“I’d like to live as a poor man with lots of money.” – Pablo Picasso
As a pursuant of F.I.R.E. (Financial Independence, Retire Early) I regularly read blog posts and listen to podcasts of folks who have been far more successful in this endeavor than I. The Picasso quote above, which I found in one of those recent blog posts, really got me thinking…
I’ve been fortunate to know what it’s like to be both poor (for an American in the early 70s anyhow) and, more recently, well off (financially-speaking, compared to most on the planet). And I hope that neither comes off as a call for pity nor as arrogant. I’ve seen enough money-poor people in the world who are far richer in faith, self-acceptance and peace of mind than I will ever be to know that there are certain things that money cannot buy. At the same time, I am not naïve enough to believe that, at least in the society we’ve created here in this country, that the proper use of money cannot lead to greater freedom, peace of mind and use of time.
I have two cats. One, Oreo, is perfectly content. She doesn’t care much about going outside, as she seems to sense the dangers of doing so (nearby dogs and further away coyotes). She enjoys looking out the window at chipmunks, squirrels and birds, but more so her naps and eating regular cat food. Occasionally, she chases her leaner, meaner sister (Olive) around the house for both exercise and a trip down her evolutionary memory lane (when she was a lion or another big cat of ancient times). This is oftentimes followed up by some sunbathing and a nap just inside our back-deck window. All in all, Oreo appears to be happy with her existence and seems to trust that all her basic needs are taken care of and that she has people around her who love her and enjoy her company.
My other cat, Olive, however, longs to roam the ‘wilds’ of our neighborhood and the wooded area that surrounds it. She rarely appears to be content and seems to be always waiting nearby for someone to open a door she can quickly exit if we are not paying close attention. Olive cannot stand regular cat food, always crying for her ‘special treat’ soft cat food, cheese and yogurt. And while she also engages in fisticuffs with her larger sister, she appears to take these far more seriously than Oreo (probably because she regularly gets the worst of it). Additionally, she alternately goes back and forth between crying to be petted or held with wanting to be left alone, frequently hanging out in the basement by her lonesome. While Olive occasionally snuggles up in our lap as a sign of appreciating her surroundings, you can almost see the desire for more in her eyes as she stares off into a future the rest of us cannot see.
I believe the path to financial independence is the middle ground of the two extremes described in my cat’s lives above. It’s about marrying living within your means and being content with what you have (Oreo eating regular cat food and enjoying the view) with having a vision for the future and creating a plan to get there (Olive plotting her escape out of the next open door).