The One Ingredient Necessary For Achieving Financial Independence

In the good old days, several friends and I liked having beers after each softball game. We got to discussing what is the one ingredient necessary for achieving financial independence early.

Here were some of their responses:

All of these ingredients are important for helping all of us achieve wealth and financial independence.

However, the #1 ingredient that drove me to FIRE, which nobody mentioned, was FEAR.

More specifically, the fear of failure. The more you fear something bad happening, the more you take action to make sure it doesn't come true. The more complacent you are, the less likely you will take action to change.

Let me share some examples to explain what I mean. Then perhaps you can share your own examples in the comments section below. 

The One Ingredient Necessary For Achieving Financial Independence: FEAR

Fear is all around us, especially today. Many still fear getting a virus that incapacitates us. We fear losing money in our investments when the economy goes into a recession. Some of us even fear living a life full of regret.

Fear can be debilitating if we let it overwhelm us. However, fear is also a fantastic motivator for change. The key is to absorb just the right amount of fear to get going instead of keeping us paralyzed.

Here are some examples where fear of failure played a huge role in my life. Without such fear, I wouldn't have broken free of work at age 34.

Childhood Expectations – Fear Of Disappointing My Parents

My parents told me at an early age that academics was the main way to a better life because I wasn't going to become a professional tennis player. They instilled in me a fear that if I was a C-student, I'd only be able to live a C-or-worse lifestyle.

Not only did I fear living a mediocre lifestyle as an adult, I also feared disappointing my parents. I was always getting into trouble as a kid. Each time I did, I saw the shame in their eyes. I finally stopped being a degenerate once I went to college.

Throughout my childhood, my parents worked long hours. I especially felt bad for my mother who didn't particularly enjoy the work she did in the U.S. Foreign Service. Foreign service work was my father's dream, not my mother's.

My Dear Mother

When I was 12, I remember visiting my mother one day at the US Embassy in Kuala Lumpur as a surprise. I didn't quite understand what she did, only that she worked in the cultural attaché department.

She was always so chipper at work, and her colleagues always sang her praises. It felt like a wonderland to roam around the halls of what seemed like a fortress at the time.

When I arrived, she was tidying up the magazines on the coffee table. Instead of working in her own office, my mom worked in the reception area outside of her bosses big office. Oh, I got it now. My mother was the assistant, not the officer.

She told me how she had sacrificed her dream of becoming a biologist by foregoing a graduate scholarship from Duke University to marry my father. She still had what most would call a great adventure, working around the world. But I knew deep down she will always wonder what could have been.

If my mother was going to give up her professional dreams for her children, I damn well wasn't going to disappoint her!

Growing A Career – Fear Of Wasting Money And Time On College

Working in the financial services industry from 1999-2012 always made me paranoid about losing my job. The industry is highly cyclical, which means during down cycles, there are always multiple rounds of layoffs. Without a job, I would feel like a failure. And without a steady paycheck, I wouldn't be able to pay my mortgage on time.

The fear of being one of the thousands of people let go during the dotcom bust and the 2008 – 2009 financial crisis led me to work extra long hours. I needed to add as much value as possible to my firm. There was a lot of misery getting into the office by 5:30 am and getting berated by clients all day.

Whenever I felt miserable working at 10 pm to catch my Asia-based colleagues, I always reminded myself of friends who had lost their jobs. Then I'd just gut it through one day at at time.

It wasn't until I started listening to the lifestyles of other people working in other industries did I realize how abnormal it was to always be in fear of losing your job.

Perpetual failure made me save 50% – 80% of my paycheck every year for 13 years. The fear ingredient made me figure out the best way to invest my money in order to one day generate enough passive income to confidently leave my job.

If I was comfortable at work, I'd ironically still be working.

Sustaining A Successful Website – Fear Of Public Failure

I enjoy blogging. I really do. Every morning kind of feels like Christmas because it's always so fun to read what other people have to say.

However, there's really no good reason to continue publishing 3X a week anymore. Today's posts reach 100X as many people as they once did in 2009. But because I publicly made a commitment to write 3X a week, however, I fear being labeled as weak or dishonest if I don't follow through.

I've wanted to just pass out by midnight many times since my kids were born, but I forced myself to write to keep up my streak. All habits die hard.

I have this fear of letting you down, especially those of you who may be going through a difficult time financially. I remember how comforting it was to read and interact with other folks during the financial crisis.

For the longest time, I've sent the message to never fail due to a lack of effort because hard work requires no skill. Therefore, if I stop working hard, then I'm just another hypocrite who doesn't follow his own advice.

Modern Day Society – Fear Of Not Being Good Enough

While I was working, it felt harder to get ahead when there was hardly anybody who looked like me in leadership positions. For example, I worked in Asian equities and for half my career, all my bosses were white.

When I lived in various Asian countries growing up, I was the majority. Everything felt normal. But when I arrived in Virginia as a high school freshman in 1991, the contrasting reality of being a minority instead of a majority became apparent.

Overnight, it seemed I had to address stereotypes, listen to racial slurs, and endure various forms of discrimination that I had never encountered while living in Taiwan, Malaysia, or Japan. The ingredient of fear began to sprinkle in my mind at age 14.

I feared being pigeon holed as an Asian guy who was only an academic. Therefore, I also worked hard on my athletics. I went to a liberal arts school was to become a more well-rounded person.

Perhaps one of the reasons why I'm so against the pursuit of prestige and status is because getting these amorphous things is hard for me. Instead of working hard to elevate my pedigree, it's easier to just look down upon those who do. It's also easier to not try.

The Fear Of Poverty

Ever since I lived in Malaysia as a 11-13 year old, I've been hyper aware of the haves and the have-nots. To see some of my friends live so poorly really wigged me out as a kid. I often questioned why life was so unfair for so many people.

As a result, I made a promise never to take any job or financial opportunity for granted. I wanted my kids to grow up being able to study and play rather than being forced to work to help support the family.

After you've achieved your retirement number, will you continue to work as hard? For most folks, I think the answer is logically no.

Due to my fear of never having enough money, I'm afraid of getting complacent. As a result, I like to start over each year and pretend I have nothing. In fact, I blew up my passive income in 4Q2023 so I can have the motivation to find work again once my daughter goes to school full-time in September 2024.

Growing up seeing poverty on a daily basis made me afraid of losing everything one day. You're always wondering when will your luck run out. The longer you go without any unfortunate events, the more you brace yourself for cataclysmic disaster.

Physical Fitness – Fear Of Dying Before My Kids Are Adults

At age 46, my health is not as good as it once was. It seems like the asthma I had as a kid is slowly making a comeback. My colds have gotten longer and my muscles take longer to heal.

If you have dependents and liabilities, for the love of god, please get life insurance. Your health will eventually catch up to you, no matter how healthy your lifestyle. One of my regrets is not getting more affordable term life insurance before I had kids.

I finally got an affordable 20-year term life policy during the pandemic. I cannot tell you how much better I feel mentally. The anxiety of dying early has declined. That's worth far more than my monthly life insurance premiums.

The reason why I haven't let myself go is not due to vanity. When you're no longer in the dating scene, who cares about having four-pack abs? I try to stay fit because I fear an earlier than normal death. My two young children are depending on me until they become adults.

No Longer Caring As Much About What Others Think

A single friend once told me he enjoys food more than he enjoys the chance at a healthier life. “If I die early, so be it! I'm not going to deny myself my greatest pleasure just for the unknown chance of living until 90.” He clearly didn't believe in the ingredient of fear as a motivator to stay in shape.

This type of thinking is actually quite freeing. To not have anybody depend on you can be a great blessing. To not care how you look to other people is also amazing.

However, as a parent, I don't have such luxury. Therefore, regular exercise and not over-eating continue to be necessary habits. I hate working out. Thankfully, I've found a fun sport in pickleball to help me stay in shape nowadays.

Who knows whether staying in shape will extend my life. However, I want to give myself the best chance at survival by being more risk-averse with my health.

Comfort May Be Our Greatest Enemy For Achieving Financial Independence

Perhaps one of the worst things that can happen to you is if you are born with everything.

Your parents are rich so you don't appreciate money. They buy you a car, a house, and pay your credit card bills. Why bother even trying to be financially independent?

Let's say you are born good looking. Everybody is much nicer to you as a result. But your looks will eventually fade. If you don't work on your personality in the meantime, you might end up lonely and depressed when everybody begins to stay away.

Or let's say you were giving things based on your identity and not based on merit. You start cruising because you believe society will always give you a helping hand. But one day, the elites might decide you and your people are no longer worthy of special favors. When that time comes, you might struggle to compete based on skills alone.

It is impossible to fully appreciate how good we have it if we don't go through some suffering first. The longer our suffering, the more appreciative we will be.

We need a steady dose of uncertainty to keep us hungry. Therefore, perhaps this pandemic will motivate us to change poor habits. Motivation is so important for building wealth and staying healthy.

I remember as soon as I paid off one rental property mortgage in 2015, my motivation to hustle went away. I decided to drop all my consulting clients, travel through Asia for 8 weeks, then go to NYC to watch the US Open for 2 weeks!

Comfort prevents us from trying harder.

Fear: The One Ingredient For A Better Life

As time passes, I've been able to be less fearful of failure. Academics, work, and societal fears are behind me now. It feels good not to be beholden to anyone. To speak your mind and do what you want is a blessing.

My main fear now is not being a good enough father. Even though a parent can only do so much to teach their children right from wrong, I still worry how they'll turn out. There are some really messed up people in society who probably had caring parents.

Although less, money fear still persists because I've now got three people depending on me This fear is tempered through a proper net worth asset allocation, keeping expenses under control, and finding ways to earn supplemental income.

Don't let fear paralyze you. Instead, embrace fear as the key ingredient for achieving financial independence. The fear in our heads is often greater than reality!

A Conversation About Harnessing Fear To Get What You Want

In a Financial Samurai podcast episode, I talk to award-winning podcaster Farnoosh Torabi about harnessing fear to build more wealth. Have a listen, subscribe, and rate my podcast on Apple or Spotify if you enjoy it.

