Embrace Rejection! How Getting Denied Saves Us Over $50,000

My life has been filled with rejections, and I've finally come to embrace rejection as a natural part of life.

To me, being rejected is akin to the urgent need to visit the bathroom after indulging in too much Taco Bell. The discomfort is undeniable at first as your stomach sours from the inside out. But once you've relieved yourself, there's no greater sense of relief and a desire to eat better!

Ideally, I want all of you to adopt a positive mindset towards rejection. Strive to find the silver lining in being turned down by a person, institution, or opportunity.

Don't allow a “no” to deter you from pursuing your desires and dreams. Instead, harness rejection as a motivating force to achieve greatness and fulfill your ambitions!

Getting Rejected By So Many Schools

As we find ourselves in the midst of college acceptance and rejection season, I wanted to share a story that may resonate with some students and parents out there. Hopefully, the story will make you feel better.

Last fall, my wife and I were navigating the process of applying to preschools for our daughter. It brought back memories of when our son faced rejection from six preschools.

Despite being a loving family capable of paying full tuition, we were surprised that none of the schools accepted us. I had even hoped my role as a high school tennis coach would work in our favor as a fellow educator, but it didn't.

Ouch, what was wrong with us? I thought to myself. The rejections felt personal because the schools were also rejecting our son.

As a battle-tested parent, you can hurt me all you want, but don't hurt my children.

The System Seemed Unfair

Interestingly, a friend of mine applied to four of the same preschools we had applied to and was accepted by all four. This stark difference puzzled me deeply.

Two schools had a lottery system designed to enhance equity and inclusion. Meanwhile, the other two had limited spots, primarily reserved for non-sibling applicants.We’re talking less than a 5% acceptance rate.

It was then that I realized the system seemed inherently biased, where one's identity and social standing played a crucial role in acceptance.

To these schools, being a stay-at-home parent or a high school tennis coach weren’t good enough. At the time, I wasn't yet a bestselling author with a major publisher nor did I share my work as the founder of Financial Samurai.

They preferred families with high-paying occupations in finance, technology, consulting, law, and medicine. It struck me as ironic that being an educator was seemingly low on their priority list as educators themselves.

Until then, having retired early, I had relished in the freedom afforded by sufficient passive income, enabling me to navigate past societal barriers. Oh, the joy of not having to contend with others determining your fate!

However, with the birth of our son, we once again found ourselves subject to the whims of external forces.

Got Into One Preschool Due To Luck

In the end, we were accepted into just one out of the seven preschools we applied to – our neighborhood preschool, which offered the most convenience.

Our stroke of luck came when we frequently bumped into one of the preschool teachers over four months at the Science Museum. Through our interactions, we formed a friendship, and he encouraged us to apply. As it turned out, he was also married to the admissions director.

Thus, we secured a spot for our son in the Fall 2019 school year. It felt like a victory for chance!

However, our joy was short-lived as COVID struck five months later, prompting the school's closure for a couple of months. After it reopened, we made the difficult decision to withdraw our son from preschool due to the pandemic.

As stay-at-home parents with a newborn daughter, we felt it was safer to educate him ourselves, especially since he was already falling ill frequently and passing it on to us.

Despite this setback, we remained hopeful for the future and applied to a well-rated language immersion preschool for the fall of 2020. We highly value bilingualism and saw this as new opportunity to start again.

Although we participated in interviews and a playdate evaluation, we received a rejection letter in the end. It was disappointing news indeed.

Silver Lining Of A School Rejection

Although we were disappointed with the rejection, we made the most of it. Our plan was to reapply again for fall 2021 admissions, hopefully with a better chance of getting in.

The preschool rejection ultimately saved us $36,500 in tuition because we would have felt obligated to attend in the fall of 2020 if we had gotten in. But given their schooling was remote for the first half of the year, we would have felt foolish spending so much on video classes.

What we did instead was discover that homeschooling is an incredibly efficient way for children to learn. Two-to-three hours of homeschooling is equivalent to seven-to-nine hours of regular schooling.

We also got to spend an enormous amount of priceless time with our son and newborn. From daily nature walks to trips to running around empty zoos and amusement parks, our son had a blast.

Although 18 months sounds like a long time homeschooling, it now feels like a tiny moment in time that went by so quickly. I wish we could have that time back.

Taking a field trip to the beach thanks to homeschooling
Getting rejected from preschool saved us $36,500 - We ended up homeschooling our son for 18 months
A trip to the Palace of Fine Arts during homeschooling when our son was three

Another Rejection That Will Ultimately Save Us More Money

When we got into the language immersion school the second time around, they were back to in-person learning. Although masks were required during the 2021-2022 school year, the kids adapted and learned how to socialize and have fun. We were grateful to have been accepted and I wanted to get involved with the school.

