Having honor and pride are good traits. But having honor and pride can also be detrimental to your quest for financial freedom and living a better life.
Life is already hard enough. Don’t make it even harder by being so stubborn!
I assume that many of you are suffering from burnout just like me. Every day, I wake up between 3:30 am – 5:00 am to write for several hours before my kids wake up. Then we’re talking ~12 hours of rotating childcare and household duties. By the time 9 pm rolls around, my wife and I are wiped out. We are so sleepy, it often takes two sessions to finish one, 1-hour Netflix episode.
One simple solution to living an easier life would be if I just publish one or two times a week instead of three or four times a week. Hot tub sessions would increase three-fold. Binge-watching an entire season would be a breeze too.
But due to a commitment I made in 2009 to publish three times a week, I just can’t quit! It’s like I’m hardwired. Further, I was taught by my high school track coach while dry-heaving after a difficult practice that only losers quit. I don’t want to be a loser.
Let me share some other examples, big and small, of how honor and pride have made my life tougher than it really needed to be. This post is a warning to those who may be too stubborn to change your ways.
How Honor And Pride Made My Life More Difficult
If I had a reset button, there are several things I would have done differently to make my life better. Let’s look at how honor and pride got in the way.
1) Not starting Financial Samurai in 2006
When I graduated from business school in 2006 (went part-time for three years while working), I was super-motivated to start something online. The second year of business school allowed us to take electives, which is when I came up with the idea of starting Financial Samurai.
I thought to start Financial Samurai was a no-brainer because I had just received my MBA. I worked at two major financial firms for seven years and loved to write. Further, there didn’t appear to be any personal finance sites written by people with professional financial experience.
However, I failed to launch because I felt I didn’t have enough credibility. I wanted to wait until I first had 10 years of financial experience (2009).
It just so happened that 10 years after graduating college in 1999, the economy went into a deep recession. In July 2009, with a tremendous amount of trepidation about the future, I decided it was finally time to share my thoughts with the world.
Another Catalyst To Launch
What also motivated me to finally launch was that on March 23, 2009, a book came out called, I Will Teach You To Be Rich, by Ramit Sethi, a recent college graduate who was by default not rich. At age 25, he launched courses on how to get a promotion and a raise, despite not having the relevant job experience. He ended up making lots of money from his courses and his book became a New York Times bestseller.
It was then that I realized that anything is possible in America, so long as you have the confidence to try. You don’t need to have the relevant experience or expertise to be a success. What you need to do is learn how to be an expert marketer. Nothing ever happens if you don’t try.
Life Probably Would Have Been Better
If I had started Financial Samurai in 2006, I would have engineered my layoff at least one year sooner. Even though my severance package would have been smaller, I would have probably been happier.
Those last three years in finance were as pleasant as eating rotten apple pie with rancid milk.
Further, if I had started in 2006, Financial Samurai would likely be larger and produce more revenue. My wife could have negotiated a severance one or two years sooner as well. With more time and freedom, my wife and I probably would have started trying to have children sooner.
You don’t need to be an expert before you start. Just start. Eventually, if you stick with things long enough, you will gain the confidence to make significant progress.
2) Unnecessarily drove an old car for a decade.
I was a car enthusiast who would have spent a fortune on expensive cars had I not experienced work hardship. Work hardship made me want to save and invest as much as possible to get out as quickly as possible. This meant suppressing my car desires for over a decade.
In 2005, I bought a 2000 Land Rover Discovery II for $8,500. The seller needed to dispose of the car quickly because she had been reassigned to Amsterdam. The fair market value was closer to $10,500 and I was able to pay her cash.
I enjoyed driving Moose, but after about five years, random dashboard warning lights started popping on. My trusty mechanic told me not to worry, so I didn’t. Instead, I just put black duct tape over the lights so I wouldn’t see them! How’s that for being overly frugal?
