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 4 am – 6:00 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 26, 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 expensive 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. Don’t wait until you are an expert to launch! You will figure things out as you go.
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 2022 under Joe Biden. Raising two kids during a pandemic has really sapped my energy dry. Here's to living the good life again soon!
Related: How To Befriend Politicians So You San Do More Of What You Want
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.
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65 thoughts on “Don’t Let Honor And Pride Keep Your Life On Hard Mode Forever”
My husband and I should have asked to borrow money from family and friends sooner. My husband is a handyman and has been “fixing” properties for other people to “flip”. It was sad to see him doing all the work and building equity into homes but only receive a small fraction for his efforts/work. About a month ago we found a downtown property, with a separate studio, selling for half its value due to some fire damage. Seeing what a deal the property was, we wanted to get it under contract ASAP but needed to show proof of funds. We only had half of the cash necessary so we first approached our real estate investor friend who was totally on board but said it would take her a couple of days to move money around and make sure she wasn’t going to be penalized for early withdrawals. So eager to get this property that my excitement could not be contained when I talked to a couple of other people about being back-up funding in case our original lender couldn’t pull through. The funny thing is that we didn’t have to make a case for borrowing the money. I spoke to my sister who asked her husband to present the loan request to his parents to see if they were interested. Not more than five minutes later, the father called offering 3.75% interest and asked where he should wire the money. Something similar happened when I left a text to my brother and his wife who called back asking how much interest we wanted to pay. While we told both couples that we just wanted to know if they would be our back-up funding, they were insistent that we take the loans from them. It felt odd that neither couple asked for specific details about the property but were more interested in how they could get the money to us quickly. Both couples said they trusted us and know that we are going to make the property a success. On top of all this, the original lender whom we no longer needed to borrow money from, wanted to support us, so she let me go through her 10-bedroom house full of décor and furnishings to pick out a bunch of items that could be used at the new property as an Airbnb. The financial benefits from this property are two-fold. Airbnb’s bring in at least two times the normal rent and once the place is fixed up, we can take equity out to fix and flip other properties, accumulate funds faster and purchase other properties for cash. Borrowing money sooner rather than later creates a snowball effect and the snowball would have been much bigger by now had we borrowed money earlier.
I Bought used Toyota sequoia back in 2017 for about $46000 and our family household income is about 240K all W2, about 25K Passive. I clearly violated your 1/10 rule by wide margin but honestly our family has been enjoying it so much that i do not regret it.
This post really hit home. I’m 33 and have built a solid net worth of 1.9 (thank you samurai, max gratitude for this site).
I now have 2 young kids and have been buying things with price tags that would have made me in the not too distant past.
These purchases (car, bed, house, work from home set up) have made me feel ashamed at times. Like I had just made a series of unforced errors.
Great perspective here Sam. Love your articles buddy. Selfishly I want you to keep cranking out 4 articles a week. But a way for you to scale down could be to leverage the amazing archive You’ve built up Over the years. Recycle the great ones every now and then.
I always read your articles but never comment. I think today I will comment on this: “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.”
You can have both, do you know that? Just outsource it! There are lots of great freelance writers and even companies dedicated to that. Outsource two of your articles; revise the work; publish it; have more hours for you and your family at a very low money cost.
If you are unsure, start small: one outsourced article per month, in ordem to align yourself and the person who will write for you. After that, it’s just a matter of scallating…
also, assuming you are a top 1% earner, why don’t you just hire a nanny? yeah, right now is not easy because the pandemic, but even before that, i know a lot of people that earn a lot but are super stressed because they wont pay for one.
im nowhere near a top 1% earner and i DO pay for a nanny that comes 6-7 hours a day. it makes our lifes much easier and get to enjoy our son much more
Yep, I could certainly do what many of my peers do who have sites my size and not write or hire a lot of the writing out.
I haven’t yet b/c there’s still so much to say every week. I like the process. And I don’t like spending money on writing content I could write better.
But one day! Yes! It could be nice if I really get into business mode.
I think caveats are needed here…
There IS a time and place to practice frugality, when you are young, when your income is low, where your assets are few, that IS the time to drive “moose 1”.
