My quest for financial independence and minimalism go hand-in-hand. My quest began in high school.
I did not grow up in a wealthy household. We were not poor, but we were not rich. Having also grown up in the Church, I believed that contentment was a virtue, but I still had a room packed to the brim with Lego sets, sports cards, and video games. I had, like most children, gone through life completely clueless about money, and I didn’t receive much advice about it from my parents. This all changed in high school when I had a crush on a girl whose father was an engineer. They lived in a large house and enjoyed expensive hobbies. In the back of my male brain there was that self-esteem switch, shouting, “You won’t measure up! You’re too boring! You don’t have enough money! She’ll never be okay with you!” Fortunately I didn’t find out her dad was an engineer until after I had asked her out (twice!), but it was my first introduction to how self-esteem and money melded together in the human spirit. When things turned south between us, I established my mountain of war, bunkered down on my commitment to becoming a great writer, and praised the simple life. I became a pious asshole. But I suspected part of my equation was wrong.
I had seen the race for money. I saw friends maxing their schedules and stressing themselves to death with extracurricular activities, all to get into a good school to get a good job. Most just landed at State U. What had they been so terrified about? I thought everyone was nuts. Again, I was getting half of the equation wrong. So of course, I ran off to a private Christian school and before I had even had my first job, watched my net worth go red to the tune of $18,000 over three semesters. This began to freak me out when my paychecks came in with maybe $150 each time. How was I ever going to pay that money back? I woke up, I even got a little crazy. I found that community college cost around $300 for an entire semester after grants, so I played some transfer games, I even paid off several small loans while I was in school, but this didn’t stop me from finishing my social science degree with $28,000 in debt.
I made the final payment on my student loans in December of 2015, only a few short years after graduating. Staying out of debt and reducing my possessions had become a real passion over time, but I was still languid, longing to figure out exactly what I wanted to do in life, especially concerned because I feared I would have to pick one thing and be stuck with it for the rest of my life. I thought of applying my software development skills to Christian missions or international development, but I had heard how this often ruined people or placed them in rather difficult positions. As a Christian I wrestled with this, believing that when God calls you to go, you go, and learn to trust. But deep down I kept thinking that there had to be a way I could game the system to support myself while I was overseas. Not that my faith was weak, I had just seen too much mismanagement of funds in the church, and rarely saw people winning with money when they had so many resources right in front of them. We were taught that possessions were not evil, but all I saw around me were people buying and hoarding, more and more. This didn’t seem to be the heart of Christ. I didn’t like the hassle of having too many things, anyway.
Enter Mr. Money Mustache, whose blog showed me that simple living and money could be combined to produce some truly amazing things. I had played with the idea of living off of investments before, but when my calculations started reaching a need for $300,000 , I gave up. MMM taught me that the math was shockingly simple, and I caught FIRE. If I could use the resources that God had given me wisely, if I could scale back my ridiculous need for stuff that had nothing to do with my goals and dreams in life, then I, too, could become financial independent and dedicate my life to those causes that so stirred me. You don’t need a master’s degree in something you hate or later get bored with in order to do what you love. And there’s a whole community dedicated to this pursuit. I’ve been yapping economics with my friends for ages, so I decided it was time to join the fray by starting this blog.
There are so many stories to tell between these paragraphs, but I’m excited to start contributing to the conversation. I love reading all the stories of the people who have made it, especially those courageous souls who pulled it off in their mid or early 30s, and I believe this conversation has been tragically missing from Christian circles. I write this blog fully knowing I will probably receive serious hate messages (once I open the comments up!), because, unfortunately, people tend to use their religion as a battering ram against others to make themselves feel better. Most people do not want to hear how you are winning with your money if they are not winning with theirs, but I write to inspire and encourage all readers, but especially Christians, so they can truly reap the rewards that come from this awareness to what truly matters.