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163 thoughts on “The One Ingredient Necessary For Achieving Financial Independence”

  1. Being more of a hippie type in my youth, and with parents that didn’t force anything on me or even have much expectations (except to finish college), I was free from a lot of cultural pressure, thankfully. And I know a bit about poverty, at least 1st world poverty. I got caught up in the downfall of the steel industry in Buffalo, NY in the early 80s. But it became a perfect example of Napoleon Hill’s, “Seed of equivalent Benefit”, and everything changed for me. I wrote about it if you click my name.

  2. Yeah no question fear is a critical motivator, however the term fear generally has a negative connotation. I certainly don’t want to live my life constantly in fear of something. I guess early on in life fear can help people be successful, however later in life especially if someone is financially independent I certainly would not want to live in fear. However, many people who are financially independent still seem to live in fear, and even Sam I have seen some of your posts express fear or worry about supporting your family financially. I guess that may be valid, but I think an unbiased independent analysis would indicate that your fear about supporting your family financially is misplaced and exagerated. I don’t mean to pick on you as an example, but if you have fear about supporting your family financially then how can many of us who do not have the same resources expect to not fear supporting our families financially? Another way to put it is, how can we drop the fear or not have fear after using fear for so long to become successful and financially independent??

    1. Not sure. Maybe because I don’t see fear as a negative connotation but as a positive? I’m very thankful for fear to give me the tingles to do something about a suboptimal situation.

      If you don’t feel fear about supporting your family, then you should also feel blessed because you have enough and don’t have financial worry.

      Please share with us your situation, and what do you fear. If you fear, nothing, how were you able to get to this state? Thanks

      1. I fear lots of things, but sometimes I wonder if I fear too much. For example I fear losing my job even though it is quite secure in academia. I fear getting sued for some mistake and having my house or resources taken away.. I am not financially independent yet so I guess these are not unreasonable fears.

        My dream though if I was financially independent would be to setup some sort of actual blind trust which owned my residence and paid property taxes and also spun off enough funds for utilities and food. I think then I could live without any fear! :)

      2. Fear, in the biological sense, is there to ensure survival in the sense it leads to action. Doesnt matter if that action is running away from a predator or diversifying your portfolio to endure economic volatility. In that sense fear is a very good thing.

        If fear leads to paralisis and inaction, then its not so good.

        (of course, it can be said that not doing anything is also an action)

  3. Fear is the path to the dark side … fear leads to anger … anger leads to hate … hate leads to suffering.

  4. Sam,
    The late Reverend Paul Osumi of Hawaii, once wrote this thought in the Honolulu Advertiser back in the day.
    Charles Schwab give the following commandments of success:
    1. Work hard. Hard work is the best investment a man can make.
    2. Study hard. Knowledge enables a man to work more intelligently and effectively.
    3. Have initiative. Ruts often deepen into graves.
    4. Love your work. Then you will find pleasure in mastering it.
    5. Do your best. The man has done his best has done everything.

    Wouldn’t it be nice to achieve financial independence in a solid foundation and build your financial future. Thanks Sam for all you intelligent financial information.

  5. This reminds me of tiger mom Amy Chua’s triple package, where a sense of insecurity is one of the three main factors (aside from superiority complex and impulse control) driving success!

  6. I totally hear you on fear. A certain amount of fear can be extremely motivating. It certainly drove me to do well in college. I was determined to get a reliable job after graduating because I had a fear of otherwise not being able to support myself financially.

    Sure, too much fear is debilitating and can lead to being frozen. But some fear can have a lot of positive benefits. Great points!

  7. Fearing death or long Covid from Covid is definitely one of the reasons why I have tried to stay in shape for the past two years.

    Americans have definitely gained weight over the decades because life has gotten much easier over the years. Rational, but causes earlier deaths if you look at the mortality charts.

  8. Sam,

    Thanks for writing this post. I think the more we as a culture face our fears, the better off we will be. All too often, we don’t challenge ourselves to take risks, and it leads to mediocracy. One thing I would add is that for me, determination drove me to achieve FIRE. I wanted it so badly that I would not let anything get in its way, so I made it a reality.

  9. I came to the same conclusion a few years ago. I termed it “Productive Anxiety”. I focus on what I’m worried about; finances, health, or home maintenance. Then I ask myself what steps I could take to battle that worry. Then I pick some small “win” like upping retirement savings 1%, swapping out junk food lunches for salads at work etc…

    Over time these incremental changes have led to better habits and I’m at a 50%+ savings rate, good health, solid house, and a healthy position to retire in my 40s.

    It really is using the “weakness” of an anxious mind and Judo-flipping it into an engine for success.

    1. Judo-flipping it into engine for success indeed!

      For example, so many folks are now up in arms over food inflation. But how about using higher prices as a way to eat less and eat differently? Getting mad isn’t going to solve any problems. Personally, I’m going to practice intermittent fasting and/or eat only a piece of fruit until 12noon, until food inflation gets back down to 3%. Might even lose some weight! :)

  10. Sam,

    Thanks for all your articles- especially during this pandemic. You’ve written many helpful and relatable articles in these past years. These articles are like a personal finance bible to me.


    1. You’re welcome! It’s been a pleasure to reflect, write, and serve during this time of uncertainty. It has also helped me think things through more clearly as well. Thanks for reading and sharing!

  11. Becoming a parent is certainly a game-changer. My best wishes for the most important job in the world: being a great hubby and parent.

  12. The best work in anyone’s life comes from inspiration, not from fear. After nearing financial freedom my goal has been Personal Freedom first and foremost, and oddly, that has attracted more professional success than ever before.

    Here’s to inspiring your readers to follow zero-fear goals!

    1. I wonder what I could have done if I grew up not seeing so much poverty and having a really easy childhood with no school suspensions and run-ins with the law etc.

      Perhaps you can share more about growing up without fear of failure and what your financial situation is now at what age?

      You might enjoy this post: Confessions Of A Spoiled Rich Kid

      1. My dad lost his job when I was 5 and my mom was an administrative assistant her whole life. While they combined only made $40,000 per year, we didn’t feel poor. I still had family living in the inner city Chicago and life for them was so much worse. So, I like Sam always feared to do better. Even after 20 years of working and a $7M net worth, I fear it is not enough, so it keeps me humble and working hard. Maybe I relax at $10M, but now I am still focused and fearful.

        1. Nimesh Gadoya

          Any color on how you made it to $7M of net worth after 20 years of working? The S&P returned 7.41% annually from 2000 to 2020. Assuming you started with no significant net worth when you started working, you’d have to be saving $150k annually on average to go from $0 to $7M in that time.

  13. Paper Tiger

    I totally get where you are coming from and can relate to much of what you said. However, I might alter your thesis just a bit re: the role fear plays in achieving financial independence.

    To my way of thinking, fear can be a great motivator to achievement but it is not the driving emotion for people becoming FI. The reason? People who are truly fearful are not risk-takers. In general, they don’t start businesses, they don’t buy homes, they don’t invest in stocks and they minimize all risk whenever possible. Why, because of fear, not necessarily in spite of it. My parents were like this. They were hard-working and wanted to achieve through their efforts but they were conservative and slightly mistrusting of anything that appeared to them to be too good to be true. They both came from poor families and carried a certain scarcity mentality. They eventually did achieve FI but solely from frugal spending and investing only in CDs and money market funds.

    My point is that fear absolutely plays a role in our motivation but to tie it to “the one necessary ingredient that drives financial independence”, at least for me, doesn’t quite hit the mark.

    1. Perhaps it’s a spectrum then. Truly fearful people who end up not taking action are the minority. And if they do achieve a comfortable financial situation, it is likely during a conventional retirement age after 60.

      So for early financial independence, there has to be an inherit drive.

      1. Paper Tiger

        If you are coming at it from the perspective of FIRE then I see your point. My main focus was always on the “FI” part and never on the “RE” part. I think that is just inherent in my baby boomer genes ;)

        Although, I did retire at 57 but that was more out of fate than from the desired plan. The good news is we were financially prepared for it even though it wasn’t anticipated.

  14. Samurai, the fear that you reference is one that I also suffer from. I have this irrational fear that has grown exponentially since having children that at any minute, we may be out on the streets. We do okay, mortgage is paid off, max out 401K, contribute monthly to 529, invest in after tax IRA using dollar cost averaging, and are engaged with crowdfunding (due to diligently reading your site). Over time though, I have noticed that the fear is gradually setting into a steady state of “unease” which I’ve found is a happy medium to keep on keeping on. While going through your fear and using it to produce quality content, please know that what you produce on this site has provided me and my family a blueprint to channel the fear into meaningful and actionable steps to provide us with a financial safety blanket. Hopefully, the knowledge that you are helping countless others will be just as much of a motivation for you to continue producing quality content on this site.

  15. Florian Ulrich

    Great article, I agree, fear is one of the biggest motivator. Perhaps the ONE. I do think there is a complementary motivator: the desire to move towards a concrete goal. When I was 14 years old, I saw a movie where Einstein was discussing with other scientists in his garden in Princeton. At that point, I knew that’s what I wanted to do: being with other scientists in an Ivy League environment and discussing science. Low and behold, I just gave it my all, and made it to Princeton without really planning to go there. I just had that picture of Einstein in his garden in my mind.

    Something else: check out Tennis Troll Channel on YT. If you are a 5.0, you might as well just play a game on his channel. Money raised goes towards a good cause, and you’ll spread the word about this webpage.

  16. Milena Damianova

    Sam, I have never commented before but this article really touched me and I want to say that I regularly read your posts and I have learned so much from you. Keep up the good work.

  17. Hey Sam, thank you for writing another well written article. I don’t think you should hold yourself to absolutely writing 3x per week when it sometimes means staying up till 2:30am even though your body is telling you to get some rest. It’s noble of you to honor your commitment to write a certain amount of times every week but if it’s affecting your health, then it will also start affecting your happiness and other aspects of life. I believe the first requirement of happiness is to have a healthy body to enjoy life. If you have $100MM but poor health, it’s going to affect your quality of life and you may be much less happy then the middle-income person who prioritizes good health. Just my 2 cents.