The trick is knowing when to “flip the switch” and move the foot from the brake (not spending, keeping things longer than you might wan to) to the gas (living a little, replacing that busted old car, taking that vacation you’ve dreamed of).
The problem is that the “switch” is unique to each person, their finances and situation BUT society/marketing/culture is ALWAYS pushing us to use the gas pedal VS the break.
For most of us, it is only through frugality/saving/hard work that we develop the income stream/level of assets needed to enjoy more spending later, many are trying to enjoy more spending too early, effectively spending future income TODAY, VS, saving today’s income to spend in the future, once the situation is more stable.
Your article may lead some to say “he’s right, live in the moment dammit! Buy that new XXX or YYY and quit being toooo frugal” and that’s a trap advertising would love us ALL to make.
As someone who suffers from keeping things too long due to a lack of financial security/teaching/income while growing up, I too recognize the benefit of “proper upgrades” and often, after upgrading something because the old item finally gave up the ghost, I realize that I waited too long. Example, I bought a drill set 15 years ago when we bought our home (you pretty much have to have one if you are a DIY homeowner) and I did not upgrade until recently. The new drills are about 1/5 the weight, have lights, have new settings and make the work go more smoothly, I should have upgraded a few years ago, especially since I was down to 2 batteries and one of them didn’t charge well (I make a decent side income as the neighborhood handy man). I often re-learn this lesson when upgrading cars, phones, computers etc.
The hard part about this is that I’ve found that once the spending “starts” it can be hard to turn off. Just like doing a new home improvement project and tossing a few new tools into the basket because I “need” them (but could really do without them) once the mentality shifts from “save/save/save” to “spend a little” it can be hard to moderate. We must know ourselves and how we save/spend/eat/exercise/etc. etc. etc. and be honest with ourselves, a hard thing to do.
Bottom line, anyone using your article to justify excessive or unnecessary spending should take another read of it and work to prevent fooling themselves (so easy to do!).
Good caveats. The goal of the article is to help people find more balance.
I start each section with a “Pride and Honor” way of doing things (be committed for 10 years, 1/10th rule, not use connections to get ahead) and then share the outcome. Hopefully people do not forget half the equation of this article.
This goes under the category of “what is enough”. I have zero debt and high net worth (> 20M). High annual expenses (multiple homes, luxury trips etc). I see I can get a 15 year mortgage for 2.3%. I can invest in rental properties in a high growth state where I have other investments for a net return of 3.8% cash on cash. My question is why not take advantage of the arbitrage opportunity and put a mortgage on one of my homes to make 1.5 points net profit. My wife argues enough is enough. I get that but also enjoy making money and the thrill of the chase. Thoughts on going for another 10k passive income vs just calling it quits? I am close to retirement so it’s now or never.
Not sure. How old are you and how tired are you of work? Why not shoot for $30 million?
At $20M+ net worth, I wouldn’t bother doing that work for an extra $10K in passive income. But then again, how much is your passive income? If it isn’t high enough to cover your living expenses, then forge on.
Depends on what your definition of passive income is. Pure passive today is $150k. Expenses $400k. But I will get $1.6m per year pre tax after retirement next year for 10 years. $3.7m 401k that will get tapped in 8 years. So good shape but another $10k per year for doing almost nothing is always welcome. Tough call.
Cool. What is the source of the $1.6M a year for 10 years? Sounds pretty passive to me.
Go for the 10K extra then if that makes you happy. Maybe use some of the savings and help someone in need. Then you can get double happiness!
Thanks Sam. Always good advice. I have $16m in deferred compensation that will be paid over 10 years. So passive in that I don’t need to do anything but it ends in 10 years. I’m geared toward making money and always striving to do more. I like the idea of donating the extra if I don’t need it. Best wishes!
I’ll bite… how does one in general terms secure $16M in deferred comps? I have heard of some pretty large numbers out there but $16M is nearly the top in my book. I have a few friends in Silicon Valley with golden handcuffs as they all call it in the $6-10M range which I thought was outstanding. Please if possible share how one acquires a $16M deferred comp. second question did you have the opportunity to cash in on this earlier or was this really pushed out by your own thought process? Question 3, are we calling it deferred comp but it is really just selling off company stock? In any case solid effort overall. Good work!
