It's normal to dream about being rich. But the real question is whether you want to be rich or do you want to be free? Personally, I chose freedom in 2012 at the age of 34. That's why I walked away from a multiple six-figure job in finance.
Some people want mega riches. Others don't want to be rich just comfortable. And some people simply don't understand why they want to be rich but they just do. But what if you could only choose between being rich or free. Now that's a topic most people don't think about.
I play tennis mainly at two different locations.
The first location is a public park in the Parkside district of San Francisco. Every Tuesday and Thursday there's Tai Qi from 8:30am – 10am. On Wednesdays, there's Zumba blaring in the background from 10:30am – noon. And every Friday there are beer cans and cigarette butts strewn all over the court, just waiting for players like me to clean them up. The graffitied walls are a nice final touch. It's the price for being free.
The second location is my tennis club. To join requires a main sponsor, four letters of recommendation, plus a one month vetting period during which any member can black ball you for any reason. The club has an initial member fee of $12,000, after which you pay monthly dues of about $225 – $500, depending on consumption. Talk about a big difference playing on rich or free tennis courts.
The courts at the club are pristine. There's no noise pollution except for the occasional excessive grunt. Decal chairs adorn the sidelines along with neatly folded towels next to always full water coolers. After a match, players will often get a drink at the bar, play some dice, and then head to the sauna before showering.
It's obviously much nicer to play at my club than at the public courts. However, I play on the free public courts twice as often. Why is this? Simple. Most people at my club don't have time to play! It struck me that we can work on figuring out how to get rich, but ultimately may have to choose between being rich or free.
Player Profiles: An Analysis Of Being Rich Or Free
In San Francisco, the best time to play tennis is between 10am – 3pm. The morning dew has evaporated by then. The temperature is warmer. And you never have to wait for a court because most people are working. Unfortunately, very few people at my club can play during these times.
Even my wealthiest friend can only play before 9am because he has to be at work by 10:30am. Come on buddy. YOLO! If I was the big boss, with mega bucks, I'd ban meetings before 11am and keep them to no more than 15 minutes.
Here are profiles of four players I recently played tennis with at my club:
1) Top 5 undergrad, Top 3 MBA, entrepreneur, son of a high ranking government official. Age 42. White. 4.0 USTA rating.
2) Big state school undergrad, Top 3 MBA, ex-head of a Private Wealth Management division for a top investment bank, currently a private wealth manager at a smaller shop. Age 52. White. 4.0 USTA rating.
3) Top 3 undergrad, Top 20 MBA, and entrepreneur. Father was head of a private equity business that killed it in the late 90's. Age 46. White. 4.0 USTA rating.
4) Top 3 undergrad, Top 3 MBA, co-founder of a VC that invested early in the likes of Uber, Airbnb, and Slack. Age 44. White. 4.0 USTA rating.
Being Rich Has Advantages But Not Time
Clearly all of these players have outstanding academic and professional resumes. Their kids will have incredible advantages and I don't think any of them will ever have to worry about money. More importantly, they're also humble and friendly people to hang out with. They have the same problems as everybody else when it comes to relationships, hopes and dreams for their children, doing better at work, etc.
Despite them all working way more than 40 hours a week, I'm always suggesting we play at a more reasonable 4:30pm to avoid the after work rush. But I never succeed because nobody can actually get there by 4:30pm! Even if they commit on rare occasion, there's always at least two who arrive 15-30 minutes late. By the time we warm up, we often don't get started until 45 minutes later.
More Freedom For The Middle Class
Here are the player profiles of guys I recently hit with at the public park:
1) Didn't go to college. Works as a wheelchair assistance operator at San Francisco International Airport. Age 43. Filipino. 4.5/5.0 USTA rating.
2) Didn't go to college. Retired at age 52 after working for 20 years as an IT help technician at the largest retail bank on the west coast. Bought a four unit building 25 years ago and lives off the rental income. Drives a 1986 Nissan 240Z. Age 62. Indian. 4.5 USTA rating. We literally played 32 matches last year.
3) Didn't go to college. Works as a cook at a Chinese restaurant. Hooks me up with some free dumplings every time I visit his work. Age 38. Chinese. 5.0 USTA rating.
4) Went to a local state university. Teaches elementary school. Age 39. Half White, half Chinese. 4.5 USTA rating.
Guess when we are always playing? Between 10am – 3pm! None of these players make more than $65,000 a year, yet they get to play during the best time of the day because they are either retired or have a late shift.
Further, seldom is anybody ever late. We are constantly playing for 2 – 3 hours a session because we don't have anywhere urgent to go. Also, notice how all their USTA ratings are higher as well, probably because they get more time to practice.
The Rich Are Always Rushed
At my club, the average playing time is only about 1.15 hours. After rushing to the club from work, the players have to rush home to see their families, attend some work related event, or go to some fundraiser party. It sure seems like the rich are always rushed.
“My wife is going to kill me,” is a common excuse I hear for folks jetting early. Most of the public court players also have families. But, their kids are usually in school while they play. Or, their kids are playing in the playground next door to daddy. By the time they finish, they still have plenty of time to run around with their kids and eat dinner.
Rich Or Free: Which Is A Better Lifestyle?
Would you choose to be rich or free? You can have all the money in the world. But, if you have no free time to spend it, what's the point of being rich? The public court players aren't poor. They just aren't very wealthy. They are middle class. Yet their lifestyles are pretty wonderful if you ask me. The private club players also have nice lives, they are just time constrained due to their jobs.
For those of you who are obsessed about getting rich, think really hard about trying to kill yourself so that one day you can live the lifestyle that everyday, middle class people get to live right now. And for those of you who've already achieved a comfortable level of wealth, what are you really trying to prove?
Making more money when you already have so much more than most people is so meaningless. Take a step back and think about creating more purpose instead.
Here's What Happens When You Get Richer
- You pay a larger percentage of your income to taxes.
- You're accused of not paying your fair share even though you pay way more taxes than the person accusing you of not paying your fair share.
- Rich politicians pandering for votes demonize you while also asking you for campaign contributions on the side.
- You're subject to retroactive taxes voted by people who don't have to pay more taxes.
- The media also demonizes you, even though journalists often come from relatively well to do families, otherwise they wouldn't be able to afford joining a structurally declining industry.
- Expectations of you increase to levels of unreasonableness.
- People start liking you for your money instead of your personality.
- Somebody always wants something from you.
- The demand for your time goes way up.
- You can never play in the middle of the day because you're just too important or too busy.
- It's impossible to drop off or pick up your kids at school, let alone hang out with them after because you're always traveling for work.
- You get so wrapped up in your work that you forsake other relationships and interests.
As a high earning corporate employee for 13 years and then as an unemployed writer for five years, I've seen both sides of the fence. I can say with 100% certainty life is better earning less! Not poverty level less, just enough to have all your needs and some wants covered.
I don't miss the fancy meals or business class trips to Asia because at the end of the day, it was still work. I am totally content eating a $2.60 In N' Out cheeseburger instead of a $80 wagyu steak as well. Further, I couldn't give a baboon's ass about prestige or power. Being the Vice President of a company whose main goal is to get you hooked on a sugary drink isn't very honorable. Running a company that tries to get you to sign up for another 24.99% APR credit card you don't need is filthy.
The best combination is to probably be rich and free. But even that lifestyle is not much better than that of a regular income earning person who is living a purposeful lifestyle. Appreciate what you have right now. Being rich is not an amazing panacea. Being free with the consistent ability to help other people is.
- How The Rich Get Richer
- Lessons From The Rich Who Took Advantage Of Free Government Money
- How To Tell If You’re Rich Even If You Think You Aren’t
- Millennials Will Be The Richest And Happiest Generation Ever
- It Doesn’t Take A Genius To Be Rich Or Run A Country
- When Did Being Rich Become So Evil?
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Recommendation If You Want To Move On
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130 thoughts on “Do You Want To Be Rich Or Do You Want To Be Free?”
Ive been a financial trader since 1998 when I lost my initial $30k stake. I have never looked back. Along the way I have had the odd job, I’ve worked at boutique firms in nice southern California cities, there was a period of 3 years where I worked in my trading firm 5am to 130pm, then worked as a quality control engineer from 230pm to 1030 pm while i lived in my office: pullout couch, doing everything to hide my wardrobe items during the day. I’ve tutored also 50 hours per week while trading the US markets early in the morning. I have failed so many times, and while failing and succeeding, I found freedom.
Im 51 and I have developed a high 120mph serve. In college the fastest I served was 119. That was nearly 30 years ago. I blew out my knee when I was young, dropped out of my first college and became a snowboard instructor, no tennis for years. Later I returned to college with a small tennis scholarship. I know this isn’t in order, but I am not going to edit this for a grade.
I have always been tempted, even sometimes now, to forgo the challenge of facing uncertainty directly and mask it with corporate benefits, a steady salary, and the host of other invisible shackles that provide most with that hint of “what’s is missing?” Everytime I dipped into that pool, I suffocated more each time. Freedom has a lot of gears, but for me, reverse was not one of them.
I am not at all surprised that the most corporate involved individuals are the worst tennis players in the original post. I could not take any position that would force me to play for 1 hour on days I play. In tennis, that is also a recipe for chronic injury. In fact, I choose trading for mobility. It allows me to be in southern california and Las vegas on a bi-weekly schedule, working out on the court on any day I please. In trading, the significant work is done in the early early morning on the left coast, and the rest of the day, generally, is just updating entries and exits, and that can be done anywhere quite simply, accurately, and professionally.
I could not choose a career that would allow me to be less strong than I am, meaning I don’t have time for rest, proper food selection, copious amounts of sun on my skin, lifting the big lifts at least 1x per week at the gym, use of a seasons ski pass to the local mountains (and now with the bi-corporate ski industry consolidation, this pass is good at 1/2 the resorts nearly worldwide, truly the golden age for a skier/ snowboarder).
There is a location where I play tennis in Las Vegas not much unlike the park described about in SFO. In fact, the nationalities, personalities and occupational choices are strikingly similar. In my hometown, I mean where I live, I belong to a non-profit club that caters to professionals. I served on the board as treasurer and president in my 40s, because it’s an important organization for tennis. Nearly everyone plays after 5pm, I get lucky if I can hit with the college players in the afternoons, or find a healthcare guy that has a late shift. But mostly it’s physical training and on court solo practice at home during the week day.
