For me, "money is a solved problem" means two things:
- Income is sufficient to cover expenses, and flows to me on very favorable terms. I can act according to my nature and the money follows.
- I have enough money (by my own standards - see below).
I'm not FI, but I see that milestone not as freedom from work, but rather freedom to live according to one's own nature. And framed in that way, it doesn't require a huge amount of accumulated capital to implement. Instead, I just work a job that's appropriate to my nature. I don't use an alarm clock. I spend my days working on problems that are interesting to me. I'm generally free to show up and leave whenever, and won't hesitate to take a time out during the day if I get inspired on some non-work matter during business hours. It wasn't always like this. But I think of the job like the comfy chair in the living room: that is, nothing special when brand-new, but over time it conforms to the demands of its occupant and becomes uniquely comfortable to that person in the process. This explains much of the reluctance to change as expressed in the Career Advice for Fish thread.
The second part refers to money goals. These may range from paying this month's rent, to accumulating an emergency fund, saving a down payment for a house, paying off the mortgage, attaining financial independence. Each of these standard goals is several times more difficult than the preceding one. Even if pursued efficiently, it would take years to achieve all of these goals. Here we happen to focus on the hardest goal, and in such company it's easy to feel that a stash of 10x expenses is inadequate while civilians outside the PF-sphere perceive this level of wealth to be unattainable for themselves.
I’ve twice before brought up this Seth Godin quote about money being a personal narrative once past your needs point. Dwelling on it, I’ve decided that there’s no reason that net worth must be <= 3% SWR to feel like I have enough money. If I really want to quit my job and do something different for a few years, that freedom already exists. There’s no need for my personal happiness to be coupled to additional wealth. I have enough for the present and I’m living in such a way that there will be enough in the future too.
In essence, I’m trying to reap the psychological benefits of being FI without the stash. It’s mostly in the mind. Unless your hobby is swimming around in a cash vault like Scrooge McDuck, a huge pile of money isn’t really needed. You really only need the stuff you use every day. So just get the stuff, live responsibly, and don’t worry so much about not having reached the FI target.
JD Roth (now back at GRS!) sums it up best by saying that “money is a side effect, not a goal.”