  18. I enjoyed reading this post and the comments! I agree with Sam about fear being a great motivator. For me, the fear of spending the best years of my life climbing the corporate ladder without having enough time to pursue interests that I find meaningful and fulfilling has motivated me to save more, invest more, build passive streams of income so that some day (well before typical retirement age) I will no longer have to depend on my job in the corporate world. Freedom of time is my ultimate goal!

  19. Money Ronin

    When I look across our friends who are college educated, own their homes, have high paying jobs, healthy marriages, 1 or 2 kids, etc., there is only one thing that separates them from additional financial success/FIRE: Risk Aversion.

    Most people are too conservative with their investments. Even though they understand historical returns and volatility or they’re “interested” in starting their own business or investing in real estate, most people never take meaningful steps to accomplish that goal. It’s scary to leave the safety of a steady paycheck or plunk down large sums of money that can be lost (even temporarily on paper).

    These people are fairly well off and will have a comfortable retirement at 60 or 65, so I can’t really fault them for not taking additional risk. They will be better off than the vast number of retirees.

    However, if we’re talking about average or low income earners, I don’t think the answer to the question is as simple as risk aversion or fear. There are too many factors to consider.

      1. All things being equal, overcoming one’s fears and embracing risk can be the difference between FIRE or not. However, life isn’t fair and people have varying levels of challenge. Many people have lot more challenges than simply overcoming fear:

        1. Mental, emotional or physical disability. Some people have experienced severe trauma or respond to trauma in a more negative manner.
        2. Divorce. Most of my friends have stable marriages; divorces are financially and emotionally draining.
        3. Religious or cultural beliefs. Not everybody is raised with a focus on material success. Many cultures emphasize harmony and balance not continuous improvement.
        4. Socio-economic factors. Every country has an oppressed class of people and barriers to elevating them.

        I definitely agree with “use fear as motivation to do better”. Everyone can do better, but not everyone can achieve FIRE.

        Much of our success is based on luck, as you’ve written in past posts. This luck includes where we’re born, what gifts or defects we possess, the color of skin, the quality of parents or mentors throughout our lives. So although I am successful beyond my expectations, driven in large part by fear, I place much greater weight on numerous other factors, including luck.

  20. ITA. This is why immigrants do well- fear. Americans know there is welfare, food stamps, Head Start etc.

    1. The truth is a bit harder then that. Immigrants know welfare, but they also know where they come from and why they left and came to the US. They have drive and purpose, some can not go back and have to make it. They tend not to have a large social friend group to fall back on and they tend not to have rich parents that can catch them when they fall…..or simply put they have more drive.

      Fear is the strongest emotion humans have and hence the biggest motivator. It is motivation that carries you forward, many Americans have lost motivation.

  21. Search an article in NYT: what-drives-success

    Interesting article along the same lines. The 3 ingredients of success: superiority complex, insecurity and impulse control. Strange combo but it works! It is the opposite of what the young generation is taught today…

    1. Interesting. Superiority complex, as in thinking you are better than someone else, therefore, you need to prove it so?

      I get impulse control… the marshmellow test and insecurity.

  22. Marvin L McConoughey

    Thank you, Sam, for a wonderful, insightful, post. Your writing skills are superb. I’ve been afraid much of my life. Rational fear has been a great asset: it drove me to college, encouraged me to join the United States Air Force for a career, and prompted me to invest early in rental property. Now, in my old age, I see many factors in my life story, but fear has been one of the most valuable.

  23. Geoff Williams

    Good post, Sam, still very applicable in this pandemic-driven world! I did not come from money and my Dad died a few days after I turned 12 and I started working all the time at 15 and ever since. I often find it useful to look at how far I have come and to conduct a thought experiment telling myself if I lost it all today, I could still go back and climb the mountain again. I would not have so much time left, but it provides a feeling of strength and resilence for me

    1. Well said Sam because for me the fear is “poverty consciousness” that drives me daily. It seemed like not too many years ago(it was actually well over 20 plus now and thank you Lord) I didn’t have a credit card that would be accepted or a bill that wasn’t an Everest to overcome. Now, live WAY below your means and make more in Passive income than you could for 5 years of work!

  24. Great read. What about dedication? My husband was very dedicated to the numbers and achieving FIRE (which we did this year!).

    -Tara of Four Take Flight

  25. Hi Sam, You touched on so many of the same feelings I have… and I totally agree that fear can be a huge motivator. Supposedly your brain has the same physiological reaction to fear as it does to excitement – it cannot tell the difference. So whenever I feel overwhelmed and scared, I stop and tell myself that I’m actually super excited about what’s going on. It helps me suppress any urges to flee.

    1. Great way to turn it around! I’ll try it too.

      For some reason, I don’t back down from scary things. I like the challenge and I don’t mind confrontation. It was probably due to this one incident when I was a kid in Malaysia.

      It was the sixth braid and I had just got these new pair of Reebok shoes. I was at a friends house with maybe eight other kids. This one spoiled kid got a spear and stuck it through my brand new shoe. I was devastated.

      Instead of trying to fight him or shy away, I just asked him why did he do that? And he said I don’t know. It was then that I realized confrontation is OK and to talk things out is also OK. A lot of people do things for no good reason.

      But there’s also a story behind why people do bad things as well. This is some thing I’m most interested in as a writer.

      1. Ashley Shelton

        I think you are fortunate to have learned such a valuable lesson so young in life. :)

    2. Thanks for sharing. I always felt what drove me was the desire to get away from where I was from, but I think the way you described it as fear makes sense. Unfortunately for us who were motivated by fear, we took less risks early on because of that fear. Do you regret not taking more risk early on? Many of my colleagues felt secure right out of college and took off and started their own businesses, but I could never have done that because of my fear.

  26. Hi Sam,

    As always, it’s great reading your posts. They are very transparent and informational. I’ve learned a lot from your writing and also inspired me to start my own blog.

  27. Not having fear can be great too. Knowing that you have a financial safety net (parents, in-laws, etc.) allows you to take risks; like moving to a new town after college, starting a business, or accepting a position at a start-up.

  28. Hi Sam,

    I am not so sure whether fear makes you a better person. One thing for sure. It makes more sense to be happy at all times. Fear can be distressing and not good for faint-hearted.

    My sense worth of views.


      1. All the time is impossible, but:

        Reflect on what you have. If you’re reading this, you’ve probably got it much better than most on this planet. Never mind compared to historically! It’s good to practice gratitude.

        Reflect on what could come to pass. I could die alone in a month hooked up to a respirator. That’s unfortunate, but nobody lives forever. I could lose my job and my house. We’d live somewhere, even if it’s a crummy apartment. A child could die. I’d never get over that, but life would continue. Don’t obsess, but just acknowledge these realities. You can’t make the possibilities go away. But if you don’t acknowledge them they can fester in your subconscious.

        Don’t seek out sorrow. Watch your news consumption. I like to stay informed on things like the coronavirus. But occasionally I’d catch myself obsessing, just reading and reading and reading. Then I’d get away from the screen for a while.

        The flip side is, you’re right, I’m not on track for early financial independence. At 35, I’ve got about $500K networth. But a surprise 3rd child in on the way, and that’s a lot of college expenses. I could save more, work harder, get more side hustles in. But I don’t have fear driving me. I try to set myself for success, but balanced against enjoying life.

        1. Congrats! Sounds like you have found a great balance.

          Balance is something I strive to achieve, however it is quite elusive as I see so much opportunity all the time. It’s like seeing through the Matrix in a way.

          I know the math, and there is opportunity so I feel I must take it.

          1. It might just be the way you’re wired? Some people find joy in hunting down opportunities. Being successful becomes part of their identity. Especially when you get to the super rich, it’s clearly not about any objective cost/benefit analysis: They keep working hard because they either love it, or they have some deep-seeded daddy issue they can’t resolve.

            Sometimes balance is one of those things we feel like we ‘should want’. Or that we ‘should’ love spending more time with the children. But at a certain point, you’re simultaneously bored and overwhelmed. Nothing wrong with liking the hustle.

            If you legitimately do want better balance, though, you might be ignoring the costs in your time cost/benefit analysis. Like, if you saw a crazy deal on a rental property: You might profit $300K over the lifetime of the project. Tangibly, that would be X (2 amazing vacations, and more inheritance for the kids?). You’d get some excitement closing the deal, cashing the checks. Some extra peace of mind, perhaps. And on the flip side, you’d have potential stresses: eviction proceedings? Risk of unexpected costs when the foundation cracks? Many hours spent talking with potential tenants, plumbers, etc. etc. Especially when you’re already busy and well-off, losing more precious hours sometimes isn’t worth the reward.

            1. Exactly. It’s all about having time to do what I want, which is why I retired at 34. I’m currently playing with my boy on a Monday morning instead of working. He is playing with my lip balm and I just shouted,

              “What are you doing with my lip balm that’s for the lips like this“ lol. Picked it up during voice dictation.

              I just didn’t find happiness in work anymore, and now that I have kids, there’s no way I would choose work over kids. So in this regard, you are lucky to have found work that you like enough to spend more time working during the weekdays.

      2. Charles Conrad

        You and I were born to childhoods of anxiety and fear. I don’t think how we got it matters. It doesn’t matter how we caught a cold. We have a cold. I am 71. I have more money than time.
        The sad reality for me is the anxiety and fear never disappears. I still have panic attacks. I wish I did not have this childhood more than I wish for money.
        This isn’t a poor me post. Parents can damage children beyond repair. You want to be a good father? Play with your children.

        1. I haven’t had a panic attack yet. However, I’ve definitely felt anxiety when there is maximum uncertainty, like in April 2020. Writing helps keep me cool, which is why I enjoy the process.

          Thanks for the tip! I guess I’m a good father than because I’ve been a stay at home father since Spring 2017 and plan to continue for the indefinite future. It’s fun to play with my kids and be there for them. It’s b/c I want to be there for them that I don’t want to go back to work until they don’t want to hang out anymore.

