and 2014, our house even had a swimming pool in the garden.
In fairness, we worked really hard for those things and were mindful to keep on an even keel. We mostly didn't go overboard, made sure we saved well, and didn't try to keep up with the Jones'.
On balance, I'd say that we've been reasonably sensible and, if I could turn the clock back, there probably isn't too much that I would change in terms of the lifestyle that we've had. We've been happy with it, and happiness counts for a lot.
But my ideas seem to be changing in terms of what I want going forward. The big house, swimming pool in the garden, nice cars now seem to be of far lesser importance.
What now ranks as important is having enough. Let me try to explain what I mean by using a few examples.
Our investments are made up of 70% rental property and 30% shares. We live off the rental income from the properties and, at least for now, we're finding that we don't need to take any income from the shares.
I suspect that the rental properties don't give us the best return. Conventional logic would be that if I'm not maximizing my return, I should sell these and invest the proceeds in something that generates more money.
I'm sure I could do that. But why should I do it?
The property rental gives us enough to live the life we want to live. So what's the point of having more than enough? Switching out this investment would just be to get me something that I don't need - what's the point in that?
OK, I do get why we mostly like more money but, nowadays for me, not if it comes with extra hassle or sleepless nights. I'm content with enough.
Cold caller confusion
Someone cold called me the other day. I think they said they were calling from overseas, and I was supposed to think, wow - overseas, exciting, important, I'll definitely buy whatever it is you're selling. Ha, I don't fall for that anymore!
This is how the conversation went:
Cold caller: Hello Mr Cox, I'm calling from a far off land. Would you like to earn extra income?
Me: No, not really, I'm fine thanks.
Cold caller: Sorry, you must have misheard, I asked if you'd like to earn some extra income.
Me: No, I really am good thanks. I have enough income.
Cold caller: But you can have some more, I'll tell you about it.
Me: Really, no thank you. I'm not rich, but I have enough money to do the things that I want to do, so I really don't need any more.
Cold caller: [Confused silence]
Me: Well, thanks for your call, it's been nice talking to you, but I think we can each save some time and say goodbye now. Goodbye.
Cold caller: Well, there's no need to be like that! [Hangs up the call in a huff].
The cold caller could not grasp the concept of enough. And to be fair, they would be in the majority, the world generally seems to be conditioned to wanting more. Whatever you have, aim for more, bigger, faster, more luxurious. I'm starting to think that on many, or perhaps even most, occasions that thinking is quite pointless.
I just read a post by BusyMom called Why we bought a home worth a third of what we could afford. BusyMom looks mostly at the financial consequences of buying more home than you need.
I related the post to the concept of enough. Look for what you need, and choose a house that is enough to meet those requirements. Why spend more money than you need to?
I agree with what BusyMom wrote - here's the comment that I left:
"Why, when people think about buying a house, do so many find out the maximum they can borrow, and then set about spending that maximum amount? It doesn’t seem to make sense.
What does make sense is to first work out what you need, and maybe take some account of what you want. But I think start with the “need”. X number of bedrooms, separate kitchen, dining, living, or open plan, preferred neighbourhood, etc.
Why would someone decide to spend more than required just to get something that they don’t need/want? But so many people do, it seems bizarre.
By the way, I was one of those people until a few years ago. I then figured out that we literally used only around 50% of the house, but of course were paying for the whole 100%. That is when we started on our downsizing journey."
These are just a few examples of enough. I could go on, but you no doubt will be relieved that I'm not going to!
Enough for me
This concept of enough is difficult to explain. I guess because it can mean different things to different people.
For me, discovering it has been a boon to my first part of early retirement. Like many people, I started off wondering and worrying whether I had enough money, would it last?
Maybe with traditional thinking, I should be worried. But with an "enough" mindset, I'm confident we're going to be just fine.
And strangely, this "enough" mindset isn't impacting on my quality of life. OK, I admit it, that may not be completely true - I suspect it's improving it. My feeling is, as the saying goes, that less is more. Having discovered this concept of enough, I feel more relaxed, it just feels more right. I'm starting to think that enough is a happier place to be.
To me, "enough" doesn't mean second best, it means taking the time to think what you want, and then aiming for that. It means not having more, just because you can, or because society seems to think you should, but for no good reason.
I'm just at the start of my exploration of this concept. There's no way that I could be described as a minimalist, but I feel my course is more that way than the other at the moment. I guess I need to speak to Sally on this, she'll have some wardrobes to clear out - but perhaps I'll leave that conversation for another day!
Financial Independence / Retiring Early
There are no prizes for spotting the link - spending more or less naturally defers or accelerates the financial independence date. If we are comfortable with "enough", we will most likely spend less.
But my last thought isn't about FIRE. Rather it's about how starting to understand "enough" is making me feel. It's simplifying my life, somehow increasing a sense of freedom, worth and balance. I'm not sure that makes much sense but, as I said, it's kind of difficult to explain.
Related post - Does size matter? Can we live in a much smaller apartment?