The mindset needed for early financial independence

Everybody would love to be financially independent, but there’s a certain mindset needed to get there…and to get there much earlier than usual.  The idea of financial independence didn’t just happen upon me, and I said “OK, let’s do this.”  Like most things, it was developed over a long period of my life and then something sparked all of the built up thoughts I had.

In retrospect, it’s easy to see what caused it.  But while I was doing it?  Nah.  What’s unfortunate, though, is that the path to get here wasn’t paved with roses on each side.  It was full of bad choices, lies to myself and all of the things that would make personal finance gurus cringe.

I would say my mindset started after high school.  Well, I didn’t finish high school…so…after I stopped going.  No no…let’s go back.

I skipped two months of high school because I thought I was above it.  Was I?  No.  Did I think I was?  Yes.  It just spiraled out of control.  I skipped one day and then didn’t want to go back and face my teachers, so I skipped another day.  Then I didn’t want to go back and face the teachers for skipping two days…so I skipped another day.  Before you knew it, I was two months in the hole.  Eventually, my parents found out from the school that I hadn’t been there.  Man…if there was anything I could have done to have just disappeared.  Nevertheless, a meeting was called at school with most of my teachers and my parents.  I was found out and my time had come.

During the meeting I had my head down a lot and mostly just agreed with whatever anybody said.  I was a sad little pile of human in that chair.  I don’t think I ever really looked anybody in the eye the entire time.  I was embarrassed and ashamed, not because I regretted my skipping, but because my plan (wasn’t much of a plan) didn’t work out and I was being called out on it.  Worse, they were right.  Still worse, they offered me a way out.  Why is that worse?  Go ask a self-destructive teenager.

Their deal was that if I completed all incomplete work, they’d let me take the final exams and I would probably pass.  Well, I took their offer to right my wrongs.  I completed all of two month’s of work in one week.  I was caught up.  Other students sneered at me as I finally attended class again.  What a terrible feeling.  I had brought it upon myself, though.

Final exams came and I began my walk over to the school.  I replayed all of what happened in my head, over and over, for the entire walk.  I arrived at the school grounds…and something just stopped me from going inside.  I couldn’t go in.  If I went in and completed these exams, “they win”, I told myself.  To them, I would have been a case of a troubled kid that needed guidance and they could say they solved that case.  No no, it wasn’t going to be that easy for them, I stupidly decided.  I kept walking.  Past the school…past the intersection…and just kept going.

I couldn’t go home.  Didn’t want to.  How would I explain why I’m back so early?

I couldn’t go to school.  Missed the start time.  They’d never let me in.

I was just…adrift…I guess.

I arrived back at home after a few, calculated hours.  My mom asked me how the exams went, and I said “fine.”

Days later, I met with a military recruiter.

All I knew about the military was that people went in as mostly losers and came out with drive.  You may say to yourself, “Well, it’s a good thing I already HAD drive after high school…so I didn’t NEED the military.”

I say to you:  “No, no you did not have this kind of drive.”

The Marine Corps process is an interesting one.  They break you down, waaaaay down, and then down some more.  When do they build you up?  It depends on what NCO (supervisor, if you didn’t know) you get.  The Marine Corps has no interest in building up your drive.  Oddly enough, you get this drive by hating the Marine Corps…or at least I did.  I think every other Marine does as well.  Nobody bonds over how great they had it at Camp Pendleton, surfing the waves and walking to the PX to get some beer.  They bond over the horrible, horrible shit they’ve had to put up with.

If you think that’s bad.  You’d be wrong.

That’s just another wonderful Thursday.

What do I see there?  Some guys who did an OK field day, with a company gunny who is on a bit of a power trip.  You know what, though?  That’s just life.  Bad shit happens and don’t take it personal.  Keep your shit up and you’ll be fine.  Chill out, it’s just a dumb ass field day inspection with no real consequences from a bored Gunny.

This is exactly why Marines sometimes prefer deployments.

In a deployment, there’s almost no room to be bored enough to do this.  If there is, there are too many people deployed.

Why would this never happen on deployment?  Because shit fucking sucks over there and everybody knows it.  Also, there’s so much else to worry about.  You know, like not getting shot, or how am I going to go to this city without being blown up?  Or, for the more green guys, such life-defining moments personal questions as, “Will I be able to kill another man?

Seeing how other people live is very sobering.  Some live their lives in tents.  People actually herd sheep on foot.  Electrical wires going everywhere.  Cars on fire…and it’s fine for them.  Kids would come up to our tanks and shout for candy like it was a parade and 5 minutes later, we’d hit a roadside bomb.

