My Philosophy on Money

Someone asked me this recently:

What is your philosophy on money?

“Oh, that’s easy!” I said. And then it wasn’t so easy.

I thought about the question for a while and couldn’t come up with anything. No big deal; sometimes it takes me awhile to arrive at a good answer. I went for a walk which is usually helpful, but my brain wasn’t cooperating. After a week, still nothing. Then, I had an epiphany. The question was wrong.



Invert, always invert. -Carl Jacobi

Jacobi’s quote is one of my favorites. He realized that some problems must be solved by thinking about the solution and working backwards.

The philosophy of money question didn’t sit well with me because money isn’t really the goal. Money is just a facilitator. If money isn’t the goal though, what is? Some of my goals:

  • Keep my body in optimum form. (Without health, nothing else matters).
  • Surround myself with the best people I can. I want to be around people who challenge me and make me a better person.
  • Raise my children to be good and hard-working people with strong values.
  • Live in a place with:
    • a great sense of community.
    • access to outdoor pursuits.
    • good resources (Hello library!)
  • Explore the world.
  • Increase my knowledge every day by reading, thinking and solving problems.
  • Give back by volunteering.

There is a common thread in most of those goals and it is this:

They don’t involve money.

Nitpickers will tell say that everything costs something. Traveling isn’t free. I’ll need to buy a plane ticket and maybe a hotel room or two if I don’t have friends in the area. My fancy bike set me back $1,000. However, these expenses are minuscule when taken in the context of a lifetime of spending.


Time Baby, Time

There is another common (and much more important) thread that all of these activities have in common:

They all require lots of time.

And time is so damn precious. A 24-year-old may scoff at the suggestion, but I’ll bet any octogenarian would have a drastically different viewpoint.

So, working backwards, time is the most valuable asset. How does one make more time? Not easy:

  • Keep yourself in top health so that you live longer. This is a good idea, but even if you live to be 100, how many activities will you be able to enjoy at an advanced age?
  • Sleep less. Bad idea.

And my favorite:

  • Minimize the time that you need to work for money.

Now we’re getting somewhere, but there is something I have to make clear about that last statement. I didn’t say:

Work less.

I said:

Minimize the time that you need to work for money.

Financial independence shouldn’t be about living a life of leisure in front of the TV eating potato chips. Remember that retirement is an amplification of your current free time. If your weekends are spent watching reruns and eating unhealthy food, stay at work. Retirement isn’t for you, no matter what your age.

Life is beautiful and wonderful. Appreciate every second of it.

Appreciate every second.

What is the question then?

At the start of the post, I stated that this is the wrong question:

What is your philosophy on money?

The right question is this:

What is your philosophy on life?


Life is a journey of growth and discovery. I want to live in a way where I can go to bed at night content because I’m a better person than I was when I woke up. At the end of life when it’s time to die, I want to have lived in a way that was a net positive for my children and the world.

I have big plans and working until 60 or even 50 would get in the way of them. Again working backwards, I finally arrive at my philosophy on money:

I want to live in such a way that I minimize the number of years that I have to work for money. I’ll have a modest house, car and lifestyle and will never spend more just because I earn more. I’ll invest any surplus so that I can live on my own terms sooner than later.

Blank Canvas

I’ve had a great life. I’m extremely fortunate to have been born in a place were hard work is rewarded. I’m also thankful each and every day that I’ve found a job that I enjoy. I’ve worked with great people who recognized my hard work and thanked me for it. On some days, I feel like I live in a fairy tale.

However, work is only one part of my life. I want to live in a way where each day is a blank canvas to fill as I choose. There are so many wonderful ways to live and such little time. Life won’t be long enough to fit it all in, but I’ll die trying.


