The 4 Essentials

  • Learning
  • Working (and rest)
  • Living
  • Giving
The hard numbers part of wealth building and FIRE are straightforward: Accumulate enough assets to live off the dividends, principal etc. for many decades. But life is lived day to day and our satisfaction is about way more than a magical number on a net worth spreadsheet. I strongly believe that a great and fulfilling life experience for people involves focusing on 4 essential areas: Learning, working, living and giving. I am no Bhudda, but after over 40 years of experiencing life on this planet in this form there seem to be 4 areas that when blended give a person a great gift. The gift of a truly fulfilling and satisfying life experience. First let’s start with the facts. Everything we see around us is impermanent. It all evolves, devolves and metamorphosises into new things. We don’t really have a life, we are life. We are evolving and growing and learning. Perhaps a little too deep for a personal finance blog, but hang in there. Money is essentially a tool and energy that we use. It can be used wisely to enhance the lives of billions. And if harnessed and leveraged efficiently, money can be a useful fuel and tool for the 4 essential aspects of a great life. In my opinion there are “The 4 Essential” practices. The wonderful thing is that when these areas are tended too and balanced, it enhances a persons life and finances. I also made the cartoon attached to illustrate these four aspects of a great life.

1. Learning

As a species we would be absolutely nowhere without the ability to learn and adapt. Learning new skills and new technologies was/is essential to our survival as a species. Whenever I go to the zoo or wild animal park, I am struck by how physically weak humans are compared to animals. Other animals can basically tear us apart if they had too, yet, somehow we have them contained in cages. Have you ever seen a Gorilla? We did this through learning and the use of technology. But I am not making some point about our relationship with animals on spaceship earth, I am trying to emphasize the importance of learning. Learning is critical to our ability to manage our money and investments wisely. Learning is essential to us navigating our natural and human environment. See, humans make all kinds of rules and systems for other humans. Most of these you have absolutely no say in. You get a token vote every once in a while. But in the meantime, literally thousands of people in power are molding and shaping the human rules environment. We must learn the rules and attempt to mold them in our favor. We need to learn the environment and the rules so we can navigate and maximize to our benefit. Learning is critical to success as an investor, but not for the reasons you may think. It is not about learning to be a great stock picker, that seems impossible. It is learning the fundamentals of investing in order to steer your capital into assets that grow over time and spin off income along the way.  

2. Working

The human animal needs work and rest. We are biologically programmed for a cycle of work, play, rest, work, play, rest. We need all three things, but you can see work is an essential element. Notice that most people that achieve FI still work in some way. It may need to be work that pays money, but it is still work. Work that pays money is just one kind in which you are exchanging with other humans. They want or need something from you, therefore they are willing to pay you for it. I added rest to this equation because one must come from the other. We are bound by the laws of physics and cannot work constantly. We get burned out and dull in the mind and body.  

3. Living

Sometimes we just need to live. What does this mean? It can be a blissful moment with your kids. A beautiful hike or moment taking it all in. A moment just to be. Not have to rush off somewhere, complete a task or deadline. A moment to breathe deeply and just be. Many people practice yoga and meditation for this reason. It offers a structured way to just be in the moment and experience things. And you might find that things are pretty darn good. I think the living aspect of our lives is why we go on vacations or travel. We are forcing ourselves outside the normal routine and perhaps thinking and experiencing things differently.  

4. Giving

I truly believe a key aspect of a life of True Wealth is an element of giving. This does not have to be in the form of money. There are many different kinds of “gifts” we can give others. One of the greatest and completely free gifts may be to just listen to someone else and validate their point of view. Be present for them. Money is an important tool, but a life of wealth is about a lot more than money. We are healthier and happier when we feel we are giving back and providing value to others. These kinds of actions when multiplied by millions make a society healthier and people make more money by working together.  

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