Embrace Your Debt To Boost Your Organic Motivation

Embrace your debt to boost your organic motivationMy biggest weakness is being unable to generate enough organic motivation to keep on hustling. I used to get up by 5am every weekday to work for 2-3 hours before work. Then I'd get home by 8pm and work another 1-2 hours on my side hustles. There was this massive internal drive to go all out to one day break free.

Now that I don't have a day job, I get up around 6am and then zone out on my phone for 30 minutes before checking the refrigerator several times to see if there's anything good to eat!

No wonder why my weight continues to creep higher. I'm just not trying hard enough. I admit it. Reaching financial independence has made me less productive by at least two hours a day. What a shame to no longer reach maximum potential.

Then one day I realized I had been sitting on two, $2,100 rent checks from my Pacific Heights tenants for one week. They've been great so far in terms of paying promptly. The only reason why I remembered carrying these checks is because I told my tenants to just take the cost of fixing the leaky kitchen faucet off their rent.

They reminded me they had already sent their rent checks, and given rent wouldn't be due for another 3.5 weeks, they'd rather just get reimbursed directly. Oh yeah, that's right.

The main reason why I forgot to deposit the $4,200 for a week is because I paid off the mortgage in 2015. After 13 years, the bank is no longer helping me stay financially disciplined. 

Quarter Life Crisis

There's so much history with this Pacific Heights rental property because I bought it when I just turned 26 in 2003. At the time, I was also losing my organic motivation after saving up around $200,000 and making $150,000 in a fortuitous internet stock four years after college. I knew I was lucky, but I was also tired of working 70+ hours a week.

Waianae Mountain Range
Waianae Mountain Range

9/11 was fresh on my mind and I was constantly wondering what was the point of working so long to make more money. I was incredibly tempted to just leave San Francisco and move to this beautiful 6.2-acre property my grandparents owned nestled in the Waianae mountain range in Oahu. Due to their advanced ages, they were no longer actively tending to the dozens of mango trees, pomelo trees, avocado trees, and orange trees they had planted decades ago. What a shame to see their hard work fade.

As I contemplate this quarter life crisis now as a middle-aged person, I realize how dangerous it is to grow up in a household with some wealth. As grade school teachers, my grandparents weren't rich by any means. But they did buy this amazing property for $50,000 in the 1960s. If there wasn't this property, I wouldn't have even considered leaving work in my mid-20s due to a lack of options.

Taking on a $464,000 mortgage at 26 super charged my organic motivation. I changed from wanting to kick back in Hawaii to wanting to get into the office by 6am and outwork everybody every day. The last thing I wanted was to get laid off with such a large amount of debt. Debt saved me from short-circuiting my career by eight years.

If I moved to Hawaii at 26, I might be an incredible surfer by now. But I would have always wondered how far I could have gone in my career had I stayed. Now I have no regrets because I tried my best to get to Managing Director and failed.


The First Million Might Be The Easiest

Buy Real Estate As Young As You Possibly Can

Pre Mid-Life Crisis

When I left Corporate America in 2012 to focus on Financial Samurai, I never considered working part-time for anybody else. The goal was to concurrently build passive income streams and business income in order to never have to work again. It wasn't until after being on my own for 1.5 years did I long to assimilate back into day-to-day society. Working by yourself gets lonely.

After consulting between November 2013 to December 2014, my enthusiasm for consulting began to fade. There were some personnel changes that helped accelerate my disinterest; meanwhile the learning curve had flattened. In order to energize myself to keep on going, I tethered 100% of my consulting income to paying off $91,000 in remaining Pacific Heights mortgage debt.

Such tethering allowed me to last for one more three-month consulting cycle with one company before finally calling it quits. Three months at this company wasn't enough to pay down $91,000 in debt, so I took on two more clients until the goal was achieved by summer 2015. I was temporarily back to working 70 hours a week! Since that time, I've consulted for a couple other companies, but never with the same intensity.