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80 Responses to My Philosophy on Money

  1. Right on, 1500 Days! When you boil it all down, time and health are what matter. The job should be enjoyable, or bearable anyway, and just an means to an end. I look forward to when I’ll have a blank canvas. Good post.
    The Green Swan recently posted…College Tuition EstimateMy Profile

  2. This is really powerful, Mr. 1500. You’ve really hit the nail on the head about pursuing financial freedom. It’s not about money. It’s the ability to seize the day in whatever way we choose. The best version of ourselves may not be sitting at a desk working for someone else every day. There are so many other things we could or should be doing.
    Kate @ Cashville Skyline recently posted…Social Media Hacks for ArtistsMy Profile

    • 1500 says:

      Love this:

      “The best version of ourselves may not be sitting at a desk working for someone else every day.”

  3. Love this post, Mr. 1500! 🙂

    This resonates loud and clear in my life these days and I’m so damn lucky to be a stay-at-home Dad by choice.

    Money truly is a facilitator. It can be an incredible tool to take back time to our loved ones, and it offers the freedom to express ourselves honestly without reservation.
    Michael @ Financially Alert recently posted…Financially Alert Friends – Interview #7 with Nate @ Investment ZenMy Profile

  4. Aww this is awesome. As an artsy fartsy creative person I love the imagery of the blank canvas. The world is your oyster! You can do whatever you want!

  5. Machinist says:

    Very good post! Thanks!
    Your sentence: “Retirement is an amplification of your current free time” hit really home with me.
    Machinist recently posted…Schmier Dir die Entfernungspauschale in die HaareMy Profile

  6. Great post! Focusing on money for money’s sake misses the point entirely. It’s all about living a good life and money is the tool to buy back your time.
    Matt @ Optimize Your Life recently posted…How Much Money Do You Need to Retire?My Profile

  7. Designing A Frugal Life says:

    Love this! I really like the line about retirement being an amplification of current free time and totally agree that it’s not about the money – it’s about the time money affords us. Thanks for sharing!

  8. Nicely said Mr. 1500!

    I introduced the concept of FIRE to some people recently and it was as if I was speaking a foreign language. You mean to tell me I don’t have to work for forty years of my life? Yes! There are better ways to life.

    “I want to live in such a way that I minimize the number of years that I have to work for money.” – Mr. 1500
    Brian @ Debt Discipline recently posted…Three Years of BloggingMy Profile

    • 1500 says:

      It is hard to wrap your mind around. We’re programmed by society and deprogramming is hard!

      If I wouldn’t have discovered MMM, I might have looked at my life at 62 with $10,000,000 in the bank and thought, “Why the hell did I keep doing this?”

  9. Mr. PIE says:

    Very thoughtful post.

    What is it about photos of our kids near the water at sunset that is so powerful?

    For me it’s perspective, gratitude and hope.
    Three things that hard work and good investment choices can afford us.
    Mr. PIE recently posted…Revealing our FIRE Plans: One Story, Four WaysMy Profile

    • 1500 says:

      Yeah, love the photos of the kids by the water.

      I think being at the ocean, watching the Sun go down, hearing the waves, smelling the salt, brings out the best in us. How can one not be happy at the beach?

  10. That’s a great philosophy on life, similar to my own. A big pile of money is not the end goal, a life full of fulfillment and contentment is. Money is a tool, and a tool to be used wisely.
    TheHappyPhilosopher recently posted…Making America Great: One Podcast at a TimeMy Profile

  11. Tawcan says:

    That’s a great philosophy on life, we share similar philosophy. If you don’t have health and aren’t happy with yourself, having all the money in the world wouldn’t do you any good.

  12. Arrgo says:

    Powerful stuff and now in my later 40’s, time really is more important than money. I enjoy making money as much as anyone but the problem is the amount of time you usually have to commit to it. To a certain extent, I don’t mind working. But having to spend 40+ hours plus any commute time really takes up too much of your time and energy. It doesnt leave much left for other interests in your life. Trying to fit in everything of weekends and vacation days doesnt seem to be enough. And the higher on the ladder you climb, usually the more time the company expects from you. The more you enjoy what you do, then the less of a negative I suppose working will be. But at some point, the corporate game and routine can start to get old. New VP’s and company policies can change a decent situation to a bad one quickly. You want to have a way out. You dont want to be told what to do forever. To me, its not about being rich and buying a bunch of stuff, its about having a choice in how you want to live your life. You want to be able to buy your freedom.