I am in bed by 730pm pst when I am doing things right. Up at 3, no alarm, just excited for the opportunities changing around the world. Sometimes, on Fridays, my professional friends sneak away for a 730 am hit, but to make that I must miss a key part of my day, so I can’t do that without business consequences. This is the only day I really need to choose.
Women have tried to make me more “successful,” but I think what women really want is knowing a guy is tied to a job, a place, without the options of true freedom. Have true freedom and women are quite uneasy. Think about that. I won’t give up my freedom, which I can attest to is probably the most liquid of anyone I know. And, on the flip side, it also has the most uncertainty.
I have had a few trading mentors, well, maybe nearly 100. Some I have directly worked with, some have been authors whom I have dialed up after reading their books, one hired me where I failed, then he fired me. One of the most successful had a lot to say about uncertainty.
I believe this issue is around uncertainty. In order to retain the most value added benefit, it is apparent to me you must be able to operate systematically with your imperfect money and time, while acknowledging the inherent and often times brutal influence of uncertainty. If you can do this, you retain maximum freedom degrees. If you seek success with security/certainty, then it generally comes with the time and thought shackles. Gentlemen, I propose it isn’t just your time that is constrained, but the thoughts you permit yourself to think as well. The guys who have enough bling to play at the towel-chair club yet are stuck at the 4.0 level forever, and likely can’t focus while they play. Shackled. The guy who can show up at the public park, rip a serve, be athletic, tan, happy and full of joy on the court for the performance: free. The second guy is me.
What I got from trading first was time and freedom. I have boomed and busted, and as a result developed a non-bank network of other businessmen for money transfers. There is no interest, and your credit is your word. That’s sure useful, however I actually don’t like the money except for its utility. I’d rather not deal with money, it has strife and struggle and all kinds of evils built into it. Nobody makes money without strife, at some level. Whatever the internet gurus say about money and happiness they are trying to sell you something. No amount of money will ever cover the costs of the pain of the losses, or if you work for a salary, the soul crushing choices you have had and will have to make to continue earning. And you cannot know what soul crushing choices you have made until you become more free. Further, money is manipulated not only by supply/demand forces (as the books tell us) but also significantly by small groups of people with other agendas. But, money is more convenient than barter, faster, more portable and more commonly accepted. So we use it. Having a conscious disdain for it is probably healthy.
So, for me, ironically, money is dead last. I have always had enough. I have always been taken care of. The prior two sentences weren’t always reality but beliefs I have had to embrace during the times when I couldn’t see where the money was. Ironically, they have done a lot to free me and keep me making choices. If money is the most important thing, it has too much power over my thinking. I refuse to relinquish that.
What if you are too afraid to get to the freedom. I’ll try to explain, I got into debt and I’ve attempted to accelerate my net worth growth by investing cash into more assets.
But after doing this, by generating new income streams with debt (good debt if I could call it that way)
I got really afraid to let go of my full-time job. I’m not at 20x multiplier as you recommend and I’m thinking if this is the cause or that I feel really insecure by taking debt to work in my favor.
I’m feeling like I’m in this loop and I can’t let go.
How to deal with this kind of fear?
Sure, I wrote a post addressing this fear: Overcoming The “One More Year Syndrome” To Do Something New
You’ll also like: The Fear Of Running Out Of Money In Retirement Is Overblown
Thanks Sam. It’s great to read your thoughts, to ponder what makes life worth living. It is a great problem to have, the freedom to choose the structure of life and the balance that work and other activities take on.
I’m kind of a workaholic, but when I dig deep I think I have created something close to my ideal balance. I love knowledge and learning. I dedicated so many years to my education. I am a medical doctor who has worked hard. I started a side medical business that is highly successful, but I still love being at the bedside and I love giving to patients. I feel useful in this world when I am helping, and caring. And I love teaching the next generation. And I still like to do consulting work from home, in the comfort of my study. I get to use my knowledge and keep my brain challenged.
I created my vision of freedom by living in a beautiful, comfortable home 5 minutes from work, by mountain biking in the woods with my friends to start every day, by traveling to amazing places around the world with my dear spouse a few times each year. And I balance that with a moderate pace of work, teaching a bit, caring for patients a bit, overseeing the team that runs my business a bit, consulting a bit, sharing exercise, meals, and activities with family and friends, and some volunteering in a few gaps.
A side effect of the productive work that I love to do is incredible financial wealth. But that isn’t the goal, that is just the result of doing important work that I care about, that just happens to be highly compensated, that flows from having started a successful company. It seems crazy to feel this way, but it is a bit of a burden to have too much money. I feel the pull of a responsibility to spend time thinking about what charities to donate more money to when I am busy doing a lot of other things.
Multi-millionaire here, NYC, Wall Street, 20 years of hard labor in the gulag… I’m sure Sam knows exactly where I’m coming from. I’ve been lurking around, but this is my first post.
For the record, I’m not one of those masters of the universe types raking in huge 7-figure bonuses year in, year out, but in this business, you don’t have to get that far to do really well. You just have to get a foot in the door, work really really hard, survive the cuts, and be very disciplined. A little luck helps too… I have had some very good windfall years (and a lot of pretty sucky ones too).
I’ve worked excessively hard my entire life (save for a couple of brief lapses in my youth) with the goal of achieving above-average financial success. I did it the only way I could think of, coming from disadvantaged economic circumstances. Raised in a struggling single-parent household, my mother was a wonderful example of dedication, responsibility and hard work, and she taught me to aim high. But I had to figure a lot of things out on my own once I shipped out.
As latch-key kid I would hustle dollars doing everything from washing cars to cutting lawns. In high-school I just about killed myself to get into a top Ivy League school. In college I hit some bumps adapting, but ultimately did well, graduated with honors and landed a series of jobs with big prestigious corporations and financial firms. I’ve changed career paths a couple times, seeking bigger and better opportunities, and reinventing myself to stay sharp.
I’ve achieved many of the things I set out to do: I’m wealthy by the standards of almost anyone (though oddly not by my own… given I know many ultra-high NWers); married to a beautiful, caring and intelligent woman; own luxurious homes, drive nice cars, can shop anywhere without $ concern, respected by my peers, hobnob with the rich and successful and often famous.
But….. I’ve recently decided enough already. The benefits now cease to be as exciting as I get older and more exhausted. I started on my career late, and have worked very hard to try to make up ground, but I’ve probably gone as far as I’m going to go. I’ve given up many evenings, weekends, holidays, etc. I don’t know what its like to not have to check email constantly or not be on the phone with collegues and clients every weekend. Sunday evenings are basically treated like Monday mornings – filled with conference calls.
So what’s taken me so long… I exceeded the million dollar mark at least a decade ago.
For one, I’ve actually enjoyed my career(s). Yes, there have been huge sacrifices, but I love the deal-making, I love being on the winning team, and I love winning. I love that the stakes are huge, I mean really really huge. I love that my role is so crucial – that if I don’t do my job well a crater would open up in the ground and swallow dozens of careers (including mine) and millions of dollars (not mine). I love that many important people in the business world have my number on speed dial. I love that I read about the transactions I’ve worked on in the news papers all the time and that I know all the inside stuff that few people have any idea. I love that if I don’t perform in this utterly ruthless environment, hell will rain down from the sky and I will be terminated with extreme prejudice, but not before being publicly drawn and quartered to send a message to all the other cowering prisoners. I love that I have to bring my A-Game to work each and every day – day in and day out – that there is absolutely no room for failure – ever – no matter how long the odds or how tough the assignment. I love that sometimes I am tasked with moving mountains and accomplishing the impossible – and I somehow manage to do it.
These things have been motivators to me in some way shape or form, all my life. I’ve always seen myself as the underdog, needing to continually prove that I am worthy of a seat at the table. That I have met the test of staying alive in this vicious nightmare for 20-some years is something I’m perversely very proud of. But, as time goes on, the rewards feel diminished, and the adrenaline rush feels more like what it really is…. a huge amount of stress and agravation. I should be spending my remaining time on Earth differently. I’ve mentored and nurtured and trained the next generation, and I feel really good about that. Time for me to get out of the way and move on.
Certainly, the fact that I have F-U money and could walk away has made it easier to deal with, but I’m finding that the walking away part is not quite so simple as I had imagined.
I’ve made the decision, that I will start taking the steps to retire (at least from Wall St). I don’t know what I’ll do for work or if I will work at all. Wife is totally supportive, and the few close friends whom I’ve told are thrilled for me. But, there are some tough choices to be made. We’ve enjoyed a great lifestyle over the years – modest in comparison to our means but nonetheless very pricey given where we live. Transitioning to a zero-income situation at a still reasonably youthful stage is going to mean making some changes. When your life is as fast-paced as ours, you tend to spend a lot of money on conveniences. As we work through looking at our spending, we’re a bit shocked at how much fat there is in our spending and its gotten away from us a bit. Nothing that can’t be corrected – these are very high-class problems – but it is a process.
There is also a psychological component to all this. I grew up in and around urban poverty. My family never quite went hungry, but there were times when we were close to it – frighteningly close. Beans and rice for dinner ever day of the week kind of close. Homeless people sleeping in our vestibule (that my mom would feed and cloth) kind of close. And I saw a lot of things around me like drugs and violent crime that seared into my brain that I never ever want to go back there. A shrink would probably say that I’ve been running from that fear all my life. Giving up a really lushous income simply feels like an insane and irrational act to me. But, I’ve overcome a lot of fears in my life to get where I am and will overcome this one too.
My “problems” are problems most people would love to have. Not expecting sympathy in the least – quite the opposite. I expect to get yelled at for “wasting” so much of my life in the pursuit of more wealth than anyone should need. But that was my choice. And I’m not sure given a chance to do it all over again, that I would do it much differently other than making some better career choices. Just sharing. I discovered FS a few months ago and its been a huge help – lots of good topics raised and many of you provide great role models for how to think about my next life phase.
Have to jump to a conference call now….
What exactly do these ego-driven financial types do? How do they actually deliver value to society commensurate with their compensation?