If it weren't for debt, I wouldn't have gained three years worth of fintech and digital marketing experience. I never would have known what it was like to work with people who founded a seed stage company backed by Y Combinator. I never would have gotten to know various C-level executives that might look for media acquisitions either. Debt provided additional financial insurance through experience, which I can utilize if I ever need to go back to work full-time.

Paying down mortgage debt accelerates organic motivation decline
Organic motivation declines just like the principal balance on your mortgage.

Related: A Long Road Home: Financial Samurai Passive Income Update 2017

Organic Motivation Naturally Declines

For those of you who are in debt, embrace your debt in order to boost your organic motivation. Come up with a plan to pay it down faster. You won't regret your achievement. The only caveat is that if you become debt free too quickly, you might accelerate your motivational decline. Therefore, the key is to time being debt free when you no longer have the energy or desire to work.

The opposite of organic motivation is inorganic motivation. Inorganic motivation is posting about your fabulous life on your blog or social media so you can gain adoration. But inorganic motivation can also involve seeking new challenges way outside your comfort zone. Unfortunately, inorganic motivation is hard to sustain because it doesn't come naturally, at least to me.

It's clear why there is discrimination against older workers for younger workers, especially at more nascent companies. The older you are, the less organic motivation you have. With more money in the bank and less debt, it's natural not to want to kill yourself as badly as younger workers who have everything to prove. Further, older workers may have family they'd rather spend time with. Biologically, older workers may simply have less energy than they once did.

If you add up age discrimination in the work place, declining organic motivation, and a finite lifespan, you should have more than enough reasons to achieve financial independence as soon as possible!


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57 thoughts on “Embrace Your Debt To Boost Your Organic Motivation”

  1. Sarah @tortoisehappy.com

    What I love about this article is how it sheds a positive light on debt. I don’t think debt is “good” as such, but the motivation it creates definitely is. Although your motivation may have faded, it could have faded to an even greater extent had you not had that motivation in the first place.

  2. Rightly said. I am 40yrs, living in India. Paid up all my debts, net-worth in USD after PPP is $1.4 million. I paid off mortgages on my 3 condos some 3 years back and since then I feel low on organic motivation.

    I work with an e-Commerce company, reduced my working from 60 hours a week to 24 hours a week. I have my own consulting office where I spend 20 hours per week. Off late, I can sense that I have no more interest in working round the clock and I am not been able to concentrate on my work too due to this. When I started working fresh out of college, I was voluntarily putting 75-80 hours per week back in year 2000.

    I really do not have clue where i would be moving as I have a good 25 years of work life left in me :)

    I seriously need to introduce new goals in my life.

    ~ Himanshu

  3. Finance Solver

    Organic motivation.. It’s so hard at times. I’ve certainly lost so much motivation from when I was 17 years old (and I can’t believe I’m saying that, I’m only 21!), maybe I should tack on some debt to be motivated?

    Kidding aside, I’m very amazed at how you’ve been able to keep up with your motivation for 13+ years in corporate america. 13 years is a really long time and I don’t know if I would have had the will to keep on moving up with the company.. Guess I’ll have to see!

  4. Well Sam, going along with your theme. I am over $1,000,000 debt right now and I am embracing the motivation to pay it off ASAP.

    It is basic goal setting. Have a goal, make the plan and then execute. I am far, far, far from financial independence but once I reach it, I would like to spend most of my time learning new skills. There are so many more interesting things in the world than money.

    Your organic motivation to optimize your finances is waning because it is on autopilot. You need a new challenge. You have this game won.

    I obviously don’t know you, but you like tennis. The stage you are in now, have you looked at playing in some tennis tournaments and increasing your level of play. Could you try to go pro? Or take a different track, set up your own tournament or teach others, reach out to some schools do they need your expertise? There are so many different things you can explore now that you don’t have to watch your accounts to pay your living expenses.