          1. Sam, I’ve been a reader since 2012 I think.

            Thank you for staying on your writing schedule for your readership all of these years.

            You rock and I’ve told my wife you’re like our pseudo opt-in ‘financial advisor’ since we are similar place in life with kids, real estate,etc.

            I’m proud to sport the financial Samurai logo when I’m out and about and with friends. You have the best personal finance content hands down. Looking forward to your next post.

            Thank you Sam,

  29. As an asthmatic 64 year old 4.0 tennis player, who didn’t understand you at first, I’m sorry for that. You are real and genuine, and you have a voice that is so strong and true. It’s no wonder you have such an audience. You speak truth that was hard earned. I’m a 4.0 with no obvious talent except a relentless desire to compete. Dude, you are better than me in all measurable aspects, but I think I get you after reading all your posts. That vulnerability you display is impressive. Even dull witted engineers like me can pick up on sincerity. Admiration.

    1. Howdy Steve – No need to apologize at all. I don’t remember a time when you were offensive or anything.

      4.0 level is great! Lots of fun playing competitively at that level. I started at 4.0 when I first started playing USTA league tennis circa 2008. But I got DQed 5 matches in… and lost all my wins! That sucked as that hurt the time. I had no idea my level and just joined a team.

      4.5 level is really fun too, but a lot more arguments. Some really big egos I’ve found. Whereas 4.0 is more friendly competition.

      At 5.0… the egos seem to fade b/c almost everyone played college tennis and don’t feel like they have to prove themselves.

      Glad you’re out there playing! I’m playing 2X a week and it feels good. No doubles though due to the virus.

  30. F.E.A.R.
    Forget everything and run
    Face everything and rise

    Being aware or at an elevated state of awareness is good. Being fearful gives way to flight or fight. Being afraid can be paralyzing.

  31. Papa Foxtrot

    In my experience people tend to show their strongest side when they are backed into a corner (figuratively).

  32. I must have missed this article several years back Sam. Thank you for being open and transparent. This is why I love personal finance, because in the end it’s so personal – right? It’s kind of your origin story of why you do what you do. I think everyone’s origin story is different. I grew up in Southern California and was very comfortable with being from my ancestral country, and American and part of the collective Asian-American. I met Mr. Plastic Picker in Boston, and after we had kids – I realized that having them grow up where there wasn’t as strong as an Asian community was going to influence who they would become, and how comfortable they would be with their identity, their ability to self-love. We purposefully moved back to Southern California because I didn’t want my children to be one of the few Asian kids or feel uncomfortable with themselves – if that makes any sense. Anyway, now that they are teenagers I’m really glad we did. They are growing up in a very diverse and multicultural area, and our son in particular is proud to be American and mixed Asian-American. I feel like he can go live anywhere now and his foundation will be strong in his own cultural identitiy.

    1. Sure, no problem! I hoping my kids read this post one day after I’m gone.

      Your situation makes me think about this post: The Importance Of Feeling Consistently Uncomfortable For Personal Growth. It discusses my thoughts of moving away from a diverse community like San Francisco and not going to Honolulu, where it is equally diverse, and moving back to Virginia to face more racial hardship.

      A certain amount of hardship is very helpful. It’s just hard as a parent to purposefully put your children in an uncomfortable position to grow. The knee-jerk reaction is to try and help our kids out with everything.

  33. I grew up in a lower middle income family in the rural south. I saw abject poverty first hand through others in the local community that didn’t work as hard in school or manage their money effectively. I was scared to death to ever have to live that way and it helped shape the person I am today.

  34. As a blind individual, I have to work twice as hard to keep up with sighted peers. Sometimes I’m afraid of getting lazy and falling behind. If I fall behind, I can’t provide for a future family, and if I can’t provide for a future family, then I can’t prove to myself that I am someone worthy of respect. Then I remember I fought for and earned a secure job. My first marriage did not work out, but I am already reestablishing a solid financial base. Fear is a great motivator, but we ought not let it distort those things we have already done well for ourselves. Keep up the great work!

    1. You keep fighting too Joe! What are some devices you use to help you see the screen better over laptop, tablet, and phone?

      I don’t think most people know that being blind doesn’t mean automatically not seeing anything. It’s having a best corrected visual acuity (BCVA) of 20/200 or worse folks!

      Joe, if you ever want to tell your story in a guest post on Financial Samurai, please let me know.

      1. Yes, being blind does not automatically mean you can’t see anything. I’m pretty much the real deal: guide dog, Braille, inability to see facial expressions… In answer to your question, I use screen reading software to navigate Windows, Android, and iOS. I encounter a number of social hurdles in order to be taken seriously. I was married to a sighted spouse, and as long as we’re talking about fears, going back out on my own as a blind person was a daunting prospect. If I lost my job, it’s not like I can just walk down the street and get a temporary job flipping burgers. I can flip burgers with the best of them, but no one would trust me working in their restaurant. I moved out though, for both our sakes, and even though there are moments of self-doubt, blogs like yours have helped keep me trucking forward.

        I am so grateful you keep pumping out content even when it is the last thing you want to do. I agree with Pamela’s comment below. Your writing should absolutely make it into high school curriculums. Your work ethic keeps beginner bloggers like myself motivated to keep pushing.

        Thank you for the offer to share my story in your blog, a high honor indeed. Let me study your blog a little longer and see if I can spin up something worthy of your website and equally beneficial to my fellow subscribers.

  35. Fear is totally a motivating factor. Growing up I witnessed my parents failure at managing their finances. I feared growing up and not having them to help me out. So I knew I had to study hard in school and pick a career path that would enable me to be financially independent. Fortunately they helped pay for half of my college tuition, which I’ve paid back to them now, so I was able to get a degree and launch off on my own. Great post!

    1. It is interesting how parental failure can help motivate us to do things not to end up like them. At the same time, great model parents can also motivate us to be like them.

      I guess it’s the way we choose to perceive the world!

  36. Thanks for your commitment to consistently creating quality content. I thoroughly appreciate it and it’s helped drive my decisions in pursuit of financial independence.

    As I reflect on your post, fear plus action or motivation or whatever you might call it helps you progress. In uncomfortably embracing and dealing with fear at various stages in my life was when I was able to grow and be recognized for what I did. This helped me become successful at work and in life.

    Thanks again for your post and posts.

  37. Pamela Webster

    I love your posts…your honesty, your friendly writing style and the useful information. Your posts should be included in a financial literacy course for junior high/high school students.

    A couple of quotes come to mind in response to your comments regarding your fears.

    1. This quote is included in Danielle Laporte’s (check her out…she is pretty cool) great quotes post:
    The greater the artist, the greater the doubt.
    Perfect confidence is granted to the less talented
    as a consolation prize.
    —Robert Hughes, art critic

    2. The whole problem with the world is that fools and fanatics are always so certain of themselves, and wiser people so full of doubts.
    — Bertrand Russell

    Regarding being a good father:

    7 Things every child needs to hear:
    1. I love you.
    2. I am proud of you.
    3. I’m sorry.
    4. I forgive you.
    5. I’m listening
    6. This is your responsibility.
    7. You’ve got what it takes.
    –Power of Positivity

    Based on my experience raising 3 children…showing your child that he is loved outweighs many parenting failures. Also, a child loves it when a parent listens to them, dances with them, sings with them, reads to them…actions that demonstrate the parent enjoys the child’s company.

    All the best.

    ps; I hope that you keep sharing your thoughts.

  38. Mike the manager

    Fear of failing myself and my children is my biggest motivator. Staying healthy is number 2, and it takes money and other resources to stay healthy. Unfortunately for me, fear, is my single biggest detractor. I fear societies selfishness and aggression, the governments corruption. This has caused me to think, what is the point of trying so hard when so many people are so far removed from the truth. It has also caused me to be too conservative with my investing due to not trusting the financial system. For example I have regularly contributed to my 401k for 15 years but I wouldn’t be surprised if I don’t receive much of it because the government or inflation robs me. I play the game but I don’t trust the game.

  39. Hi,

    I think everbody have a lot of fears, but fear society is completely alien for me.

    I don´t fear don´t be accept be society, I actually hate the society. I am not rebel. I don´t have tatoos, I don´t drink or smoke. I could look like some conformist outsided, but I hate and dispise society.

    I have some very close friends, but I would be the same without them. I know for sure because I spended many years without anybody.

    I always thought:

    After I have money, society will have to swallow all my shit, they like or not.

    I know that my friends like me, but I really would don´t care if they don´t.

    I am not a sociopath, but I don´t live for anybody. I like help people who deserve help, but I don´t fear if I dissappoint them in any way.

    Maybe I am wrong but I think that fear society is very natural for asians.

  40. Fear as the greatest motivator is so spot on. Many of us take failure much harder than we do joy after a success. No one wants to feel that again. I also try and stick to a fitness regimen. No amount of financial independence will be enjoyable if your health fails you.

  41. Hi Sam,

    It is true. We are fearful humans.

    When one overcomes fear, one is ready for Nirvana.

    I will share what is called an “alternative investment” angle to “retirement”.

    Good or bad – but in India, we do not seek “financial” freedom for retirement.

    Thousands of years ago, for thousands of years – the “wise” claimed that retirement is a stage in life (vs. accumulating certain wealth), and it is determined by how much has one fulfilled their duties.

    They divided a human life in 3 ashrams (stages) – Brahmcharya (Life of celebacy), Grihastha (married life), and Vaanprastha (literal meaning is to go to Jungles, but retirement). There is no age or net worth distinctions between each stage of life, but there are rules for each. For e.g. it does not matter what your NW or age is, you cannot retire until you fulfill your duties of a married life.

    There are 1000s of pages written on this way of life in Hinduism, over the last 5000 years or more I guess.

    The point is – One should focus on fulfilling one’s duties as the benchmark of whether they are ready to retire or not vs. a dollar figure. Both are important, but money automatically becomes the means. Not the destination.

    Just wanted to share a perspective.

  42. Sam,

    You mentioned wanting to be the best dad to your child. You hope you aren’t critical.

