(The following is an abbreviated transcription from a video Linda and I recorded. Please excuse any typos or errors.)
Today we are talking about financial independence, retiring early, and whether or not this is what Christians should be chasing after.
Have you heard of F.I.R.E. before?
In case you haven’t heard of this term, that’s the acronym: Financial Independence & Retiring Early.
Before we get into all the details and discuss if Christians chase after financial independence, Linda and I recorded our discussion that you can listen to on our Podcast or watch below if you’d rather hear our discussion.
Or, you read the full transcription below:
What is F.I.R.E.?
Bob: It’s a pretty big movement in the personal finance space, if you’re nerdy and curious. And so there’s a lot of people who are just obsessed with this goal. Reaching financial independence and wanting to retire early. And financial independence, being the point where you have enough assets, generate an income for you, that you can live off of that. Rather than needing to have a job. That’s pretty attractive.
Linda: So is this normally longterm? They’re like, I retired at 35 and then I never work again.
Bob: Yeah. If you play your cards right. And do it right.
Bob: So you can look out for that one.
Questions You Should Ask Yourself About Your Financial Goals
Bob: But now I want to talk about first, should we do this? Is this something we should chase after? And I think there’s a few key questions we should be asking to determine whether or not this is something we should be chasing after. So for any financial goal that I go after there are three questions that I like to ask myself about this.
1. Why Do You Want To Achieve this Financial Goal?
Bob: So number one, as I try to ask myself, honestly. Or get an honest response out of myself. Why do I want to achieve this goal? Whatever it is. If it’s paying off debt, if it’s saving for retirement, if it’s saving for my college or my kid’s college, if it’s becoming financially independent, if it’s retiring early, like why do I want that?
What is the motivation? And I’ve known for myself sometimes that motivation isn’t what it should be. Sometimes it’s I want to get to the point where I don’t need to depend on God anymore. Where I have enough money in the bank account that I don’t need God.
Bob: If I’m being completely honest. And that’s not what I want my response to be, but I’ve found what I’ve asked myself questions in certain things that sometimes that’s the answer. And if that’s the reason I’m chasing it, then that’s a problem.
Linda: Right. Yeah. I mean, it’s the deceitfulness of riches, right? You don’t have to be wealthy and you don’t have to be poor in order to be caught in the middle of this deceitfulness of riches. Which is basically that money is more important than God. Really, that’s essentially what it is. You’re putting more value in the money.
Linda: And so, yeah, I mean, I think that’s a good question to ask, just to keep our hearts pure. Because money is just a tool. We need to see it as just a tool and that our source is really God. Right?
Bob: Yeah, exactly. And so that’s the thing it’s like anytime we find ourselves trying to, and CS Lewis has a great quote talking about this, but anytime we find ourselves trying to replace our need for God, with something. Including money.
Bob: We’re heading down the wrong path, you know what I mean? So that’s the first question that I like to ask.
2. Will achieving this financial goal honor God?
Bob: The second question is, do I want to achieve this goal, to honor God or is it because I want to reduce my dependence on him. And if it’s to honor God in some way, if that’s the intention behind it, if that’s the pure heart motivation behind it then that’s a good thing.
That’s, that means you might be headed in a good path.
Linda: Okay. So that CS Lewis quote that he was talking about, it says:
“All that we call human history: money, poverty, ambition, war, prostitution, classes, empires, slavery is the long, terrible story of man trying to find something other than God, which will make him happy.”
It is really true. I mean…
Linda: I feel like it keeps happening. It keeps coming up over and over again. And I find myself doing it, where I see an outfit in the store window. I think, if I could just have that…
Bob: That’s gonna do it.
Linda: …my life will be complete. And. I, get the outfit and guess what? My life isn’t complete.
Bob: It’s like drinking salt water, right?
Linda: It is. It’s well, now I gotta have more. Now I need shoes to go with it. Oh. And I need some new jewelry and it just, it keeps going.
Linda: And then by the time I get all the stuff that I want for it, I need something else. I’m ready to buy something else.