I’m hoping that the idea is that they are planning for the future, and investing in things that make an appreciable impact on many peoples lives. This requires the ~2x-3x time dedication to information-gathering, cross-validation, and analysis.
The more cyclical side of me thinks that it’s also a fair component of being determined & making use of leverage. This averages similar value to those picking food or paving the streets. Some of those guys work very hard too. And, as your article suggests, they get to live a fine life as well … good.
Being made redundant 4 months ago really has made me appreciate all the time i now have to do whatever i want.
Having no mortgage to pay and a tidy sum invested beside the redundancy money,i feel like i’m finally enjoying life..
At 56 i’m pretty sure i won’t be working a full time job again,and that feeling is so good especially now spring is just round the corner….
“For those of you who are obsessed about getting rich, think really hard about trying to kill yourself so that one day you can live the lifestyle that everyday, middle class people get to live right now.”
This reminds me of the Parable of The Mexican Fisherman and the Investment Banker. It is easy to lose sight of what’s truly important in life. Thanks for always keeping us in check, Sam.
I’m in a profession that could be a lot more lucrative if I was willing to give up my freedom. I set up my own business in a small niche. I dress how I want. Set my own hours. Charge more to people I don’t like as much as the cost of having to see them. I could go work for someone else to get more money and prestige, but I would also lose my time and control over my existence. It does not seem to be a fair trade.
I like this post. It hits on something key for me. I find there are mainly 2 types of people I tend to meet- those who care what other people think and those who don’t. Guess who I’d rather spend time with? The latter. I find those people to be more joyful and fun. I really can’t even stand going to my husband’s holiday party anymore, because it’s full of pretentious people. I cannot engage in a conversation about “the most money I’ve ever spent on a pair of shoes,” without an open look of disdain on my face. I had to stop having lunch with a friend who was obsessed with her children getting into Sidwell among other things…I just don’t want to live the “keeping up with the Joneses” lifestyle, because you’ll always be chasing the life of your richer neighbor. You have to find your own happiness, and I think we all know it’s not material. I actually used to care what people thought, but I went through a rough patch of infertility/IVF, and that’s when I had the clarity to see what was REALLY important in life. I can’t say I miss my former self- in fact, I regret wasting so much time being insecure, but I think I was a product of the environment I was in (a former attorney). I’ve never been happier just being REAL.
I want to be free. I work to create a freedom for me and my family. I do it for the team. Thats why I decided to go into insurance and financial planning. I make money while I sleep and all my new efforts build on what is already in place. I also invest into a tax free retirement, while being involved with my church and life groups, which give meaning to my present.
Hilarious post. Coming from a tennis buff who learnt tennis in his youth and now has no time or decent courts or fellow hitters even for a rally game, I enjoyed this very much. Soon enough we will be using USTA ratings to predict your quality of life. Haha.
‘They have the same problems as everybody else when it comes to relationships, hopes and dreams for their children, doing better at work, etc.’
‘Being free with the consistent ability to help other people is.’
Words of gold that resonated with me.
I am mildly surprised you would still be with your tennis club though given all the freedom you have and the costs involved.
I found this post inspiring, thanks samurai.
(38y/o physician, who works at hard at making sure he has lots of free time)
I think everyone should have two plans – a minimum viable “freedom” plan and a “get rich” plan.
The best way to have both plans running simultaneously is in a marriage – where one partner plays the risky card and one plays it safe. This way you know for sure you will achieve the minimum viable “freedom” plan if the “get rich” plan fails. If the “get rich” plan is a success then of course you’re rich and you can do anything you want with your money and freedom.
I understand that not everyone has this choice, but as we can see from the early retirement community (those who’ve done it in HCOL areas as well as LCOL) double incomes do get you to your goals faster.
This is a huge issue. Chasing prestige.
You mentioned the kids of the tennis club folks having many advantages. But there are disadvantages, mainly expectations placed upon them (your friends included bc they also likely grew up in that environment). It isn’t a setup for a happy life, nothing ever seems good enough.
To answer the title of this article, Too Short said it best ‘I want to be free’
I was looking for some guidance: I am married with 2 young kids. I’m 47, self employed, wife is an attorney. We own 3 homes (primary, rental and a vacation home) $1,150,000 in mortgages combined. Value of all 3 is about $2,700,000. We have $110,000 in a savings account earning 1.05%. No other debt and no other investments(no stocks, bonds or retirement plans) we prefer to save and possibly purchase another rental? When we accumulate enough to purchase. We were curious what your suggestions are. Thanks!
George…I think you need some diversification out of real estate into the stock market. It appears you have 93% of your net worth in real estate. However, you certainly need to keep a nice cushion of cash handy for security and just in case 1 of your 3 properties need a roof, have a flood, etc…you know the deal. So, keep $50k in bank and buy VT (total world market index, 2.32% yield, 60% USA, 40% world) With all due respect I’d be concerned not being liquid enough if need be. Get a HELOC on one of the properties so you can tap that equity just in case.
Hi Jc thanks for response, Investing in the market has been a Desmond for years. I never have the nerve to try it. Furthermore, I save in order to buy more property. What other suggestions do you have?
hey…whatever you are comfortable with, if its another property so be it. but more than 90% of your NW in illiquid real estate is not ideal IMO. VT is diversified among countries and companies..so the risk is spread. You can also buy VNQ which is a publicly traded Real Estate Investment Trust index. If you like Real estate you can invest in this instead of another property, it yields about 4.5% and its liquid so if you need the $ you can sell in one second instead of selling a property and paying the commissions and closing costs. Good luck
I really appreciate your input. I think you are correct. Makes a lot of sense. However I’ve kept away my whole life so it’s tough for me to chose the right options. These you mentioned seem interesting. Thanks again
I also notice that the market is up right now. Maybe waiting for a drop and then getting in? How do you feel about Bitcoin?
Its hard to pull the buy trigger on anything when its been going up recently. Sure, wait for a pull back, but we dont know if market will rally another 10% only to pull back 5%. Thats why buying once a month or once per quarter works well. I agree the US stock market is tough to buy now, but that VNQ REIT ETF is 8% off its highs. Personally I have been buying VWO and VEA two index funds that represent international emerging market and international developed markets. They offer value relative to the US market. Nothing wrong with diversifying in some bitcoin but only with speculative money especially since bitcoin has also rallied 200%. Bitcoin doesn’t pay a dividend so I dont love that. IMO you only need to own 5 stock assets:
VTI, VWO, VEA, VNQ, BND . Simplify your holding and life.
Hi Jc do you also own any real estate? Other thing is how are these funds you like taxed? Because I assume you are not into individual stocks
Yes I own my condo and 2 condo’s above me that I rent out. Although I may combine all 3 soon for a primary residence. I’ve owned other income properties in the past but all needed more attention and more burdensome that I wanted. I sold and took that money and put into VNQ (non taxable account) Most Dividends in VTI are qualified and taxed according to your income bracket but VNQ is approx. 65% taxed at ordinary income rate. The international ETF’s are 50% or so but check vanguard website. Individual stocks are too risky, unless you are playing with speculative money. If your self employed you should start some sort of retirement account where your business can contribute $. This way you can participate in the stock market through a tax advantaged account. But you cant touch until your 59 or so depending on the account. That may be good because in 12 years there is a damn good chance the markets will be higher than they are now, and you wont be tempted to sell before if things get rocky.
Thanks Jc, I’m pretty sure you must have researched vanguard as opposed to other funds? My other concern is 529 plans for the kids. I don’t like it being restricted to only education. Any thoughts?
Vanguard most cost effective. I have no knowledge of 529 plans.
This is one of the best posts by you! Indeed, nothing makes life richer than have enough time AND money.
Have you ever had a problem explaining to people what you do with all your free time. It is like they are curious and envious at the same time. How then do you say something that does not make you sound aimless or goal-less?
Great post. I think freedom will make me much happier than riches. Don’t get me wrong, it would be great to be rich, but not at the expense of my freedom. I currently work a lot of hours, plus most hours I spend away from my day job I spend working on my blog. As the years go by, I hope to transition to a point where passive income is enough to support the lifestyle I live now.
My mother passed away last year, of cancer. My expenses last year – over $200K, financially. My expenses emotionally – invaluable. My dad is left alone.
Of course, money will buy you a 60″ TV, but never a good movie.
Life is same. Money buys things. Not love, or loved ones.
So, why run after money? Because we must, till a certain “stage in life”, not necessarily a certain “age in life”.
We must have enough.
How much is enough?
Enough that you never have to ask anyone else for money in your life.
Its about pride.
About the belief in self.
I can sleep on floor, eat 2 piece of bread with jelly to survive.
But its not about me.
Can I send my kids to a school they choose and get selected to?
Can I pay for my parent’s cancer treatment, when they cannot afford to?
Can I buy the ticket to Europe for my 14 year old, because all her friends are going?
Thats the kind of freedom I seek.
Not for self, but for my loved ones. Now, or in their future.
Freedom is never for self.
Freedom is from attachments, and duties.
I totally hear you. Every once in awhile I look back at what I made straight out of college and have no idea how I lived on such little money (OK, I really do know since I keep a detailed budget, but still…). For some reason we always seem to find a way to spend/invest every dollar we earn, always making us seek more.
My personal goal is to get to the point where I can live a life like you described — free to do whatever I want during the day rather than being strapped to a 10+ hr a day job. I’m still able to make kids’ sports and events today, but sometimes travel gets in the way, which frustrates me to no end. My hope is that I can get to the point where I can support my family while having the freedom to better enjoy life before I’m too old to do so!
This is an excellent post, Sam!
Although I am not wealthy, I can definitively say that I value time and freedom over riches. Also, I am very focussed on the value I get for the money I spend. For example, even I was in the financial position to do so, I doubt I would ever spend 12 grand on a tennis club membership. I bet most of the people at that club are only members so they can tell people about their membership. From my perspective, if there is a free option, I would take that for sure and then use that 12 grand to travel. It’s just about values though.
Furthermore, your list about what happens when you are rich are examples of the reasons I’ve never been that ambitious when it comes to working my way up the corporate ladder–more money or status within an organization is meaningless to me.
