From Financial Integrity
Candice - Am I already at the peak of fulfillment?
- Two-adult household
My fiancé has a pet bird. This was almost a deal breaker on our second date because I thought keeping a bird locked in a cage was the height of animal cruelty. But I quickly learnt that Gabe sees his cage as his home. We always leave the door open, but he prefers to ‘stay in’ and play with his most beloved toy: a bell.
Knowing his love for bells, one weekend as I was preparing to leave (birds are great pets because they’re pretty self sufficient) I had the brilliant idea of putting both of his beloved bells in his cage at the same time. The idea being: twice the things - twice the fun. But quickly I realised this wouldn’t be the case. This is because Gabe can only play with one bell at a time and so the second bell would not bring him any greater happiness. Actually, the second bell, while perhaps a diversion from the first, would most likely just be in his way, taking up precious space in his cage. It was a revelation: twice the things not necessarily meaning twice the fun.
The reason it felt like an epiphany was because I’ve been reading about this concept in the finance book; Your Money or Your Life where they called it the ‘fulfilment curve’. They demonstrate this theory with a simple graph; an upside down U showing pleasure increasing with the attainment of goods and services (at a cost) and then the curve petering out after more and more money is spent on said goods and services. I had understood the concept, but I guess I wasn’t a believer. I couldn’t help thinking that another thing or experience would be great; an overseas trip, a new trinket for my house, another pair of shoes. I felt my fulfilment curve would be a never ending arrow to the sky if I could spend, spend, spend.
So seeing that Gabe had reached that elusive point of maximum fulfilment, the coveted ‘enough point’ in his life, I had to wonder why? How? And I found that the answer was to do with his lifestyle – i.e he lives in a cage. In his cage, no bell is boring, one bell is fun and two bells doesn’t leave much space to live. Could the same simple formula apply to my lifestyle? Doing the 100 Thing Challenge, where I reduced my clutter by limiting myself to 100 personal possessions, I discovered a small taste of what ‘enough fulfilment’ means. I discovered I had all these great hobbies collected over decades: painting, dancing, swimming, travelling, gardening, to name a few. But one of my lifestyle constraints: time, limited my enjoyment of all of these. Looking at my level of fulfilment I realised it was better to put my resources into pursuing only 1 or 2.
So while I originally thought that I’d never be the kind of person to find the peak of my fulfilment curve, my budgie showed me that all I need to do is look at fulfilment in context with my life. For me there is no point dreaming about travelling for a year as I continue to build my house ‘to settle down’. No point continuing my painting when I don’t really enjoy it. I think there is huge benefit to be gained from understanding and accepting the limitations in our lives, seeing the cage that we have and then making the most out of it. So while there is a big wide world out there with lots to buy and do, in my everyday lifestyle I’m really very happy with what I have. Perhaps I had reached my point of ‘enough’, of ultimate fulfilment, without noticing. Perhaps I have my bell, and now I also don’t need two.
Interview with Candice Laidlaw
Congratulations to Candice, whose story was chosen as the Most Engaging Entry winner in the first annual Financial Integrity writing competition! She was kind enough to answer a few questions so we could get to know more of her story.
FI: How do you describe yourself at parties: retired, FI?, something else? Or do you just change the subject?
Candice: I laugh and say 'a council worker', which refers to our town's local government and which has a stigma in Australia of people standing around on a worksite leaning on their shovels (i.e. not working at all!). But I say that I have an office job doing Sustainability Awareness. This often leads to great conversations about what that person is doing in their life to help the environment; composting, riding a bike etc.
FI: Was there a day that you celebrated as meeting the goal of financially independent
Candice: Our cross-over point is a long way off. We are in the midst of building our first family home and often make jokes about how many wall charts we'll need side-by-side before we get to FI. Though we did have a breakthrough a month ago; our first wall chart dot representing monthly investment income. Yes the amount is so small that we had to wait almost a year before we could draw it in the bottom square of our wall chart.
FI: Who first inspired you to consider your financial philosophy?
Candice: I was inspired by living in countries like South Africa and Colombia. In Australia we don't see the disparity between rich and poor as much, and having a taste of the 'rich life' left me a bit flat. It was around this time that I started stumbling across blogs of people living in a more simple way. One writer said; 'google Voluntary Simplicity'. I did, and that started me on this FI journey.
FI: Did you develop any tools, exercises or habits that haven't been captured in a book?
Candice: Last year I gave myself a challenge to review and reduce my personal possessions. It has a small internet following, often referred to as the 100 Thing Challenge. It syncs with the second part of Step 1: what have you got to show for it?, and the part on frugality in Step 6: we are to enjoy what we have.
FI: What advice would you give your 20-year old self?
Candice: Save more for the house deposit. Looking up the word 'mortgagor's insurance' should provide you with enough motivation.