Bob: Yeah. And so this is I think we’ve talked about this before, but. Debt elimination can become an idol. And I’ve talked to many people who have kind of struggled with that, where it becomes such an idol in their life that…
Linda: That when they pay it off, they’re not satisfied.
Bob: Exactly. I mean, it’s a biblical, and really solid goal to chase after. It makes a lot of sense, but that’s the amazing thing. We can try to replace God with anything. And if we think, man, once I get that debt paid off, I’ll be self-sufficient and I won’t need to depend on God. And some of this stuff is not like conscious thoughts that you’re thinking.
Some of it’s just like really, subtle stuff. So far down in your heart that only God can actually show you it’s there.
Linda: Well I mean, I think the whole thing about the enemy, the devil is that he tries to take the things that God put in us for a purpose and for a calling. And so that we can do what he has for us to do on the earth. Be the hands and feet of Jesus in whatever capacity that is.
And he tries to take it and ruin it and twist it so that it’s no longer a blessing. And then you see this thing in your life. And you think, oh, well, I’ve got to get that under control and I have to shut it up because it’s not godly when it actually is godly. It just needs to be submitted.
Linda: There’s lots of examples of this. But I mean, just even debt or I think giving was one for us, whereas God has called us to be givers. That’s fine. Everybody has their own calling and their own gift. And I noticed there were times when I think we started to turn it into a little bit of an idol. And it was like something that God had called us to, and it was starting to get ruined because our hearts were looking at that instead of looking at God.
Linda: And we kind of had a few talks about it, where it’s just are we, is this just because we want to appear we’re really good at giving?
Or is this because we are actually submitted to the Lord?
Bob: Yeah. Yeah, absolutely.
Linda: So, we’re continuing to ask these questions all the time. I think just because the enemy loves to steal, kill and destroy, he’s trying to steal the gift that God has given us. And to kill the purpose that we have.
And destroy others lives because we can’t keep ourselves in check. Right? That’s what the fruit of the spirit is for.
3. Can I be content in God, if I never achieve this financial goal?
Bob: Yeah. So the third question is, can I be content in him if I never achieved this goal? And that is a tough one because can I be content if we never… we’re out of debt, now we’re a hundred percent debt free, but can I be content in him if we never pay off her debt? Or what if we never own a house. Whatever that thing is, for you.
Linda: Right. The question right there is can I be content in him? I think it’s when we are looking at everything else. That we can’t answer that question the way we should. Or the way we want to be able to is because we’re saying: well but the house isn’t paid off, or that we’re not out of debt yet, or we’re not even in a house, whatever the thing may be.
We’re looking at that too much. And if we are just submitted to God’s will and submitted to what he wants and we are seeking first, the kingdom of God and his righteousness, then all the other stuff is kind of in the background. And it doesn’t really matter that much.
I think about when we’re cooking and we put the things that are least important, like on the back burner. We’re like, let’s throw the peas on the back. We’ll put them on low they’re frozen. Believe them there for a while. They’re low maintenance, right? Like they don’t need much attention. But the things that are in front of us are the ones that we need to be attending to. And I think it’s the same thing with God. Like he needs to be the one on the front burner.
He needs the one that we’re paying the most attention to. And those other things, maybe they’re still there and they might need a little bit of attention, but they should not be getting the same amount of attention.
Linda: As the potatoes that are about to boil over type of thing.
Bob: Yeah. All right.
Following the financial path God is leading you on
Bob: So now let’s talk about this back to F.I.R.E., and I’ll talk about me personally with it. I’m a money nerd and I’m really interested in this idea of financial independence and having our investments generate enough income for us to live off of. That sounds really enticing and exciting to me, it sounds great.
Bob: To be able to free us up more time, to be able to focus on what God’s called us to do, I love that. But God has called us to give our age as a percentage of our income.
And so right now, that means 40% of our income. And what that means is that we just have a lot less financial energy to this goal of early retirement.
Bob: You know what I mean? If we weren’t giving that much, we’d be able to do that. But I know for us personally, we are supposed to give more. So that is our number one priority. That is the highest and best use of our financial energy.