I believe a lot of people are wrongly chasing riches/status instead of freedom. I have a lot of friends working in the financial industry that are desperately trying to move up the corporate ladder without having much of a reason to do so. They don’t have logical reasons for their end goals. They don’t know what their day to day will even look like once they get there. They have no vision.
I’ve never reached my magical number. However, my magical number isn’t based off status, it’s based off the lifestyle it could provide. My magical number would allow me to be FI by living off dividends, blogging, and freelancing. The freedom, fulfillment, and day to day life that would accompany that number is the real magic.
I think would be easier to tell people to stop chasing riches once you are already rich. People tend to be followers. In my experience, no one will listen until you’ve done it.
Thanks for sharing the great post :)
What if part of your happiness requires some money?
I live in a decent North NJ neighborhood – 3BR/1BA.
In order to enjoy my passions – I need a bigger house, bigger property, etc, and a bigger house in north nj is going to cost you. You could tell me move somewhere else which isn’t as expensive, but then I will be losing out on many other things (access to restaurants, nyc, culture, etc). Therefore I need to work towards executive director (IB Technology) like you were to achieve the life style I want. If I went on a ‘$65K’ salary – good luck to me ever reaching my goals, and maybe I wouldnt enjoy life now. So I will continue to grind out my 30s to get what I need, else I don’t think it will come.
My property is not enough space or sunlight for the size vegetable garden I want. So I drive 15 minutes away to a community garden plot I can’t get to every day.
I also don’t have a downstairs bathroom as I live in a very old house, so entertaining requires guests to go upstairs, which requires the entire house to be tidy every time someone comes over. We really enjoy entertaining, and it is a shame I can’t even have my immediate family over without having to setup a card table which extends into the living room as my dining room/table can only seat 6 comfortably.
I also have a sizeable wine collection (300ish bottles) – I can’t even store the majority of it at my house.
I also enjoy brewing beer, but I hardly have room for all my equipment/supplies.
Great time vs money post and the tale of two tennis worlds was a great metaphor.
I think the big lesson for people is to try to delay gratification without sacrificing REAL quality of life, so they can have more freedom (time) later.
For everyone the mix of what is important will change but the lesson that freedom and time always win out over money is an important one to always keep in mind.
Ya, I’ve already accelerated the vacation plan this year :). Thanks for the input & keep up the great work on your blog!
This is something I’ve been struggling with currently, so thanks a lot for the post. My situation is a little unusual because I spent my 20’s and half of my 30’s pursuing a career in the theater. I only had part time jobs and lived on as little as I could. I earned my ‘frugal bachelor’s degree’ through work-study ;). I also had a ton of freedom.
But then in my mid 30’s I was weary of trying and not hitting the big time, so I started climbing the ladder in television production. Thanks to my early habits, now at 49 I’m just below my 25x savings rate in investments but slowly dying in a corporate slog. I find myself at a crossroads: If I stick it out for 2 more years I’ll reach FI. But at 49 I’m really not sure I want to give away my time. If I don’t stick it out, I will have to work anyway since I’m in LA/high COL and…I’m not sure what to do. I could scale back to part time, or I could also do something more independent like start my own small production business. But that sounds like a headache in the making too. Ha.
Anyway, it’s a great post to get me thinking, thank you and I’d love to hear your thoughts as some one on the other side :).
Hi Travis! I think it is great that you actually pursued your interest early on in life and that you’re only two years away from financial independence as how you define it.
My advice is to get it out for two more years. But in those two years, take all your vacations, look at all your paid time off and sick days, and use them. My biggest mistake was never using any sick days during my 11 years of my previous firm.
When you know the end is near, it makes the journey of paying that much easier. And of course, if you can negotiate a severance in two years, then you will feel like a major, major winner for walking away from a job you wanted to with money in your pocket.
I know how you feel, I am ten years away from FI at age 60, my advice to you at your age is to partner up with a like minded(FI) person who will make your journey in life very memorable, as it is experiences not consumables that should be your goals. If you get together with the wrong partner you may never financially recover, spend lots of time with someone before you commit to them to make sure your on the same page.
Try to get to a personal savings rate of 50% ASAP , invest it in a low fee stock index and by the time your forty your there. I put away 50% of my net and my lifestyle has not been hampered one bit it is actually better since I pay myself first, invest the difference, which sets my lifestyle. It is a stress free way to live because the money I have left over is mine to spend how I see fit with no guilt as I have already saved for my future.
Also you don’t need a huge income to do this as I have never made six figures but I will be FI in about ten years, yet friends of mine who make 6-8 times my wage will have to work until they drop to keep up their lifestyle.
Wise words. I believe everything you have written. It’s not so much the need to make big bucks, but the discipline to live within your means.
Honestly, this is the essence of my current dilemma. My career in the military has involved sometimes obscene hours. I recall for one several year stretch that I was getting up at 4:15 AM to be at the office by 5:15 AM and then only getting home in time to read my kids a bedtime story, usually 7:30 PM or later. This doesn’t even count the weekends, weeks, and years away because of field training, deployments, etc. Now that I’m transitioning to a new career, I have to find one that I’ll enjoy, pays well enough, and doesn’t put me right back in a position of rarely seeing my family.
I would rather be free. I don’t ask for more money at work anymore because I know that if they give me a smidgen more they’re going to expect 10x more commitment and time from me. I would rather not be beholden to other and live my life I want to live. I personally can’t afford to stop working at the moment. If I focus on what’s important to me and plan for not working in the future, I’m sure that I can do it. There is also the other side of me which enjoys going to conferences and Talking about new technologies though. Being excited about what I’m doing is always great. I see others around me stretching to make a little by more and buying that house that keep the burden of working to live very alive. I would rather travel the paths less chosen by others (pipeline of house, marriage, ring, kids, etc…). It’s a racket. Happy rainy weekend Sam
I’m definitely chasing freedom, but I’m not killing myself to get there any faster. If that were the case I would be working 22-24 shifts a month instead of a more bearable 12-14. I’m also not opposed to spending money on things that bring value and enjoyment to my life. You only live once.
I think some people just really like to work and stay busy. I have a colleague who works said 22-24 shifts a month. He’s not drowning in debt and seems to be well off, so I asked him “why?” He answers, “Because…” and leaves it a that. Maybe he just likes to work a lot. Who knows.
I’m not sure I would say people are wrong for chasing riches instead of freedom, but I have definitely spent more time focused on the latter as my wealth and age have increased. I think people struggle to be happy with their current level of wealth because it’s natural to want to keep up with your family, friends or co-workers lifestyle, especially earlier in life when you are less secure in who you are. Luckily I found my own path early on, and while I’ve always been motivated by money, I’m not that interested in possessions.
I know I had a “magical number” in mind when I was in my mid-twenties. I hit that number, doubled it and recently tripled it (15 years later), although I’m finally wise enough to know that I don’t need any more. It simply won’t increase my happiness.
A few years back I realized what I really wanted to do with my life and have been working towards that goal ever since. I’m now focused on growing a business (on the side) so that I can eventually leave my career in corporate finance for something that provides more satisfaction and makes me feel like I have a purpose. To me, thats freedom.
Working all day also prevents you from doing basic self development “maintenance” activities like meditation, reading or just having some quiet time with your family. There are lots of things money can’t buy and you start realizing them the older you get.
I feel like I’m already free and retired even though I am still working. I retired the day I landed my dream job as a firefighter. It’s incredibly hard work, but I just happened to get paid to do something I’d do for free. I’ve got 18 more years to go until real retirement (I’ll be 48, so not bad) and after about 10 years of absolute struggle with purpose, direction, and of course money, it feels so good to be free.
Does more money get you better food, lifestyle, and comfort?
Sure it does, but it is not a linear scale.
One funny Youtube video I watched compared a $10 steak, a $50 steak, and a $300 steak.
Yeah, the $300 steak taste a lot better than a $10 steak, but not 30x better. In fact, if you never tasted a $50 or $300 steak, you would think the $10 steak is the best steak in the world.
Would you be willing to work 30x more just to eat a $300 steak regularly?
Also the media, the marketer constantly bombard you with stories, advertising that provoke in you a sense of lacking and FOMO (fear of missing out). This new restaurant that you need to try, that new hotel you have to visit. You can easily find good food, and a quiet beach without spending $1000-$10000.
Sure ideally I would love to have an awesome passive income of $10 million a year and have all the free time.
For now, I will take my $100,000 a year, some freedom, and an occasional indulgence at the hottest, hippest restaurant in town, and a wallet draining vacation ;)
Great steak analogy, and I do love me a good 28-day dry-aged steak! And if you haven’t tried the wagyu and kobe steaks….. DON’T! B/c they cost $80 – $300 and you’ll totally be spoiled.
I have to admit, when a business partner is trying to court me, I will ask them to take me to my favorite steak house so I can order some Australian wagyu.
If only more people realized how truly awesome freedom is.
Cue Hasselhoff belting out “I’ve been looking for freedom”.
I am willing to trade freedom for riches until I have enough, then flip the switch. The hope is that I will recognize enough when I get there and not get trapped by the one more year syndrome.
I want to be free! (and kinda rich)
I’m somewhere between your public players and club members. Financially independent, working more than I should for money I don’t necessarily need, but building up a bit of a cushion while planning my slowdown / exit strategy. Also, I don’t play tennis.
Like docnorth above, a part-time option might offer the best of both worlds for a period of time. Certainly worth a shot.
I personally think FI + part time work is the best combination. In order to achieve that you have to grind for a while for sure, it’s unavoidable. Once FI then leave your investment income alone to grow itself and earn just enough to live off (which is now a lot smaller amount than you had to earn before because you are no longer paying off the mortgage or saving your huge financial nut). I think that would be the best combination for me. As it would allow for all kinds of freedom without the boredom. Plus I love my job when I work fewer hours. And as a doctor in a flexible field, I have the option of choosing my hours which I realize is not possible for everyone but surely you could leave your corporate gig and find something you enjoy for part time work after FI.
I agree with you on FI + part-time work. Although I posted that I finally found a job as a HS tennis coach, it’s still only at most from 2:30pm – 6:30pm when matches are a 30+ minute drive away and the matches go down to the wire.
It’s the OPTION of saying, “See ya later!” from your part-time job if something rubs you the wrong way that is very empowering.