    1. Turn Pro? Negative chance. But, at the age of 38, I got bumped up to a 5.0 level USTA tennis player, which is very rare b/c it’s filled w/ younger players who all played college tennis. Check out it: Something Money Can’t Buy – A 5.0 USTA Rating

      You are right. The downside to autopilot is that there’s nothing to do. There is no ACTIVE effort for reward. It’s why I think we should have a good active and passive income balance for a better lifestyle!

      What’s your $1M in debt composed of?

  5. This is why I love setting goals. I need something in particular to work towards to help me stay motivated.

  6. This describes my trajectory perfectly. This year has been super busy as far as work goes (I’m a real estate broker) but I found myself lacking that challenge piece. I save quite a bit, just because I have low expenses, and for most of this year was living in one of my rentals (house hacking, as some may call it).

    I really, really, really and I mean REALLY want a Tesla. But real estate is so cyclical that I’m scared I would pull the trigger and then have real estate enter a lull. So after crunching the numbers I realized that if I paid off all my debt repayments, I could pay for a Tesla with my passive income (and I still plan on working for a long time because I love my job so have that margin for error as well). I have about $150K left on various mortgages and personal loans and I’ve been side-hustling like crazy (in addition to normal hustling) to pay that off… because I want that Tesla!

      1. Hmmm. I’m not sure I completely agree with that article! It only looks at income and not assets, so I feel like it’s not getting the complete picture. For someone who impulse buys a $55K car on a $40K salary with only $10K in their 401K? Sure, it would probably help them understand their mistake. But for someone who is purposefully planning their next purchase and only doing it when it can be paid for with passive income (which continues to grow as 100% of earned income is saved/invested)? Not sure that rule can apply…

        Where did you get the 1/10th figure? I feel like that is very arbitrary.

  7. Befitting topic Sam. Real estate in general can be both frustrating and scary for first-timers but it is a very important part of a diversified portfolio. My wife and I purchased our first home in our early 20s (back in the 80s). We were both working full time jobs, plus I had a part-time job. It’s amazing how motivated one can be by the fear of not making a house payment. Over the years we’ve acquired a dozen properties, and that equity is now a significant part of our nest egg.

    We’ve paid off a number of smaller properties over the years for one reason or another but we’ve never felt pressured to pay off a mortgage or a real estate contract. We’ve always felt we could earn a higher rate of return with surplus cash buying equities, etc. as compared to paying off a mortgage that we are paying 3% to 5% interest rates on.

    Working 50-60 hours a week for 20+ years, along with maximum yearly contributions to 401(k)s, and a high percentage of income placed into savings annually, will allow us to retire next year …a decade earlier than we originally planned starting out as newlyweds. We did this while raising two children.

    Not very exciting I know but slow and steady often wins the race.

  8. I see older workers often take an FU attitude toward corporate policies they dont agree with and I know they are close to retirement. I think they feel free to say and do what they want when they are close to FI. I couldnt imagine hustling like I did in my 20s in my 50s. Of course many older workers are willing to trade in potential job growth for a good work life balance. Established mega corps love getting the expertise of older workers who dont get impatient at the lack of growth and opportunity.

    1. Got to love the retirement jobs at those mega corps! You might be able to do so little that you can come in late, leave early while working on a side hustle you’re truly passionate about. Too bad in the finance industry, it is SUPER competitive and there was no such kick back lifestyle. To be fair to my employer and other colleagues, I thought it best to leave.

      It’s funny because people who work at private companies or startups all think companies like Google, Netflix, and Yahoo are retirement jobs!

  9. There is no Quarter, pre-Mid, or Mid-life crisis. It’s just called life.

    My father has been an engineer for over 40 years and he still doesn’t know what he wants to do with his life. He’s close to 70 years old, has enough money to ‘hang it up’ but he can’t let go. He’s selling off his rental properties as I believe he is actually tired of being a landlord. Outside of work there is only so much golf you can play or social events to attend. As the holidays approach we all know there is only so much time we want to spend with our families.

    We need challenges and purpose at every age.

