Turning an emphatic 'No' into financial freedom

Jun 20, 2023

Ivanna Hampton, senior multimedia editor at Morningstar, engaged in a fascinating chat with Kiersten and Julien Saunders, hosts of the rich & REGULAR podcast. Here is what I learnt from their chat.

Start with those money conversations.

What ties families together is the love and desires and ambitions that they have for each other. But that’s not to say that there are no challenges. When money comes up in a conversation, different emotions arise depending on who you are.

Conflict is a natural part of the journey. A lot of us think that the absence of conflict is what makes a conversation productive. Or if you’re able to solve a problem at the end of a conversation—that’s what made the conversation worth it.

But when it comes to money, it is never a one-and-done conversation. A lot of these conversations are just dots that will eventually become a line. Sometimes they’re inconclusive, but you’ve made progress because you started to talk more about what you’re feeling on the inside.

Control the narrative.

When looking at the FIRE movement – an acronym for Financial Independence, Retire Early, the common questions are: What do we win? What do we gain? What might our lives look like if we are able to do this? What are the freedoms and the privileges that we will have given ourselves if we get there?

When Julien wanted to convince his wife, she was not in the least bit interested. But it turned out to be an issue of reframing it and helping her see the reward.

It started with: “This is what it would require us to do. These are the things that we would have to stop doing. These are the things that we would take away. Here’s what we win.”

However, Kiersten is not a morning person, and what hooked her was the thought of “Imagine being able to sleep in.”

You don't have to follow someone else's path.

Kiersten was completely against FIRE and found it extreme. There wasn’t any middle ground. It had no nuance. It was rigid and rule based. The extreme frugality was very limiting based on how she had already set up her life. She had expenses for hair care and self-care, travel to visit family, and plans to be in people’s weddings. FIRE would require an entire lifestyle shift that she could not reconcile with.

When she actually met the community, she realized that it was not just opinions. There was a lot more to it and there was a spectrum and that she could define her own path.

When they were traditionally employed, they followed the traditional path; living off on one income so they had a really high savings rate between 70% and 50% of their income. Then they had a child, moved to a larger house, and began to care of a financially insecure parent. So they adjusted the plan accordingly.

Now they are in this in-between stage which they refer to as “rich and regular”. Where they have the freedoms that allow them to “work with someone that they love. Doing work that they love. Helping people that they love.” All the while maintaining their lifestyle. It’s a middle ground of sorts, where they are rich enough to take advantage of some of the freedoms, but not rich enough to be removed from everyday life. More like one foot in, one foot out.

Think about Side Hustles.

You have a superpower. Everyone has a superpower. Find your superpower. This is the thing that you are really, really good at. Obviously, there is a company that’s willing to pay you for that. But that is not the only company that’s willing to pay you to do that.

You can also create a product. The internet has made it significantly easier for people to create and sell and earn income passively than ever before. It’s just a matter of trying some things, and finding what motivates you.

Julien came across The Cool Grandpa podcast. He was so excited because it was the first time that he heard about a grandfather owning a podcast and owning his space and embracing technology. He was getting featured in the press, his popularity and growth began to earn for him.

People are making sizable amounts of money doing such stuff, from options that did not exist a few years ago.

What are you chasing?

Julien’s words ring loudly: “I have several visions of people that I know in my mind, people who have far more measurable financial wealth than we do but come to us asking us for tips on how to live. They don’t quite know. They haven’t learned how to spend. They haven’t learned how to nurture relationships. They have fractured marriages. They’re suffering from mental health issues. They don’t really know how to unwind because they spent decades accumulating money. But they have no real way to make a life of it.”

These are people who are stuck and have to untangle the knot that they created for themselves.

Julien has a strong culinary background and takes a lot of pride in the food that he eats. When he reached a certain income level, he was so proud to leave the regular grocery store behind and visit Whole Foods and buy fancy things.

This is what Kiersten calls “elevating the everyday”.

They may not be able to drive a luxury car, but they have got the best coffee, and that really matters to them every morning. They really care about beautiful sheets because they sleep on those sheets every night. All this gives them happiness.

Create a daily lifestyle that you truly appreciate. Elevate the everyday.

More for the Adviser

More on Your Relationship With Money

Larissa Fernand is an Investment Specialist and Senior Editor at Morningstar India. You can follow her on Twitter
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