This guest post comes from my friend Alex Felice over at Broke Is A Choice. Alex makes the point that if I’m a financial role model, we’re all in trouble. And I mostly agree.
I never thought that anything I did was that extraordinary. I’m just a dude who had an above-average income that lived the modest life of my grandparents. I spent much less than I saved and invested the difference. Not much to see here…
Mr. 1500 As A Financial Role Model Is A National Disaster
The FIRE movement is alive, well, and growing! For the financially self-aware this is fantastic news and further proof to all those who follow the FIRE community that early retirement is possible.
A recent article featuring Carl brings another money success story into the mainstream and he certainly deserves it but while highlighting this adventure it brings to light a far more sinister problem that America faces. We are by far the richest country humanity has ever seen, and aside from problems in systemic inequality, we should be flat out embarrassed that the rest of the country thinks saving money and living below our means is newsworthy.
There Is No Secret Sauce
In the article, Carl speaks about his six-year journey from average working stiff to retiring wealthy and enjoying life. I would love to be more excited about the success story but I’m too busy being appalled that what can be done in 6 years by Carl CAN’T be done by the overwhelming majority of people in 40 years! The article specifically quotes Mindy (Carl’s wife) as saying:
There’s not much to learn: Don’t spend a lot, save some, don’t spend everything you make, invest wisely. There’s no secret sauce to it.
This advice is simple, it always works, and yet it terrifies me that someone will inevitably read this and have a profound financial awakening.
Broke Is A Choice
Carl and Mindy don’t claim to live the life of luxury, but they certainly aren’t peasants either. They live reasonable lives and have gained unlimited financial freedom and traded if for the low cost of some non-descript unnecessary luxuries. The camera crew went to their house, how bad could it be?!!? The point is this: how inflated has America’s entitlement grown for minimum standards of living that it requires so many people to constantly be broke? In America, the standard is living week-to-week with no safety net and permanent underlying stress about money. It’s not a state-run program and it’s not because we have a lousy economic model; it’s purely due to poor choices. Carl has made good choices and almost everyone else who is struggling financially is because of bad choices. Being broke all the time is a volunteer operation that people opt into not because of thorough due diligence, but because of apathy. Financial struggle in America is nothing more than volunteer wage slavery.
Where Are Our Standards?
My point of this article is not to take away from Carl, but I am disappointed that the bar has been set so low. The story isn’t how a person went from poverty to radical success, it’s a story about a regular dude who made normal financial choices in the past started making some better ones, and it worked! The story is only amazing because so many people just don’t try AT ALL. I think it’s important we don’t pat ourselves on the back too much, we need stop dancing in the end zone, and stop being so excited to meet the minimum standards. Get your shit together America, Carl shouldn’t be our role model.
Thanks Alex for the wake-up call. I’ve never met someone who didn’t have fat to cut from their budget. The time to get your financial home in order is right now.
View more of Alex’s musings over at Broke Is A Choice.
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