In mid-2022, I responded to one of the school's monthly newsletters written by the head of school, asking if he'd be interested in doing a video call about personal finance with other parents. At the time, the school was regularly doing video calls with parents and outside professionals on health, child development, and other interesting topics.

As I was already doing lots of video and podcast interviews publicizing my then soon-to-be released book Buy This Not That, I figured why not volunteer to do a talk with the school community as well about personal finances.

After a week with no response, I tried pinging another e-mail address. Two weeks later, still no response. So I gave up and moved on.

No Response Again A Year Later

A year later, in mid-2023, I was reading another one of his newsletters, this time about the progress of the school's new campus on the growing west side of San Francisco. It discussed the school's fundraising efforts so I decided to reply with an inquiry. Maybe I could donate enough to create the Financial Samurai media center or something.

But again, I got no response.

Did all my e-mails go directly into his spam folder? Maybe! I know everybody is busy, especially a person of his stature. Alas, thinking this way may just be a coping mechanism for not being worthy of a response.

As the man behind the Financial Samurai newsletter with over 65,000 subscribers, a size exceeding the school's newsletter by likely over 100 times, I understand the commitment required to address inquiries. It's not easy and sometimes I fail to respond as well. However, I try my best whenever there is a follow up.

I've come to realize something rather amusing after this latest rejection. If I cannot reach the head of school through email, he likewise can no longer reach me. And without the ability to contact me, he cannot make any requests either.

Another $30,000 – $50,000 In Savings Thanks To Rejection

After more than two years at the school, I've gotten to know parents who've been asked to join the board and attend intimate fundraising dinners. They have higher profiles due to their occupations and levels of wealth.

Every independent school raises funds from existing parents and alumni to help pay for day-to-day operations and need-based scholarships. If a school is building a new building, there will be an even greater need to fundraise.

I'm happy to attend the annual school-wide fundraiser dinner or parent-hosted fundraising events, where food and drinks are served and everybody is having a good time. The tickets range from $180 – $450 each, most of which goes to the school.

However, for anything else, I'm good. I tried to make a connection but to no avail. My conscience is clear! Rejection will ultimately save us between $30,000 – $50,000 over the next ten years because this is the amount we would have likely donated.

Additionally, following a liquidity crunch resulting from the purchase of a new home in 2023, the absence of additional donations to the school comes as a relief. This allows me to direct my focus towards rebuilding my freedom fund.

The reality is, as two unemployed parents, our household income is likely among the lowest compared to other families in attendance. We’ve already lost our financial independence because our passive income is no longer enough to cover 100% of our living expenses.

Embrace Rejection And The Joy Of Being A Nobody

Although being ignored or rejected may not initially feel good, look on the bright side. Being left alone is wonderful. This situation. is the ultimate in stealth wealth.

As soon as you give money, you will be hit up at least every year for more money. If you give big money, then other organizations will also hit you up for donations too.

At some point, you might feel overwhelmed by the amount of asking. You might also not want to give for whatever reason, which requires saying no. And saying no often feels bad.

Imagine losing a fortune during the 2022 bear market. During downturns, organizations actually need and ask for even more money. To feel pressured to give money during a difficult period may be uncomfortable. But you may do so anyway due to peer pressure.

Giving is a personal matter. It would be nice to only give when you want to, not when people ask you for money. However, that's seldom the case once you are on the giving list.

Speak Up If You Want To Be Heard

I've been a nobody since 2012 when I left my day job in finance. However, sending my kids to school has forced me to be a minimum somebody again as I interact with parents, teachers, and administrators. I enjoy being a part of a community where people come from all different types of backgrounds.

I'd like to contribute more than the minimum, partly because I've always done so. However, I've also come to realize I've become good at being a nobody after being one for so long. As a result, I'm often invisible, like the main character in Ralph Ellison's book, Invisible Man.

I know this to be true because I've played pickup pickleball games with and against people who won't remember who I am.

I was also at a fundraiser dinner for our District Attorney the other month and was ignored. There were six of us sitting at a table and each person asked what the other one did. Everybody took turns sharing their occupation and backgrounds except for me. Why? Because nobody asked me and I was happy to just listen.

If you don't want to be completely ignored, then you will simply have to speak up. The people who get the most attention are generally the ones with the loudest voices.

And if you want to succeed, you must face rejections multiple times until you do. The secret to your success is to gut things out with tremendous grit. Because if you do not quit, you cannot fail.

To Better Deal With Rejection, Embrace the Happy Loser Archetype

Clotaire Rapaille, a psychoanalyst and ethnographer, describes a “happy loser” as someone who views rejection as a challenge. The initial “no” sparks their determination to try harder and persevere. Clotaire provides an example where a company measures success not by the number of sales a person makes, but by the number of rejections they face instead.

