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Where Money Falls from Trees

I have read that the Guna Yala tribe in Panama’s San Blas Islands once used coconuts for currency.

Need more money?  Climb a tree.

Not so much?  Wait for a coconut to fall…but watch your head!

Barter has also worked well as a medium of exchange throughout the years.

You have tomatoes but need onions and peppers?  I have onions and peppers but I need tomatoes.

Let’s share and make salsa together! (aww…)

If not with coconut currency or barter, how do we acquire what we need and share the excess?

For better or worse, our societal focus has shifted away from what we have and how we can trade or share with one another.  We now spend more of our life energy in pursuit of dollars, euros, or some other formal currency.

We place our trust in employers, government, legal infrastructure, and insurance products to keep us safe.  Sadly, we have lost much of the primal relational benefits of collaboration among family, friends, and neighbors.

Also, the pursuit of money requires tracking, reporting, and taxing, which eats up more time and money.  In order to acquire more money, we sacrifice our time, privacy, and power to government, corporations, and other large, non-human entities.

Since everything we earn and everything we buy is tracked and taxed, we receive less than what we earned through our work.  So we must work more and more.

Why do we do this? 

Because money is the middle-man.  Money is what I need to get what I need.

This extra step creates inefficiencies and unhappiness that complicate our lives in untold ways.

Stress, depression, anxiety, and divorce rates are high.  Modern humans feel lonely and disconnected.  We then need more money for medication, lawyers and therapy.  Financial therapy is even now a thing!

Then we buy into the “work smarter” slogan.  We invest in education and job training that raises our income but takes us away from our families.

This pursuit of money is an elusive game of cat and mouse. 

In and of themselves, cheap metal coins and paper bills have no real value.  Yet we have embraced the collective madness that these worthless bits of metal and paper mean something…and that we need a lot of these bits to purchase the things that do have value.

I cannot pay the rent with coconuts or barter my freelance writing or financial planning services for groceries in Spain.

So how then, do we live?

Well, we saved for almost 3 years, paid off all debt (except for our house, which is rented) and have downsized our material lifestyle significantly.  With less shopping and consumerism, I am currently on sabbatical in Spain and we are traveling more.  This was a conscious decision and the tradeoff was so worth it!

Money isn’t falling from any trees around here, but for now, I can relax and be at peace.  It seems miraculous to me that there is food in the refrigerator, a roof overhead, and the utility bills are paid.  But I slept in today and haven’t traded my time for money in 4 months!

I have always worked so hard to make everything happen.  This lifestyle of ease and provision is an utterly foreign, but lovely, wonder-filled concept for me.  I bask in the miracle that it represents and feel so incredibly grateful.

I’m clearly not a trust-fund baby, so I don’t take this for granted.  I harbor no sense that I am entitled to live well because of the sweat of someone else’s brow.  If you are in that enviable position, treasure it!  Most of us are not.

Yet there is an impending sense of dread.  Ok, maybe not dread, but a certain sadness.  I am watching what took years to save disappear in months.  Once the coffer is empty, my time in the land of denial, in la-la-land, will end.

I know that I will need to return to work but for now, I am enjoying a game of pretend.  Let’s pretend that I am a wealthy princess and someone else is paying all my bills!  I can just relax and enjoy my family.  I can write my books and my blog and grow my freelance business online.

Or I can just pick up another coconut and use nature’s bounty to pay for my life!

This gives me a glimpse of what financial independence must feel like.  As a CFP® Professional, I have worked with my share of clients who worked and saved and are now retired.  They have enough.  And they’re having a ball!

“Enough” is a subjective term, of course.  Assuming coconut currency doesn’t work in your world either, your dollar amount for “enough” will probably be different than mine.

As a 50-year old, I ponder what the next 10-15 years will look like as we get kids through high school and college and prepare for our own retirement.  It will be a really full and exciting decade and a half.  It will go fast, though, and we will need to be laser-focused on our goals and the strategies for achieving them.

Thankfully, I enjoy work and being productive.  I live by my task lists and goal spreadsheets.  These tools help me achieve heart-level, values-based goals that matter to me as a human being.

I also want to make a difference in the world.  Paid employment is one way to not only provide for my family’s material needs, but to have an impact.

Yet there will be sorrow in giving up the simple, relaxed pace of sabbatical.  If only I could just climb a tree, pick some coconuts, and eat for the day!  If only life was so simple!

If I must of necessity pursue money, what can I do to need less money so I can work less and better balance my life energy?  Simplifying, spending less, and tracking expenses more carefully will help.

What we save towards in the short-term will be more travel adventures, and in the longer-term, our own financial freedom.  I’m not sure how many coconuts – or dollars – we’ll need, but I feel a date with some financial planning software coming on…

If you don’t have a financial planner to work with and you lack the expertise to figure this stuff out on your own, I highly recommend finding help.

Here are some places to seek help…I will also save them on my Resources page in case you need to find them in the future!

CFP® Board:

Financial Planning Association:

Garrett Investment Advisors:

XY Planning Network:

We can’t wait for money to fall from trees, but with intention, we can set and achieve some awesome financial goals.

Let’s plan well so we can live well!



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