Earlier in my career, I was working 55-65 hours every week, plus I finished my undergrad as an adult and my MBA from a T10 program (weekend) as an adult while working that many hours. Grind was brutal. I’m not able to do tennis from 10-3, but now that I’m at the VP level in my mid 30s, I’m *relatively* cruising at ~45 hours a week with a short commute since I don’t care enough to make it to the C-suite now that I make top 1% money for my state. Once I hit my FI # (~45-50), I’ll either retire completely or maybe do consulting gigs occasionally. My wife and I hope to travel a ton once I retire (we do 2-3 international trips/yr at this point)
Sounds like a plan! If you can work for 10-15 more years until 45-50, MORE POWER TO YOU. I was going through serious burnout where you are now and needed to do something that made me more happy.
Just make sure to stay healthy over the next 15 years so you can live as long of a life as possible after 50.
Timely article, Sam! I was just having this discussion with my wife. Due to a disability incurred in a combat zone she could be effectively retired, but still has a burning desire to keep at the grind and still conquer the world.
I deeply respect her for her ambition and capacity, but if it were me…I’d be on my own program. Then again, I am the one working a beloved job, so it’s probably easier to say than do.
Still, no debts and active income replaced by passive income and I’ll pull the parachute cord. I love my adventures, but know you can only get away with so many before tragedy erupts.
Depends on your definition of free. Or rich.
Regarding free, you have a guy who claims everything is meaningless. He would find more meaning in religion blogs than on a financial blog I think. None of the commenters sound like they’ve been retired or free for over 12 years. Ya’ll sound in the honeymoon phase of freedom and retirement. Your kids will change, they might not wanna spend everyday with you. You’ll get tired of TV after decade of watching you’ll have seen every possible show combination. You’re commercial job skills will atrophy and be outdated when there will be newer and superior methods to do things in certain industry. Your expectations of what you want, usually money related, vacations, nicer meals, home upgrades will increase. Your own thinking will change.
Regarding rich, then you got good ol’ Warren Buffet buying then selling PetroChina, Aapl, and airlines today cause it’s not enough money. He’s so set into his ways that he or his shareholders will never be rich enough in 200 years.
Great article as always.
The thing that changed my view on this was having a kid last year. Before I had enough time to spend with my wife but also enjoyed the long hours and perceived ‘riches’ I was earning a work.
Now though, having extra freedom to hang out with my boy is awesome. My goals for this year include freeing up cash and paying off debt to be able to unlock some personal freedom. I switched jobs as well that allow more flexibility and freedom, even with a pay raise!
It seems to be somewhat of a see saw with you on one side and the other side being personal independence. Adding money and life experience to the other side will lead to the other side winning and you sliding over to the other side.
Hi Cameron – I’m looking forward to experiencing what you’re experiencing after your son was born. Kids certainly do put things in perspective. And rich folks with kids make me wonder….. how can you choose more money you don’t need over the kids who will only be kids for a brief period of time?!
Sam, I look forward to reading your blog once you are a father, assuming you have the time and patience to write it anymore (not kidding). Kids change your perspective, and that is specially true for a conscientious and critical thinker like yourself.
This article was great in many ways. You are clearly backing off from your constant ‘on’ and grinding stance to what am I chasing here? What am I doing with my life and why is it important to amass more wealth? This is an almost biological precursor response to fatherhood. I am as old as you are, work in finance, have a healthy nut but severely lack the passive income (and active i.e this blog) streams you have built nor do I own any real estate. I have a 2yr old and 4yr old, my perspective and preferences started changing drastically months before my first child was born and continue to change and evolve. I was never interested in prestige or riches or possessions, I was only interested in freedom. But to achieve freedom at an early age (say before 45) you need riches, no other way about it. I am now particularly interested in how I spend time with my family. I am in agreement with you about rich people with kids (I have a very large sample size), my observation has been that an overwhelmingly large number of these parents are more obsessed with prestige, status, possessions, tiger parenting their child to be perfect models of themselves. Babies and little children are a blessing and you should make the most of your time with them. Personally, I have altered my work hours such that I leave my home later and return earlier, spending at most 35-40 hours at work, and I intend to take more time off during the day to pick-up and drop-off or take them out for an activity during daylight hours. Evenings, nights and weekends are all spent with my children, I can’t get enough of them. We travel with them everywhere for at least 4 weeks a year and take enough time off during the holidays. You are going to be a different man and you will greatly enjoy fatherhood! Nothing else compares.
Interesting idea about the rich people that I haven’t had (seeing as how I am no one of them…) It is true though. I would say there would eventually be that balance point of having enough money to make sure your child has a better life, but also being there and creating the unbelievable memories and moments both will cherish. Those moments of being ‘free’ over rich with money are invaluable.
I think both can be done and have been done over and over, but childhood and those moments are indeed short.
I am in the same boat as you, Cameron. When my oldest was born, it changed everything. Now with two, the desire to spend time with them is greater than ever before. You have worked hard to put yourself in an enviable position, Sam. If I could go back in time, I would do everything in my power to free up my time, prior to having kids.
FREEDOM, here’s why: I was married to my college sweetheart but unfortunately he died suddenly and unexpectedly at the age of 40 from a blood clot. It didn’t matter that he did everything right when it came to his health. He ate the healthiest foods, exercised everyday, didn’t smoke, etc. My net worth isn’t as high as it could have been if he and I didn’t travel as much as we did while he was alive but the memories I have from our adventures are priceless. On top of our trips together he also received sponsored trips to teach karate in amazing places like Tokyo, Frankfurt, Honolulu and San Francisco. His travels were probably 120 days a year. The teaching didn’t bring in much income but it was ok with me because he was doing something he was passionate about. It has provided me solace to know that he truly lived life to the fullest. Although it’s important to save money for the future don’t sacrifice everything now just for the sake of reaching financial independence earlier because how would you feel if you never lived to see that day?
Sorry to hear about your college sweetheart :( I hope you find a new sweat heart.
Early retirement is an absolute hedge against an early death. The older I get, the more I view people who live into their 70s+ as VERY LUCKY PEOPLE! So much can go wrong before then.
Our longtime ophthalmologist (optometrists with MDs) recently retired. He was probably well into his 70s. He said that no one wanted to get LASIK from an old guy. He was looking forward to spending some quality time with his family and grandkids.
Very shortly after he retired, he suddenly got sick and sadly passed away. So sad. Life is cruel sometimes.
Plan for the future, but live in and for the present. Tomorrow is not guaranteed. Nor is the afterlife.
I retired at 31 by developing passive income sources that bring me 7000 a month, every month, without fail. That puts me in the top 5% in the great state of West Virginia, and probably higher than that in Thailand where I bought a condo to winter.
My problem now is that I’m totally unmotivated to work or try to make money since I don’t need it, and on the other hand, I don’t know what to do with my free time.
Being free all day without being able to figure out what to do has left me in an existential crisis for years.
I don’t drink, don’t smoke, and don’t do drugs. No vices like gambling and couldn’t care less about meaningless sports or picking up a barbell only to put it back down again, then repeat.
Don’t have a family and don’t want one. Monogamy is totally unnatural. Even if a lot of people don’t want to admit it, 50% divorce rates and 80% cheating rates tell the tale got anyone willing to pay attention. Books like “sex at dawn” fill in any blanks.
Marriage: Men no longer get a domestic slave out of marriage and women no longer need to trade their autonomy for a source of financial support. The institution is dead. This would free humans if they would acknowledge the reality, but free them up for what?
I have always loved hunting, sex and reading. I always tried to get out of work to do these things. Now I have all the time to do it but can’t find any meaning in it.
I don’t want to kill for sport or food anymore. It’s unnecessary suffering. I can easily live on vegetables.
I don’t want to read anymore. What’s the point of learning something when I’ll die anyway? No value in it for myself. To pass on the knowledge? It’s already passed on by the author, and available in book form. I’m not discovering anything new for humanity by reading. Research maybe. Reading? Can’t find any meaning.
Sex is still great and always will be. But after you have sex, what do you do with the rest of the day? I can go several times with a new partner, but after crossing the 500th partner threshold, even that loses some of its steam. I recently had to use viagra for the first time and I’m only 39 and in otherwise great health.
People who are busy trying to survive, like people who buy religious mythology, are mentally enslaved but still able to avoid these problems by following the dictated plan. Those of us who make our own paths are also left with the responsibility of making our own plans, or trying to survive without them.
I can’t wait to have your problems! ;)
I’ve went through what you’re going through, though I’m younger (still much younger) and slightly less passive income. I became heavily depressed. I want to work and feel useful and do things that I know I’d enjoy but the specifics and reality of working always holds me back. In theory, the things you want to do are great. In practice, you’re giving up sleeping in, playing games, and other things. In theory, you can create amazing things with amazing people and change the world. In practice, you create things that thousands of other people are already working on with people that are finicky in a world that is indifferent to change.
I don’t know the answer. Everything we do here is pretty meaningless. We’re all just more or less aimlessly wondering around this messed up life naively thinking it will get better. Like you said, the people that have it made are the ones living in ignorance, or the ones that are still having to do what they have to do to survive.
It’s screwed up to know we’re so privileged to even have this conversation. Life can be really amazing, or really depressing. The shittiest part is it’s all a lottery. You are born and that’s that. You can’t control jack-shit after that. The composition of your brain and genes determines your personality, thought patterns, motivations, etc. You are not you – you’re simply a being that’s here for the ride. So, what did any of us reading this blog do to deserve a “great” life? And is it even that great?
I totally agree with you about marriage, but I wholeheartedly disagree with you on family. I think your insatiable sexual drive is one part of your problem. That’s like the biological equivalent of the consumeristic hedonic treadmill. You can never be satisfied that way. And even though marriage isn’t perfect and there are fewer reasons to get “married” these days, I still think having a life-long partner that “completes” you far outweighs a slew of sexual partners. I think this is a major source of unhappiness in your life, but I’m no therapist.
Joe, Maybe it is time to step outside yourself and develop a product/service/system for someone else with no thought of profit? You are clearly bright & creative so pick any underserved group that captures your attention and see what you can do to help them along the path. I am not thinking of you writing a check but more of a mentoring or teaching role that you could do as long as you stayed interested. Good luck!
