I started blogging over 3 years ago to document my journey to financial independence/early retirement. I thought it would be fun to hold myself publicly accountable and at the same time, share my adventure with others. With a strong market tailwind at my back, I accomplished my financial goal recently and ahead of my timeline.
Blogging here on 1500 Days has been a wonderful experience. I have become a better writer, gained knowledge and best of all, forged new friendships. I regret nothing about it. However, readers still argue with me occasionally. Much of the dissent comes in the form of emails or comments like this sarcastic bit I received recently:
I always enjoy these articles written by people who make good money by working with computers or who are doctors. Good luck becoming a millionaire with normal income.
I am not offended by these arguments. Maybe this person has a point? I earn healthy income as a computer programmer. My wife took time off to raise our children, but now is working and earns a nice paycheck as well. I live a charmed life.
However, I take issue with one word in Mr. Complainy’s comment: normal
Normal? No thanks.
Normal is a loaded word and I don’t like it one bit. Mr. Complainy is correct. If you live a normal life, you’re going to have a difficult time getting anything but normal results. Here is how to live a normal life:
- Buy a new car every 3 years.
- Put 10% of your income into your 401(k).
- Stop for donuts every Friday on your 2 mile drive to work.
- Work exactly 8 hours per day.
- Watch 18 hours of TV every week.
- As soon as you get a raise:
- Upgrade the car (it hasn’t quite been 3 years, but you deserve it!)
- Spend $5,000 on a fancy-pants vacation.
- Upgrade to a bigger home every once in a while. It will have rooms you hardly ever use, but again, you deserve it!
In my book, a normal life is a nightmarish life. To hell with with that. Don’t be normal:
- Grow your brain by reading challenging books and building crazy shit out in the garage.
- Put 50% or 75% of your income into savings and investments.
- Work harder than anyone else around you. It isn’t hard to stand out.
- When you do get promoted with a fat raise, live exactly how you did before. Save that extra money. Be the Millionaire next Door.
- Defy convention. Know that you don’t have to do something just because that’s how it’s always been done.
- Keep your body in top condition through exercise and eating right.
- Take long walks with your family and leave the phone behind.
- Take long walks by yourself. You’ll be amazed at what your brain will do.
- Strive for simplicity. More possessions means more time taking care of them.
- Never forget that time, not money, is your most valuable asset.
More on How to Not be Normal
How does one get ahead then? At the base of a well lived life, there are three basic principles: Hard work, Simplicity/Efficiency and Self-control:
Hard Work: It isn’t difficult to stand out. Work a little later. Think a little deeper and with creativity when confronted with a problem. Get a side gig to earn some extra money.
Simplicity/Efficiency: A simple, efficient life is a good life. Why take on more than you have to? Why drive to work in a new SUV when a Corolla (or bicycle or bus) will do? Why do two people need a 4,000 square foot home? Buy what you need and stop there. I’m basically rebranding frugality here.
Self-control: This may be the most important one and it applies to all parts of life. Exhibit control when it comes to food and you’ll stay fit. Resist the urge for shiny new things and you’ll accumulate wealth.
Money: Work hard and live right; the money will follow. So, what do you do with it? You don’t have to eat rice and beans or live in your parents’ basement, but frugality is a powerful tool. Find your frugal balance and start to accumulate wealth:
- Max out your 401(k) account.
- If your current car works fine, there is no need to upgrade. It worked in college and it works fine now.
- Pay no attention to what the neighbors or anyone else thinks. Would you rather keep up with the Joneses or blow them out of the water?
I have another question for you; would you rather work 40 hours per week or let your money work for you? Invest those dollars wisely and let them replace your income. Get that snowball growing.
Perhaps the best thing about having money is that it frees you from having to worry about having money. Think of money as nothing more than a tool to buy freedom.
Freedom: Maybe you love your job and want to work forever. Never forget that even if your job gives you great joy, circumstances change and one day, you may find yourself wanting to hike Europe for a year or pursue a hobby full-time. One never knows where the ebb and flow of life may lead. Besides, is it really your goal to live in a cube farm for 40 hours a week, 48 weeks a year for 40 years? Here is the horrifying math:
48 weeks * 40 hours * 40 years = 76,800 hours
In. A. Cube.
There isn’t one activity that is so enjoyable that I want to spend 76,800 hours performing it. Thinking about my job, the idea of spending that many hours behind a computer is a nightmare.
Once you have that Freedom, all kinds of wonderful things may follow:
- Travel the world.
- Write a book.
- Get in the best shape of your life.
- Spend more time with loved ones.
- Go for a walk on Tuesday at 2 in the afternoon.
- Work, but work at things you love, free from the constraint and requirement of having to earn money.
- Follow your passions instead of a paycheck.
Each person has his or her own idea of what freedom means to them and I’ll be honest, I don’t have mine completely figured out. And that’s part of the fun. A book with surprise twists and turns is more rewarding. There is one thing I am certain of though and it is this:
I don’t want to wait until I’m 70, 62 or even 50 to write my freedom chapters.
To Hell with Normal
Let’s review Mr. Complainy’s comment one more time:
I always enjoy these articles written by people who make good money by working with computers or who are doctors. Good luck becoming a millionaire making normal money.
If I were to meet Mr. Complainy today, I’d tell him*:
There is nothing normal about living a great life.
Normal effort gets normal results.
And then I’d ask him:
Why the hell would you want to be normal?
The world is huge and wonderful and beautiful. There are so many awesome places to see and interesting people to meet. So much knowledge to gain. So many adventures. So many books to read. So many things to build. So many ways to give back.
There are limitless ways to live if you play the game of life right. It is amazing and overwhelming and overwhelmingly great.
Don’t be normal. Be extraordinary.
*If I were to meet Mr. Complainy, I’d also tell him that I, in no way, shape or form, had a head start. My childhood was marred by a father who drank too much and my family lived a lower middle-class lifestyle. More of my friends went to jail than to college.
I was the first one in my family to graduate college, and I accumulated $60,000 in debt getting there.
However, it’s never been about where you’re from, but where you take your life. Never let your past be an excuse or an anchor. With determination and dreams, anything is possible.
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