What Motivates You To Save?

“What motivates you to save?,” I asked my husband last night at the dinner table. “Is pride your motivating factor?”

“Insurance,” he told me quite matter of factly, “I want to know money is there in case I need it.” “What about you?,” he asked.

“I save out of fear,” I told him. “That’s a much deeper, darker emotion. I’m afraid I’ll desperately need money someday and I want to make sure I have it.”

These emotions and ideas have greatly influenced our desire to save over the past two decades. Would we have amassed a small fortune without these notions driving us? I don’t think so.

Would my husband and I have saved less if we hadn’t been plagued by the overwhelming need to buffer our bank account? Most definitely. It would have been much easier to loosen the purse strings without fear looming over my shoulder.

We are not alone in the motivations that drive us, but in the world of personal finance blogs the need for security is being drowned out by a new set of emotions and desires.

The newest writers of personal finance blogs, (particularly FIRE blogs), appear to be driven by entirely different reasons.

Changes in Personal Finance Blogs

I began writing this blog in 2006. In Internet years I’m pretty sure that makes me a dinosaur. In fact, I thought I would win the grandma award for longest-running, female, personal finance blogger. I didn’t win the first place prize, but I did earn a very respectable fourth or fifth place finish.

About a decade after I started blogging I took a short hiatus. When I stopped writing about personal finance I stopped reading about it too. I hung on to just a handful of favorite RSS feeds and happily ditched the rest.

After a few years of ignoring the personal finance space Revanche encouraged me to start writing again. About six months later Angela, (who does amazing things for female PF bloggers), gave me a shout out on the Choose FI podcast.

Of course, I could have started typing, pushed out a few posts and called it a day. Instead, I began searching the Internet for new voices in the space. I was interested to see what had changed in my absence.

Less Focused on Building Wealth

What surprised me most were the number of bloggers who want to quit their jobs without a giant nest egg.

When I began blogging about money in 2006 my fellow bloggers were focused on building wealth or at least that sure seemed to be the case. Debt bloggers wrote a lot about digging out of debt, but once they found themselves on level ground they too focused on growing their net worth.

That’s why net worth charts began springing up on blogs in the personal finance space. It was a way to demonstrate progress towards the ultimate goal: a hell of a lot of money in the bank.

Security ranked high up on the list of fundamental needs. If we had enough money in the bank we didn’t need to worry about getting forced out of our jobs. We could bear the brunt of recessions and layoffs.

Now people are willingly cutting the cord from work. I know this is due in part to Mr. Money Mustache’s shockingly simple math, but I’m still surprised by this fact.

My Personal Motivations

When I was younger fear pushed me toward saving. Although I secured an amazing job out of college I didn’t earn enough to pay for the high cost of housing and food in the city I lived in. My only affordable rental option was a group house with five other people living upstairs from me and two more in the basement!

What Motivates You To Save: Fear

During that time I was constantly worried about running out of money. I’ve written about my financial fears, stress and anxiety before.

In my mid-twenties a medical scare rattled my belief in doctors, medicine and the need for an ordinate amount of money to get me through another such disaster.

At the root of it all I saved for peace of mind. Money can’t fix everything, but if money can get me out of a bind, well by golly, I’d like to have a pile of it to throw at a problem.

I recently listened to episode #143 of the Afford Anything Podcast and found myself nodding while Paula Pant and Emma Pattee discussed the anxieties that led to their wealth. I think it’s common for people to save money to calm their fears.

My husband and I redirected our negative emotions into a giant pile of money. In our case, the desire for financial security led us to FATFire. (Although my husband hasn’t quit his job yet.) There are many worse things we could have done with those complex feelings.

FIRE Motivations

What Motivates You To Save: Fun

Today many personal finance blogs have been taken over by the FIRE, (Financial Independence Retire Early), bug. Young bloggers still write about cutting expenses and saving money, but the motivation for saving is completely different.