Big and “small” paths are equally important
Bob: And for someone else, it might be different. Like it might be that God is leading you to this path of financial independence so that whatever you can go be in the mission field for the next 20 years or whatever the thing may be. But yeah.
Linda: Take care of your grandkids and help raise them, or there’s a million different scenarios. It doesn’t have to be. I think sometimes we think that the thing that the Lord has for us to do has to be this really big, I’ll be on the mission field. Which I think is a good example because it’s easy to understand and relate to. But I think that there are a whole lot of other things…
Bob: Yep, absolutely.
Linda: …God has us to do right in our own backyard. Or even just in our home that needs to be done. Right now, honestly, our kids are downstairs. We have a sweet woman from our church who comes once a week and takes care of our kids so we can work.
And she does not charge us. This is her ministry to us. What a beautiful thing that is. And we are so grateful to her, but it’s like what a great thing that she’s able to do that. Right?
Linda: And I think there’s a whole lot of stuff like that yeah, God is calling people to do.
The need for Christians to have strong financial footing
Bob: Yeah and I would love to see more of the body of Christ in a position to be able to do that and not have to be a slave to a nine to five.
And to all the creditor companies and all this debt that we’ve all accumulated. Like that is so enticing to me. Like how do we get more of the church to break out of that and to break into a really strong financial footing. To be more freed up, to do what God has called them and led them to do.
Linda: Right. Yeah, and I think this is the problem with what the personal finance space has done to this F.I.R.E. thing is because it’s made it very selfish. And I think that’s why we’re even asking this question. I don’t think that this is wrong or right. I think it depends on what God has for you to do.
Linda: This is not right for us right now. Our main goal is giving our age as a percentage.
Bob: Yeah. I mean, but that said this is still a secondary goal that I would like to reach. It’s just not our number one priority. And so it’s not going to cut into our giving because this is the thing we know we’re supposed to do.
Bob: That makes sense?
Bob: Like I would love to be able to reach that at some point, but. And we’re doing things in terms of our investments, in terms of our income and continuing to use the extra that we have outside of the giving to move in that direction.But…
Linda: Yeah. …
Bob: ….like I said, we’re moving a good bit slower because of our giving percentage at this point.
Linda: Yeah, and that’s okay.
The negative side effect of retiring early
Bob: Yeah. Another thing that’s worth mentioning here is that I have a good number of friends who have sold businesses for significant amounts of money. Sums that allowed them to instantly retire early. And I would say that if I looked at most of their lives and had an honest conversation with most of them. Not all, but most of them. I think most of them would say financial independence and retiring early is not as satisfying as you might think.
Linda: It’s interesting.
Bob: Which is I think a big shock and surprise to some people. But I’ve seen this pattern play a lot out with a lot of different people. So immediately it happens. It’s great. And then you go buy a sports car and then you go maybe buy a bigger house and you do all these things. And it’s oh, this is really fun.
I go on vacation for three weeks. You do all this stuff and it’s fun for a month or two or something like that. But a couple years in many of them seem to be wandering and trying to figure out what’s my purpose now. And I think that’s something to consider.
Finding purpose for your money after early retirement
Linda: What’s interesting is I think about Elon Musk because didn’t he get a big chunk of change? What did he sell?
Linda: Okay. So PayPal.
Bob: I think he walked away, I want to say walk with 10 or 12 million from that sale.
Linda: Not bad. He probably could have done a lot with that. But instead he was like, What, am I going to do if I just sit here with a bunch of money?
Bob: I could be way off on those numbers, but he walked away with a significant amount. But I think where you’re going is, he ended up reinvesting every penny had back into SpaceX.
Linda: Was it SpaceX or Tesla?
Bob: Probably both, but SpaceX was the one that it was all or nothing. Like the third shuttle launch, the first two failed. And the third one, if it would have failed, he would have been penniless.
Linda: Yeah. I thought it was more than 10 or 12 million.
Bob: No, it might’ve been way more. I don’t remember the exact numbers.