    I’ve been struggling in this area. On one hand, I don’t want to spoil my daughters. On the other, I don’t want to be too harsh, which at times, I definitely am. I think something about our upbringing impacts how we naturally react to our children when they don’t do what we want them to do…and they certainly don’t do what you want them to do all the time!

    My father was a total jerk and sometimes I feel that I react the same way to my kids as he did to me. I have to make a conscious effort to control myself. One thing I do is tell her I love her every day and we never go to sleep upset. Your comments hit home with me.

  43. Recently discovered your website and am really enjoying reading your posts, especially this one. We have similar backgrounds (WM class of ’98, Asian, FIRE member) and your reasons for success really resonates with me. Fear of failure was drilled into me by my parents, which I resented at the time—but now am thankful b/c I will always have that extra gear when I need it.

  44. Abel @

    You know what was an even better motivator for me than fear? KIDS! I’m 30 and have two kids under 3. I am certain I am more focused and more driven because of them. Partly because of wanting to provide for them but also I know if I want ANYTHING for myself at the end of the day I need to not only earn more but create more wealth!

    After having my second kiddo last year, it gave me enough motivation to leave my public accounting gig advising PE shops. I knew there wasn’t anyway I would be able to live the life I wanted to at $75k a year supporting a family. Now if I didn’t have any kids then I probably would have stuck around longer because hey if you’re single/living the DINK life (dual income no kids) $75k isn’t that bad.

    Now in less than a year since I’ve left, I’ve been able to pull up my net worth 12x and my income 2x+

    Need something to jump start your engine? Have kids!

  45. Agreed. Too much fear is debilitating, but some fear is motivating.

    “You guys don’t know how many times I’ve wanted to just pass out at midnight, but forced myself to write a new article until 2:30am just so I could meet my publishing objective.”

    Way to hustle, Sam! That’s why you’re here while other people gave up.

    Out of curiosity, I remember you mentioned you were going to split up your workload by partnering with a female writer friend? What happened to that? And what are your thoughts on blog expansion by hiring writers? I know you love writing, but for a big blog like yours, in order to grow the business, don’t you need to duplicate yourself to make it scale?

  46. Thank you for this post! I can relate so much to this, except I’ve found my fear to have the opposite affect on me in the past. I feared failure, so I would often times avoid situations where I thought it was a possibility. I’m an Asian-American that also feared letting my parents down, so in the past, I would only pursue things that I knew I could succeed in, resulting in less challenges. I just started my blog, and the possibility of failure is weighing heavily on me, but I refuse to let the fear limit me any longer. Thank you for the post, as it was very motivating and encouraging.

  47. The Wease @

    Sam – One of your best posts. Both from what you have to say and the comments that it is eliciting!

    Growing up poor gave me a healthy dose of fear. I definitely did not want to live that way. I think that fear of poverty helped over come many other fears (investing in the stock market, taking risks at work, moving for better jobs, etc.)

    It still lingers in the background, even though I may be considered “wealthy” when compared to others. Hey, it could all go away in a minute, right?

    One other fear that comes up from time to time is the fear of being “found out as an imposter.” I’ve been in executive roles at Fortune 100 companies for better than 20 years. However, I still look around in meetings and cannot believe I belong in the boardrooms with all the “real executives.” I’m just some kid that grew up on a little, run down farm. Some day, someone is going to catch on and send me back!

    Anyone else feel that way about success that does not seem real?

    Also, great thoughts on parenting. I have a lot to work on, with a six year old (last of four) that I want to bring up “right.”

  48. Abhinav Thakur

    Hello there Sam,
    I have been following your website for quite sometime now. I am a big fan and I have come to learn a lot from you. I read all your posts and follow your advice closely. I have begun my journey to financial independence after all the inspiration your writing has provided. I have also started my own blog recently about my financial learning journey. I just wanted to say thank you for everything and keep up the good work!

  49. The Alchemist

    I wouldn’t say fear is the ONE ingredient….because I’ve had it all along, and am still (relatively) poor! You also have to have a LACK of fear in order to take risks along the way. I suppose that’s technically not a lack of fear, but rather courage. Courage is being able to take risks in spite of fear.

    You’ve always struck me as being pretty fearless, Sam, but I get exactly what you mean about fear driving you to be successful and make $$. That same fear has driven me to save like a maniac my entire adult life, but I’ve lacked the courage to do more.

    So, yeah, fear is a good motivator, but it needs to be balanced with an equal part of courage. You’ve got that in spades.

  50. I can relate a lot to what you wrote in this post. I too share many of those fears. I know I have always been hard on myself, but I never thought of it that I have fear. I think maybe that is a better way to look at it. I do worry about job loss and not having money later in life so I save more now. I do worry what my friends and family think of my decisions and want to make them proud. I don’t think this is unnatural or bad, but it is good that you pointed it out. I think I will work to try and not be as fearful knowing that I am doing things I believe in and putting in effort where due.

  51. Chad Carson

    I love the honesty and wisdom in this post, Sam. Definitely resonated with me as other commenters have said. I think fear is so basic to the human psyche that we all have it if we are really honest with ourselves.

    I think fear of regret has been one of my biggest drivers. But lately the regret has not been not making enough money. It has been fear of missing out on experiences with my kids and wife, fear of not getting to grow or expand my mind in different ways, and fear of not making a difference while I am here on earth. I think the fear drives me the same as it did with other projects, like real estate, FIRE, or football in college, but it I still just channeled towards different aims.

    Thanks for the thoughtful post!

  52. Mr. Hammocker

    Love the article. The thought of making backwards steps to financial freedom is my number one fear. I have come too far to make backward steps. Fear inhibits innovation and creativity. My opinion is individuals would be more innovative if they weren’t as worried about taking the risks. Hard work and taking smart risks expedites the early retirement process. I am a huge tennis player too. I would love to be completely removed from the rat-race and be able to travel the world watching the great tennis players compete. That would be a retirement dream come true. Retiring without fear is what I am shooting for. I look forward to future posts!

  53. Your First Million

    I really like the list you laid out at the top of your article. Very hard to disagree with any of those characteristics. The only thing I would add on top of those is extreme persistence.

    I don’t think I personally know any single wealthy person who did not save aggressively, very happy to see that at the very top of the list and in bold!

    Excellent post!

  54. Great article.

    I encourage anyone to work in a commissioned based job if they’re not ready to just head on into self employment.

    Especially the mortgage industry.

    Every day numbers must be hit, calls must be answered, accounts must be managed, or you face write up and eventual termination.

    It keeps someone like me on my toes.

    That constant pressure from management also makes me save even more money. I sure as hell don’t want to yelled or bitched at for silly nonsense and metrics forever.

    I grind hard and save a ton.

    And because of my years of savings and grinding, I’m one of the top performers in the company. Having all the money I have in the bank adds to the confidence. I ain’t going nowhere unless I want to.

    I’m too damn valuable for the company, and the money in the bank keeps me fearless. I can speak up and offer opinions that are valuable but that no one else has the courage to.

  55. Silverback19

    This is the best post you’ve ever written. It resonates with me more than I would like to admit. I can relate to it on so many levels. I work for the United Nations in a very troubling developing country. We’re witnessing ethnic cleansing, famine, and debilitating infrastructure like many people could never imagine. People buying half of a tomato because they can’t afford more, inflation over 700%, and mothers searching for wild foods. Some even boiling goat bones and pulverizing them into a dust to eat, because their’s nothing else to eat.

    Most of my colleagues have lived as refugees or IDPs ( Internally Displaced Person’s). So I NEVER take my fortunes for granted,and I have become a much more loving and compassionate human being because of everything I have witnessed in developing countries over the last 15 years or so. I also can relate to your fear as a minority. I’m a black American male, I grew up in a housing project, to a single parent mother, in one of the poorest towns in the Deep South, surrounded by incredible dysfunction and social isolation.

    National Geographics, and my mom’s insistence to buy World Book encyclopedias for me,likely saved my life. I would read, read, and read until my eyes were blood shot every day and every night for years. Hoping to escape some day, far, far away. Like you, I still was a fu*k up from time to time. It’s almost is impossible to be completely clean cut in an environment like that.

    I watched crack cocaine destroy our communities they way poor rural dwellers are watching opiates destroy their communities now. I lost countless friends and family to drugs, prisons, and violence. I was just waiting for my time, for the rug to be pulled from beneath my feet.

    I had another thing working against me. I was huge, tall, and muscular, I excelled at football, and used it as an escape to some degree, but people are always intimidated by you, make you feel as if you don’t belong in an academic environment, and treat you like an idiot.

    The first day I walked into the Attorney General’s office for my internship, the first question I got was…. Do you play football and what are you doing here? I’m from a BIG football state, but it still stings. I could go on, and on, but i’ll stop here. I’ve been meaning to reach out to you, to see how I can leverage the internet for FIRE and some other things. I was actually even contemplating coming to SF, to visit friends I worked with at Google. How does one email you? Get in contact with you?

  56. Adam and Jane


    Happy Birthday! If I only knew then what I knew now when I was age 40 so many many years ago…I would have purchase municipal bonds from day 1…..

    Fear is a powerful emotion that can prevent you from taking action and it can also motivate you to take action. I fear losing money. Seeing my father lose money in the stock market, dealing with his rentals, losing 100K on 2 vacation homes, and how hard my parents work in their own business, I avoid these financial options. On your list to reach FIRE, we only save aggressively. We saved 50% of our incomes from day 1 not because we wanted to reach FI. In fact, we never heard of FI until 2009 when I Googled passive income. We reached FI in 2014 NOT BY CHOICE BUT BY FORCE!

    I will explained why BY FORCE….

    I always wanted to retire early but did not know how since I was so financially conservative. We figured we would work until 55 to collect our pensions and 401Ks at 59.5. We never heard of people retiring in their 30s or 40s. Our company was stable so we thought. I dont invest in stocks, RE, dont have a side income, a business, or even leverage the internet. We max out our 401Ks and select the fixed dollar option which has an interest rate greater than 4% in our company. Our savings are in regular accounts or in CDs. Times were great when CDs were 5%.