In essence, until the happy loser encounters a “no” from a potential client, they haven't truly succeeded. This archetype resembles someone who loses a challenging tennis match. Instead of making excuses, the happy loser hits the ground running—logging miles, seeking coaching, practicing serves relentlessly—to prepare for future victories.

I've always believed that the most formidable opponents are those who've weathered rejection throughout high school yet endure. These individuals have faced enough rejection to last a lifetime. Driven by a deep-seated determination to prove others wrong, they often emerge as the greatest successes. Their accumulated frustration becomes a powerful motivator, propelling them to surpass the competition.

Some may question whether the mindset of a happy loser can be cultivated. The answer is yes! By reframing your perspective to seek out “no's,” you'll gradually find satisfaction in facing rejection head-on.

How I Plan To Use The Savings From My Rejections

After getting rejected from the immersion preschool the first time around, we ended up investing 100% of the $36,500 in tuition savings by buying a forever home in mid-2020.

The purchase was one of the best lifestyle improvement choices we ever made. It was a larger house with a better layout to raise a family, especially during a pandemic. It also doesn't hurt that the home appreciated in value as well.

From the $30,000 – $50,000 in total savings derived by not donating to my school over the next ten years, we will mainly contribute the savings to our kids' 529 college savings plans. Goodness knows how expensive college will be in 12-15 years when it's time for our children to attend.

If there are leftover funds in the 529 plans, we'll convert the remainder to Roth IRAs for our children. A 529 plan is one of the best generational wealth transfer tools. Instead of giving money, gift education.

Finally, we’ll use some of the savings to dollar-cost-average into the S&P 500 and to private real estate funds. Over the next 10 years, these investments could double in value. So in reality, getting rejected and ignored could end up saving us over $100,000 in 10 years. And for this reason, I'm extremely grateful.

Rejection is a part of life. Let's normalize it! When it inevitably happens, try to look at the positives.

There are multiple paths that will enable you to get to where you want to go. For us, our rejections have meant greater financial security, less guilt, and more peace. What a wonderful tradeoff to have.

Related: Perpetual Failure Is The Reason Why I Continue To Save So Much

Reader Questions And Suggestions

Have you saved money by being rejected or ignored? If so, what was the circumstance? What other types of rejection have you experience that turned out for the better? How have you learned to embrace rejection to improve the quality of your life?

Instead of getting rejected by your company by randomly getting laid off one day, take matters into your own hand by negotiating a severance package instead. To learn how to do so, pick up a copy of How To Engineer Your Layoff. Being able to take control of your future is a wonderful feeling. 

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20 thoughts on “Embrace Rejection! How Getting Denied Saves Us Over $50,000”

  1. Sam,

    You are a massive success, but we can’t always get what we want no matter what we achieve. I used to manage hundreds of employees and now I am a nobody like you. I drive an old car and I appear to have nothing, but according to your charts my wealth is in the top 10% of Americans and growing quickly with little to no effort on my part.

    I spend my time now emailing politicians about the injustices I see in my community and every once and awhile I can strike a nerve with the politicians and get their attention. I see homelessness and poverty every time I take mass transit in my city and I want things to change for young people in my area. It is sad and also maddening to see dozens of homeless men in their 20s and 30s in my area and even sadder when I see that some of them have regular employment and still can’t pay the bills.

    Again as you said I am a nobody nowadays, but sometimes “It is the people no one imagines anything of that do the things that no one can imagine”, my favorite quote in the movie Imitation Game about Alan Turing. The little things we do everyday can change the world and your blog is definitely helping give people ideas to change their worlds in the future as well.

    Thank you as always for taking the time to inspire us!

    Will

    1. Hi Will, thank you for your kind words. I realized for the sake of my children, it’s best not be too much of a nobody. Getting rejected by 6 preschools while my friend, who is a CEO of a public company, getting accepted by 4 of the same preschools was eye-opening. At less than a 5% acceptance rate for each, getting into all four is a low probability.

      Keep on pestering those politicians and trying to do something about the problems you see in your neighborhood! Your comment reminds me of this post I wrote in 2009, when I just launched FS, Where Are There Homeless Veterans In America? It is strange to me we’d enlist our young to fight for us and not do everything possible to take care of them once they come home.

      Fight on!

  2. Well, rejection at love is the worst. You cannot replace the person u love with a different person. That lost can follow you for life.

  3. I find it both sad and weird. That schools wouldn’t try to support other parents who are teachers and educators. In a world where there’s so much competition and money drives so many decisions, you would think educators will try to support each other.

    Glad you made the best out of the situation! I’d much rather have $50-$100,000 any day and spend more time with my children.

  4. You are a good sport and I like your idea about reframing rejection. There seemed some hurt in there and I truly wonder if some rejection is based on racism.
    My stepfather is Japanese/Filipino and he always felt “invisible ” even though a talented singer.

