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Financial Independence (FI) – It’s All About ‘Why’, Not ‘How’

This is a post by Chrissy, who has guest posted here recently about hosting homestay students as a side hustle.  Her blog, Eat Sleep Breath FI, details her journey towards financial freedom.  In this article, Chrissy describes a fundamental way to get excited and motivated about FI that has worked for her and her family.  Here are the details!

With new articles being written about FI (financial independence) daily, it’s highly likely that you’ve heard of the FI movement.  For those of you new to the concept of FI, it’s where you build enough passive income to pay for your recurring monthly expenses.  In essence, it’s where you have enough assets so that you never “need” to work again.

For some, FI is a breath of fresh air and diving in feels natural and easy. But for others, FI can be confronting and a complete turnoff.  

My husband fell into this second group. He was initially excited and intrigued by the idea of financial independence. But when I dove into the details, things took a turn for the worse. My focus on how we’d reach FI completely turned him off. He dismissed FI as unrealistic and ended the conversation.

In all honesty, I can’t blame my husband or anyone else who initially rejects FI. Here’s why:

We’ve Got it Wrong

I’ve come to realize that many of us in the FI community are getting it wrong. By focusing on the hows of FI, we’re putting the proverbial cart before the horse. There’s no way we can expect the cart (the hows) to get rolling without first getting the horse (the whys) in place.

The harshest criticisms of FI tend to focus on the hows: frugality, saving, and cutting expenses. At first glance, these things don’t hold a lot of appeal! After all, they:

  • Can be boring and tedious.
  • Often require us to give up something.
  • Can cause us to feel overwhelmed —there’s so much to deal with!

Based on all this, it’s no wonder people get turned off of FI. It sounds like a lot of drudgery and sacrifice—who wants to sign themselves up for that? 

Let’s Change the Conversation

What if we flipped things around and put the horse first? Let’s put the ‘hows’ aside and start with the ‘whys’.

When we do this, the hows just fall into place. The whys give us all the motivation we need to keep pulling that cart towards FI, and some of the previously-unrealistic hows move into the realm of possible (and even easy).

Our “Whys” Motivate Us

Finding our whys is a great way to get motivated for any goal. Here’s how:

  1. Our whys align with our core values
  • Our core values bring meaning and purpose to our lives, and our strongest whys tend to align with our core values.
  • Leading with our whys means we’re constantly feeding into our core values. This is deeply fulfilling and keeps us motivated.
  1. Our whys reward us
  • Not all of our whys should be huge or reserved for the end of our journey. We should also have smaller whys to reach on our way to FI.
  • These smaller whys are rewarding to achieve, and help to keep our motivation high throughout our journey.
  1. Our whys make our goals easier to tackle
  • Big goals can be too vague and distant to seem real.
  • Break your journey into smaller milestones/whys to guide you along the way.

Finding your ‘Whys’

Now that you know how important your whys are in the journey to FI, let’s figure out what those whys are. Think about what your ideal life would look like if you no longer had to work for money. Try to be as specific as possible—this will make your whys more real and tangible.

Here are some ideas:

  • I’ll be able to spend more time with my parents while they’re still healthy and able-bodied.
  • I’ll be able to go on school field trips with my kids.
  • I’ll be able to travel when I want—not when my manager says I can.
  • I’ll have more time to pursue my hobbies and interests.
  • I’ll be able to start my dream business (and have a financial cushion to back me up).
  • I’ll no longer have to wake up to an alarm clock.
  • I’ll be able to spend more time helping others.
  • I’ll be able to get more involved with causes I’m passionate about.

Some of your whys should be big and audacious, and some should be smaller and easily-achievable. Think of the big ones as your compass, and the smaller ones as guideposts along the way.

Live Your Why Now

This is something the FI community is beginning to stress more often—you should strive to live your best life now. Don’t wait for FI to live the life of your dreams.

Go through your list and see which of your whys are achievable now, or very soon. Then make a list of ways you can achieve those whys. Here are some ideas:

  • I’ll set a reminder to call my parents weekly instead of when I happen to remember.
  • I’ll take an occasional half-day off work to go on field trips with my kids.
  • I’ll start a new hobby and enjoy it in smaller doses. It may only be for 15 minutes a day, but that’s a good start.
  • I’ll scale my business idea down to something I can do in my spare time, then ramp up as I get closer to FI.
  • I’ll volunteer once a month for now, then when I reach FI I can add more shifts.

I’d argue that these smaller achievements are even more important for our happiness than reaching FI. That’s because they’ll fulfill you and improve your life whether you reach FI or not.

Our Whys Lead to our Hows

Now that we know our whys, the hows will just fall into place. This doesn’t mean they’ll be easier to achieve, but they’ll definitely feel easier to achieve. I’ll go back to my husband’s story to explain why this is the case.

I gave my husband some time and space to find his own whys—and find them he did! These whys were deeply meaningful to him because he came up with them himself. (Versus me telling him what his whys should be!)

Once he had his own whys, he came fully on board with FI. He even surprised me by being more supportive of some of my hows. Since finding his whys, my husband has continued to surprise me with the huge attitudinal shifts. That’s the power of finding your whys.

I have full confidence that finding your whys will also shift your attitude—not only towards FI, but towards your entire life. I’ve seen this shift in myself, my family members, and others in the FI community. It’s truly life-changing and magical!

More About our Hows

When we have our whys established, it becomes very easy to filter our hows. It won’t matter that others in the FI community rave about one tactic or malign another. We know which hows work for us and our family, and we have a deep understanding of why.