Lots of hard work over a long career with a successful company. I lived in CA and when they raised the tax rate to 13.3% in 2012, I deferred all my stock and bonus and moved to a tax free state. So no magic, just the magic of stock growth over a long period.
hats off to you my friend and your quest for excellence is the reason you have been able to amass a fortune most of us would only dream about.
I am also trying to purchase my first rental, do you mind sprinkling some thoughts how do you get 3.8% spread, I am assuming you have place in mind that can be rented out for 6%. Do you mind sharing what state city etc.. If you can’t i understand. I recently read a book “Richest man in Babylon” and it taught me to ask a rich man how to become rich. Just trying to follow.
I respect the hell out of you for this:
“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.”
Fwiw, to me this speaks volume of your character.
Thanks, but my pride and character got my son nowhere since we got rejected for six of the schools we applied to. Should have just donated the $600 in application fees and all that time filling out the applications.
As time goes on, it may be harder to resist using connections to get ahead given the stakes increase. I’m sure my character will be tested.
Hi Sam, long-time reader here. I personally like the 1/10th car buying rule.
Based on the fact that you would violate this rule again in the future, would you consider modifying the rule to consider other aspects like net worth?
I live in NYC so I don’t have a car myself but am curious when I move out of the city.
Yep, have a much less popular net worth rule for car buying. https://www.financialsamurai.com/net-worth-rule-for-car-buying-guideline/
14 years ago, my wife and I were making $480k a year and had a new baby. We could afford a night nanny to support our busy lifestyle, but I didn’t want to pay for one since we already had a daytime nanny. It caused so much stress to the detriment of my health and our relationship. That was one of my biggest regrets.
Ah! Totally hear you! But you guys made it work right? Great example of not using money to make life better.
We ended up paying 4 months for a night doula, and it was worth it. But I definitely felt the pinch spending on a night doula and seeing my stock portfolio get crushed in March 2020.
If it hadn’t, I probably would have paid for one more month.
If we are quoting movies, then I think the one from Ferris Bueller’s Day off is appropriate for this article:
“Life moves pretty fast. If you don’t stop and look around once in a while, you could miss it.”
I think you have done more than enough so far to echo these sentiments. :)
Great movie. How about you? Have you found yourself stuck going the hard route instead of going the easy route? If so, in what?
Regarding your comments about cars. I was “old school”. Drove an old PU for years thinking – it’s just transportation – I don’t need an new expensive car. Save/invest the money. I thought financing a car was crazy. My son-in-law drove an old car with 240k miles on it. Against my recommendation he bought a near new Toyota 4 runner financing part of the cost. Then it happened. He was hit HEAD ON by a car going over 80 miles per hour. Five airbags went off in his car. He survived. No broken bones. No internal injuries. Thank God and Toyota! The girls in the other car died instantly. I now believe safety should be a very important factor in buying a car – esp. if you have a family. You now have a family Sam. Would your smaller car protect the occupants in a head on crash? I hope so. I now have a new view. No amount of money (active or passive) trumps safety. “Sh#t happens” when you least expect it.
I’m glad your son walked away safe as well! I would happily pay a lot more money to drive an even save her car.
Safety is priceless with family. And I am always on high alert before taking my family anywhere. I don’t like risking so many lives.
Ahh. Read your link. It made me smile. Honda Fit is a great little car but can be a death trap. My son would never have survived in a Honda Fit. The Mercedes G650 Maybach a bit much. The Land Range Rover sounds great and very safe. I hope all your readers understand you were looking for safety first and then luxury. All “rules” re: cars be damned. I’m late learning the best rule is buy the safest car you can buy – esp. with a family! You don’t need to spend $58k as you did. You can get a safe car for much less. Also, you can buy a much more expensive car that is less safe. Safety first sounds a bit boring and old fashioned – then it happens, and you and your family walk away alive and well. That is worth all the money you could ever earn or save!
