As a reader of this blog, you probably have one major goal – Financial Independence. In addition to saving and investing, most of us in the FIRE community also focus on healthy living and maintaining strong relationships with friends and family. After all, these factors are just as important when it comes to living a happy life.
We want it all. And the good news is that we can have it all. The secret to getting everything you want is smart decision-making. Today, I would like to introduce a tool that can help us with that – the Wealth Trinity Score.
Last weekend, Mr. Flamingo and I went out with a friend who is moving overseas and a group of her friends. She invited us all to join her in the city for drinks and dinner, followed by a round of bowling and more drinks. Fun, right? Yeah…not really. It wasn’t a terrible outing, but a bit boring and definitely a waste of money. Mr. Flamingo and I actually stopped going out on the weekends a few years ago because we just couldn’t see the fun and value in it. It simply doesn’t align with our goals.
Fortunately, this night was an exception for us and we deliberately made the choice to go against our principles for a night because it was important to our friend. These days, we are pretty good at making decisions based on what is important to us and brings us closer to our goals. But that wasn’t always the case and of course, we still slip up occasionally.
I’m sure that from time to time, everyone participates in activities, attends events or makes other decisions (big or small) that leave a bad aftertaste or even lead to regret. I believe that most of the time the reason is that the decision/activity in question does not align with our goals and values. In a perfect world, we would make all of our daily decisions based on our goals. Unfortunately, that is not always easy. Life is full of distractions and temptations. Plus, it is not always clear what the best decision is and often something that might bring us closer to one of our goals is in direct conflict with another goal.
What if there was a tool we can use to make decisions that bring us closer to our goals and that align with our values? A tool that helps us stay on track and points us in the direction of FI, health and good relationships. Well, there is!
The Wealth Trinity
I first read about the Wealth Trinity in a book a friend gave me a few years ago – “The Millionaire Fast Lane” by MJ DeMarco. While I don’t agree with everything DeMarco suggests in the book, the Wealth Trinity is a concept that has stuck with me. I like it because it is simple and offers a definition of wealth that goes beyond money and possessions:
“Used properly, money buys freedom, and freedom is one parcel in the wealth trinity: family, fitness, and freedom.”
― MJ DeMarco, The Millionaire Fastlane
DeMarco refers to family, fitness, and freedom as the “three Fs”. In his opinion, these are the three ingredients of true wealth. I agree. We’ve made the wealth trinity an important element in our FI toolbox. We’ve changed the wording a little bit – the three elements of our wealth trinity are relationships, health, and freedom. We are actively working to improve all three areas of our lives. I usually run plans, ideas, activities etc. through the wealth trinity filter to figure out if they are worthwhile.
Relationships, health, and freedom (bought with money) are probably values that are important to most people on the path to FI. If you have other values that are more important to you, you could, of course, create your own personal wealth trinity that reflects your own values and goals. Once you have your personal wealth trinity in place, you can use it as a filter for all decisions you make.
Introducing… The Wealth Trinity Score
While the Wealth Trinity is a handy concept and a good reminder of what we really value, I’ve always found it a little too vague when it comes to making real, everyday decisions. That’s why we have come up with the Wealth Trinity Score.
The Wealth Trinity Score is a decision-making tool. It is a scoring system that makes it easy to see the impact of any given decision in respect to your overall goal. It also allows you to compare alternatives so that you can choose the best course of action for your specific situation.
To calculate the Wealth Trinity Score of a decision, you give each element of the Wealth Trinity (Relationships, Health, Freedom (Money) a score from -5 to +5. -5 stands for the worst possible impact a decision could have on an element of your Wealth Trinity, 0 is a neutral score and +5 is the score for the best possible impact. Once you’ve done that, all you have to do is add the three scores and you’ll have your Wealth Trinity Score.
Here is how to interpret the result:
15 to 6: Do it! You are winning!
5 to 1: Good plan!
0: No impact. It might be a good idea to find something more worthwhile instead.
-1 to -5: Not a great idea.
-6 to -15: Are you crazy?