      1. I’m in my mid-thirties, likely getting married and starting a family in the next few years. Currently debt free renting a 1-bedroom apartment with my GF. Life is pretty easy right now as DINKs.

        I’m motivated to keep working so the lady could stay at home for a few years if she wants when we have kids. At some point that would also require a move to a larger pad, perhaps embracing a mortgage to boost the motivation. I don’t imagine children will leave much time for soul-searching or questioning my true purpose. In fact, this may be when my mid-life crisis hits.

        After the kids grow up a bit who knows. I was chatting with my Pops about retirement and I thought it funny that he doesn’t know what he wants to do. He raised kids, put in a long career, paid all his taxes and saved for a comfortable retirement. Now what?

  10. I recently came into a significant amount of debt a result of a divorce. I have a very good 50 hour a week day job and lack any time to get a 2nd job because I have 3 teenagers and well let’s just say I don’t go home after work and watch TV…. you have given me the motivation to re-start my personal website only I felt it SO super challenging to get passive income going with that once before which is why I needed to give it a rest for a while. I know even if I get it moving any passive income will be a while away. your thoughts on how to clear this debt that I sadly owe to my divorce attorney… 401K loan, 401k borrow ? pull the $ out of the sky???? I am 46 and also in process of selling my home and will need to get a new home too (may have to rent) I am on a payment plan with the attorney but it seems like it will take forever to pay off. I live check to check to pay the bills and stay afloat. no extra cash laying around except my 401K

  11. The Money Commando

    Trying to create motivation is a bit reason I’ve started a blog and am finishing up the coursework for my Certified Financial Planner designation. I find that if I don’t have any big challenge staring me in the face I start getting a bit bored.

    This has happened at work. After 18+ years I’ve lost a lot of my motivation. Now that I’m on the cusp of being financially independent I’m wondering what’s going to keep me fired up. I’ve been considering paying off the remainder of my 1st and 2nd mortgage sometime in the next year or two, but based on the thinking in this post I might just keep the mortgage and use it to challenge myself. Maybe I’ll only let myself pay down the mortgage with money from my blog, or income from a future financial planning business.

  12. PhysicianOnFIRE

    Debt free and FI. I would say my motivation has shifted. I’m less focused on income and building a large net worth, and more focused on doing what’s best for my long-term health and for my family.

    FI was supposed to make every workday more joyful, but I can’t say that’s been true with a straight face. It’s alright, and I like knowing that I can walk away, but there’s no new bounce in my step.


  13. First world problems indeed! My parents were blue collar but financially stable, never financing anything. I made many mistakes in my 20s but learning Web development was my (income) ticket on the road to FIRE. Still on the road and it still feels far away. $250k and 10 (conventional) years left on a Bay Area mortgage is the major part of my expenditures pie chart. For various reasons, I can’t simply cash out. A couple (low) income properties in Sacramento and saving like mad and/or paying down debt. Definitely no lack of motivation! Just a question of strategy at this point.

  14. PatientWealthBuilder

    Yes there is definitely something to what you are saying Sam. I actually wonder how I will be motivated when my debt is paid off.

    I have actually thought a lot about this and it is one of the reasons I am not going to pay down my home mortgage. The first reason is that theoretically it is a bad idea. I will get a higher return in the stock market. The second reason is that by having the debt and the monthly obligation, I’m obligated to stay in my current position which is relatively high paying.

    If I took my money out of savings and paid off my debt, I don’t think I would last too much longer at my job. But now that I have my debt and certain other goals – I am committed to another four years! It’s actually kind of exciting and I know what you mean. I don’t want to go on a motivational roller coaster. I hope to make one transition from being employed where I am now to being self employed!

    Great post – very thought provoking.

  15. Financial Canadian

    I’ve never had a mortgage (yet) but one thing that I find motivates me is having a revolving line of credit. Any time that I feel a lack of motivation, I deploy capital from the LOC to purchase stocks. For whatever reason, I am always much more motivated to save money to pay down that debt compared to saving money to directly invest.

