“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!
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.
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?