What does simple living have to do with personal finance? I started to make the connection years ago because I had made my life and personal finances far more complicated than they needed to be. What really struck me though after reading the Millionaire Next Door multiple times was that the typical millionaire led a very simple life. These people were wealthy but didn’t seem to overcomplicate things. I would say that having wealth and living simply are not mutually exclusive.
The millionaires that are profiled in The Millionaire Next Door book seem to have the best human qualities. They typically have good character, stay married, are frugal, humble, live far below their means, raise responsible children and contribute to society with high quality businesses and services. They are not what people think. They practice incredible thrift and frugality. They typically enjoy their work and family. They are not into material objects such as large homes, expensive cars, or other consumer goods. They are excellent investors with their own money. They believe financial freedom is more important than consumer purchases. They believe having financial freedom gives you choices in your vocation, your time and your life. This to me is the ultimate in simple living. Any preconceived notions that you have about wealth in America will probably be changed if you read this book.
I had spent most of my life on autopilot just going from one thing to another and mostly enjoyed what I did. Whether it was career or personal I just did what I thought everyone else did. Many years ago something changed and I started to read some books on simple living, minimalism and consumerism. These books really struck a chord with me. I started to think about always being busy, being tired, and being stressed. The constant purchases, home remodeling, repairs, autos, etc. that everyone else thought of as normal. I started to question the conventional wisdom of society.
My wife and I became fairly successful from an economic standpoint as our lives progressed. I was very ambitious and have always enjoyed my business career. One day while working on our personal finance and investing I realized that we had enough money for our current lifestyle. What was more interesting to me at the time was that I realized I didn’t want anything more than I already had. This is when it clicked for me. I had spent many years working for things I really didn’t care about. I am a simple guy. Fortunately for me, my wife has agreed with me (for the most part) regarding my epiphany on simple living.
We both have made career changes that have freed up our time and made our work life simpler. She moved out of a management position and cut back her hours and I have sold my small business. We have been constantly selling things, giving things away and evaluating what is truly important to us since then. Stuff isn’t. Personal freedom is.