Over the years, many readers have asked, “What does it take to become a Financial Samurai? Do you have a set of core principles to follow?”
I resisted putting anything formal together because to do so felt a little bit arrogant and presumptuous. But after almost 10 years of running Financial Samurai and having over 1,000 people ask me the same thing, it would now be wrong not to.
Now that I’m a father, I regularly think about how to ensure taking care of my son and wife if I were to die prematurely. In addition to creating a will, buying life insurance, and setting up a revocable living trust, it’s a good idea to expand Financial Samurai so that somebody can take over or contribute to the platform regularly once I’m gone.
Financial Samurai is not just me. Financial Samurai is a way of life. To be a Financial Samurai is to be someone who follows these five principles.
The Core Principles Of Financial Samurai
1) Never fail due to a lack of effort because effort requires no skill. You can fail because of superior competition, bad luck, or poor execution, but you cannot fail because you didn’t try your best. When you look back on your life, your biggest regrets will be the things you didn’t do and the things you half-assed. Get on that 6am bus!
2) Always maintain an abundance mindset instead of a scarcity mindset. There are trillions of dollars in the world for the taking. There is no reason why you can’t build your own fortune. Focus on wealth creation through investing and entrepreneurship rather than just being frugal. There is only so much you can save and an endless amount you can make. Create your own opportunity!
3) Depend on no one but yourself to succeed. Nobody will save you, so you must save yourself. The world can be a very difficult place. We will inevitably face hardships along our path to financial independence. Most people are too busy fighting their own fires to help fight yours. By accepting that nobody will bail us out, we will end up doing our best work because we have no other choice.
4) Know that you only deserve what you have earned. There is no better feeling than working hard for your success. Pity the people who have everything given to them. Let go of your need to compare. You will never fully know how hard they tried or didn’t try to achieve their results. Eradicate entitlement.
5) Always give without asking for anything in return. Give your time. Give your money. Give your kindness to those in need. You never know what someone is going through, so keep your judgement locked away. Constantly smile and you will find that strangers will smile right back. Eventually, people can’t help but want to help you succeed.
By embracing these core principles, you will adopt the way of the Financial Samurai.
Specific Goals Of The Financial Samurai
1) Save until it hurts every month. If the amount of money you’re saving each month doesn’t hurt, you are not saving enough. Once your savings amount stops hurting, it’s time to save a little more. Ideally, you’ll eventually save 50% or more of your after-tax income. Your mission is to then invest the majority of your savings in risk-appropriate asset classes.
2) Always max out all pre-tax retirement accounts. There is no excuse not to take full advantage of tax-advantageous vehicles. You will adjust to your paycheck. Tax is your greatest ongoing liability. Your goal is to defer and minimize taxes for as long as possible.
3) Build a net worth equal to 20X or greater than your average gross income. Once you have built a net worth of such magnitude, you will finally feel true financial freedom. Your average gross income over your career should come close to your steady state income where you are living a comfortable life.
4) Generate a passive income stream that covers 100% of your best life expenses. True financial freedom can also be attained when all your expenses are covered, whether your net worth is 20x your annual gross income or not. To create such levels of passive income requires the aggressive accumulation of after-tax investments beyond your 401(k) and IRA.
5) Never quit, get laid off. When it’s time to finally leave your job, negotiate a severance instead of quitting. If you quit, you are not eligible for unemployment benefits, WARN Act pay, a severance, or subsidized healthcare. Given pensions are becoming rarer, you must create your own pension. The abundance mindset is key to achieving a successful negotiation.
6) Live a life of purpose as soon as possible. Financial Samurais do not just sit passively and let life beat them up. Instead, they take action to make life better, no matter how uncomfortable the path. No job is worth doing if you don’t give it at least a 7 out of 10. Take career risks. Start a business on the side. Constantly be exploring new opportunities. Never settle.
7) Work while others are playing. Instead of watching sports all weekend, use that time to do something productive. Instead of sleeping in until 7am, wake up an hour early to build your business. Instead of going on vacation during the summer, use that time to get a Master’s degree, then go on vacation in the fall when it’s cheaper and less busy. If you can consistently work while others are playing, one day you might never have to work again.
8) Empower those who are struggling or feel forgotten. In every city and town across the world, there is someone who needs a helping hand. Roughly 20% of people have disabilities that makes their lives a little to a lot more difficult. Despite being one of the wealthiest nations on Earth, the poverty rate in the US is still between 11 – 15%. A Financial Samurai does not turn a blind eye, but instead finds ways to help every single week.
9) Fight ego by practicing Stealth Wealth. It’s only natural to want to shout from the rooftops how much you make, how much you are worth, and how successful you are. Instead, do so in moderation, preferably only when explaining a situation to help someone else. Never fully reveal the full extent of your wealth or success, no matter how big or small it is. You will only make others feel bad and attract unwanted negativity by overly boasting about your wealth.
10) Never confuse brains with a bull market. Always differentiate between luck and skill. In a long bull market, it’s easy to think you are the greatest investor on Earth. In a bear market, it’s easy to think yourself a fool and discredit all your hard work. The luckier you are, the harder you should work and give back. Eventually, your luck will turn, so you will need to be prepared.
11) Practice predicting the future. Avoid letting your mind ossify through years of mundane thought. Instead, spend at least an hour every month thinking about future trends in demographics, technology, labor, health, work, and life. If you can properly forecast your misery, you will be happier because you’ll do things before such misery comes to change. If you can correctly identify a multi-decade trend, then you will invest more confidently and gain a tremendous amount of wealth in the process.
12) Create a perpetual giving machine. Establish something that will keep on giving long after you are gone. Perhaps it is by creating an archive of podcasts for your daughter and her daughters to listen to. Perhaps it is by creating a scholarship fund at your school. Or maybe you are willing to open up in an article about a personal difficulty that can help others overcome their own grief. Giving is the most pure form of joy you will ever experience.
Never Stop Learning
Thank you to the millions of readers since 2009 who’ve shared their opinions and allowed Financial Samurai to grow and evolve. We’ll continue to explore different topics of interest. We’ll continue to view different opinions with open minds.
Financial Samurai is a way of life, not a level you finally attain. I cannot be more excited to see where the next 10 years takes us!
Readers, what are some core principles and goals you would like to see added to Financial Samurai?