    • 1500 says:

      “Trying to fit in everything of weekends and vacation days doesn’t seem to be enough.”

      Exactly! Even if you love your job, there is never enough time for everything else.

  13. Money Beagle says:

    Good thoughts. It definitely seems like an easy question but probably hard to answer for many. I suppose for those who money is everything, it’s an easy answer, but as your pause showed, there’s so much more that we need to prioritize.
    Money Beagle recently posted…The Neighborhood Bully Is Quiet, For Ten Months AnywayMy Profile

  14. This post deserves its own Successories poster!

    I did it my way.


  15. Team CF says:

    I’d like to debate the “If your weekends are spent watching reruns and eating unhealthy food, stay at work. Retirement isn’t for you, no matter what your age.”, would love to do that for at least the first week of FIRE 😉

    But you are absolutely right, low term you have to have some idea and goals to make FIRE the best and maybe most rewarding portion of your life on this planet.
    Team CF recently posted…July 2016 Cheesy Index (and asset allocations)My Profile

  16. Beautiful

    That is all 🙂

  17. Jyoti says:

    Absolutely wonderful. 100% agree. Just starting out in this path and what a great blog. Thank you!

  18. I love how you took the question and realized you weren’t working on the right question. We can spend a lot of time and energy working on the wrong questions in life (and get frustrated along the way!) – your goals are so clear they will certainly guide your way!
    Vicki@Make Smarter Decisions recently posted…5 Questions Before My Tech Support Heads Back To CollegeMy Profile

  19. John says:

    Good post. For some reason, your point about thinking about the solution and working backward reminded me of a quotation. In James Clavell’s book Tai-Pan, the main character Dirk Struan once said “Money is not important. Only the lack of it.”

  20. Eric Bowlin says:

    “Remember that retirement is an amplification of your current free time. If your weekends are spent watching reruns and eating unhealthy food, stay at work. Retirement isn’t for you, no matter what your age.”

    Epic. I’m going to steal this and use it in my day-to-day life. Hope you don’t mind!
    Eric Bowlin recently posted…Update – Purchasing My First Mixed-Use PropertyMy Profile

  21. Great post Mr. 1500, I couldn’t agree more.

    It’s kindof sad how our modern society forgets simple but important things like this.

    Much of our culture says that life is nothing but work, so we might as well spend like stupid fools.

    Thankfully a few of us haven’t forgotten there’s more out there.

  22. Definitely need good goals once achieved FI to keep brain active and not loos ability for critical thinking.

    Financial Sanitizer posted :

  23. Yes – our guiding philosophy on money should be about making it possible to have a life well lived. That usually means freedom, good health (autocorrect made health turn into gelato and I have to say, for once, it’s not wrong!), helping others out a bit, and generally trying to leave the world a better place for having had us here. I don’t think people spend enough thought on how to align their actions with a positive overarching life goal or theme but if more did, I suspect the world would be a better place.
    Revanche @ A Gai Shan Life recently posted…Married Money: How we do it in 2016My Profile

  24. Jax says:

    “Minimize the time that you need to work for money”

    This is spot on. Wonderful post.

  25. Excellent post!

    I really like the concept of going to bed wiser than when you woke up. That idea, plus the concept of inversion and I can see the positive influences Charlie Munger has on you. 🙂

    Your philosophy is spot on. Well done for phrasing it so elegantly.

    Also, +1 for the Chicago skyline picture!
    Matt @ Distilled Dollar recently posted…Smart Women Finish Rich Book ReviewMy Profile

    • 1500 says:

      Munger is just great.

      So is Chicago. Can’t wait to visit my home City by the Lake again in October.

  26. FIRECracker says:

    Congrats on your Yahoo interview! I’m a fellow early retiree/FI-er and I found you from JL Collin’s blog.

    I think you nailed the FI/early retirement philosophy by conveying the importance of time. We can always make more money but time is finite. Ask any 80 year old millionaire whether the would give up his money to be 30 again, and see what happens.

    Great job guys! Looking forward to reading your blog!