    1. Adian, you are perceptive. The head of school is not of my same race. Not sure if it would have helped if he was Asian.

      I enjoy writing when I feel emotion. And during the rejections and ignores, I did feel disappointed. Emotions help drive my writing, and if you have ever read Invisible Man by Ralph Ellison, you are aware that it is about a black person who feels ignored and invisible to society. The book has resonated with me since high school.

      I just want to encourage people who feel invisible, or ignored, or who got rejected, to keep on going, no matter what. If you keep on going, it’s very hard to fail.

      Related post: Three white tenants, one Asian landlord

  5. Canadian Reader

    Sounds really competitive!
    I became the board Chair 2 years ago where my kids attend preschool and although it’s not a market like SF, there has been special advantages along the way. The main thing is gaining early access to this particular preschool for my kids because the head teacher is excellent. So I started them both there before they turned 3. The fees are cheap across all the preschools, unless going private.
    Getting on boards here is pretty easy, mostly because nobody wants to commit to anything. But I’ve noticed the number and calibre of applicants for next year is heating up, so maybe times are changing.

    1. “ Getting on boards here is pretty easy, mostly because nobody wants to commit to anything.”

      Haha! Ain’t that sometimes the truth.

      Someone told me you might have to donate $100,000 or more to be on the board of my school. I’m not sure if that is true, but that’s a lot of money for the status! I guess money and status often go hand-in-hand.

      Interesting developments at your school about the competitiveness. I think the majority of well-run schools will simply become more and more competitive overtime.

      1. Canadian Reader

        It is tricky business to fight against competitiveness because the organization is a non profit receiving government grants and it has very effective DEI principles. Make what you will about how attracting too much attention/money could alter the organization.
        I’m just praying for status quo for 3 more years!

        1. As someone on the board, how important is a parent having status and being able to donate money to the school?

          Because I wrongly assumed during my application that admissions people would care about having some diversity of careers and social economic background by putting being a high school tennis teacher on my application.

          1. Canadian Reader

            Not that important, we are particularly after people with certain skills or connections, race or gender. Right now, I’m the only one on the board with kids actually attending the program. Keep in mind that boards are generally small and when a spot opens up they may already have in mind what type of person they want. So could be a matter of timing.
            We don’t want big private donations because we want the government to remain our biggest donor since we want to remain publicly accessible. The English preschool space is tight, but the early learning and drop in programs are open to all in the adjacent building for $2 drop in fee. We also offer publicly funded Cantonese bilingual preschool, where the parents only pay regular preschool fees (cheap). Interestingly, we have recently had a hard time filling those spots because instead of maintaining heritage like the program was designed, the parents want the English preschool!
            I think to answer the question though the politics of each country comes into play, and private versus public boards probably have differing agendas.

  6. Colorado Craig

    The majority of successful people in life endured hardship and rejection. In fact I think you would be hard pressed to find a successful person (Business, Politics, Life) that did not experience rejection/failure along the way. Not only does it build character but provides a valuable life lesson which successful people over come quickly and build on. Attributing to their success. I try to embrace failure/rejection for what it is… part of the process of becoming successful albeit very painful sometimes..

  7. Get off the West Coast. I love the West Coast, but the two tech hubs, San Francisco and Seattle have become insanely competitive with respect to high quality child rearing resources, in demand by the highly educated and compensated dual income parents. There simply aren’t enough resources to go around. The best thing we ever did was (due to spouse’s job change, not necessarily by choice) was move our kids to the Northeast when kindergarten came along. Awesome education resources all around, with a more diverse demand base.

    1. I used to live on the east coast for 10 years, and I prefer the West Coast.

      I tried to convince my wife for us to go back to Virginia and experience a little more suffering to help our children develop grit and teach them how to better face adversity, but she wasn’t having it.

      I also have terrible allergies on the East Coast. It must have something to do with the pollen count.

      See: https://www.financialsamurai.com/the-importance-of-feeling-consistently-uncomfortable-to-gain-financial-freedom/

  8. How strange the head of school would ignore your e-mails for years, especially if the school is looking to raise funds. Parents are literally the customers of the institution.

    But that’s great you found the silver lining in not needing to donate during your duration since you tried to reach out. I also feel pressure to donate and guilt when I don’t donate as much as other parents. But if I tried multiple times and didn’t get a response, I’d feel such huge relief!

  9. Oh how I remember college rejection letters – back before email when you knew your results before you opened them just by the size of the envelope.

    It stung to get rejected but made my ultimate choice all the easier and sweeter. And the disappointment really didn’t last very long at all in the grand scheme of things.

    I like your mention of the happy loser. It is so important for children to learn how to persevere and push past failures and rejections. It can be so hard in the moment but make such a difference to creating grit, determination, and a willingness to learn from mistakes and find the silver lining.

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