Imagine that.  Not being hit by a roadside bomb…but, in your childhood, asking a tank for candy.  Like it’s normal.  Then, watching the tanks pass and hearing explosions and gunfire.

Imagine growing up in a family that was lethally forced to hold a cache of weapons in your backyard.  Imagine the fucking balls it would take to be a kid and ask the US Military to remove this cache of weapons…even though it likely meant your family’s death.  Adults in other developed parts of the world exist who have not had their will tested in such a manner, ever.

When you’re deployed… the stuff back stateside?  It’s background noise.  You know about it and you know about the problems back home, but it’s fine because whatever the problem, it’s still in the United States.

We live in pure decadence and luxury here.  Right now, I just got back from walking my dog in the park.  You know, the park that just happens to be a green, tree-ridden area, set aside from development for the sole purpose of recreation.  I’m sitting in a leather chair, typing into a $2k gaming rig of a computer that’s plugged into fiber optic internet.  I have a central heating system set to a specific temperature that I don’t even use, because I’m wearing so many layers, because I have so many clothes!  I didn’t even buy some of these clothes!  They were just given to me.

We just got done setting up our fake Christmas tree, with hand-me-down ornaments and lights that were just lying around.  We leave these LEDs plugged in because we can afford the couple bucks to maintain a festive house at night just for the sole purpose of being welcoming and festive.  Let me point out that we’re in a time when LED lights — the magical lights that last for almost a lifetime and cost 80% less than regular lights — are hand me downs.

I’m white.  I’m male.  I shower every day in warm water.  I drink filtered water.  I’m getting paid to go to school.  I eat meat every day.  I get paid more than I care to spend.  I have a down comforter that gets too hot in the winter!  I live in the woods for a couple days every once in awhile for sport.

Just by being citizens of the United States, we are given a huge opportunity, time and time again, to live like rich people while we become actually rich in relation to our peers.  Just the fact that you have clean water, food and education makes you on the top 1% of the richest people in all of human civilization.  Don’t be a little bitch about getting heated seats in your car.  Cherish that you have a car.  Further, cherish that the road you’re driving it down isn’t laden with bombs and children getting candy from tanks.

But, what do most of us do with our riches?  Spend it.  Flaunt it.  “Treat ourselves.”  As if having it wasn’t enough.  We corner ourselves with our own spending habits to the point where we have to spend more and more just to maintain it.  We buy trinkets to decorate our decadent homes.

Shit, I’m guilty of it myself.  I have lights and a Christmas tree…plants…a dog…fancy kitchen appliances…central heat and A/C…and an automated home media center that’s connected to a big gaming computer.  I’m no Spartan even if I try to give off that impression.  It’s just what happened.  I got a better job and I bought better stuff.  I started to pay off my loans that I had racked up in the military.

Then, I started tracking my spending.  What did I find?  None of it aligned with what my goals were.  I bought a projector, but skimped on kitchen supplies (even though I cooked all my meals).  I bought a Jeep that wasn’t what I needed.  I drank at bars, but preferred smaller groups at home.  I bought Christmas gifts, even if I didn’t know the person.

So I started to align my spending with my beliefs.  

And you know what?  Spending dropped off a cliff.  I stopped going to bars.  I drove less.  I sold many of my gadgets/toys that I didn’t need.  I stayed home and played video games with friends.  I drank cheap beer with them and had a blast.

After awhile, I didn’t even need a budget anymore.  I was spending so much less than I had anticipated.  It was now natural to save.  Instead of looking for a budget to tell me where I can spend, I tuned it to try to find where I can save more.  Then, with all this fuel on the ground, I hit the spark of Mr. Money Mustache and set it ablaze.

Suddenly it all made sense.  I just needed somebody to put it all together for me.

  • Possessions do not equal happiness
  • Happiness is made up of friends, freedom and the feeling of making a difference
  • You can purchase more time on this earth to pursue the second point by having money
  • If you live in a developed country, you have an astonishing opportunity to attaining that freedom and happiness
  • Do not squander opportunities when they’re shoved in your face

Finally, I have my purpose.  I can stop quitting things and work towards this.  I can stop thinking I’m better than everybody and instead, realize I’m not and work with them.  What my past has given me, though, is an unshakable determination for what I want.  I’ve always wanted to just not do what everybody else is doing.  I bet if everybody was out getting wealthy and starting projects, I’d be out spending all my money and sleeping on the couch.

I’ll never forget my time in the Marines or overseas.  It has given me a broad sense of the world, whether I liked it or not.  It’s given me perspective, patience and determination.  Oddly enough, those are the three things that will make a successful long-term investor.  It’s a great feeling knowing what you want to do with your life and I’m very fortunate to be on the path to achieving it and be able to share it with anybody who cares to listen.

Have a good week!

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