The goal to amass a small fortune is no longer in the forefront. The need to secure a stable future seems less prominent. Many FIRE bloggers write about building enough wealth to live a minimal lifestyle. They talk about finding other jobs if necessary and sometimes even plan for it. BaristaFIRE is a great example of that.

I find this absolutely fascinating. Part of me claps for those who are willing to save a little, throw in the towel and explore what the world has to offer. The other part of me thinks, “Are these people all nuts? Who on Earth would leave a well paying job in their 20s or 30s without a significant bank account filled with cash and investments?”

Why do I think that? Because I never would have left a secure job so early on in my career. Someone who saves for reasons of fear and security would never think to do that.

Thoughts on Work

If this sounds like I am judging FIRE blogs please know that I am not. If anything, I am passing judgement on my own misgivings. I never would have been brave enough to leave my job without a pile of money in the bank.

I should point out that I didn’t hate my job. It provided mental stimulation, solid benefits and more than decent pay. I worked from home multiple days a week and had a lot of flexibility.

If I worked in a toxic environment my outlook certainly would have been different. The same goes for hating my chosen career path or feeling like I was underpaid. Thankfully, I didn’t deal with any of that.

But I don’t think that’s why FIRE bloggers want to leave work. I read plenty of blogs about people with decent jobs who still want to quit.

What Motivates You To Save

So I wonder are the new voices of FIRE blogs not afraid like I once was? Fear and security drove my husband and I to save. What motivates you and when will you know you have enough?

6 thoughts on “What Motivates You To Save?”

  1. I wouldn’t say it’s necessarily fear for me, but top of mind is definitely the insurance that I won’t be forced into a bad situation because I don’t have the money, be it staying in a job I cannot stand or being forced out of the workforce for any number of reasons. I don’t think I’m fearful so much though because we are still quite young, have stable jobs, and a solid financial footing. But I’m still very much driven to have that hefty pile socked away for the future, regardless of what that future is.

    • My husband said it’s a fine line between insurance and fear. I’m not sure I agree with him, but I liked the sentiment. Youth, stability and money in the bank certainly alleviates the fear. Having reached FI the fear has disappeared for me. That was unexpected benefit! I love socking away money for the future. Who knows what the future will bring. It’s nice to know there is money in the bank if you need it!

  2. I only discovered the concept of financial independence in the last few years, and there are other ideas tied up in that for me, like minimalism and trying to simplify my life, that I’ve also embraced. Before that, it didn’t occur to me what I should be saving for, aside from my retirement accounts, so although I was good at saving, I would also save a large chunk of money and then think about how to spend it on something I “deserved,” like a new car. Discovering that this cycle didn’t make me happy, and becoming critical of the effects of consumer culture (such as on the environment) have motivated me to want to opt out of all that and save for a future where I have more time rather than more things. I also became aware of people who couldn’t work anymore and rapidly became destitute, so that’s definitely a fear I didn’t think about when I was younger. I wouldn’t consider that I had enough saved until I could replace my working income with investment income, but I have no interest in fat FIRE.

    • Minimalism became a driving force in my pursuit to save too. When I began analyzing my purchases I was amazed by how little I actually cared about or needed. It’s crazy to think about how much money disappears from our wallets on needless purchases. I’m curious. Why don’t you have an interest in fat FIRE?

      • I guess to me, fat FIRE still implies spending a lot of money and doing whatever you want, and I like the idea of not consuming a lot, even in retirement. I’d want to be able to buy clothes, go to restaurants and travel sometimes, but not have it be just like bling-bling all the time, which is what I picture when I picture fat FIRE…. the continuation of the American consumer lifestyle that I don’t think is great for the planet… there has to be something between fat FIRE and completely lean FIRE, though, right? 🙂

        • I hadn’t thought of fatFIRE that way. We are definitely fatFIRE and very minimalistic. I suppose most people want a pile of money to spend, but I just like it there as a big, fat security blanket. I’m like Linus in Charlie Brown, but I have a bank account instead of a ratty old blanket. I totally see your point and agree with it 100%. I don’t have any desire to further harm the planet or be a big spender now or later in life.


Leave a Comment