I wish I would have purchased a new laptop at the beginning of medical school, three years ago. At the time, I really wanted one, but I wrote off a new laptop as an extra expense I could possibly justify in residency, but not medical school. Now, as a third-year medical student, I realize my studying could have been more effective and well-organized if I had purchased a new laptop from the start. I spend so much time reading and researching online, as well as working in charts and doing academic writing, it would have been worthwhile. My laptop is from 2011, and while it has run mostly okay for me, at this point, the pointer doesn’t stay in one place on the screen.
I was raised in a family where we learned how to go without, or make do with what we had. In certain aspects of my life, I have turned that mentality into my own stubborn practicality, in which I rationalized not purchasing some things that would have benefited me in my career or my life. Being in school a long time has also shaped my expectations, as feel the need to pace myself to get through the lean years. It influences my spending decisions on big things, as well at the gas pump and in the grocery line. I can see now that that outlook could contain an element of pride. I hope I will exercise some prudence and right judgment the next time I am considering a purchase I need.
I feel you! My ‘e’ key no longer works well on my 2015 laptop, yet I refuse to upgrade until it dies! But I gotta say… a Macbook Pro is very expensive, hence a big reason. Chromebooks seem good enough for $250!
Once you start earning the big bucks as a doctor, hopefully spending will get easier for you.
You look at your passive income (include pensions, Social Security, disability, etc.) which is any money coming in that is not generated by your portfolio (to include 401(k) plans, Roths, stocks, bonds, mutual funds, and so on).
Make your best guesstimate at what kind of longer term ROI you can expect on that portfolio, and what you anticipate the long term inflation rate is going to be.
Then figure out how much you take home right now and figure you will want it to go up at least 5-10% the day you retire (after inflation). Then figure out how what size that portfolio has to be to take about 2-3% per year until you have to start taking RMDs (hopefully this will be at least a decade, given the RMD age is now 72). That’s time for a well-invested portfolio to more than double.
Don’t forget to budget for medical insurance, and budget even more for it until age 65, when you go on Medicare.
The point being, rather than being on a “fixed” income, you want to be on a growing income, even though you are not working a bit (although, at 65 and older, you can work without impacting your social security, as I expect most people reading this will be paying 85% Federal income tax on their social security either way).
Then you have other issues to consider. If your RMDs are going to bump up your taxable income by much more than 30%, for example, you may want to adjust your drawing or Roth conversions before RMDs come due (bit too late after that) to smooth the upward curve a bit.
The closest we can get to anything resembling security is never having to worry about which will run out first, our life or our money. Given that we have no clue how long we will live (especially with medical science making huge strides in the areas of antiagathics, stem cells, and other life extending technologies) the only way to eliminate that question is to keep your net worth growing in retirement, even after inflation.
The Continental Divide is a line through the Rocky Mountains where all the precipitation that lands on one side will run down to the Pacific and, on the other side, perhaps only inches or feet away, the Atlantic. You need to find this point in your retirement planning, the point where, if you don’t reach it, your money (in terms of real spending power) will flow towards zero and, if on the other side, it should always go up in the long run.
If you don’t reach that point, make your plans around how you will (save more, make more, obtain more passive income, move to a lower cost of living area, and so on). And, if you really can’t, do the best you can and start planning on how to stretch what you will have as far as you can. Perhaps a part-time job in retirement, living with family (this is about not being too proud, right?), and economizing more.
Also, if you ever think $72,000 to send your two kids to a private pre-school is reasonable then, unless you are a huge celebrity, and that money is to pay for your kids’ bodyguards) give yourself a good kick.
Finally, regarding things like an expensive car, around the world cruises, becoming a ski bum, or a park ranger at Yellowstone, or whatever, I’ll paraphrase what I used to tell someone, “You can pretty much have anything you want–you just cannot have everything you want”.
With the unspoken caveats: If you start on it early enough, are motivated enough, are willing to sacrifice other opportunities, and you don’t slammed by the fickle finger of Fate.
Context helps keep everything in check. If we analyze one’s past and current decisions, even when they contradict one another, within the appropriate context its quite easy to adjust and feel okay doing so.
You made a commitment in 2009 under a completely different context to write 3 articles a week. 11 years later, two kids, multiple life changes, etc. you consider toning it down to once or twice? Where is the dishonor in that? There certainly is none, I promise you.