You should be skeptical if you give a decision a negative score in any category, even if the overall Wealth Trinity Score is neutral or positive. For us, negative scores in the areas of Health and Relationships are big red flags and we always think twice about activities with a negative score in any of these two areas. A negative score in the Freedom (Money) area is probably the most acceptable area for us because sometimes the health and relationship benefits of an activity outweigh the cost involved. This will obviously be different for everyone.
Let’s look at an example: Ella wants to decide if she should meet her friend for a picnic and a game of Frisbee in the park on Saturday.
- Relationships: She will get to spend quality time with her friends. Score: +4
- Health: A game of Frisbee is a nice way to get some light activity in. Score: +2
- Freedom (Money): The cost is minimal and Ella needs to eat anyway. Score: 0
Wealth Trinity Score: +6. Ella is winning! 😊
Now, meet Albert. Albert usually rides his bike to work together with a friend. Lately, Albert’s colleague has been making fun of Albert because he is the only person on the team who doesn’t drive an expensive car. Albert is contemplating buying a new BMW (financed) to drive to work.
- Relationships: Albert would commute by himself and won’t be able to chat with his friend anymore. Score: -3
- Health: He would give up his active commute in the fresh air in order to sit in traffic in his car. Score: -4
- Freedom (Money): Not much to say here. Swapping a free commute for a car on a loan… Score: -5
Wealth Trinity Score: -12. Albert would be crazy to get the new car.
I think you get the idea. 😊
Why going out on the Weekend sucks
Now, let’s go back to the start of this article and our night out on the weekend. Thanks to the Wealth Trinity Score, I can tell you exactly why going out in the city on the weekend sucks (for us). Let’s have a look.
Even though this was an opportunity to see our friend and some other people we knew, we didn’t actually spend much quality time with them. The group was too big, the bar we went to too loud. But we went because it was important to our friend and, at the end of the day, that is what counts.
Relationship Score: +2
- We went out in the early evening and didn’t get home until 2 am, so of course, we had quite a few drinks that night – definitely more than we would have had if we just invited a few friends over.
- My pet hate: Shouts and buying drinks in rounds. I normally drink quite slowly, but when drinks are bought in rounds, I feel forced to drink quicker than usual so the others in the group don’t have to sit there with an empty glass for too long. Also, I cannot just stop drinking when I want to because I might still owe the other people a drink. Or they put one in front of me and it would a) be rude not to drink it and b) make me feel like I don’t get my value out of the whole rounds situation. Fun. This is basically an adult form of peer pressure. I’m not a fan.
- Of course, we also ended up ordering some pub food. We had a proper meal at home to avoid this, but we always end up getting hungry when we drink for an extended period. Pub and bar menus are usually not a great source of healthy food and we ended up ordering wedges. Not great.
- The next day we slept until 9 am (we are usually up by 5.30 during the week and around 7 am on the weekends) and then spent most of the morning watching TV because we felt tired. We basically wasted half a day that we could have used to exercise or spend time outside.
Health Score: -3
- Freedom (Money):
- Going out on the weekend is expensive; I think we can all agree on that. Drinks are twice the price compared to the Monday-Thursday happy hour. The wine I usually get for $4 cost me $11 on Saturday night. Ridiculous.
- We missed the last public transport option to get home at night and ended up taking an Uber. $56! Ouch!
- See “Health”. When you get into rounds of shouts, you will spend more money. Period.
Freedom Score: -3
WEALTH TRINITY SCORE: -4
According to the Wealth Trinity Score, the night out was not a great idea. I completely agree. As I mentioned earlier, we deliberately ignored the Wealth Trinity that night and made an exception because it was important to our friend. The Wealth Trinity helps keep us on our toes and makes sure exceptions remain just that – exceptions.
The Wealth Trinity Score can act as a compass you can use to find your way to FI, great health, and strong relationships. If you base your decisions (no matter how big or small they are) on the three pillars of the Wealth Trinity, you will achieve your goals. You don’t have to be perfect and there will always be situations where you will go against the score, either deliberately or by accident. Just don’t make it a habit. If you pick activities with a positive score most of the time, you are on the road to success!