Thanks for the message Barb. I think that’s probably the only way forward for me. I’ve been thinking about it. I guess the problem is that my main skills have always been writing and publishing, but there’s only so much writing you can do in a day.
Some of my favorite authors wrote a single paragraph or even one line some days. What did they do with the rest of their time? I think they may have shared my problem since so many of them ended up drinking, perhaps in an attempt to pass time and numb themselves to the indifference of the universe.
I think you’ll find a lot meaning doing a rewarding job that helps other people directly. Now that you have the money, you can afford to help other people with less. I guarantee you will find more happiness with this new adventure. There is ALWAYS someone who needs help.
But if you don’t find any meaning in life in general, it seems unreasonable to help any others with their lives. Helping people survive, live, or expand their livelihood only makes sense if you see some inherent value in human life. I, unfortunately, don’t.
Joe, I am 55, retired and spend half of my time in Bangkok and half in Tahiti. It can get really lonely in Bangkok despite the energy of the place. The best I can recommend for you is a few good friends (try Friese green club (old moovies)on Sukhumvit 22), and yoga at True exchange tower. The indian and Nepal teachers are really inspiring. I look forward to meet them on my next trip. Try also meditation for 20 minutes per day.
You should check out this book called “Flow” by Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi. It reads like academic literature even though it was apparently a best seller of some sort. Its basic premise (though I haven’t finished it– bad habit of mine) is that people find happiness when they are in the “flow”– which is basically when you achieve “optimal experience.” Like a cook at a restaurant who becomes so absorbed in cooking that he doesn’t think of anything else while doing it. There is a Netflix documentary about “Happy” that makes similar points.
Most people confuse being relaxed, doing nothing and being on vacation with happiness. In reality, that is not necessarily what makes people happy, especially if that is all that you do all the time. I can speak from experience.
PS: Sam– long time reader, first time commenter. I’ve gotten so much from you blog, you don’t even know. Keep up the great work.
This app the quandary for sure. I am currently at a nice private residence in Cabo where the minimum purchase price is in the millions (not mine but a friends- like you said it’s nice to have wealthy friends). Anyway, the place is empty. I mean the units are sold but there aren’t many people here, they are busy working so they can keep the place. So is it better to be rich then free? I am not sure, it is sure nice to act rich for a week…
Interesting article, I think it depends on your personality, for example In my own case I worked hard early on In business built a passive income from investments to over $200,000 retired in 2005 travelled extensively (we don’t have kids) got bored went back into business in 2014 with a younger partner who does do more work than I do but I still put in about 20 hours a week between 2 businesses and really enjoying it, and at this point in life mid 50s intend to keep active in business indefinitely.
I do agree with you regarding free time. Its much more enjoyable this time around having some money behind me and being able to employ someone to do the work I don’t like, but I still love the idea of getting wealthier, not touching income from my investments and building a business. I often think if I didn’t work so hard during my 30s and 40s I may never have sold out and retired in the first place, but then that was my burning desire back then. food for thought anyway.
Building a business / creating something from nothing is very rewarding and addicting. For example, if you type in “Financial Samurai” in Google, you’ll see about 523,000 results. That’s pretty neat!
Hence, I think building a business in retirement is one of the best solutions there is to keeping busy. You’ll have to use all your creative juices.
I Agreed Sam building a business from nothing is rewarding and what you have created with Financial Samurai is a credit to you.
I’m reminded of the saying you get nothing for nothing, or pay peanuts and get monkeys, Financial Samurai is an exception we pay nothing and get exceptional value.
I know it’s a tired reference by now, but anyone could live the lifestyle of Warren Buffett (sand private jet) on a $50k income – maybe less. He is both rich and free yet still does the same thing everyday that he’s been doing all his life.
Sam, have you considered that they like working more than they like playing tennis? Or at least enough to not drop working simply to play tennis.
I’m working because I enjoy it. I enjoy other activities too. I’ll reach FI in a year or two, but have no plans to quit. This means scheduling all my activities require compromises, but I quite enjoy my life.
Anyway, I very much enjoy your blog. Just thought I’d throw out an alternative viewpoint.
Ginger, that’s a great point. Yes, I’m sure many of them have to at least like the work they do. Once you don’t need to work for money, working becomes more fun. I tried this experiment with three consulting gigs and now my varsity tennis coaching job. It’s true.
But knowing my fellow members, they would ALL rather be able to play at 2pm in the middle of the day and not have to work so many hours. They’d all rather work maybe 4 hours a day, and not have to commute. But they can’t break free.
Sam you nailed it with this post. How much money is enough? What’s the point of having tons of money if you can’t enjoy it? You can’t take all the money with you when you die, right? It’s more important to have the freedom and time to do things that you enjoy and feel free.
I GOT IT!
About 15 years ago, my business partner/mentor told me he’d be happy and content if the business sustained itself. I was thinking to myself what do you mean? I didn’t want to just live, I wanted to live and then some.
Now that I’m older and a tad wiser, I finally understood what he meant. Now I get to play BBALL with my Boys on the weekends, choose the projects I feel like working on and as long as the profit pays rent, the associates and at the end of the year everybody gets a part of the profit sharing plan, I’m Happy.
So many people forget life is not some short trip where it’s about the destination. You only get one life make every minute of it as some arbitrary end point in you mind may not gen reality. That doesn’t mean spend with reckless abandon because you want to be able to enjoy your entire life. But it also doesn’t mean live like a monk now in the hopes that later you can enjoy yourself. A flexible job is greater then a non flexible one paying a certain percent less, you need to define that point. I stopped looking for a director role a while back in favor of going back to individual contributor for just this reason.
I have a family member who has a very large stash in the midwest and really could comfortably retire, but there are so many things holding him back: a sense that the company stock price is directly tied to his performance as a very invloved VP, the fear he will develop dimensia like his father did at his age (63) if he did not actively work his brain in research, the desire to train someone into his position over another 2-4 years, and the fact that his kids work for his company and he feels responible for making sure they become good employees and he feels the need to help them as he can, and the feeling of indebtedness to his company who took a chance on him so many years ago as an entry level guy without a relevant degree. All of these reasons, to someone with as big of a heart as him, make him sacrifice his freedom 6-7 days a week with a crazy commute despite the fact that he would LOVE more freedom. While I fully agree that freedom would/should win out most of the time the many conversations I have had with him have shown me there are many complex reasons people feel like its the right thing to do to keep working.
I think he needs a family intervention, someone to tell him that at his age, it’s OK to take a step back and pursue other interests. Have a talk with him before he has any regrets!
The pursuit of money for me has always been and always will be about more freedom. I don’t really care about status and material things. All I want is a nice pile of FU money to make 16 hours a day every day completely mine (and sleep 8 of course:).
Always blew my mind that some people have millions and keep grinding it out. I can understand for some the grind is all they know, and perhaps that’s what they enjoy… for me, man I love doing absolutely nothing when I can… just reading, video games, movies, walking outside… can’t wait! I bet some people would feel disgusted with themselves living that kind of life — seems a lot of people define their worth through their work… meh, to each their own!
Good Friday read Sam. Yea it would be ideal to be rich and free at the same time, huh? Do you think net worth or income have everything to do with the lifestyle though? Probably a fair share, but I’m sure there’s more to it.
This is a great article and really sums up I think what most of the FI community is chasing. It’s not the wealth people want, it’s the ability to dedicate their time to their passions and be there for their children. Living a happy and comfortable lifestyle is way more important than the accumulation of stuff. You just need enough to be happy and in my opinion be charitable when possible.
Life is so much better now that I make just enough. Freedom is awesome when you have basic financial securities. At this point in my life, I’d take freedom over wealth because I’m already comfortable. If I was poor and can’t pay the bill, then money would win out.
I agree that being rich and free is the best option. A lot better than being poor and having to work 2 minimum wage jobs…
Love your posts! I, for one would be happy with just enough. I’m all for FI and freedom, personal fulfillment and purpose. Thanks for the great post!
I’d rather be free. Of course, I will take both, but if I I could only have one, it would be freedom.
For me, the whole point of the investing and the blogging is to eventually own my time and not have to report to a job anymore (unless I want to (I won’t)). It’s all about the freedom, not about riches. What’s the point of all the toys in the world if you don’t have time to play with them?
I’m not driven by images of penthouse mansions and fancy cars. I’m driven by images of me NOT being chewed out by a customer because I won’t help him while I’m out to lunch. That just happened, if you didn’t guess.
ARB–Angry Retail Banker
Really awesome to be in your position and see two sides like this. I recently took redundancy and got a local job that’s less stressful. Admittedly, I wouldn’t make a game between 10 & 3 but I have more free time and more energy to enjoy it. That, to me, is worth it :)
Oh I definitely think people are chasing riches instead of freedom. Through television and movies, we’re all led to believe our lives will be better with money. Furthermore, the average joes portrayed in sitcoms on TV live lives that are no way near reasonable. Take the show Friends for instance. You have people with jobs ranging from an out of work actor to a middle manager and they all live in big nice apartments in NYC. Or how about Modern Family. A family of 5 living off one income through a residential real estate agent is living in a really nice house in LA.
With the amount of TV people watch today, this is what they believe real life is. So they end up spending their way to these things instead of pursuing freedom.
I totally agree with your point. But the thing is that those people at the private club could get out of the rat race tomorrow if they want. They could buy not one but quite a few 4 unit buildings, like the Indian guy. Or whatever they want. Their lifestyle and their busy schedule is their choice so the only reason I feel sorry for them is that they don’t realize what they’re missing…
It’s good not to realize what you’re missing. I didn’t realize there were panoramic ocean view homes in San Francisco for 14 years until I ventured out to the west side in 2014. Holy crap! If I knew what I know now I would have bought every single view home for cheap since 2001.
I don’t think the private club players can leave. They are stuck in The Matrix and cannot get out. It would ruin their self-esteem. That’s why they grind away despite having so much more than they ever need.
Such great discussions on your blog.
I sure wish I had aimed higher with my real estate investments and gone for the view property. As it is, I have a house on the west side of my western Canadian city assessed at over $3m. Although always happy, I know I really want that view. Meanwhile, I travel half the year, and plan for the next move to a Penthouse with amazing view, after the next big market boom.