I won’t go into the hows of FI here since you can easily find them on any FI blog (or right here on Million Dollar Journey):

I’ll just finish off by saying: even if you never plan to reach FI, knowing and following your whys and hows will lead you to more happiness and financial security. That’s something we can all get behind.


  • If FI’s turned you off, put the hows aside.
  • Turn your focus to the whys, and it will help everything fall into place.
  • You’ll find the motivation you need by turning to your whys.
  • The hows feel easier to tackle, and you’ll know exactly which ones work for your lifestyle and which won’t.
  • Even if you have no plans to achieve FI, you’ll be happier and financially better-off for knowing and following your whys and hows.

What about you?

I’d love to hear from those who’ve been turned off of the FI journey. What put you off, and have you tried exploring your whys? I’d also love to hear from those who took in the FI message easily. What appealed to you, and how do you keep yourself motivated?

If you have a moment, please comment below—I’ll be following this post and replying to any and all comments.

Editors Note: Be sure to check out Chrissy’s FI blog Eat Sleep Breath FI.

Photo Credit: Mohamed Nohassi on Unsplash

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  1. FT on May 21, 2019 at 2:58 pm

    Great post Chrissy, thanks again for contributing to MDJ.

    • Chrissy on May 21, 2019 at 4:04 pm

      Thanks for letting me share another article with your audience!

  2. Me. Fate on May 21, 2019 at 10:18 pm

    Excellent article Chrissy and you are spot-on with focusing on the “Whys” as opposed to the how. It’s essentially the premise of my site Once you align your whys with your values & purpose, then the real magic of FI comes to life.

    • Chrissy on June 24, 2019 at 10:57 pm

      Thanks for the comment Me. Fate! My sincere apologies to you, Frugal Trader, and everyone else who commented! I thought I would receive email notifications when anyone commented but that didn’t happen. So sorry… I’m catching up now!

      You’re absolutely right that aligning our whys with our values & purpose is what creates the magic of FI! Wise words… I’m definitely be checking out your blog!

  3. PhiaFreedom101 on May 23, 2019 at 12:09 pm

    This is a wonderful outline of how to approach FI from a values first perspective (which I am completely on board with).

    Without this approach, what comes after reaching the goal of FI can be a real disappointment for many, and for some completely unsustainable.

    As always, a wonderful post Chrissy! Love it :)

    • Chrissy on June 24, 2019 at 11:00 pm

      Hello my friend! Thank you for coming by here to comment. I love reading anything you have to say about life post-FI since you speak from experience.

      I’m trying to prepare my husband as well as I can by encouraging him to really think about his why for FI. I’ve heard from enough bloggers about that post-FI disappointment—it’s such an important topic.

  4. Ryan Peddle on May 23, 2019 at 8:58 pm

    This has been a concept I’ve been struggling to put into words for sometime. To keep digging for your why, over and over is (in my opinion) the ultimate sign of self-respect. But how could I communicate this new found thinking to others? Especially in a financial sense?

    My version, similar to yours Chrissy, is what I call TIY. That is to Think-It-Yourself. Most people do what they don’t want to do for money, yet they don’t do what they want to do to which is have more money. Tongue twister, no?

    I’ve therefore used the terminology of TIY (why) before you DIY (how), so that maybe shopping around for insurance or using the Flipp app doesn’t seem so tedious now. You’ve thought it through, so doing it is now only the weakest barrier in your head, waiting to be shattered.

    As always, great writing.

    • Chrissy on June 24, 2019 at 11:05 pm

      Hi Ryan!

      Thanks for taking the time to leave such an insightful comment. I love the TIY/DIY dichotomy. I also love how you frame it as a way to alleviate the tedium of reaching for FI. Very insightful. I’ll remember that the next time I don’t feel like getting new car insurance quotes!

      “Most people do what they don’t want to do for money, yet they don’t do what they want to do to which is have more money”—excellent point. :)

  5. Sam on May 24, 2019 at 3:23 pm

    Chrissy, I think this is so true for much in life. If you have a why going on a diet or doing more exercise are so much easier to stick to than just following the rules. I think that a lot of people lack a ‘why’ in many areas of their lives and that’s why they often give up on their goals after only a short period of time. Many thanks for another thought-provoking post.

    • Chrissy on June 24, 2019 at 11:10 pm

      Hi Sam,

      As always, you leave such lovely comments. You’re absolutely right that having a why is important for so many other areas of life.

      I had zero motivation to learn about investing before I discovered FI. When I discovered FI, that led me to my whys.

      And once I did, I was willing to power through even the most boring of investing books so I could learn and progress in our journey to FI!

      I know from reading your posts that you also have some powerful whys for FI. And you also make time for those whys now, even before you’re FI. That’s so important.

      Thanks again for the wonderful comment. :)

  6. Bob Lin on May 26, 2019 at 11:40 am

    “What appealed to you”

    Freedom to choose what we do and when we do it. So, what’s the “it”? It’s everything we can think of; walk the dog, cut the grass, decorate a room, go on a hike, travel to Australia, go to the movies, veg out, visit the doctors, have a haircut, spend time together, visit family, live in another country for six months, and so on. The list will never end. So, back to where I started, it’s freedom!

    9 months and counting, and our new life begins.

    • Chrissy on June 24, 2019 at 11:11 pm

      Hi Bob,

      Isn’t it interesting that for so many of us, the whys are mostly the small things off daily life? I love your list. Congrats on being so close to freedom yourself!

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