Everybody’s FI path is a different one
Maybe it’s the engineer in me who, before, mentally decided that there must only be one way to financial independence…and that way was paved by the musings of Mr. Money Mustache, riding his bike of course. He writes that we should all be riding our bikes, live close to work and DIY the shit out of everything. Don’t get me wrong, these are all very fine ways to live and to interact with the world. I just no longer think that this script is meant to be for everybody.
Granted, he does state that his blog is intended to be more advanced personal finance – for people who have generally “made it” in life and just need to stop spending and live a “slightly less ridiculous” lifestyle. Which rightfully implies that minimum-wage retail workers need not apply. I know of people with $100k+ student loan debt still working at sub-$15/hr jobs. Yeah – MMM isn’t for them…and they generally don’t like reading him since they can’t do anything with his advice and that makes them feel even more trapped. When I refer to MMM not being for everybody, I’m not talking about those people. I’m talking about the people who’ve “made it” too.
I think I’ve “made it.” As a single person, I’m pulling down close to $80-85k/yr through various income streams in one of the lowest cost-of-living places in the US – Buffalo, NY. I think if you make over $30k here, you get to be mayor if you want to. More importantly, I don’t spend much of it. Only about 25-30%, leaving me with 70-75% savings going directly into investments. Still, I don’t follow a lot of MMM principles.
I don’t think it’s because I don’t want to, I think it’s because…well, life just happens. Or I’m addicted to slight conveniences.
I dry my clothes on the line in the basement when I can. Sometimes? I just need them to be dry quickly and put them in the dryer. Chalk it up to poor planning.
I don’t always ride my bike to work. Sometimes I don’t feel like getting drenched on the way to work (on the way home, I don’t care). Or, sometimes I don’t want to navigate through the icy, slushy wasteland that is Buffalo, NY. Cold? I don’t mind. 1-2in of hard ice blocks bumping/sliding me around? Ehh…
Company coming over? I’m turning up the furnace. I want guests to be comfortable and I don’t want to have to lecture them on wearing proper clothing for the season. It’s just one night. My heating bills for my tiny-ass apartment have been $20-40/mo in winter. You read that right. I live above an old lady who cranks her heat and I believe it all just comes upstairs.
DIY? While I remodeled my apartment out of necessity, I contracted out my doors and the lower apartment’s windows. I wanted the doors and windows to be perfect and I didn’t want to dilly-dally on the job – trying to learn how on Youtube – when I’m going to work full-time and going to school full-time. I just didn’t have time, and it had to get done. Easily my most costly un-Mustachian thing.
I love MMM. He turned me onto real frugality (the kind with a purpose). Because of him, I am now saving 70%+ of my paycheck and have decided to pursue financial independence. He propelled me onto a course where I would find Stoicism, Tim Ferriss, Your Money or Your Life and countless other finance books. Really…some major life changes happened after I’ve read his blog and I couldn’t be happier with the outcome.
So maybe his writings are for me, but I just can’t do what he does as well? Maybe out of trying to be perfect right out of the gate and having life happen and screw things up…I’m just insecure? Maybe if I convince myself that it’s OK to not be perfect and that MMM isn’t perfect either, I can stop beating myself up over it?
I’m not so sure. It’s quite possible that our paths are just different. The idea is the same. “Spend on things that make sense.” If you’ll notice, whenever I bitch out and spend money to solve a problem, it’s for a fairly good reason. I want to stay mostly dry and safe on the bike; I want my guests to be comfortable even though they’ve dressed ridiculously; My doors were jacked up and I had zero time between everything to fix them.
Are these failures? Should I be looking at them as such?
Take what I’m basically saying right now – “It’s OK to be spending this money on convenience because I’m still saving so much.” Isn’t this woefully similar to when people say “I set aside enough money to retire [at 65], so I can spend on things I enjoy right now.”
Does the time frame matter? Do the objects or experiences being bought matter? Why?
Now, I’m not having doubts about having a hoard of money to live off of while I sit at home noodling with dumb projects and traveling around the world visiting friends and seeing new places.
I think what I’m very slowly getting at, is that everybody’s path is different. MMM started out his own way…I’m just merely learning. In learning, we fumble around (buying an expensive ebike to go 16mi/day) and hopefully question things (I refer you to this post). We learn what we’re good at and where we can improve. We learn new ways to do things, since we’re coming at it from a different angle.
At the very least, my hope is, I can combine all of the books that I’ve read and pick apart something from each of them that applies to my life directly.
Mr. Money Mustache isn’t writing for me…in the sense that he has my exact circumstances in mind. He’s writing about what he sees.
Tim Ferriss isn’t writing for me either, he’s writing to show people what’s possible.
With all the other books…they don’t have my circumstances in mind. How could they? They’re great, eye-opening reads…but the formula isn’t spot-on for everybody. How could it be?
Perhaps I just read things in a different way, but it’s taken me a long, long time to learn for myself that these blogs and books and podcasts? They’re what’s possible. It’s also not a baking recipe where if you miss one ingredient, you’re fucked. It’s a stew, baby.
Put whatever you want in there, but follow the basic guidelines. I’ll refrain from making financial soup metaphors for different ingredients of a supposed stew. Just know that I was thinking about it, and if I had done it, it would have been great.
So yes, I think the real truth here is to continue to consume all of the information you want and learn to distinguish what you can take away from each of the sources and apply to your own life goals. It’s like going up to the “information buffet”. When I walked up, I took away MMM’s disdain for “ridiculous spending” and started to exercise my frugal muscles. I took Your Money or Your Life’s sense that each dollar is a block of time. I took Tim Ferriss’ advice on creating passive income streams.
Having ate all of that and digested, it’s time to get some more food.
What things have you taken away from your readings? What have you left behind?