Although my income kept on going up as the car value went down, I stuck with Moose for 10 years due to my strict adherence to my 1/10th rule for car buying. As the creator of the rule, I wanted to follow what I recommended. To not do so would have been dishonorable.
I already was receiving a lot of flack from folks saying that spending at most 10% of your annual gross income on a car was too onerous or miserly. At one point, Moose was worth less than 1/200th of my annual gross income.
By living with honor, I could respond with confidence to all the naysayers that following my 1/10th rule was absolutely not a problem.
A Slight Upgrade
It was only in 2015 that I finally traded in Moose for a $20,000 Honda Fit. I didn’t want to spend $500+ to fix Moose in order to pass the smog check. I only got $1,000 in trade-in value for him.
The reason why I bought a Honda Fit was that it could fit in about 25% more parking spots in San Francisco. Further, I was thrilled it had Bluetooth and a backup camera.
However, another reason for limiting my car spending to $20,000 is because my passive income at the time was around $200,000. I wasn’t willing to base the 1/10th rule off my total income. Based on my 1/10th rule, a Honda Fit was all I could afford, despite having a significant amount of assets.
Due to honor and pride, I drove my Honda Fit for the next three years. The car was great, but it did have some chronic starter problems. Further, I noticed I was bullied more often on the road by larger cars.
What I Really Wanted To Drive
But you know what I really wanted to drive before having kids instead of a Honda Fit? A Porsche 911 GTS. Below is a picture of a GTS I test drove back in 2015. It was owned by a Porsche-enthusiast who worked at Google.
In the end, it was not to be because he wasn’t willing to come down to $56,000 and I wasn’t willing to go up to $62,000. $62,000 was a clear violation of my 1/10th rule.
Further, as my only car, it was impractical. As I look at the car five years later, it’s also too flashy for my taste now. A sports car will have to wait!
Finally Spent More Money
In December 2016, I finally violated my 1/10th rule after realizing my wife and I would be expecting our first child in 2017. We paid cash for a 2015 Range Rover Sport (Moose II) with 10,000 miles on it for $58,000. The car is about $75,000 brand new.
After four years of driving Moose II, I couldn’t care less that it had cost more than 10% of our annual passive income at the time. I love driving the car and it feels much safer than a Honda Fit when transporting my family.
In retrospect, I was too frugal for 12 years. As a once-raging car enthusiast, I denied my desire to drive nice cars for too long due to honor and pride. If I had gotten into a terrible accident with my cheaper cars, I would have rued the day.
Although I plan to own Moose II for 10-years (until December 2026), I will have no hesitation in violating my 1/10th rule again if we end up relocating to a new city within this time period.
3) Didn’t ask for a referral to get into preschool.
The great thing about getting older is that your friends tend to all get more influential. No longer are they 22-year-old grunts, but 42-year-old leaders at their respective firms.
After almost 20 years in San Francisco, some of my friends are on the boards of various preschools and private grade schools in the city.
Instead of asking a friend or two to refer my family to a preschool, I decided to go the solo route. I also decided to just say I was a high school tennis coach on all applications. My pride made me want to see if a regular family could get into a good preschool.
We couldn’t. We got rejected by six preschools. But at least we got accepted by our neighborhood one. Hooray!
When I told one of my friends about all my rejections he was upset. His wife is on the board of one of the preschools we applied to and he has donated more than $100,000 to the school.
He said, “Why the hell didn’t you ask me to write a letter for you? If so, you guys would have surely gotten in.“
I just told him I wanted to see if I could get in on our own because nothing feels better than getting rewarded based on merit. Besides, don’t you think that getting in based on connections feels icky? It does to me.
My Preschool Master Plan Failed
Three years before applying to preschool, I had a master plan. I would fulfill my dream of being a grade school teacher by coaching tennis to high schoolers. I figured, why not get involved in the community, learn about the private school system, and see if I could learn a thing or two about interacting with teenagers.
The high school I ended up working for is a very reputable high school; perhaps one of the top three in San Francisco. This high school is also where many of these parents hope their preschoolers will one day get into.