I agree completely. Funny enough, I was just reading your ‘optimal happiness’ article where you say optimal happiness is at ~$200,000-250,000 a year from income.
I do think that as you did, it is important to put the time in. You put your long hours in and made a lot of money. I personally believe it’s better to do that than to do that instead of just living a bare minimum lifestyle from the beginning (not putting in the hard work and saving the money).
Freedom and time are our #1 most precious resource. Money is never as valuable as time. Money is a tool for us to increase our choices for what we do with our time.
Good article. I’ve done a bit of both – the do what you love, and the work your butt off to get ahead.
I was set to go to Med School, and at the last moment, decided not to. I realized the hours I would put in, would leave me with little time to enjoy other aspects of life.
I then spent a good ten years going the “Do what you love” route. I coached Varsity basketball, and kept a low paying job that enabled me to coach, and “think about” coaching while I worked.
Then I realized, I’d have tough time raising a family with the income I had, and the area that I lived in. I wouldn’t be able to provide for my family, as my self expectations laid out. I was offered a job to coach in college, which I turned down. The flip side of following your passion, comes the potentially for not being able to turn it off. I knew I’d not be able to ever really be with my family, as a part of my brain would always be working out some coaching principle.
Then came the real job, and 40+ hours for a good eight years. Promotions and the money eventually came. Then I became selective in what jobs were offered to me, and am now happily receiving a good paycheck, and am in a role where I can get away with 30-32 hours a week of actual ‘work.’
The issue now is that my success at work has laid the expectation that I fill promotions up the ladder, which will be coming available soon. But as soon as I get past this layer of management I’m in, I’ll be traveling more and I’ll certainly have an average of over 40+/hours a week.
My hourly wage now trumps my potential doctor hourly, or the upper leadership levels hourly pay. I’ve seen most everyone in the positions above my paygrade get burned out. I just hope it’s not work suicide by appearing ‘unambitious’ when the next promotion comes my way. Either that, or I negotiate by saying ‘hey, I’ll do the job. But always under 40 hours a week” – Not exactly the message VPs like to hear.
You can’t make your VP think that you’re going to work less than 40 hours a week, even if you do. Instead, I’d LOCK IN that higher paying position and THEN see if you can cruise while getting 100% of your job done. At the end of the day, it’s the results that count the most right?
I kind of took this attitude to the extreme my last two years of work. I took 6-7 weeks off a year, not really GAF. But the thing is, my revenue product and rankings with most of my clients were top tier, so they couldn’t really complain. But they did find a way to point out areas of improvement, as there are always some.
I don’t understand people who earn millions of dollars and feel compelled to continue working. I suppose if you are the boss, work isn’t so bad, but I’m perfectly content to retire and live a frugal, but free and fulfilling life.
I agree that being rich isn’t all it’s cracked up to be. I work as an assistant to financial advisers and even though they make SOOOO MUCH MONEY…they also do not have an off switch. When the market is closed I am virtually worthless. There’s no 8am or 8pm calls. There’s no weekend work. I put in my 8:30am to 5pm and then I go do whatever I want.
I do wish that I was making just a little bit more money. I have a Master’s degree and a license and feel like I should make just a little bit more. I don’t feel entitled to bucketloads of money but do feel like I’m worth somewhere closer to $50k….but don’t consider $50k to be the line between time and no time.
Your post is interesting to me.
I too have wished to make just a “little more $” at times in my career.
The problem is that once I got to that point; shortly afterword I would be dissatisfied and wish again “for a little more $”.
I did not really want to give the company more time/energy yet I wanted it to give me more. It was not realistic on my part. I was the problem – never being satisfied; listening to false gods etc.
At some point, I figured out that “working for the man” would always leave me feeling that way. That’s when I began to develop alternate means of income such as rental property, dividend paying investments, small businesses (laundromat and car wash) etc.
Now my job is just more fun. I can walk away if/when I want.
Good luck to you.
One issue I have is that currently 95% of my social interaction revolves around work. I have been worried that once I quit I’ll waste my freedom just sleeping in and surfing the internet. I’m trying to be proactive and find new ways to socialize and contribute to the community so that the transition is smoother when that time comes.
As far as money goes I am already living at the spending level I’ll have after I quit and I know that I’m not wanting of anything due to a lack of it.
Doing nothing and experiencing boredom IS a real concern. I experienced plenty of boredom my first year after going from 100 mph to 10 mph. You’ll find other alternative lifestyle people or people with flex hours to hang out with. You will find hobbies to pursue to fill your time.
Make a plan and visualize it.
I completely agree with this in principle…. unfortunately, in order to just live a “middle class” existence in the Bay Area requires a buttload of $$. To have anything approaching the kind of security that allows one to “slow down” and “relax” requires piles and piles of $. If I had $5m today, I would “slow down” in a heartbeat! What I can’t understand is those folks who have 8-figure net worths who keep working themselves to death. Don’t get it at all.
It’s really sad to see what Silicon Valley has done to the Bay Area zeitgeist. This is not the place where I grew up, everything here (including the people) has just gone nuts.
I’m confused as well. An 8 figure net worth is more than enough to be happy! Now can you imagine having a 9 figure net worth and being unhappy and grinding all day at work with thousands of shareholders to report to? INSANITY IMO. And the reason why such rich folks do this is because they see their peers with 10 figure net worths and want what they have.
It’s never ending. Trust me on this folks. I have built relationships that run the entire wealth gamut. Everybody has the same wants and fears.
How The Rich And Powerful Become More Rich And Powerful
Billionaires, They’re Just Like US
I don’t want to be rich in any case. I want to have enough money without working the job I hate to be outdoors everyday and enjoy the daylight.
Sam, this is a great article. I don’t think there is anyone better than you to give both sides of this story. I pity the people I know who are in their 40s and 50s still getting on the train to NYC at 6 AM, only to return home to their children and wives late in the evening. As my uncle told me while I was in college to deter me from working at a fixed income desk in NYC, “I leave in the dark, I get home in the dark.”
I’m still quite young, but I think this brings me one article closer to taking back my freedom (though probably in a much different way than you did/recommend).
Do you think the moderately wealthy, directors, lawyers, doctors, grinding 13 hours a day (including the commute) with 2-4 weeks off per year take too much hatred from the general public, and receive no respect for the time they sacrifice? It seems easy to look at income or wealth and assume “they” have it easy, solely because the number in their account is bigger.
I think I will stop chasing the wealth soon, because I might not think the grind was worth it when I look back from my cane or walker.
Anybody who hates on lawyers, doctors, and other professionals who grind 13+ hours a day are just haters. It takes A LOT of sacrifice to become one. I don’t think doctors make enough for how much school they go through. I’m not so much a fan of lawyers, but I still respect they had to do very well in college and again in law school for three years.
I got into work before sunrise and came back after sunset for YEARS. To counteract this depressing work life, I made sure to go out to as many client lunches and afternoon events as possible!
I thoroughly enjoy your posts and thoughts, but this one digs a little under the skin. I’m a 25yr old analyst that just got started out in a smaller firm, and this idea of quality of time over financial security is fantastic. However, I see this touted by those already financially sound (the majority of Financial Samurai readers). Us that are starting our professional lives would love to put quality of life/fun time over the rat race, but the grind is necessary to at least get started.
This is like telling the current college freshman to pursue his passion of Latin literature because that’s what brings him happiness. This pursuit will get him stuck with an insurmountable amount of debt with a career outlook that looks gloomy at best. To make ends meet, he’ll get two part time jobs and slide by (HOPEFULLY enjoying his time). He’ll then be shown as an example in a slideshow later of what not to do with your life.
A very pessimistic view on posts like this, but I think perspective is vital. Grind early and be able to enjoy life later on. Have the option to work less then.
Again, I thoroughly enjoy what this blog has to offer, but this perspective only works for a minority of people.
I do like your point about early grinding enhancing later enjoyment. I work for one of the best police departments in California. I often hear “Wow, you are LUCKY to patrol here.”
Lucky? Please. I had to work DAMN HARD to land this gig. (And sure a little lucky, but I feel Edison-y about luck. You generate much of it through good work.)
You are correct that this specific post is not applicable to you currently.
I am sure you are already doing it, but you should be reading this blog for the investment advice rather than admiring the lifestyle of someone with $200,000 a year of passive income.
Between the age of 23-45 I probable average 30-60 hours of work or studying a week. I am not even FI, but have a small nest egg that I can dial down my work now to 30 hours a week and cover my expense.
If I had read this blog 10 years ago and invested more wisely, perhaps I would be totally FI by now.
At 25 y/o you can work hard and play hard. 2-3 weeks of vacation a year, couple of nights a week with 4 hours of sleep won’t kill you :p Enjoy your youth!!!
Matt, so you’ve addressed the final question in my post:
Is it easier to tell people to stop chasing riches if you are already rich?
And the answer is: probably. Once you have money, it’s easier not to care as much about making more money. It’s like Warren Buffet always saying that we should all pay more taxes. Easy for him to say!
So yes, this post does speak more to those who have ALREADY GRINDED for 10-20+ years and who are wondering what the hell is this all for.
At 25, absolutely put in your dues. You will unlikely have the same energy when you are 40 as you have now. And, you will NOT regret the hard work you put in today. But if you find yourself just dying of unhappiness and stress in your 20s and early 30s, take a step back. Find more purposeful work, or something outside of work that provides more meaning.
It’s totally the parable of the Mexican Fisherman.
Spend half your life busting @$$ to “get ahead”, while forsaking family, health, relationships, hobbies, etc. to retire and realize you lived a life that was not your own. Better to figure this out early in life and go fishing.
Definitely choosing freedom. But I do think it takes some sacrifice at first. Just as you went through when working in the corporate world. I currently work crazy hours too, but I put in the work with the hope to be free at 45.
The difficult part is to remain focused on not get sucked into the glamour lifestyle most of my colleagues want to indulge in.
I had this epiphany late last year. Personal Independence > Financial Independence; I’m calling it PI-FI & it’s the them of my blog this year.
I’m still chasing FI with all that I’ve got, but now I’m also chasing my freedom with equal gusto!