    Oh the psychology of investing!

  16. Distilled Dollar

    Wow – I’m a bit surprised here.

    I agree that money becomes massively less important once you reach FI – that’s what Maslow’s heirarchy would tell us.

    It is like saying there’s no motivation to find air…until you’re drowning and it’s all you need.

    As for motivation, you need to find things that pull you towards them. Push motivation or this “organic” motivation is fleeting. We can destroy ourselves if we rely on this type of motivation.

    If you’re gifted to be able to leave an impact, then you owe it to yourself and neighbors to give it your all. It should be a moral obligation to help others – and sure, this is a reframe away from paying off mortgages.

    I know you’ve mentioned quite a bit of charity work – so I know you have plenty of ideas and you’re not really seeking motivation. Again, as I mentioned above, I agree with the idea that debt leads to physical and emotional hunger for needing more. Our college loans of $115,00 have created a radically different lifestyle than if we had zero debt.

    My icon in this realm are people like Ben Franklin who retired at 42 and then decided to pursue science and public office. He understood early that FI was a means and not an end.

    I thought this post over quite a bit so big cheers for the post Sam!!

  17. There is this “Karma” theory (“Karma == duty” ; don’t confuse with usual term “Bad Karma” :-) You do what you need to get you and your family moving – providing for family, and their needs (including assets cushion) among other things — whilst doing thus so – earn and save money, along the way.

    Definitely – money and assets count, and they are meaningful. But, you are not doing “it” for the money — you are doing this for your duty, aka Karma. Now, the “money/savings/assets” are by-products of your working (to self, or to somebody else – or combo). You don’t worry about “money” all the time – instead you perform your duty, this is the priority ! As you guessed, if you do “more” productive things, and move-up higher in career etc — obviously, you would do get to earn/save more monies — building up assets. Do enjoy “some/restrained” funs which comes with more monies — but you are in this for “life progression” and doing your Karma (hopefully the “good” variety Karma).

    After all – like in many posts you pointed-out, after you cross a few $$Mil, or certain income-levels — the fun doesn’t get significantly much better.

    Do continue to help out friends, family, neighbors, cohorts, people in-need as well. Its amazing when they bump into you and express their heart-felt thanks to you — life feels a whole lot “fulfilled” (sure, you are doing all of it – and “more” of it) — bear with my modest attempt to convey “implicit” behavior into words.

    Now – get back to your daily grind of “Tennis”, “Blog”, “Postings-replies”, and find additional opportunities to generate “extra-income” (and definitely remember to help/mentor/coach/uplift/touch somebody along the way). Its all good cuz!


    1. Thank You! I needed to hear this since I am taking a job I don’t want to do in “office space” but need to support my family & injured spouse…

  18. Paying off my debt after my accident was a huge incentive to hustle – find a job, over perform, get raises, and do the emergency fund / invest / debt elimination dance.

    Given my age, and my family, I find my priorities change from year to year, if not day to day. I hustle to provide for my family, but not to the extent that it takes me from my family. e.g. avoiding jobs with travel requirements.

  19. Michael @ Financially Alert

    Very thought provoking article, Sam! I’m in a similar place where my organic motivation to drive income is at an all-time low. However, my motivation to contribute to my family, friends, and others is at an all-time high. This seems to dictate how I’m spending my time these days and I’m not as driven as I once was to produce income (despite the debt on my properties). Having said that, I’d love to find a balance where I can still contribute massive value towards others and simultaneously earn a strong income. I’m gonna keep trying until I make that happen! :)

  20. Great article, I do find my motivation can come and go depending on what is driving me in real life. It’s certainly hard to stay 100% motivated all of the time.

  21. Heh heh, that’s why I’m not in a big hurry to pay down our mortgages. I need some reasons to get out of bed in the morning.
    So how do you plan to motivate yourself in the years to come? You probably won’t have much problem because you are a very motivated individual. I’m less motivated and I’m afraid I’ll be completely lazy once we both retire.

