At the age of 34, Brandon realized he had been motivated by money his entire life.
And now, he no longer is.
Living frugally and working in rural Vermont, he managed to save and invest about 70% of his after-tax income, and saved enough to leave his job in spring 2014. However, when his employer offered to make his position remote, he stayed on for a few years more than planned, intermittently traveling with his wife Jill until they relocated full-time to Scotland in May 2015. There, he continued working, blogging, and saving until he retired last summer.
In a post on the Mad Fientist, Brandon reflected on his first full year of being retired — or, more accurately, financially independent, not reliant on a job to pay his bills and therefore able to pursue only the projects and activities he'd like.
He wrote that the "biggest mindset shift that occurred after reaching [financial independence]" was "the realization that money is no longer motivating."
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"This is quite a shocking and uncomfortable shift for me.
"Money has motivated my entire adult life until this point.
"I worked hard in high school so that I could get into a good college because I wanted to be able to get a job that paid a lot.
"I worked hard at my job so that I could get promoted and earn more money.
"I started side businesses in hopes of increasing my income.
"I chose where to live, where to travel, and what to do, all based on how much I could earn or how much it would cost.
"Now, I have enough money (and even more than I expected) so it's not as important anymore.
"This is a great position to be in but losing your main source of motivation is incredibly disorienting.
"Some of the projects I planned to start after leaving my job were business ideas but now that earning more money isn't as appealing, I don't see the point.
"If you stop and think about how many of your decisions and plans are motivated by money, I'm sure you'll find that most of them are.
"I've had to reevaluate my entire life and all my plans while simultaneously finding a new source of motivation."
Brandon writes that he still hasn't "fully come to grips with this but I'm slowly getting there." For instance, he took ads off his site because he'd never liked them, but needed them to cover his site's operating costs. But he still struggled with giving up hundreds of dollars a month.
"That struggle showed me that although money is less important to me now, it's still not meaningless so I still have some work to do," he wrote. "It's hard though because I'm trying to undo decades worth of programming and the new mindset seems so unnatural."
He continued: "Being content with what you have is great but you still need something to motivate you. Otherwise, what is there to get you out of bed in the morning (especially when that bed is much more comfortable, haha)?"
He's currently working on nailing down a new source of motivation — and it's an ongoing challenge.