In 2009, the goal seemed appropriate based on your time and energy available, it seemed achievable. 11 years later it is absolutely honorable to reassess your life and adjust as necessary, and if that means once per week, you certainly no less honorable, nor would I presume you have any less pride in your work if you chose to do so.
Adjusting goals and targets based on new information or different context isn’t quitting or giving up, its often a matter of survival or self-preservation and there is no harm or shame in that, but rather quite the opposite. And we have to be mindful and cautious of coaches and friends pushing us too far–many are willing to watch others implode if they stand to gain from it.
I enjoy the numerous articles you write, but if it’s costing you something with your family, health, or personal life beyond your original intention or risk-assessment when you made the commitment in 2009, do the honorable thing and adjust accordingly (e.g. cut back), and if not, I look forward to the many more articles.
Good point on context. Yes, it probably was easier to write 3X a week before two kids and a pandemic. That said, I did have a day job back then.
But enough about me. How about you? Are you struggling with not taking shortcuts or taking things easier due to honor and pride? I’d love to hear from you guys about your stories.
I am changing and adapting constantly based on new information and do not struggle to do so.
I don’t see pride or honor in ignoring a changing climate, facts, or opinions and clinching to our original decisions or goals, I see foolery. I see pride and honor in willingly seeking and understanding new information and adjusting our goals and actions, as may be required, based on that new information or context, and I do this constantly.
Life ebbs and flows, context changes, we learn, we adapt. I do things today I said I wouldn’t do ten years ago, and I have no problem doing so. And if someone wants to call me out for it, I have no qualms sitting down and explaining the change.
Congratulations! Sounds like you have achieved a sort of enlightenment actually.
Can you remind me what is your current situation or stage on your financial journey?
The struggle to be a good parent during lockdown is real for me. How is it for you guys?
The financial scarcity mindset is difficult to turn off after many years in the accumulation phase. I am pretty sure I have squirreled away enough to have a great life but still want to pad my balance sheet a little more because once you leave medicine it is very hard to get back.
Healthcare costs are another thing that is holding me back because I have no idea how much higher they may go until I qualify for Medicare.
I am glad you are loosening the pursestrings on certain items. You only get to enjoy life once and if cars float your boat then by all means indulge once in awhile. My Tesla barely violated your 1/10 rule but I am glad I got it because it gives me great joy to drive even after 5 years. And my net worth still has shot up so much that when graphing it the tesla purchase is just a small blip in the overall picture.
For healthcare costs, if you retire early, I would estimate about $2,000/month for a family of three.
Glad you are enjoying you Tesla! Although I don’t have one, I do have Tesla stock. So I will enjoy Tesla in a derivative way. :)
Sometimes I feel like I get whip-lash reading Financial Samurai. I remember having a near panic-attack reading your “0.5% safe withdrawal rate” just a few months ago, yet here you recommend calculating when you’ll run out of money, which would support a 2-3% withdrawal rate indefinitely. Have you changed your mind, or were you just trying to be provocative in your previous post?
Yes, I still recommend reducing your withdrawal rate to 0.5% or less in the initial years. The main point of my safe withdrawal rate post is to encourage everyone to earn supplemental retirement income for the first two or three years as you transition to retirement.
The people pushing 4% safe withdrawal rate are NOT following their own advice. They are earning tremendous supplemental income. OR, they are still working and haven’t gone through the emotions of retirement.
But aren’t these two pieces of advice directly contradictory? I didn’t say anything about 4% withdrawal but rather 2-3%. It is difficult to imagine running out of money with a 2% withdrawal rate, which would allow me to live comfortably on $100k a year from a $5 million nut. Trying to build that to $20 million to begin to enjoy life seems the very definition of a scarcity mindset.
Not sure. I didn’t say anything about a 2-3% withdrawal rate. You’re free to do so if you want and not earn supplemental retirement income and see how it goes.
Also, I didn’t say you need to build $20 million to begin to enjoy life. That would really stink if everyone who needed to live off $100K had to live like a monk before hitting $20 million. Check out that post again and the conclusion.
Where are you on your financial journey so I can understand where you’re coming from.
