It’s easy to dream of simplicity. However, in a world of excess, achieving a simple life style is much harder. Our habits and way of thinking about money are deeply influenced by how we were raised, our peers, and our culture. Add to this how easy it is to keep the status quo and lose track of time, and it’s no wonder both financial and emotional clutter piles up and stresses us out.
One way to clarify what simplicity means to you is to ask a tough (but simple) question:
What would you do differently if you knew for sure your life would end at 70?
Understanding how your values would change, and what would become the most essential to you, is the first step to simplifying your life for the better. Here are some other areas to be mindful of:
Declutter Your Life
Recently, a friend described how they pared down their life by getting rid of 80% of their belongings. When asked how they approached the task, they said, “Instead of trying to add things that made me happy, I focused on stripping away the things that made me unhappy.” The result? A simpler, more gratifying life with less “stuff” and more resources.
Investing For Good
Investing in socially screened assets and funds has the potential to earn you money, but more importantly it can make you feel fulfilled about how you’re contributing positively to the world. Aligning your values with your money is the simplest way to declutter your financial life, giving you more time and focus on other areas that could use some care.
Change Your Career
Do you love what you do? Is there a business idea or career you’re dying to pursue? Making the shift to a dream job, even if it’s a lower-paying one, is entirely feasible as long as you’re willing to work a bit longer than originally planned before retiring. But, if your new job is more fulfilling, it may not feel like work – and be the perfect tradeoff for a simpler life.
Downsize Your Home
If you’ve given away 80% of your stuff, do you need as much space now? If your home equity makes up a sizable portion of your net worth, you may want to entertain ways to access it. Why? Because that equity can’t be converted to cash flow unless you tap into it (selling and becoming a renter, downsizing, etc.). Many people are choosing to downsize their home and live more simply to have more resources for other more fulfilling priorities, such as travel.
The roots you have in your current city with friends, family, and community have likely grown strong over time. But is that reason to stay put forever? Relocating to a city or country with a lower cost of living may allow for increased future spending and help you reach a state of financial independence sooner. It also might be the adventure of your life. (And your friends and family will probably let you visit.)
Simplifying Beyond Money
How often do you say, “I don’t have enough time,” or, “If I had a little more money, I could…”? Even John Rockefeller, the world’s first billionaire, when asked how much money was enough responded, “Just a little bit more.”
We tend to notice what we lack: time, money, energy, knowledge, or experience. We think if only we had a little more, everything would be different and we’d be happier. Focusing on what we lack trains the brain towards “thinking deficiency.”
The latest brain research shows our thoughts influence our brain structure just as exercise affects muscle strength. Spacious or positive thoughts–like those developed through mindfulness practices–increase the size of our prefrontal cortex. A larger prefrontal cortex makes us less reactive to negative thoughts or experiences. This means we can simplify our thoughts and increase our happiness by acknowledging that the money and time we have is enough.
Using Enough to Liberate Your Life
Start recognizing times when you cross over the enough line. If someone offered you a third or fourth ice cream cone, most of us would say, “No thanks, I’ve had enough.” There’s a point when we recognize we’ve had our fill and are satisfied. Paying attention to those moments when you have enough time, money, or possessions will advance you to the next level.
Become aware of what you spend. Yes, it can be painful at first. But the truth will set you free and give you insights into how much your spending aligns with your values. It will also give you a window into how much you might need to have a comfortable life when you stop working.
Develop a gratitude practice. Those who have spent 5 minutes a day for 30 days stating or writing down what they’re grateful for have felt much more abundance in their lives, which also helps encourage wiser spending decisions. Studies show that a gratitude practice increases joy, pleasure, optimism, and happiness.
Realize that fundamentally you are enough, you have enough, and you do enough. All of us deserve to feel this way regardless of our bank accounts. At Abacus, we encourage our clients to understand and prize their value in hopes it will simplify their inner and outer lives. Contact an Abacus advisor today to start your own journey towards simplicity and goodness.