    In 2009, my boss told me about rumours of re-orgs and layoffs. If the re-org was true then I would report to a bad manager and I would be forced to quit. A close family friend told me about tax free muni bonds 2 years earlier but I did not act. I was fearful of investing my money. I only understood and felt safe with FDIC CDs. At this point, fear forced me to find an investment to generate income in case I had to quit. I knew what I supported was obsolete so finding another job will be difficult. We reduced our expenses from 56K to 40K. We decided to dump our life savings to buy tons of individual municipal bonds since CDs had such low interest.

    In 2012, our 5% muni bonds generated 40K tax free but we were not FI yet since it did not include money to buy healthcare. We need another 20K for healthcare. In 2012, there were 350 people laid off. Many people were in panic mode but we were calm because we had passive income to cover the bulk of our expenses. The re-orgs came true and our team was suppose to report to the bad manager. As luck would have it, this bad manager was one of the 350 that was laid off! My next goal was to buy more munis to generate another 20K.

    In 2014, our muni bonds portfolio generated 64K and we are now FI! We felt so good because at this point both of us can just walk out and be OK. We knew that at least one of us should stay until 55 to double our pension to 70K and to get 8K for medical.

    In 2016, our muni bonds portfolio generated 84K tax free. Over 500 people were laid off. So many people that I know and worked with, were all let go. My wife, her team, my co-workers were all gone. I no longer have a backup and I am flying solo. No one to talk with. Workers were replaced by an Indian company, TATA. Since my wife got laid off, company policy states that I cant be let go. Arg! I wanted a severance package so bad! My wife was 51 and she received a severance of 234K, 52K pension and 8K yearly for medical coverage. In 2016, her healthcare via our company was 11K minus 8K is 3K to cover herself. For 2017, her healthcare increased to 12.5K minus 8K is 4.5K out of pocket. In a couple of years, healthcare via our company may be 15K per person. Other than that, my wife is so happy not working EVER AGAIN!

    In 2017, our muni bonds portfolio now generates 87K tax free. Another 150 people will be let go. At this point, we have no need to accumulate and our spending has increased 15K to 55K for vacations, her healthcare cost and for our toys. We have savings to cover 7-8 years of expenses just in case we lose all our munis bond portfolio. I know that I can just walk out anytime but I chose to stay. Why? I am almost 53. If I leave now then my pension is 37K starting at 55 and I would NOT get 8K for medical. If I make it to 55 then my pension doubles to 70K and I also get 8K for medical for the rest of my life. I support several old systems that are scheduled to be rewritten externally by the end of 2019. So, my days are numbered. It is a race against me reaching 55 before my systems are outsourced. I work at home making 197K including bonus and I work 10-20 hours a week. It can be stressful at time supporting systems by myself but I dont care anymore and I try to not let work get to me. I just got another 2.4 years to go. Since healthcare premiums increase yearly, it makes sense for me to stay until 55 to get the 8K for medical and to increase my pension.

    If there were no fear of layoffs then I would not have been forced into buying muni bonds. We would have just blindly worked until 55. Now that we have the munis bonds, we are getting an extra 87K for retirement each year. With the munis bonds, pensions and interest from our 401K, it will cover 3x expenses. In this case, fear helped us make our retirement more financially secure.


  57. Save Splurge Deny Debt - Cameron

    Hey Sam Happy Birthday!

    For as laid back and easy going as I seem to the outside world, if I was to sit down and talk with a therapist fear is absolutely a driving force for me. I grew up with a bedroom in an unfinished basement with only boxes, dust, and the occasional spider as my roommates. My parents were unbelievably hardworking, and gave me that work ethic at a young age. I was always fearful of not having enough for myself. I think that is why still today I would hate the thought of asking them for a handout or help, because of the sacrifices they made to give me every single possible opportunity they could.

    Now as a father the fear of not being a good father or not providing enough for my entire family is a huge motivator. There has definitely been a change in what I want, and how quickly I want to achieve it. I think that may be why after reading your blog for years why I started one and work my ass off on it. I have been up many nights thinking how I could skip a new post and not many would notice, but fear keeps me writing. What if that leads to a nasty habit of skipping many posts, and the eventual end of a site that has a chance to grow.

    Awesome post, I appreciate the transparency. I also admire your abilities, work ethic, and overall character in these thoughts. Your son will be thankful and one day understand how lucky he is.

  58. Happy birthday, from your East Coast twin! This is an interesting topic and I totally agree about the power of coopting fear. There’s this Harvard (?) study that asked students to suddenly make a public speech to their classmates. Those who tried to calm themselves down were just ok. Those who turned their fear into excitement scored better and spoke longer. Fear can be a friend.

    And you’ll be an excellent father!


  59. I think fear helps expand our brainpower somehow. When we are afraid of something, we try to think of a way to attack that situation to obtain our objective. When I was a kid, I was afraid of the dark, so I decided to keep a toy car that lights up when you push a button next to my pillow. And when I had to goto the bathroom, I would take it with me there until I turned the bathroom light on :-)

  60. Belated Happy Birthday Sam!

    Fear is a motivator for me too, but a different sort than yours. Mine is fear of my deathbed. I imagine lying there, with the end nigh, and just feeling regret at how I spent my one shot here on this beautiful planet. I find this thought terrifying, and I will work hard to prevent it from becoming a reality.

  61. Very heartfelt blog. It got me thinking about my son who is beginning to make his way (just finishing college, living at home) and I thought it might be a good idea to get him into saving aggressively and thinking about FIRE. Has anybody opened an account for their child and let them make some investments based on their interests? I was thinking this falls right in line with the idea of removing fear of investing as he gets older and finds his way into the world. I was going to seed the acccount and then have him put in some of his part time job money on a regular interval. Don’t want to force him to as kids usually don’t take to that but allow him to direct the investments which will make him want to contribute. Any thoughts or pitfalls with that idea would be appreciated.

  62. This is really true. I have to say that in my childhood where I didn’t have much, and in addition, it’s my stepmom who controlled most of the stuff. It’s sad but that’s how it is. Having gone through this kind of childhood, my fear turned into motivator. It motivated me to depend on myself, work hard, and progress. Ever since leaving home after high school, I never had to depend on my family anymore. I have to say, this kind of freedom is something money can buy.

  63. Tim Kim @ Tub of Cash

    Thank you for the honest post Sam. I struggle with fear too. I’ve always been anxious about similar things as you. The “what if’s” of life. To this day. I’m always feeling like I’m not doing enough. Constantly hustling. Being Asian myself, growing up in an all-white country (Hungary), it was weird to say the least. Ton of bullying, getting spit on. I was put in isolation many times in preschool and kindergarten. For no reason! I think it screwed with me. But rather than wallowing in my past, I wanted to prove myself. To myself and others. I have a HUGE chip on my shoulders. I don’t think anyone I know has as big of a chip as me. Anyways, thanks for sharing, and man you really achieved a lot. You have a lot of money, and a very very successful blog. You’ve paid your dues. I think it’s good and healthy that you’re thinking about being a good father first and foremost.

  64. Happy Birthday! 40 is a big one. You’re living your dream and not many people can say that.

    Fear isn’t a bit part of what drives me. I don’t consider it at all on the normal day to day basis. However, when I was trying to quit my job, it was a big part of my motivation. My health was going downhill and I don’t want to die in my tiny cubicle. That fear made me push for early retirement.
    On a different subject, we have a lot of homeless people in our area. I use them as an example for my kid all the time. If you don’t go to school, you’ll end up camping in the street… :)

  65. Graham @ Reverse The Crush

    Thanks for the great read, Sam!

    One of my biggest fears is having to ask a friend or family member to borrow money. I have this thing where I really value independence and accomplishing things without the help of others.

    Since I’ve never gotten any help financially with student loans or with a down payment like a lot of people I know have, I realize that I have to make more sacrifices to keep up with them. I wouldn’t have it any other way, though.

    I definitely use the fact that I’ve had less help to my advantage as it serves as a constant reminder that I have to work harder.

    However, the main fear that drives me is losing my independence. To add on to that, the fear of not being independent enough continues to drive me. I am letting that fear drive me towards FI.

    Thanks again for sharing!

  66. This resonates with me so much it hurts. At the age of 23, my then boyfriend’s mother was diagnosed with cancer and my boyfriend(current husband) and I ended up taking care of her and his 2 underage siblings. We spent our last years of college working full-time and taking care of her and the kids. If we hadn’t started working earlier and if we hadn’t had some money saved, those 2 years would have been hell. It was still hell, but at least we had food and shelter and money for going to the doctor. Nobody went hungry, although our wedding budget was reduced to a pittance, since we were spending all the money on drugs and hospital visits.

    10 years later, the fear that we felt then still has not left us. Money does matter. Lack of money makes a bad situation infinitely worse. An abundance of money can make even the worst situation a lot less dire. Being financially independent is the best safety feature to build into somebody’s life and, although not easy, it is attainable by most people in a developed country.

  67. Alex @

    Hey Sam,

    This means that after 10 years building financial samurai that you will let someone else take over?
    Your content is amazing and your advice is really practical and easy to put into practice, so please don’t quit after that!

  68. Happy Birthday!

    Fear is a powerful motivator – maybe I’d use the it as the first stage in a rocket. It gets you going. What drives the final portion? Gotta be passion, because one day you look at your account statements, and you’re not afraid anymore . . . Passion . . . or . . . could it be Pez?

  69. I relate to your fear, for my husband and I our reality check came with an intense illness. We truly realized how fleeting life really is, and worked our butts off.

    I look around at society and I am baffled at people – recently people asking for money on gofundme has been ticking me off, especially since people like us plan meticulously and live conservatively and fearfully in fear of never having to ask people for money, ever – and then you see people raising money for things traditionally considered problems, you would solve yourself and “pay for your own shit”, instead gofundme feels like modern day legit begging. Anyway that was tangential.

    I don’t think that kind of fear in the long term is healthy – so for both of us, we should stop being so fearful.