  27. I completely agree that money is just a tool for facilitating our goals. People want to learn how to save money in little ways here and there, but the truth is that frugality transcends the everyday. It’s about living in a way that’s healthy and minimal while optimizing the power of money.

  28. CPA Housewife says:

    Money = Security. Security = Freedom and Peace and all those other inspiring words.

    I love this post.

  29. Kyle says:

    A friend from East Troy and I ended up drinking some delicious Surly IPA’s and Central Waters Stouts. He’s thinking about taking a new job after just taking a job a couple months ago. It could easily turn into a job for me too. We drank and talked about what we really want in life till around 10.

    All I know is my main goal is to not need money, not need income that is. My second goal is that I hate being required to be at a place in a small office 40+ hours a week so I’d love to reduce that to something like a 3 day work week at times. If I could come and go as I please, my hours would be erratic, I’d come in on weekends sometimes. Come in at noon and leave by 4 sometimes. Work from home some days. Come in early and leave early, but the jobs would get done just the same.

    I don’t know what I’ll do when I don’t need money, but I imagine it will be lots of contract work and I’ll take off when I feel like it and I’ll work when I want some challenge and cash lol. For now I just keep wishing I was closer to my goal, I should be planning better.

    • 1500 says:

      That second paragraph is my dream job. Hell, I wouldn’t mind working some intense hours if I could leave for a month during the summer. Maybe this is why the gig economy is so appealing to people?

  30. Crud, my comment yesterday didn’t take so I’ll just write: really awesome post.

    Way too much time spent writing about the how of money. How to get out of debt, how best to save, how to invest, how to spend less on X…not nearly enough time spent on the why of it all.

    As usual, I will be stealing your philosophy and giving you no credit whatsoever. But if you come to Arizona in December, maybe I’ll buy you a beer.

    Domestic only.
    Done by Forty recently posted…The PrivilegedMy Profile

    • 1500 says:

      Sorry that your comment disappeared into the Ether.

      Ha ha, we will be in Arizona, but not when you are there (12/25-12/29). In any case, feel free to steal away!

  31. You summed it up perfect bud! Those are great philosophies on life and everyone should pretty much be adapting to reach those. Although they dont technically involve money like you said and its really all about time, I like to think that money does play a huge factor in it especially if you can reach a passive income stream to give you all the time in the world.

    That is pretty much what I am trying to hit with passive income, so that I can have all the time to enjoy those precious life moments. Although sitting on a couch and eating potato chips sounds pretty darn good to me, especially if its a sunday and im watching NFL all day long. 🙂
    Alexander @ Cash Flow Diaries recently posted…How I Saved Over $14,000 Selling My House via For Sale By Owner – NO REALTORS!My Profile

  32. “An amplification of your current free time.” Says it all.. reminds me why I live for my days off. It’s tough to fit it all in while still in the work force. Great fuel and a great post. Might be my new favorite🙌

  33. I love the invert. always invert quote. I recently saw it on as a result of rockstar finance and man, it got me thinking so much. The distinction between minimizing the time required for money and having to work less is iconic. It’s all about lifestyle optionality that money can provide!

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  35. Chad Carson says:

    You said it BEAUTIFULLY, my friend. I like how your mind works.

    My 2 favorite quotes were:
    “Minimize the time that you need to work for money.”


    “At the end of life when it’s time to die, I want to have lived in a way that was a net positive for my children and the world.

    Will be borrowing those:)

  36. Mr.S says:

    This is just right. There is a saying in India which I love and is very similar to what you said above (definitely not about the investment part). It says- Give me enough to provide for my family, enough that I don’t sleep hungry and neither does the visitor go unfed.
    Basically enough to sustain myself and enough to be charitable to others.

    I am so happy we are finally working on ‘minimizing the time we need to work for money.’

  37. MrRIP says:

    Poor me, I wanted to write a similar post but you did it so… perfectly it doesn’t make sense to write an inferior duplicate!

