The Four Pillars described in this blog aren’t random. They are at the absolute core of my thinking and my philosophy on life. They encapsulate all my ideas on how to live the most incredible, deep, meaningful life possible.
I have been receiving a lot of questions via email about how I developed the Four Pillar philosophy and my reasoning behind it so I figured I would dedicate a blog post to explaining it.
Disclaimer: This post contains many different ideas but I promise they’re all interconnected. This is my attempt to wrangle all the individual thoughts and ideas swirling around in my head and put them on paper.
At the center of my philosophy on life is simply me asking myself: why am I here on this earth, what do I want to accomplish in my short period of time here, how can I attempt to fulfill my purpose, and how can I cut out everything else that isn’t important? When I ask myself these questions I find myself answering by saying that I want to cultivate deep relationships with my friends and family and work on projects that actually make a difference in the world. If I can do these two things then I personally feel that my time on this earth will have been well spent and not wasted.
In order to have time to spend on these relationships and these projects that I find meaningful I must have a significant amount of freedom. I need freedom to be able to write about my ideas and my thoughts on life and most importantly I need to be in control of my time.
At the heart of my quest for freedom I truly just want the ability to decide how I want to spend each day – who I want to spend each day with and what I want to be doing with my time. I want the freedom to be able to make these decisions.
The main constraint holding me back from being able to spend each day how I want is the simple fact that I need money to live. I need food and water and clothing and shelter and basic amenities to survive. None of these are free, they cost money. And they are recurring costs. I need food today, tomorrow, the day after that, and each day after that until I die. It also doesn’t hurt to have access to transportation and reliable communication as well.
In order to have money to afford these basic amenities I need to have some type of income source. I need this income on a regular basis too, since my costs are recurring on a regular basis. This means I need a job of some type, whether that means running my own business or working for someone else.
The problem with working for someone else is that I don’t get to decide how I want to dress or what time I want to wake up in the morning or even what projects I get to work on. All of that is decided for me when I work for someone else. If given the choice to work at a corporate job or work for myself on projects I find meaningful and impactful in the world, I would choose the latter.
A corporate job isn’t inherently evil. It provides money, but at the cost of handing over my time and freedom, which are the most finite resources in existence.
The Early Retirement Community
In my quest for freedom I stumbled upon the financial independence/early retirement community. The moment I accidentally discovered this community less than two years ago I began to slowly develop my four pillar philosophy.
The whole idea behind early retirement is that through creating a huge gap between your annual income and spending you can invest a significant amount of money each year and build a portfolio in a short period of time that provides you with enough passive income to pay for all your expenses.
This idea is life-changing.
It means you can retire well before the traditional age of 65. In fact, it’s not uncommon in this financial independence/early retirement community for people to retire in their early 30’s or even sooner.
Once I found this community my entire perspective on life changed. I felt like I had discovered the holy grail. I felt like I had just unlocked a cheat code to life that very few people knew about.
Once I read a little deeper I found a sub-group of people who shared a school of thought known as ‘minimalism’. Minimalism is the idea that as humans we need far less than we think we do to live an abundant life. It’s the idea that having more stuff actually just means having more obligations and constraints on our lives.
The average minimalist is able to recognize what brings them joy and make the conscious decision to only spend money on whatever brings them this joy. This was another revolutionary idea to me, and it made complete sense. Minimalism became the base of my psychology pillar.
So at this point I had essentially found the formula to achieve this freedom I so badly wanted:
Spend less than I earn. Invest the difference. Grow a portfolio large enough to cover my expenses. Enjoy all the freedom in the world.
However, I lacked the specificity behind the formula. Invest in what? Invest how much? How do I spend less? What if I don’t want to spend less? Should I focus on earning more or spending less? Or both? I knew the basic formula but I didn’t know how to execute it.
Thus, I began to read books about philosophy, psychology, finance, investing, work ethic, habits, marketing, and pretty much any genre I thought would help me gain more knowledge in my quest for financial independence.
Slowly over the past two years I began to connect the dots between all the books and articles I had been reading, and I wanted to be able to explain all the ideas I had come across in a concise manner. This is ultimately what led me to create the four pillars.
Pillar I: Philosophy
The first pillar is Philosophy. This is the sun within the four pillar freedom galaxy. Philosophy is your whole viewpoint on life. It drives your actions and acts as a foundation upon which you can always lean on. Philosophy drives your thinking process, which in turn drives the actions you take in life each day. Your actions literally determine your entire life. Needless to say, philosophy is pretty important.