    1. I would say you might have a moment of FEAR once your wife no longer works and once you have to pay your own health insurance. That FEAR will turn into motivation for a while until you get to the point where it’s no big deal.

      My motivation just turns to commitment. I am committed to publishing 3X a week on FS forever, come hell or high water! But expanding aggressively…. I’m not motivated. Sometimes I wish I had this ego that craved attention.

      1. Great point about FEAR. We’ll have to scramble for a few years after my wife retires. Hopefully, that period will be a short few years. Good job committing to 3x per week. I couldn’t handle 3x anymore. I ran out of things to write about and the quality suffers. 2x per week is much better for me now.

  22. Financial Panther

    This does make quite a bit of sense. I know the drive to pay down debt was a big motivator for me in working hard and hustling. “Luckily” for my family, we’ll probably always have a ton of debt pushing us forward. My student loans, then the fiance’s student loans, then paying off a mortgage, then paying off a practice loan. No shortage of ways to keep ourselves moving forward…

  23. Your First Million

    I have a book recommendation for you! You need to read “The Miracle Morning” by Hal Elrod (if you haven’t already)! This book outlines a morning routine you can do that will seriously transform your mornings and get you super motivated!

    For my job, I would normally have to wake up around 4:45 AM. I work 12 hours shifts, and in order to be at work at 6:00 I can’t get up any later than 4:45. I am the worst morning person ever. I am slow moving, always grumpy and have a hard time getting motivated for anything. After reading “The Miracle Morning” I now love mornings! In fact, I now get up at 4:15 AM so that I have enough time do my morning routine!

    Following the advice in this book has not only changed my mornings, but I believe it has made me more motivated and more productive. I usually won’t have that down time that you were talking about. This book is definitely worth reading if you are looking for a way to get more motivation and get more productive.

  24. Jack Catchem

    Hi Sam, your “debt as a motivator” is an insightful observation. My wife and I bought our home with a HELOC and threw everything we had at it in preparation for her leaving the military. The forward thinking and energy paid off in a big way as we killed the HELOC before she exited and we began having kids. (The interest rate was also significantly larger than our mortgage!)

    I’m toying with the idea of paying off the mortgage more aggressively than I already am (by dropping an extra $250 a month, I’m scheduled to pay it off in 20 years instead of the expected 25).

    Another fun thought is taking a loan from my 457 (b) (at a rate of return of 4%), and using that to significantly pay down the mortgage. My mortgage gets significantly reduced, the loan nets my 457 a stable 4% return on the loaned amount (better than bonds these days), and my job is very stable. I am paying it back myself, but it seems like I’m putting that 4% into my savings instead of the bank getting interest on that amount. Or I’m losing a shell game of my own design!

  25. Simple Money Man (SMM)

    Hi Sam,

    Debt has always been something I’ve tried to avoid. But lately I’ve been thinking it could be helpful especially if you have a really low interest rate. If one had the financial means to pay a car off, would it not make more sense to instead continue to pay a monthly payment with a really low interest rate (e.g., 1.9% to 2.9%) and invest the cash in the stock market? When you pay it off you’ve just put your money into a depreciating asset.

    1. Jack Catchem

      I love your thinking SMM, although I could afford to purchase a new vehicle, I went with a loan of 0.9% for 5 years. It’s not “free” money, but I firmly believe I can make better use of it elsewhere in investments.

    2. Financial Canadian

      With a long enough time horizon, leverage can go a long way to boost investment returns. I am also a believer that if you can borrow money at rates lower than the INCOME generated by your investments (i.e. dividends or bond coupons) than you should, because the income will service the debt while you wait for capital appreciation. For example I have a margin loan at 2% – which means I can invest in stocks without worrying about debt servicing, as long as my portfolio yield is higher than 2% (which it always is).

  26. What happened to your grandparents farm? Gentleman farmer an option for you?

    Love your articles and thought process. Keep up the great work!

