Get good grades in high school, graduate from college, land a good job, get married, buy a home, have 2 kids, climb the corporate ladder for 40 years, retire at 65, live happily ever after.
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A Better Way
So just stick to the plan and you’ll be fine. All it will cost you is your freedom.
Too harsh? Maybe, but as long as you’re dependent upon that paycheck to get by each month, how can you truly be free? You‘ve traded your time for money, and that time no longer belongs to you. You are not free. The overwhelming majority of us are nothing more than gilded slaves, trading our time for money, secretly terrified that one day we’ll be cut off and the money will dry up.
All it requires is a different way of looking at things and you’ll be able to reach financial independence far sooner (in about 10 years) than is possible by following society’s well-traveled path (about 40 years).
Think Differently. Retire Sooner.
Financial independence means your expenses can be covered by income that is generated from your assets and investments. Which means if your 9 to 5 paycheck were to go away, you’d be just fine. Financial independence means you get to do whatever you want with your time. If that includes punching a clock, then knock yourself out. You don’t have to retire if you don’t want to.
Not everyone should pursue early retirement, but everyone absolutely should pursue financial independence.
Those things aren’t normal. And because you’re living that way, you must be abnormal. People assume you’re depriving yourself; living a destitute life. People look at you funny because they just don’t get it. Hell, most of us didn’t get it at one point in our lives either, but somewhere along the way, something clicked for us. We had our financial epiphany. And once you “get it”, a light goes off, your entire perspective changes, and suddenly you become the one passing out cockeyed looks at everyone that’s blindly following the predetermined path, assuming it’s the only way.
I’ll turn 40 later this year. Although I got a late start to this financial Independence game and am not where I’d like to be, I’m doing what I can to make up for lost time because I absolutely do NOT want to continue on as a wage slave for the next 25+ years, so that I can then retire and hopefully enjoy a few good years in the twilight of my life. No thanks. Time out. Something feels very wrong with this narrative. Unfortunately, this past week my feelings were confirmed.
A short six weeks ago we were throwing a retirement party for my father-in-law. He’d followed society’s plan for success to the letter, and now it was his time to hang up the ol‘ calculator (he was a corporate controller). He’d just put the finishing touches on a 50 year career and it was finally time for him to ride off into the sunset.
But life had other ideas.
Our hearts are broken.
Six weeks ago we were celebrating his retirement. Now he’s got six months to live. Life isn’t fair. The man had followed society’s plan to a T:
- Do well in high school? Check!
- Graduate from a top-ranked college? Check!
- Get married? Check!
- Buy a house? Check!
- Have kids? Check! Check! Check! Check! Check!
- Climb the corporate ladder for FIFTY years? Check!
- Retire? Check!
- Live happily ever after? …
It was all going exactly as planned. The American Dream in action! Only, the American Dream doesn’t come with a guarantee.
Screw that! 40+ years punching a clock in exchage for maybe 15 years of retirement at a stage in my life where my health will probably be in decline? That’s a gamble I‘m not willing to take. After this past week I‘m more resolved than ever. Life is not meant to be spent in an office building.
Smell the Roses
The one major change I’ll be making to my own strategy is to consciously make more of an effort to enjoy each and every day.
How you spend your days is how you spend your life.
This new addition to my plan will also rank at the top. At the very top. And I’ve already started to do just that. Today I’d asked my kids to rake the fallen leaves into a pile while I mowed our lawn. Being the young boys that they are, they decided that playing in the leaves was more fun than raking them up.
Normally I might have been upset with the kids for not doing what I’d asked them to do. But today I was just fine with them being little boys. In fact, I joined in the fun and helped them pile the leaves higher than they could on their own. The lawn is only 80% mowed and there are leaves everywhere, but who cares – that stuff doesn’t matter all that much. Hopefully I created a memory with my boys that they’ll keep with them for a long time: dad liked to play in the leaves with us.
- Find the joy in each day
- Spend less money than I make
- Invest the difference between what I spend and what I make
- Eliminate, then avoid debt
That’s it. This isn’t rocket science. It’s not even science. It’s first grade math.
Just save as much of your paycheck as possible; aim for 50%. Then, as your salary increases and as you eliminate other expenses, increase your savings rate. I know what you’re thinking, but a 50% savings rate is absolutely possible, you just need to unlearn what you think you already know. For example:
- You don’t need to finance or lease a new car
- You don’t need to buy a house to live the American Dream
- You don’t need to have a high-paying, white collar office job
- You don’t need to pay for your kids’ college education
- You don’t need to take expensive vacations to exotic locations
- You don’t need to buy expensive clothing
Find Lasting Happiness
Lasting happiness comes from freedom. True freedom is yours when your investments generate enough income to cover your expenses. When that happens, you’re no longer a slave, dependent on a job for survival. You just need to save most of what you make, invest it, and avoid debt.
You can do it – you just need to start thinking differently.
Oh, and cancer f***ing sucks!
Is society’s plan a good plan? Does your own mortality have any impact on yow you’re currently living your life and how you plan for your future? Whatever you think, let me hear about in the comments.