The Philosophy behind Four Pillar Freedom is straightforward: seek freedom. Freedom brings you the ability to spend time how you want. It gives you the ability to invest in relationships that matter and dedicate as much time as you want to work that gives your life meaning.
This mindset drives the other three pillars. The other three pillars focus on financial independence – the tool to be used to obtain this freedom. This revolves around minimizing expenses, which is primarily covered in the Psychology Pillar, and increasing income, which is covered in the Work Ethic and Finance pillars.
Pillar II: Psychology
Pillar II is the psychology pillar. Once you have established the fact that freedom is the end goal, and that financial independence is the tool to achieve this end goal, there is really only one line needed to describe the entire path to reach financial independence: Spend less than you earn. Invest the difference.
The psychology pillar focuses on the spending part of that statement. It focuses on the common traps of consumerism, tendencies of human behavior, the power of gratefulness, and many other sub-topics that revolve around human psychology.
At the heart of this pillar is the idea that we truly need far less than we think we do to live a rich, meaningful, incredible life. Also within this pillar is the big idea that comparing ourselves to those around us, especially financially, is the biggest obstacle to overcome on the path to financial independence.
Pillar III: Work Ethic
Next up is Pillar III, the Work Ethic pillar. To obtain financial independence in as little time as possible, it’s necessary that you earn far more than you spend. This pillar focuses on how to increase income, specifically through the power of habits, the mindset of essentialism, and the ability to obtain mastery in a field.
Habits shape who you are as a human. Your daily habits influence what you are capable of, how you spend your time, and how fast you improve.
Essentialism is the idea that if you only work on what is most important in your life you’ll find that you can accomplish so much more in a much shorter period of time. It also revolves around the idea that you should be cutting out the activities and people in your life that add little to no value to you.
Lastly, mastery is the idea that anyone can become a master in almost any field, given enough time and effort. Specifically, anyone can become financially independent given enough time and effort.
Pillar IV: Finance
Pillar IV is the finance pillar. There’s a reason this is the last pillar. Once you have attained the mindset that freedom is the end goal, that you need to spend way less than you think, and that earning more money isn’t out of your reach, the last thing left to do is simply invest your money and watch it grow.
Roughly 90% of the battle of reaching financial independence is about your mindset. Once you have the mindset, the final 10% is simply putting your money in the right places and letting time take over. This pillar focuses on the common traps of investing, the power of diversification through index funds, and the tremendous ability of compound interest and time to grow your savings into a portfolio that supports you indefinitely.
These are the four pillars and they all serve a purpose in their own way. They all hinge on the fact that freedom is the end goal. I should note that the four pillars are still in their infancy stages. I am still learning more and more each day and I hope to be able to reflect my learning in the posts I write on this blog and develop the four pillars even more deeply and fully over the years.
I also want to caveat this by saying that if you absolutely love your job and you can’t imagine retiring from it, that’s fantastic! Keep doing that job you love. By no means am I saying everyone’s end goal should be to quit their job as soon as possible. What I am saying is that everyone should be striving to do exactly what they want to be doing in life. If you happen to hold a job in which you feel like you are fulfilling your life calling and are finding great fulfillment and growth, then it would be ludicrous to quit.
If you read this far you deserve a pat on the back and a personal handshake for listening to me spew all my thoughts and ideas floating around in my brain all into one blog post.
Thanks for reading 🙂
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Zach is the author behind Four Pillar Freedom, a blog that teaches you how to build wealth and gain freedom in life.
Zach's favorite free financial tool he's been using since 2015 to manage his net worth is Personal Capital. Each month he uses their free Investment Checkup tool and Retirement Planner to track his investments and ensure that he's on the fast track to financial freedom.
Although the bulk of his net worth is invested in index funds, his favorite place to invest in individual stocks is M1 Finance, a site that allows you to build a custom portfolio of stocks for free.
His favorite way to save money each month on his recurring bills is by using Trim, a free financial app that negotiates lower cable, internet, and phone bills with any provider on your behalf.
His favorite micro-investing app is Acorns, a free financial app that takes just 5 minutes to set up and allows you to invest your spare change in a diversified portfolio.
His favorite place to find new personal finance articles to read is Collecting Wisdom, a site that collects the best personal finance articles floating around the web on a daily basis.
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