    1. Sadly, it was sold b/c nobody could or was willing to take care of it. It had an old house that needed maintenance. It was also broken into a couple times before b/c nobody is there. Someone needs to live there full-time. It’s a great natural retreat nestled in the mountain range. The good thing is the property was sold to the neighbors, who we’ve known for 25 years. Part of the land was leased so they could plant green onions. I need to find some pics to jog through memory lane!

      A part of me wanting to tend to the farm was to honor my grandparent’s legacy.

  27. What a timely article. I recently wrote about this myself in my own “journal” which I will eventually turn into a blog someday :P

    I’m going through your “quarter life crisis” (same age) and also bought a house ($300k). My logic mirrors yours exactly: I thought that by buying the house and incurring a significant load of debt, I’d surely be motivated to pay it off quicker. Except, I already have passive income built up that’s paying for it. It will be paid off in under two years without me doing anything else extra. Granted, nearly all my net worth will be tied up in real estate by that point, with zero in stocks, but I should still have enough passive income to not HAVE to work.

    I became semi-motivated for a while to to get a part time job to ramp up the payments a bit, and also diversify my investments, but I think that even employers can tell that I’m completely disinterested in working so I haven’t even landed a basic job…I haven’t worked in nearly 1.5 years, and I’m not sure when I ever will. I try studying and applying for things I would want to do if I need money, but I just can’t keep the motivation up! Maybe I need to take on more debt or start spending more?

    “With more money in the bank and less debt, it’s natural not to want to kill yourself as badly as younger workers who have everything to prove.”

    I don’t know. Like you said, more money and less debt = less room for motivation. Lack of motivation tends to cause someone to enter an existential crisis. For anyone, it’s incredibly difficult to create meaning in a world that forces you to come up with your own reasons for living. Money is a great reason for most people. Maybe riding the consumer treadmill is what keeps so many people sane.

    1. Ah, there’s no time like YESTERDAY to start your site! Do it already. We ain’t getting any younger! The hardest part is to launch. After that, publishing is easy, if you are a self-motivated BEAST :)

      I’m impressed you haven’t worked a day job for 1.5 years and have passive income paying your mortgage in your 20s! You should share your story one day. I’d be interested in learning how you did it and how you live.

  28. Mustard Seed Money

    After I paid of the mortgage on my house I felt aimless for a couple of years. I didn’t set any new financial goals and felt apathetic towards my finances. Everything was on autopilot between paying bills, saving money in my 401ks, IRAs and putting additional resources towards the stock market.

    It wasn’t until I set new financial goals that I started to get motivated again and hustle again.

  29. The Green Swan

    Using debt as a motivated is probably a good idea. It’s turning the “drive to FIRE” concept on it’s head a bit, yet it’s still along the same lines. I would think if I didn’t have the daily routines that I have now, motivation could be difficult. I also put a lot of work into my site outside of my day job, but also I find more satisfaction in the online financial community.

  30. This year I set a goal to invest at least $5k a month to get more disciplined about regularly investing. There have been several months when I just couldn’t fathom buying anything into the rallies so I decided to use those months to pay off extra mortgage principle instead. It felt like a great conpromise. During a few months I did both – invested and paid down more principle. It feels good to throw extra money towards a mortgage to reduce debt and shrink the time left to pay it off! I’ll definitely keep this post in mind when I get close to paying it off. I’ll need to create a new financial milestone I want to reach.

  31. Graham @ Reverse The Crush

    Great post Sam,
    I’m a relatively new reader over the last 6 months or so, but it seems like you’ve been writing on a wider variety of topics lately. I’ve really been enjoying it!

    As for this post, I completely agree. Debt can be an amazing motivator.

    I’ve been off work on a “mini-retirement” for a year now and when thinking back, lack of debt was a huge factor in me taking time off. It made it easier to be careless. I had no credit card debt, no mortgage payment (though I don’t own any house), no car payment etc. I had been paying cash for everything for years.