    Every word is in the right place, amazing post 1.5K!
    MrRIP recently posted…My Financial Story – Chapter 8 – Dream Jobs LeftMy Profile

  38. Mike S says:

    Wow, nice work! Very pithy and insightful, and rightfully at the top of rockstar finance today!
    -Mike (from Chicago)
    Mike S recently posted…Book Review—The Lean Startup by Eric RiesMy Profile

  39. Kurt says:

    You and I are in perfect concert on this philosophy. I never saw money as an end, but rather a means to a life in which I could devote my time mainly to pursuing what interests me. I’m just about there. 🙂

  40. Lake Girl says:

    Love, Love, Love this post!

  41. Love this! That’s all I can say… I LOVE this!

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  43. Hi Mr. 1500, Nice post. You have covered all the critical points. I don’t if we were having ‘thought transference’ or whether your saw my post earlier, but I wrote about the importance of inversion on my website:

    I saw the article about you on Yahoo, well done! While your story is great and there are many similarities to mine (and I have not retired yet), I was taken aback by the barrage of negative comments in Yahoo. I guess the mainstream readers don’t believe regular people like us can achieve FI in our early 40’s.
    Ten Factorial Rocks recently posted…How To Invest EfficientlyMy Profile

    • 1500 says:

      I did read your post with the same quote! Mine was already written, but not published yet.

      I learned that quote from Charlie Munger a while ago and think about it often. So simple, but so powerful…

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  46. JG in HZ says:

    I’ve been working so long, I’ve forgotten what I should be doing with my time…
    My financial goal for FIRE has been hit, but the fear lingers.
    I moved to China 6 years ago and stayed there to avoid subsidizing the Health Insurance and Medical Device companies I used to work for…
    Time for me to start my 1000 day countdown to my return to the US as FIRE. Do you think I need 1000 days to get my life plan and habits changed enough to survive (financially, and in the FIRE mental mode) my (family’s) return to the US mega-consumer paradise?

    • 1500 says:

      JG, I can completely relate. The money is the easy part, learning how to live, not quite so much. Your first goal should be to find a place to live where you can surround yourself with people who aren’t consumer nutballs. Not easy…

  47. Lindsey says:

    How do you manage kids with schedules and time for your body mind and soul?

  48. Erith says:

    Your comment (paraphrased) – if you spend your weekend watching re-runs and eating unhealthy food, retirement is not for you.

    Both my husband and I (retired) are sitting in front of the tv, watching a re-run on cable, eating peanuts, with a glass in hand! Granted it is 9pm, on a week night, and we have both been out and about doing things until about an hour ago….

    We couldn’t stop laughing! While we are ‘sinners’, in a small way, we have friends who are so much worse than us, and losing years of their life, without realising it. Just letting it all drift by!

    The big warning is when you start watching daytime tv! Now that is a rocky road….

    I should also say we were FIRE, long before it became fashionable!

  49. Great analysis and self reflection. I found that life was indeed slipping away, and you have to grab it while you are still able to.

  50. Carl Lambert says:

    I’ve been on a similar course, with a high school education and four years military service I came into the software business in the mid 80s, right at the bottom as a $6.50/hour worker. But I had a passion for it and a talent that was recognized by the Harvard MBA who started the small company I was hired into. 26 years and theee companies later we were still working together. I’d saved and taught myself to invest and retired at 49 with more than $1million, having lived below my means throughout my career.

    Five years later, five years into my retired life, I’m now at $1.5m and starting a new life in the Philippines, a life of giving back and enjoying a while new culture. My friends back home who took expensive vacations each year, who drove, and still drive, late model BMWs, constantly on the trade-up treadmill, well, they say they knew all along I was on a different path and they express envy for my position now. Still young and fit at 54, living stress free. I tell them I spend my entire fortune each and every day. All of it. What do I buy with it? A good night’a sleep.

    And throughout my career, in all those years of saving and investing and sacrificing, I presented those around me this one enduring question for them to ponder:

    How many of the remaining days of your life do you own?

    • Wow, this may be my favorite comment. Ever. I love stories of people who worked their butt off and got to somewhere great. And now, you’re living abroad and giving back; outstanding!

      And this —>>> “How many of the remaining days of your life do you own?”

      Thanks so much for stopping by! Never stop doing your best work and living with passion.

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