This is why I read this blog. I’m actually more attracted to frugal style FI blogs, but so many seem to focus more on working REALLY REALLY HARD in order to dial it back to nothing, while I believe in taking life in waves. I worked hard and traveled for work etc and started a nest egg, but I wanted to have kids before 35 (first was at 25). That was almost 10 years ago, but once the kids came I went to part time work and put accumulation of wealth on the back burner so I COULD pick up my kids from school and volunteer as a girl scout leader and not disappear for 3-5 days at a time to go to another location for reviews or meetings. I don’t want the pursuit of money to mean putting off life or working myself ragged for a decade just so I can sit on the front porch sipping tea and feeling superior like I somehow won a race. Those frugal bloggers actually have a lot in common with your club friends, they just have a different stopping point in mind.
It’s not always easy. Work always wants more hours than I’m willing to give (currently 32 hours per week), and so do my kids. I wish I had more flexibility that FI would bring. But you sum up my attitude perfectly. I really want to be FI, but if that gets pushed off for 5 or 10 years so that I can live life and do other things? It’s totally worth the trade.
Thanks for reading. It’s actually much HARDER to stop/quit the rat race the more you make due to the “one more year syndrome.” Let’s say you get a nice big fat bonus in February. All you got to do is work until Dec 31 to find out what your next big fat bonus will be. Once you find out, you’re super giddy for two months until it’s paid out and then the cycle repeats!
It took a lot of planning on my part to leave my Executive Director job at a major bank to essentially be income poor for at least one year. Sometimes folks accuse me of being so money loving. But if I was so money loving, why would I have left a multiple six figure job at age 34 voluntarily? I would have stayed on for years more to see if I could get to the next level.
I like your 32 hour work week. I think the ideal amount of hours is about 25 for me. Give it a go and see what you think!
Given you like frugal topics, I’ll write more about frugality in the future. I was just wondering if other people would care since I’ve been so income growth focused all these years.
Sam, I totally agree! Which is why I think it would be awesome for you to create a post for the half and quarter million and under people. Investment/finance advice for those that have a bit but not as much as that upper percentile. It could include thoughts on owning a home vs. having a mortgage. Is it better to invest money or use it to keep the overhead to a minimum? Which retirement plan is right when you can only afford one? Basics for the middle man. I’m not Ivy League. I didn’t go to college. Heck, I didn’t even understand what a 401K was until two or three years ago. But I wake up every day and treat every person I come across with love, honor and respect. I’m never stressed out. I work out regularly. I volunteer. Since finding your site I’ve gained a ton of insight. Most of the time it’s on a playing field that I’ll never be part of though. That’s fine. I just think it would be helpful to read more posts for guys like myself. Thank again!
I read every article on financial samurai and always find them to be entertaining and enlightening. I agree that it is a world that can be hard to relate to sometimes. Sam talks about retiring with a passive income of 80k and that is over 3 times what my goal is. Even saving half my income I would probably have to work another 40 years to get that kind of income. Maybe with some pay raises over the years I could cut that back to 25 to 30 years. I don’t want to wait that long to be free so I will have to be content with less. I definitely won’t be living in an expensive city like San Francisco but I am working on being content with where I am and what I have.
Thanks for reading. One easy trick you can do is simply ADJUST the figures down to your city’s cost of living. For example, if the median home price wherever you live is $300,000, then simply cut my figures down by ~75% since the median home price in SF is about $1.1 – $1.2M.
All the concepts are the same, so I hope folks don’t get tripped up by the numbers.
Now if we could have a lower federal tax rate for higher COL areas, that would be great!
Sounds good. I need to broaden the topics to include more folks. Although I think this post is quite pertinent for folks who have not yet achieved financial independence or riches.
Related article to one of your questions: https://www.financialsamurai.com/invest-in-my-401k-or-save-for-a-house-downpayment/
I second this! My husband and I stumbled upon the world of FI blogs fairly late in life (57/65). We live in a small town and have our own small business, but my husband’s health is not the greatest and he will need to drastically slow down within the next year or so. I have been scrambling for the past few years trying to set up our finances to support us as well as possible at the point where he stops working (the business will stop when he does), and often find myself weighing time vs. money. None of us know how much time we have, but I worry a lot about how much time my husband has remaining, and want to see him enjoy himself as much as possible with the time he has left. Given all that, you can probably guess that we will never approach the arena many FI blogs inhabit. I still find much food for thought in the articles I read, but it would be interesting to read posts addressing those of us who will top out at the $250k – 300k level. We’ve chosen to put almost everything we have into rental real estate since that seems to offer the best ROI for us, but we’re always interested in learning about other points of view and the possibilities they might offer.
Great Article. It all comes down to figuring out what you want and doing what ever it takes to go after it. The problem is lots of people try to live someone else’s life and wake up twenty years later depressed.
Articles like this help splash some people in the face with reality.
Great point about depression. Not being accepted for who I am guess where it led me? Straight in the “arms” of the depression… Wish my parents had been happier in their own lives so that they could have been happy with who I am…
On average, people are indoctrinated by their culture and habituated by their daily routine.
You chase the money, power, prestige because you’re bombarded with messages from your family (“My son’s a doctor!”), your peers (“Did you see the sick ride Jack just bought?”), and advertisers (“Buy X now and people will think you’re a success.”) telling you what you should want. Then you keep doing it because you don’t know how, or when, to stop.
When’s the last time someone asked you to stop and take 10 minutes, let alone a week, to ponder what would truly make you happy? It’s up to you to take that step for yourself, and clearing your mind enough to see the need for it is something most people never have the chance to do.
It’s up to us to decide what matters most, and how we’re going to get there. I pity the people stuck in the rat race not because they like it but because they’re incapable of recognizing the problem.
I like money, don’t get me wrong. But I’ve taken the time to work out what matters most to me, and what I’m willing to do (and not do) to achieve it. I’ll never go full Travis McGee and take my retirement in chunks, but I’ll never go full rat race either. Life’s too short, and too unpredictable for either.
One of my driving forces is providing for my family. But one thing I won’t be providing for either of my sons is a silver spoon. They’ll understand the value of money and hard work, along with determining what matters most to them. Once you know what you want, you have to work to get it – or you won’t appreciate it once you have it.
The most important thing is figuring out where you want to go before you get started. As they say, no point climbing the career ladder if you get to the top and find it’s leaning on the wrong wall!
Wow, how did you write such a lengthy comment just minutes after I published my post?! Like magic! :)
I’ve never heard the last term about getting to the top and leaning the wrong way. Good one!
I asked an Uber passenger who graduated from Trinity School in NYC ($48,000) and went on to get an MBA at Rice University WHY so much emphasis on prestige if they are already well to do? He told me it’s all about their well-to-do parents bragging to their fellow parents about where their sons or daughters went. They want to keep filling their family prestige!
I guess I get it. I want to be proud of my kids too. But I THINK I’ll just provide as much guidance as possible to have them pursue what they really want to do and not be the Tiger Dad. I think. B/c if I don’t care about prestige now, why will I care about prestige in the future for my kids?
I appreciate your parenting skills. Wish my parents had done the same with me – accepting me for who I am instead of feeding me their own opinion of “happy”. I would have been a much more confident adult now… anyway great article, thank you <3
Very Nice Article. Doing what my parents felt was best for me, I am in late 30’s not knowing what I wanted from life, what I really want to do, what’s best for me to do. I have a job, a decent income, but every day is life living not by my choice. I can’t blame parents, as like every other conservative parent, they wanted best for their kid. But, my mind has become numb and I am unable to figure out a way to happiness, or being happy. I feel like ‘I’m living in a secure world, but still I search for a better refuge’. Finally these 30+years of my life and the experience, the failures and the positives must be used to shape up the future of my kid. Live the kid free to think what he wants to do in life, we parents stay with the kid guiding, correcting whenever needed.
Often, as a parent, you see your kid floating along with no direction. You realize they are clueless but you understand they are young and that’s half the fun, learning what you like. So you may start suggesting options for things to study and do while they are in school like, “do you like science, building things, history, sports, etc.” to get an idea of leading them towards things they might enjoy and can hopefully feed them down the road. Later, as they near the end of high school you recognize they are focused on short term versus long term goals, so you encourage additional options like, “well, do you want to go to college, trade school, the military?” and often here is where you get the deer in the head lights look or the “I don’t know” mumble.
But you, as the parent, know that you don’t want to be supporting their butts forever and that life has a tendency to run over and crush those who stand still stupidly staring at their shoelaces pondering if the loops look like a bunny or frog. So you then put on the pressure to pick something to get them moving on some path, and the kid who doesn’t know what they want to do or doesn’t have a particular calling often just goes with the flow, and it drives you nuts, but eventually they are at least on their own, making their own way and no longer living on your dime.
So while you would like for your kid to be excited about a career, galvanized by their work, etc. you realize life doesn’t always give you want you want. As a matter of fact, only the really lucky have life come up, knock on their door, and hand them exactly what they have been wanting even if they didn’t know they wanted it. Instead you realize at best life gives you the opportunity to determine and pursue what you want, but it’s up to you to go get it as no one is likely to hand it to you. That’s something you can try to teach, but unless the lesson is internalized, it isn’t going to stick. So as a parent, at least if they aren’t going for it with gusto, you have given them the opportunity and set them up to not starve and not rely on you, and sometimes that’s the best you can do.
The older I get, the more I value freedom over riches and a lot of that is due to my body slowing down. I worked my tail off in my 20s to increase my income and grow my career but working around the clock to make even more money now just doesn’t appeal to me anymore. I know several people who are extremely wealthy, but their jobs require them to travel so much they are constantly exhausted and short on time with their families. I don’t regret all the hours I worked when I was younger because that gave me a lot of opportunities and enabled me to save and invest a lot of my earnings. But there comes a point when freedom definitely starts to weigh more than getting richer.
Money can make people crazy and I think there are people out there who just don’t know how to be satisfied with what they have whether its because they are obsessed with the Joneses or are too caught up in material wants versus experiences. We all have more than we think if we take the time to stop and appreciate all the things we already have. Every time I travel I’m reminded of this because we really don’t need a lot of things to be happy and enjoy time with loved ones. Experiences and freedom are priceless!