One of the challenges is to find that balance of enjoying you money and maintaining financial security. Many are currently burning out right now, hence this post.
In one post you are recommending $5-10mil before going FIRE, the hard route. This article encourages you to take the easier road if it’s available. I love it. This feels authentic and you seem like you are grappling with the same issues as your readers. I wish our politicians would be given the freedom to change positions based on new data or new perspectives instead of being labeled a flip-flop. The freedom to change your mind or perspective is something we need to celebrate more in our society. Thanks for the post.
No problem. I still believe retiring with more is much better than retiring with less due to a huge decline in rates.
This post is born out of burnout. I know there are much easier ways to do things, but I don’t change out of stubbornness.
I’m sure others are in the same boat.
Ha you and I have the same taste in cars. A 911 was my dream car before I had a kid, and now we have a Range Rover sport. Still want a 911 one day as well. I think if a particular category or type of thing brings you pleasure its fine to spend a bit more than average on it (as long as your overall budget is in line with your goals/income of course). For some that could be clothes, others it could be eating out and for car enthusiasts, well…
I have a feeling many folks have the same car desires! So fun to daydream as a student/kid about what car to finally buy. But then, after working your tail off to save and make money, it became so hard to splurge!
But I’m sure if I bought a RRS before 2017, instead of a Fit, I would have been totally fine. Perhaps this is mid-life crisis talking :)
You should go back and look what the 911GTS you almost bought is worth today and compare that with the RRS you did purchase is worth. It’s not purchase price it’s the total cost of ownership that matters. My used 911 I purchased has cost me about $1.5k/yr in depreciation over the course of 8 years and has now started to go back up. At a certain point you look at your gigantic pile of money and realize you could be gone tomorrow.
I’m with Nbsdmp here, we picked up a 2 year old Manual Porsche Boxster after scouring the manual market and realizing that we could both learn to drive a manual and enjoy a spunky 2 seater convertible for 3 years and realistically only face a depreciation cost of 6-9K (if that, manuals are getting to be unicorns). The likely depreciation was cheaper than all listed manual cars when we were looking.
Personally, I’m over the top conservative when it comes to cars. Four in the household (‘01, ‘07, ‘08, and ‘12) with two young drivers. I have always felt like I was winning by paying a car off and having no payments for years. The general rule of thumb is drive them until they are embarrassing. My first car was 19-years old when I sold it. Paid $7,700 and sold it for $2,700. 17 years of usage for 5K. That has stuck with me. The problem is I now have a household income of 250K+ (have a side gig that produces 40-60K a year) and I know that I can write off a new purchase or lease but instead spend most of my time driving an ‘01 pickup. The mindset and established pattern of behavior is hard to break. I was curious why you chose to put out 58K for the Range, versus lease, for a write off (also factoring in opportunity cost of letting go of a big chunk of change on a depreciating asset)? I’ve read that Rover business write-off article like 10 times and still haven’t pulled the trigger. Driving a nice new SUV is something my wife deserves even if I continue to drive one of the old cars. Maybe we could even purchase/lease a new vehicle and purchase a newer used and partially write both off with the modest 30-40K side gig? We commute about 90 miles for the side gig but don’t have to do it too often so overall business mileage stays low. That said, easy to justify it being as high as it needs to be.
Really enjoyed this (And I still need to read Ramit’s book). No matter what the decision, spending too much time thinking without any action is a recipe for regret. With no kids, I’m still probably more likely to see the other side of 3:30 a.m… but kudos to you!
I think Sam’s post make a pretty good argument as to why you don’t have to read his book!
Any reason you didn’t buy a more fuel efficient car with your last upgrade?
Just enjoy the Range Rover Sport and no longer feel the pinch at the pump after so many years of saving and investing. But I do plan to buy an electric vehicle next.
Logic says use every advantage you have to your advantage. There is a reason pride is listed among the seven deadly sins. Some people mistakenly equate pride with integrity, they couldn’t be more wrong.
Good point. Let me delve deeper into pride being a sin. More examples welcome.
