Why do you want to be financially independent?
Not a shallow reason, but the deep down reason that drives you to strive everyday to save and invest money. You may know all the facts and figures yet why do you do what you do?
It’s easy to flip out a reason such as to not have to work, or to have plenty of money for retirement – but what is your deep down why?
The reason it can be so difficult to clearly articulate Your FI Why at a deeper level is because it originates in the limbic system of the brain.
The brain is made up of three levels, termed the Golden Circle by Simon Sinek.
The outer level of the brain – the neocortex – is where rational and analytical thought originates. This is the part of the brain that understands facts, figures, benefits and logic.
For those on the FI path these areas are easy to articulate. This outer level is the WHAT. It’s the budgets, investments and financial tracking etc. It’s the tangible manifestation of Your FI WHY.
Yet, it is NOT your why.
HOW and WHY are contained in the inner circle of the brain which is controlled by the limbic system. This part of the brain is responsible for behaviour, decision making and feelings.
The limbic system has no capacity for language.
The separation of WHAT, HOW and WHY in the brain is the biological reason we may find it difficult to express feelings as words.
It’s why it can be so difficult to truly express why being financially independent is so important to you.
Let’s face it: some people couldn’t care less about financial independence as they have different life goals which don’t include accumulating money – and they are still perfectly happy.
So, what is it about you that makes you save and invest diligently for years?
The 5 WHYs
The 5 WHYs is a very simple yet effective strategy to dig deep down into what drives your behaviour to seek FI.
The first question is to ask yourself: Why do I want financial independence?
Write down your answer.
Then, write Why?
Answer it, and repeat another three times – bringing the total Why questions to five.
This is done to tap down into your feelings. Get beyond your first generic answer. Find out what motivates you for FI, other than the typical ‘for financial security’.
It’s important that all your Why answers are in the affirmative. If you answer in the negative, you may find yourself down a rabbit warren of not having the perfect parents or victim blaming. This will not help to inform your Why.
My FI Why: an example
Why do I want financial independence?
For financial security.
To ensure there’s plenty of money past my chosen retirement age.
To buy good food, to stay fit and healthy, to be able to travel, to support my family.
To leave a legacy for my children and grandchildren and to leave a trust fund to charity.
To make the world a better place by supporting others.
My last why actually took me by surprise as I had no idea that was my motivator. I even wrote the words WOW after completing the 5 WHYs.
The traditional Simon Sinek next step is to complete this sentence:
To__________________________________ so that ____________________________.
I’ve adjusted this sentence to suit Your FI Why:
Financial independence is important to me to _______________________________ so that __________________________________.
So, now my FI Why becomes:
Financial independence is important to me to support others so that the world is a better place.
I was in for another surprise.
Mr Hack also completed the 5 WHYs and came up with this statement: FI is important to me to remain independent so that I maintain self respect.
How could I have been married to this (wonderful) man for eight years and have no idea about his motivator! I’m thankful for the theories of Sinek, and the 5 Whys, to understand myself and my husband better.
Understanding Your FI Why gives you the tools to articulate what motivates you, what makes you fulfilled and what drives your behaviour.
Knowing Your FI Why also helps you to make intentional choices, decisions are quicker and made with more certainty.
What’s Your FI Why?
Here’s some ‘what’s Your FI Why’ responses from Twitter. As you can see the reasons are as varied as people.
Your FI Why may be completely different to anything mentioned here and that’s what makes the people of the world so fascinating.
Chris Simmons@YoungBudgeteer To break the chains of working time restrictions and become the best version of my self: a good father, a good husband, a good person who strives to help others.
How to be Thrifty@how2bethrifty I think I’d have a more peaceful, and less stressful life if I could get to the point where I could at least reduce my working hours.
SimplyFI.ME@SimplyfiMe To travel and experience life without the limits of the daily grind. Or to have the “daily grind” more on my own terms.
𝗚𝘄𝗲𝗻@FieryMillennial Provide added flexibility to my life that gives me the power to speak up if needed.
Michelle FrugalityandFreedom@FrugalityFreedm To have flexibility with what I do each day; to be able to travel for extended periods; to not be concerned about my financial future.
MyDebtFreeJourney@debtfre94668298 Relax and enjoy life that includes, traveling, helping others and just being lazy.
For Further Inspiration
Even though this TED talk by Simon Sinek is aimed at business it still has plenty of information relevant to those seeking financial independence. (It’s also the third most popular TED talk of all time.)