  70. Jack Catchem

    Hmmm. Really thought one of the ingredients was going to be “Avocados.” Apparently I’m behind on my internet thought viruses ;).

  71. Your article also resonated with me as seeking to be fin independent would allow me to take better care of family. As well, have been complacent to start a side business as the money is lesser an issue. Your article and the replies reminded me of the importance of growing and learning new skills such as starting a new business. While I do believe managing others based on fears is not sustainable, there are advantages to self motivation based on fear. Have lived in a few Asian countries and witnessed hard times of many. Such experiences are useful reminders that good times can easily change for the worse or continue to be improve by not letting fear create a bias for non action.

  72. Lily He-Prudhomme

    Sam, isn’t your own father the official editor for Financial Samurai? Will you be passing Financial Samurai down to your son someday?! Multi generational blogging!

    This is such a loaded post, I don’t know which aspect I should comment on.

    “I must earn his love.”
    This small tidbit really stuck out to me out of everything for a post that’s based on the economics of fear.

    I’m going to sidetrack here into parenting: my father demanded respect through anger and threat of violence. When I was 12, it occurred to me that that was probablyyy not the right way to gain another persons respect, a child or not. As I grew older, this concept seems rarer than it should be. In the Asian community…well you know filial piety and such. But I just ended up with a lot of resentment. I still can’t be in the same room with him.

    The fact that you said those 5 words means you’re doing something right by considering your children as independent beings rather than tools for esteem.

    Tl;dr: are you open to adopting? I don’t eat a lot

    1. Haha… yes! Thanks for reminding me… and also allowing me to add something extra in a future post.

      My dad is on vacation, so my wife has been editing for the past year :)

      Sorry to hear about how strict your dad was! My parents were strict, but they did not get angry or weren’t violent. I’ve read a lot of Dhamapada and Dalai Lama growing up and I’m a strong advocate of non-violence.

      I’m definitely open to adopting. I went to an adoption seminar for 3 hours last year! Was gonna write a post. How about you?

      1. Lily He-Prudhomme

        Aw I’m glad to have been helpful in any way Sam!

        I have thought of adopting but the amount of negative feedback (from my own traditionalist parents) has been overwhelmingly negative. I expect my parents to play a large role in any child’s life so if they are not on board with adoption – it’s simply not a good idea to push forward. It’s sort of a “let’s put a pin in it” thing with my husband.

        The other fear is how grueling the process can be. There was also a Reddit AMA about what happened when a U.S. couple tried to adopt (from Russia). They were hit with every single fee, delay and regulation in existence just to end up shelling out tens of thousands for a handful of nothing 2 years later.

  73. Courtney @ Your Average Dough

    Great article Sam and so true! Fear is a great motivator if used properly. Fear often motivates me as well. When I was a kid growing up my family was very poor and my mom and dad worked really hard to provide for my siblings and me. I remember the areas we lived in and the lifestyle we had, and that alone motivates me to work harder every day. The love my parents gave us was unconditional and they were always there for us, but having a little extra money would have made life much easier. While my husband and I still work and are a ways away from FIRE we have been saving aggressively towards both our long-term and short term goals. When you talked about long hours it gave me flashbacks to when I was in public accounting working all hours of the night. At the time I never really stopped to think about why I was working so long, but after reading your article the fear aspect really makes sense. Looking back, having reached FIRE and with your blog extremely successful, is there anything that you would have changed or maybe done earlier in your career?

    1. How inspiring your mom and dad were! I really think we owe our parents so much, which is why we need to be cognizant of trying to be the best parents possible. Nurture dominates genetics IMO!

      Looking back, I wouldn’t have been so lazy/fearful to wait until 2009 to start Financial Samurai. I came up with the name and theme etc in 2006.

      For my career, I wish I could have relocated to an Asian country or European country to work for 2 years. It’s always been my dream to work overseas. But it’s kinda too late now.. but maybe one day :)

      Experience the world w/ your job is one of the most amazing things I can think of.

  74. FullTimeFinance

    Fear is a great motivator and probably my biggest driver. My parents were both extremely poor at managing their financial lifestyle. The majority of my life has been spent ensuring I don’t end up like them. I don’t want to live like that or have my kids experiencing the things I did as a result of their financial management. As such I’m ever building up financial independence and backup plans.

  75. The Green Swan

    You’re right, fear has to have something to do with FIRE success. I’ve often thought the same which is why I talk about pushing boundaries and getting out of my comfort zone (both professionally and personally). We’re on the same page!

  76. I know you’re a big tennis player and thought you’d get a kick out of this. I read the other day that the best sport to play was tennis for the heart. The total body workout along with the short runs and cuts along with the various swings with the racket helped the heart the most. In contrast, the authors of the study said that running had non discernible benefit for the heart. Needless to say when my son is old enough he will be learning tennis :)

    So sounds like you picked the right sport to stay active and healthy with. Good luck in fitting in your size 32/33 jeans :)

    1. Wonderful! Didn’t know that the stops and stars were that good for the heart. I just want to live for another 25 years… or more.

      I can’t run for crap. Too boring!

  77. Financial Coach Brad

    I love the honesty of this post. Thanks for being so transparent and sharing.

    I hadn’t thought about it before, but I think deep down there is a little fear for me too. Perhaps all of us have at least a bit if we take the time to consider it.

  78. Fear has always been my biggest motivator. When I started in my industry in 2001 there were 3500 companies just like mine in the United States. Today there are 312. Some died a natural death but most got squeezed out by regulations that we had absolutely no control of whatsoever. For many years I would wake up in the morning wondering if this is the day I lose my company. Fear is what caused me to save when other people were spending. Fear is why I went to work while my friends were playing. Fear is powerful!

    I’m not some great businessman. Nor am I anything special in our industry. However, being afraid of failure more than most allowed me to zig when a more confident person would zag. It just worked out were ziging was the right thing to do.

    P.S I intentionally left out what industry I work in. It is a very small community and I value my anonymity.

    Thanks, Bill

    1. It’s like Last Man Standing! I feel the same way with blogging or tennis. I just won’t quit, and not quitting is more than half the battle.

      I didn’t realize you started a hot tub business. Musta been fun!

  79. Tonya@Budget and the Beach

    ooooh loaded question! I try not to be guided by fear, but I’ll be the first to admit it has led me to take certain actions in my life. First and foremost is health. I watched/watch my mom suffer from bad health due to lifestyle choices and I vowed from an early age I would not do the same thing, so it’s my number one priority and will throw money at that value when necessary, mostly with food. But I also have fears of being a money “failure” and that had made my threshold for being “not where I want to be” very low. Sometimes I do have to cut myself a break. Those are the two main ones.

  80. Stealth Saver

    Thank you Sam! It’s good to hear the perspective of a very successful person who had fear as a motivator.

    For me I still have it. My biggest fear is letting down my family. If I lost my job and didn’t have enough money to pay for our home I would be a complete wreck. Most of the time fear does paralyze me and had caused me to live in denial, rack up debt and put my family in a difficult position.
    But through reading your blog and how successful you have become has encouraged me to start my own blog. While I don’t think it has the content to ever be a cash cow that would cause me to quit my job, I hope it provides an income to one day supplement my main one.

    In regards to the list of things that helped you and your friends become financially independent. I wanted to stay that you have inspired me to do the following:

    Saving aggressively – saving, but not aggressively… yet
    Investing in stocks and real estate – Tried and failed because I lack discipline… for now
    Earning side income – Working on that with my blog
    Taking risks in our careers – About to do this… and it scares the hell outta me
    Working ungodly long hours – Will end up doing this if the risk above pays off :)
    Relocating to areas with huge job growth despite the higher cost of living – Luckily already do
    Leveraging the internet – The blog
    Starting a business – One day

    So in short… thank you for sharing your knowledge. It means a lot to me, and has changed my life.

    1. Wonderful! The first one, saving aggressively, is completely in your control! Save until it HURTS. That’s when you know you are saving enough.

      Good luck w/ your new endeavor. Even if your site doesn’t become a cash cow, see it as a cathartic way to confront your worries and a fun way to make new friends you otherwise would have not made.

      Keep on fighting!

  81. Ms. Frugal Asian Finance

    What an honest and touching post! I can totally relate to your story about the power of fear and how it can serve as the strongest motivation you’ve ever known in your life. I had my baby in the last semester of my Master’s program. Fear of failure drove me to a relatively successful semester despite a whirlwind of emotions. And yes, fear of letting our family down is so powerful and sometimes debilitating.

    1. Impressive you had your baby while finishing up your Master’s program! Well done and congrats! Have you been able to juggle post Master’s work w/ motherhood? I am impressed w/ any parent who can do both. NOT EASY!

  82. Dave @ Married with Money

    Fascinating read, one I connect to on several levels.

    I started getting my act together in a much more significant way after being laid off – mostly due to the fear of not being able to recover if I was out of work for a significant amount of time (with a wedding next week and a home being built as I type, a lot was on the line).

    Using this as a motivator has been exhilarating and effective, as long as it doesn’t turn into negativity and consumption.

    1. Thanks. I bet the layoff was a real eye-opener that put your hustle into overdrive. I’ve probably come close many times… there were 5-8 rounds of layoffs in one year for about 5 of the 13 years I worked in finances.

      Exhilaration is a good word. It’s how I felt after I negotiated my severance and got the first wave of cash to hit my bank account a couple months after I left!

  83. Grant @ Life Prep Couple

    I don’t feel like fear has been a major driving force in my life. I feel like I’m driven by the happiness that comes from making progress. There have been situations when fear has driven me like giving big presentations and working extra hours to be sure it was perfect. But my daily discipline and drive doesn’t come from fear.

    Competition would be another thing that has always driven me. Even the ridiculous silent competition you have with the person beside of you on a treadmill.

    I have not spent much time even thinking about fear but I would have to say outliving my daughter would be my greatest fear.

    1. @Grant, Nicely put! I am also driven by satisfaction from progress and not really by fear.

      However, I don’t like to compete as I am focused on my own path/relative satisfaction I am looking for. I might look at other’s just to make sure I am not far off the track or missing out big-time on something.

