I often think about how to explain financial independence to the children we hope to have in the next couple of years. We hope to have kids before we reach early retirement, but if all goes according to plan, they’ll still be babies when we leave the working world behind.
What kind of questions will a child who has never known anything but two parents with all the time in the world have? How will we explain our unusual life? Because I love thought experiments like this, I wrote a letter to our future kids trying to express what financial independence means to us in terms a child might understand.
Dear Little One,
You may wonder why we don’t seem to have a life like everyone else. How come we’ve lived in so many countries? Why have you gone to school in so many places?
Hopefully, we’ve taught you that money doesn’t just appear from nowhere, even though it seems that way at times. If mommy and daddy don’t have to go to work, how come we get to go on trips, eat great food, and have great adventures? It’s sort of a long story that began before you were even born.
Back then, even though we didn’t have you yet, we already imagined you. We didn’t know what you would look like or what you would grow up to do. We just knew that whatever it was, it was perfect to us. You might be a boy or a girl. You might be tall or short. You might wear glasses or love collecting bugs. Whatever it was, we wanted to be there to see you become whoever you were born to be.
Even though it’s sad sometimes, people are born, grow up, and one day, they die, too. Some people get a lot of time, and some people only get a little. The thing is, nobody knows how much they’ll get, and sometimes it doesn’t seem very fair. That’s why it is so important to spend the time we do have with people we love, doing things that we love.
We started to wonder: was there a way for us to spend all of our time together, every single day?
We decided that yes, there was a way! If we worked very hard for a little while, and we didn’t buy any silly things that didn’t really make us happy, we could save and save and save our money until we had enough to stop going to work forever. Every time we saw something we liked in a store or on the computer, we stopped and thought, “Do I really want this more than I want to spend time with everyone I love?”
We saved all our money, and things were going great. Sometimes we still bought things, but only the things that would make us really happy, for a really long time.
One day, we saw that not only did we not have to go to work any more, we could also visit places that lots of people only see on television or read about in books. We were really happy, because we knew we would be able to show you all the amazing people and places in the world. We knew that getting to see stuff like that would make you really smart, and we hoped that it would make you really happy too, because it meant that one day, you would have friends everywhere you went, all over the world. When people said silly stuff about a place because they didn’t know any better, you would remember the people who were kind to you, and the friends you made there.
So, why don’t daddy and mommy go to a job every day? Because of all the things in the world that we could buy, and of all the places we could visit, and of all the things we could do, we loved you (and each other) the most.
Love you, always, more than all the things,
What do you think? How would (or will) you explain financial independence and early retirement to your kids? Let me know in the comments!