I think in the case you mentioned it’s more moral’s than pride. It’s OK to use your advantages when those advantages could be overcome by somebody else’s merit / hard work. Then it’s just a leg up. But when all others are fully excluded and only those with the connections have a chance, it becomes morality.
Lots of good advice! Sometimes we are our own worst enemy as they say. I was foolishly too proud to ask for a raise at work for many years. My bosses lucked out those years. I worked extra hard and got paid less than I deserved. I should have been eligible for overtime, but the company didn’t make my position eligible until many years later. In the end I did fine because I started asking for raises and eventually negotiated a severance, but I should have spoken up sooner.
Yes! Hopefully more people know their worth and ask for a raise more often throughout their career.
Good post Sam, and one that resonates with me. Took me a long time to learn to spend some money and hire people to work on my house for things, since I know how to do much of it, then realized my time is worth something and I can afford to hire help. Hard to shift gears when working this way for so long, I agree!
(Though selfishly, I hope you continue writing 3 – 4 posts per week, I enjoy your posts. )
Time is worth everything, because you can’t exchange anything to get more. It is your ultimate asset, and when you are young and have plenty of tomorrows stacked up before you, it’s hard to see this.
True. Thankfully, as we get older we recalibrate and appreciate time more and are willing to spend money to save time and money.
It was then that I realized that anything is possible in America…You don’t need to have the relevant experience or expertise…
LOL. I agree. Given that someone who’s a paragon of depravity can become the president the last four years, anything is possible indeed.
My father was a hard-working humble man who taught kindness and hard work by example. If he had nothing nice to say about someone he said nothing at all. Wise example.
Agree completely, why play on “hard mode.”
My father once told me, “No one get anywhere without the help of someone.” Which is true, even for all the “self made” people out there, unless you invented your own currency you are relying on others. Whether to gain access to something, buy something, or trade something it will be because of others that you succeed. Don’t turn your back on relationships.
He always had another gem that he tossed around, “If you want to be a millionaire, hangout with millionaires.” Thinking about this simple statement has often changed my outlook on relationship. I have gone from the taker to the giver as my experience has grown over the years. The biggest factor has been meeting and staying connected with successful people, because in my experience successful people want to help others. After all if you are the only one who is free all the time to do whatever you want, you will become bored. Wouldn’t it be more fun to have friends on the same level as you to enjoy spending time with. (Reference how much better it felt when your wife gave notice and retired, versus when you watched her go to work while you set off to the tennis courts.)
The other thing you touched on is the complacency people have. Why are people afraid to change and take a risk. Failure it always a threat, but if you were able to get a job before, what makes you think you can’t get another if something doesn’t work out. I think that people who are “stuck in low wages” are making the choice. There are so many ways to make money these days, and all it takes is some effort. Sure, not everyone is money hungry but, life can be easier with more resources. So, if someone is stuck in a “dead end” job, why don’t they change it? People use the excuse it’s too hard. Tell that to the immigrants who boated or swam across the ocean to get to the USA and went on to become executives and successful entrepreneurs. Nothing is too hard.
My last comment… While I agree with you that there was a potential for starting something sooner resulting in more success, I don’t necessarily agree. Maybe the time line arch with FS a couple years sooner could have helped. However, the delayed start likely made you want to push harder and have a more focused drive. I’m not a proponent of waiting for the moment, and I fully support the start today method. However, When I think about regrets, I fall on the Warren Miller skiing video quote, “If you don’t do it this year, you’ll be one year older when you do.”
Your dad is a wise man! Great Warren Miller quote. Never heard it. And I love the assumption that eventually it will get done.
I think I started Financial Samurai in 2006, it would be better. But my career may have suffered because I would be too distracted and stressed to handle both. Maybe I would have been punished for working on FS from the office. Who knows!
But like Miller said… it was eventually done. No better time to start something than right now.
Great post! As Marcellus Wallace said in Pulp Fiction: “Fuck pride. Pride never helps. It only hurts. You fight through that shit.” I enjoy your posts and not even for the financial thoughts. Maybe it’s an odd Asian wavelength lol. Keep it up!
Great movie! Just rewatched it several months ago. Screw pride indeed…. welll… I Donno.
It feels fantastic to see the results based on your own efforts.