During my three years at the high school, we ended up winning back-to-back Northern California Conference championships after reaching the final for the first time in history during my first year.
I was hoping that by being one of them, a teacher at a good high school, who was almost working for free for three years, I would be looked upon favorably by the admissions officers. I was a dad who could pay full tuition, was involved in the community, had a great kid, and could spend plenty of hours volunteering for the school.
Unfortunately, I’ve learned that in order to get into these institutions, money and status are much more important. As two unemployed or underemployed parents who want to spend a lot of time raising our children, we have little-to-no status.
The upside is that due to the pandemic, we wouldn’t have sent our son to preschool for the 2020/2021 school year anyway. We also discovered the benefits of homeschooling, which seem to provide for a more rapid and more customized learning experience.
Even though the days are really long, I doubt my wife and I will look back and regret spending so much more time with our son.
Don’t Let Pride Get In The Way Of Living A Better Life
A lot of us are stuck in our old ways of thinking. Because many of us started out with little-to-nothing, we continue to retain this hustle mentality even after we’ve grown our wealth by a significant amount.
Seriously, what kind of fool decides to give over 500 passengers a ride for Uber after reaching a $100,000 passive income mark? This fool, because I was stuck in the mindset of always needing to hustle to make money.
In a perverse way, it felt wrong to earn passive income because I wasn’t actively making an effort. Earning passive income sometimes felt like cheating. My memory of making $3.75-$4/hour at McDonald’s and stuffing envelopes in a dark room for eight hours a day as a young man has never gone away.
Please recalibrate your life the older you get. You should be wealthier and wiser. As a result, you don’t always have to be playing on hard mode. Instead, use your resources to switch things to easy mode once in a while.
How To Make Your Life Easier
Once you’ve worked hard for decades, it may be difficult to take things down a notch. Your work habits become ingrained. Therefore, here are two ways to make our lives easier.
Calculate when you’ll run out of money.
A lot of hustle is driven by the desire for security. The less financial security you feel, the more you will hustle and save more aggressively. The people who keep on grinding after achieving financial security likely have not properly calculated how much money they really have.
A scarcity mindset keeps us poor when we are in fact, rich. Once you calculate your net worth, your desired living expenses, and your passive income streams, you should be able to better calibrate your work ethic. There could be a very large mismatch in how much you think you are worth and what you are actually worth.
It’s also good to put your wealth into perspective. Let’s say you have a top 1% net worth for your age. Unless you love what you do, it’s pointless to work so hard to run up the score.
For me, I love to write. If I didn’t, I would have quit Financial Samurai years ago. However, I also had this inner switch flip on once my son was born in 2017. The switch told me that I needed to do more to provide.
Realize that some of the wealthiest and most successful people had big help.
The guilt of having so much opportunity may be something that prevents you from taking it easy. I’ve written in the past about how the death of my friend at 15 made me stop taking my life for granted. I also realize not everybody has the opportunity to live in America as an Asian person.
Just know that some of the wealthiest and most successful people came from very privileged backgrounds. Their privilege enabled them to do great things, not just make even more money.
For example, famed English naturalist, Charles Darwin was born rich. It was due to his wealth that he could get on a ship for five years and explore nature. Most people had to get a job.
The same thing goes for people like Bill Gates and Mark Zuckerberg. They had every privilege possible to succeed. Therefore, don’t feel guilty using some of your privilege to relax or give your children a leg up.
You get no extra points doing anything the harder way. The only thing you get is a fantastic sense of accomplishment.
Learn to enjoy the fruits of your labor! If there is an easier road to take, for goodness sake, take it already!
I personally plan to re-retire by 2020 under Joe Biden. Raising two kids during a pandemic has really sapped my energy dry. Here’s to living the good life again soon!
Readers, have honor and pride gotten in your way of living a better life? If so, I’d love to hear some examples. If you have any tips on how to be less productive and relax more, please share as well.