    That said, near the end of my time at the bank, I was finding it hard to be motivated to save. I just stopped caring because it wasn’t making an impact on my or anyone else life.

    I still think my time off has been good for me personally, but this post resonates with me because I’m starting to feel the pressure of money again. I’m not in a bad place financially, however, the motivation you speak of is starting to kick in. Thanks for sharing!

  32. Apathy Ends

    I have found it harder to be motivated at my day job since I started my site. My drive to build something myself far outweighs my willingness to work for other people.

    I still work hard, I just have to convince myself to do it some days where it used to be natural.

    As your financial position improves I think it would be natural for money to slip down as a priority

  33. Full Time Finance

    I think it really depends on the type of person you are. Some people are motivated by the satisfaction of the work itself, for them being out of debt does not remove the motivation. Others it is to get to financial independence, this was mine for a long time. Once I hit enough cash that I could live for 4-25 years with no income I did initially see a decline in motivation. I keep myself motivated these days with the somewhat arbitrarily picked number at which I’ve decided to retire. I chose the number as the point where the interest from my savings exceeds the pay rate at which I derive financial satisfaction from working. I.e. Once I hit that number my interest will exceed the opportunity cost for me of making more money. That goal is my motivation for work.

    1. Permian Buyer

      I like your perspective. Especially using a retirement number for further motivation and recognizing the opportunity costs.

  34. Cash Flow Celt

    An interesting article. It’s hard for me to imagine, right now, that at some point in the next 20 years I’ll lack motivation. I know it will happen, but perhaps yours was accelerated because you had such rapid changes? Going from 70+ to 20+ back to 70+ is drastic. Maybe finding an in between might have you feeling productive, but still feeling like you’re “winning” in terms of spending time with ones you care about.

    1. Maybe. It’s like cramming for a final exam, passing, and then experiencing the lull.

      But I can pretty much guarantee you that in 20 years, if you work hard, save, and invest during this period, you will not have the same fire as you do now.

      Therefore, the key is to build passive income to sustain your lifestyle before the fire goes out.

      1. I paid my mortgage off almost 9 years ago after maxing out my Canadian RRSP’s 2 years earlier, maintaining them and eventually adding TFSA’s to the savings. While I understand the motivation waining you may have experienced I personally never had that problem as I use my desire to save (as my “debt” to the my future self) and with continued diligence now exceed savings of well over 50% of my take home.

  35. Kate @ Cashville Skyline

    Great post, Sam! I’ve been slowly watching my ~$120,000 mortgage get paid off. Even though I’ve accelerated repayment by refinancing to a 15-year loan (with 10 years left), I’ve been tempted to pay it down faster. I’ve considered working side jobs just for this purpose. But then what? My monthly expenses are already less $3,000 per month. This already limits my organic motivation to hustle too hard. What will happen once I’m responsible for $700 less in fixed expenses?

    1. It’s just going to feel harder to keep on hustling. $3,700 less a month in expenses living in TN is huge! Why bother doing much of anything else with such low costs now right?

      All this coincides w/ getting older and thinking about time, life, and other things. Having dependents will reinvigorate the motivation though!

  36. Jon @ Be Net Worthy

    I think you are right that organic motivation declines over time. When I was fresh out of b-school with a new baby, a stay-at-home spouse and a big fresh mortgage, I was busting my butt every day.

    Now, 16 years later, my salary has tripled, the kids are low-maintenance and the mortgage is on track to being paid off. I find my motivation at the office has waned a little.

    In order to stay motivated, I set aggressive goals for the mortgage payoff and am doing the best I can to get my site off the ground. Focusing on getting to financial independence gives me something to look forward to and keeps me striving.

    1. Permian Buyer

      I’m in the same boat. I should have my last debt, my mortgage paid off next year at 35. My debt has contributed a lot to my motivation and I do worry I will not be as productive after it is paid off. On the other hand, maybe you don’t need to be as productive if you don’t “need” to be. Catch 22. Hopefully I will find other motivations or focus more on family and non-work aspects of improving my community.

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