Linda: But a lot of money. Let’s just say enough to do nothing for, at least for a while. Right?
Linda: I just think that’s interesting that he was like, it was not in him to just sit around and spend money. He was like, I have to do something. So I like that. I think that’s what God has called us to.
I think the idea of retiring at all is just the, world’s way of saying something that maybe God has for us. But in a selfish way.
So what are you going to do in your retirement? Really? Is the question that I have. Is it really just about you at that point? Or are you looking for, what does God have for me in this next season?
Struggling and feeling unsatisfied when lacking work
Bob: Yeah. So another just anecdotal thing is if you’ve read the book Four Hour Work Week, or heard about Four Hour Work Week. I read this book in 2008, maybe.
Linda: And it changed your life.
Bob: And it did.
Bob: I got inspired and it sent me on a path. I basically built my business with this in mind. And couple years later, I essentially found myself with a four hour work week and I have this really passive business that.
I can go do whatever I want whenever I want. So I wasn’t financially independent, but I was time independent. And I had a very low maintenance, passive business. For a few months, this was amazing. I loved it.
Linda: It was great.
Bob: But in a few years, I found myself just really struggling.
Linda: Bored. Unmotivated.
Bob: Just lacking and, really unsatisfied. I think that’s what it comes down to just feeling very, unsatisfied. I have this thing that everybody dreams about and wants. But it just isn’t satisfying.
We are wired to work
Bob: And I think the thing is that God designed us to work. God designed us to work from the beginning. Like you should go, just do a study on all the Bible verses about work.
This has always been part of God’s plan. And it’s in us, we’re wired to work. And if we don’t have that. If we’re not actually putting our hand to something you get weird really fast. You know what I mean?
Bob: And so it’s just part of who we’re supposed to be.
Enjoying the season we are in
Linda: And I kind of liked that it was there for a season. You know what I mean? It’s like we…
Bob: For us to experience it.
Linda: Yeah, we experienced that for a little while we enjoyed it while it was there and then it was gone, then it was over, you know what I mean? And I, think it’s just something that I really love about God is just something that you are finding purpose in, maybe at that point in time. That was something you were working towards and you finally got the reward of it. And it was great.
We enjoyed it while it was there. And then it was not the end of the road for us. We need more than this. And so we continued on the journey and didn’t just sit there and just go, well, just give up. He, takes you on a journey and a path and it goes, winds through all these roads and different scenery.
Our purpose and motivation changes
Bob: Yeah, to be honest, we’re in the same business. It just looks different. You know what I mean? Because the motivation is different. And so before, all of the motivation was how can I do as little work as possible and get paid as long as I can.
And whereas now we’re focused on impact. It’s like, how can we have more impact in people’s lives? And in just changing that question, has changed really, I think our fulfillment and what we do.
Bob: And the impact that we’re making for sure, because we’re seeking first impact rather than how can we live as passive lifestyle as possible. Like it just changes things. It’s like we get different emails from people now than we did then. We get more emails of my life has been changed because of your course or because of this. That stuff feels really, good and very satisfying, knowing that you’re going to take part in what God has….
Bob: … planned and you get to be part of that equation. It’s really, good.
Bob: So summing all this up. Should Christians chase after F.I.R.E., and being financially independent, retiring early.
I think you should know by now my answer is not yes or no. It depends. You know what I mean?
It depends on your situation and this is something that you need to pray and you need to spend time with God, but go back and ask yourself those questions.
And I’ll just read over them one more time to leave you with them.
Ask yourself, honestly and ask the Lord to reveal in your heart, this answer, because sometimes you can’t see it yourself. Why do you want to achieve the goal? What is the actual root cause and desire of wanting to achieve the goal?
Is it to honor God or to reduce your dependence on him? And can you be content if you never achieve the goal?
And so I would apply those questions to every financial goal that you have. I think it’s worth asking for each one of them, but I think that helps you get a clear mind and direction on whether or not you should be chasing whatever that goal is.
So with that, have a great rest of the day. If you need it, know anybody who needs this, go ahead and share that with them.