  84. A very well written post. In one of Thomas Stanley’s books (can’t remember which one), fear is also cited as a primary motivator for some people who achieved millionaire status in one of his studies of the wealthy.

    1. Interesting. Will have to check out that section again.

      It feels relatively easy to live a comfortable life in the US. I just feared looking back when I was 60-70 and regretting I didn’t lead a more remarkable life. I didn’t want to wonder “what if,” partly b/c I knew my mother wondered what if, and it made me sad.

  85. Financial Muse

    Wow, I want to say that I’m sorry you are so fearful and always have been. But looking at what you have accomplished I feel that fear did you more good than bad.

    Setting aside the “what if I fail and am poor” images you’ve had in mind since you were little, where do you think you would be today if you had been more carefree growing up?

    My biggest FIRE ingredient is patience (or lack thereof). I have my early retirement plan all mapped out. The income is there and I’m about seven years away from accomplishing my goal. But patience is hard to come by. Always has been!

    1. It’s cool. I’ve mostly gotten over my fears as I’ve written in my conclusion. Now my biggest fear is whether my son will recognize me as a good or bad father one day.

      If I had been more carefree growing up, I would have left my job as a 25 year old and returned to Hawaii to live at home w/ my parents. I would have surfed and helped take care of my grandfather’s fruit farm. Not a bad lifestyle!

      But I will admit that I’ve been incredibly thankful about my fears since about the age of 35, which coincided w/ me getting out of Dodge.

      What are some of the things you attribute to you being fearless?

  86. Counting Quarters

    I think for me it is the fear of not being able to do what I want when the time or opportunity comes. Whether if it is investing into a business or having the capital to start my own.

    A few years ago I was laid off from a company when they had a ownership transition and since then I have worked towards being financially independent. That way I can work because I enjoy my job instead of having to work.

  87. Hey Sam,

    I’m really thankful for your hardwork into the nights. Your blog has stretched me in most areas of my life. I appreciate your influence & guidance.

    As someone who tends to be paralyzed by fear, could you flesh out that last paragraph a bit more? I’d love to hear your thoughts!

    1. Howdy Josh,

      I think it’s important to ask yourself before doing you’re something afraid of doing: What the hell is the worst that could happen?

      The answer usually revolves around a lot of ego deflation b/c we’re so fearful of rejection.

      But I suggest LOOKING for rejection to give you that spinach power up. The more you get rejected, the more you will get used to getting rejected. Eventually, you’ll find something that clicks, and then you got to PRESS.

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

  88. Mr. Freaky Frugal

    What I observed and had drilled into my head as a child was “always live below your means.” That passed down knowledge is the #1 reason I FIREd. When I was a teenager it aggravated the hell out of me that my parents were always so frugal. But I embraced it once I became an adult.

    There other reasons are similar to the ones you list: saving aggressively, taking career risks, earning side income, and working long hours.

    I was also driven by fear but not to the same degree as Sam. I had fear of failing at my work or being bested by others. I also occasionally had and still do have fear about my health. This seems to be getting worse as I get older (I’m 57 now) which makes some sense.

    Fear can be a great motivator but it also has a downside. It’s no fun being anxious and worried about stuff that never actually happens. It can have a negative impact on other aspects of your life like relationships, health, and general happiness.

    1. Me too, but living below our means is a way of fighting off the fears that would keep us all up at night! Active fear management is what gives us control — to the extent we can prepare.

    2. Good parental upbringing! My parents are super frugal. They always had used (7+ year old) cars, and we lived very modestly. It was always lemon water for me when we went out.

      That is the trick, to not let fear create anxiety. I think talking to friends and loved ones about your fears helps A LOT. For me, writing out my fears and talking to folks online has been great therapy.

      I just spoke to a relative of mine who says she experiences anxiety and dysthymia. I’m lucky to have a pretty happy go lucky disposition….. but w/ fear of failure as a driver. Maybe it’s why I love Hawaii so much.

  89. saveinvestbecomefree

    I’m surprised that fear still drives you so much. You’ve clearly succeeded in many/most things in your life and certainly shouldn’t have any financial fears at this point. I can’t relate as much because fear has been less of a driver for me. I’ve simply worked hard at things because I wanted to see what I could accomplish. At the same time, I’m sure I would have worked even harder if I had more fear of failure. But I’m also sure I would have been much less balanced and happy. Being happy is the overall objective, and is not exactly the same as accomplishments.

    I certainly understand the financial fear from seeing or experiencing poverty early in life. My wife grew up on a lower income and it clearly gives her more concern with money. Interestingly, usually this translates to being much more conservative, but you’ve taken big risks that have paid off. Why do you think you were able to take such risks when you felt such fear? This seems more unique to me.

    1. Yes, fear was a big driver in my 20s and early 30s, partly b/c I got into so much trouble as a high schooler. I feared I’d amount to nothing b/c of my transgressions.

      B/c I felt completely lucky to get into The College of William & Mary, a really good state school when I was a senior in Virginia, I started to slowly feel there was nothing but upside. I was already expecting to just get a normal job, making a normal wage, hopefully.

      But then I got on a bus at 6am to go to a career fair in Washington DC. 25 other people signed up but nobody else showed. So we transferred to a car. Then I got called up to interview with folks in NYC at a major bank. And then I got a job I never thought I’d ever get. Another lucky break.

      From there, I decided to press with everything I had b/c I felt I was already living way beyond expectations.

      So perhaps the reason for taking so much risk despite so much fear is not so much courage, but GRATITUDE.

  90. For me its not ‘Fear’, but ‘Math’.

    Once you do the calculations based on savings rate, (reasonable) assumed rate of returns (past performance not indicative, yadda yadda) and the amount of years it will take, you’re left with no conclusion other than FI/RE CAN be done. You just have to take the steps. Why would anything less than being able to step away from your desk as soon as possible and be free to live the life you want be satisfactory to anyone? Even if you want to continue working, you can do that after having already ‘won the game’ and continue ringing up the score. In a word, you’re ‘free’.

    I guess for me more a logical conclusion, than an emotional one

      1. Dont get me wrong. There was a lot of denial along the way for me, and agitation that I would have to alter habits, location, etc to have a realistic chance of getting to FIRE within a decent amount of time. The main issue is, the numbers will tell you your end goal (as best they can). You have to take the steps along the way to give yourself the best chance to reach that number(s). We are all wired differently and I dont know that I can replicate what it is you did (which is amazing), but if you know you’re own strengths, you will align to those and work around them to craft a plan to get you along the way. For me, it was making peace with what was possible and what was more unlikely, formulating a plan and sticking to the plan. Execution is key.

        1. What you say makes sense. I need to focus on the math more and less on the emotional side of the equation during difficult, “tie-breaker” situations.

          After 3 years of not living in my previous home of 9.5 years, I have seen a 80% reduction in the emotional attachment for example. In another 2 years, I would say there will be a 95% reduction, or maybe 100% reduction as the PITA factor overwhelms all positive emotion, even w/ a prop manager.

          1. If you know yourself, you will be your best guide. Everyone reading your blog sees strength, surety of purpose and rewards you’ve reaped up to this point. There are strengths and weaknesses we are not privy to that you and those closest to you know only all too well. It can be a stumbling block, but also an opportunity since you best know how to navigate Scylla and Charybdis and come out on the other side roses like you’ve done in the past.

            This isn’t some argument between people over how someone was treated where emotions and societal mores hold sway. Math will give you the answer. The question is, what are you going to do with it and how will you get there? I’m not worried about you, even if you are.

  91. Ms. Conviviality

    Happy 40th Birthday, Sam!  So happy you were born because there wouldn’t be Financial Samurai otherwise. I’m sure I’m not the only one who appreciates your generosity in the time and effort you spend creating original, relevant, fun, and helpful content.  Thank you, sincerely. In appreciation of your work I came up with a fun little story for you.

    Gotham City may have Batman and Metropolis its Superman but no superhero has a greater impact on the financial wellbeing of its citizens than Financial Samuraiman!  This masked superhero comes to us from a fascinating place called the World Wide Web. The public doesn’t know what he looks like but people know that he’s real because his work has positive impact on society.  Don’t let his menacing mask fool you for he has shown his ability to follow the Samurai Code when it comes to loyalty, courage, veracity, compassion, and honor.  Wherever debt and unscrupulous deals lurk, he seeks them out to save us from falling into their traps.  His good deeds aren’t for fame or fortune.  His wise words keep the rest of us from financial doom and he is a beacon of hope for those who have lost their way.  His approach is with humility which encourages others to share their own experiences and in doing so has built an inclusive and optimistic community.  But it isn’t enough for Financial Samuraiman to just warn us of financial dangers, he also opens our eyes to the many financial opportunities we haven’t even thought about and in turn give us options, change our mindset, and ultimately improve our lives. 

    Guess what?!  I came across your superhero tagline in an old post:  “We are going to build more wealth, slice through more money bullshit, and be happier because of it!” 

    Fight on, Financial Samuraiman! :)

    Readers:  The story above was inspired by Sam’s 1,300+ articles.  Anyone else care to share how Sam has inspired you or helped to improve your financial situation?

    1. Sam,

      Happy birthday! You’re right that fear can be a motivator, but so can inspiration. And as Ms. Conviviality points you, you have been a great inspiration to so many of your readers: to try something new, to take the reigns of their own financial destroy, to start a blog.

      So here’s to you, Sam, for being a non-fear source of motivation for so many of us little samurais!

    2. Thanks for reaching out! It’s been a wonderful birthday so far, talking a stroll in the park with three of my most favorite people.

      It’s funny, b/c I don’t think I ever mentioned when my birthday was? Did I in some random comment somewhere? Anyhoo, no matter. I appreciate the acknowledgement. B/c my birthday is during the summer, I never celebrated it really with anybody, so it’s almost kind of embarrassing.

      Glad to have you as a reader!

      1. Many Happy Returns! Maybe your mention above, concerning your fitness at age 40, inspired the OP’s acknowledgement. The best is yet to come for you, and yours, FS!

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