Although you will find common themes among those who have reached financial independence you will also find many differences. Millionaires come from all walks of life. You will find men and women both single and married. Some will focus on advancing their education to the highest level while others will drop out of college or never attempt it in the first place. Career choices vary greatly as well. Doctors, lawyers, bankers and software engineers may be common but so are entrepreneurs and those who take the less traveled paths in life.
Some millionaires were guided by their wealthy parents, while others are the first in their family to make more than minimum wage. Some are born savers who can delay instant gratification in favor of long term goals. Others earn enough to live for today while still putting a whole lot of money away for tomorrow. There are those who focus on spending as little as possible and those who believe in the power of earning more.
The truth is: Every journey to financial independence is unique.
When you begin your quest for financial enlightenment you may search for mentors and gurus to guide you. The first time you read about the power of compounding interest or how to save half of your income you may become giddy with excitement. You may dream of saving with no goal in mind or immediately envision leaving a job you hate. Perhaps neither of these are your focus. Maybe you simply want to enrich your life and soul in a way that seems incompatible with a 9-to-5 job. Thanks to the power of the Internet you will search for voices and words that echo your excitement and encourage you to reach your goals.
When I started this blog I was twenty-eight years old and already well on my way to becoming a millionaire; I just didn’t know it. At the time I didn’t calculate the value of my primary home in my net worth calculations. I wanted to be a millionaire in bank figures only. Although in theory I knew the value of saving money and watching it grow I suppose I wasn’t convinced it would really happen for me. I may have run the calculations but a large part of me didn’t believe the numbers would grow so large or so quickly.
When I was scrounging to save money and build my career I hung on to the words of other personal finance bloggers. I would read a post and think “that’s brilliant”, “that’s amazing”, “that’s such a good idea”, but in reality I didn’t often change my course. At the end of the day I stuck to my own beliefs about money.
This strict adherence to my beliefs has often been a source of contention for my husband and I. He believes primarily in earning power. Coming from less wealthy parents and watching my mom spend very little on herself or our home I stuck to my beliefs about frugality. While my career grew and my salary quadrupled I still focused on clipping coupons and saving small amounts of money. Through some very hard life lessons I have landed in the middle of these two ideas.
At forty years old I now realize the weight of our decisions are less about money and more about time. Do I want to waste time in a job I don’t enjoy or waste it standing in line to save $1? The truth is: I don’t want to do either. I hope that the money in my bank account ultimately ensures I can make better life decisions. Better decisions about my time and my money.
A recurring theme keeps popping up in my head as I read personal finance blogs. Rather than seeing the similarities in stories I am beginning to discover just how personal every story is. Your fortune will be earned in a completely different way than my own. While I can provide guidance on how I achieved wealth it is not very likely that you will reach it through the same means.
Maybe you receive a nice “early-retirement” package from work. Perhaps you invest in real estate, own a small business or sell your blog for a hefty chunk of change. The odds that we will reach FI in the same way are very unlikely to be one and the same.
So what does all of this mean. It means that you should follow your instincts to the best of your ability. You should focus on earning money and trying to save. But the nitty-gritty details of how to accomplish those tasks should be all your own.
Do you want to create fifteen bank accounts each with a separate financial goal or can you plow all of your money into one account and divvy it out when needed? Do you want to use the cash envelope system or do you trust yourself with a credit card that earns rewards? Do you need to save 50% of your income and work a miserable job or can you find enjoyment in working fewer hours at your day job while simultaneously starting a successful side-gig? Do you need to clip coupons and watch over every penny or can you spend wisely and thoughtfully? Only you can answer those questions.
From today’s vantage point I can view many things that I could not see clearly in my youth. Not everyone will become a millionaire, but with focus, determination and a fair amount of earning power you can build yourself a solid nest egg. Take the advice you read with a grain a salt. Pick and choose the pieces that make sense to you and leave the rest behind.
Your story is unique. Your journey is your own. Figure out what works for you and your family. If you love to watch sports then don’t cut your cable. If you love to travel then cut spending elsewhere so you can afford your airfare free and clear. If you are tempted to shop then stay out of stores and unsubscribe from emails. What works for you may not work for someone else. That’s fine. Take hold of your destiny. Do what makes the most sense to you.
Start your journey, choose your path and heck change it half-way down the road. Very few things in life are set in stone and it’s okay to let the winds sway you into different directions from time to time, but stay true to your beliefs and values and look for those who are walking down similar paths to your own.
When I began saving I knew little to nothing about financial independence.” I saved for the future, for the unknown, for the possibilities that money might afford me. Perhaps you need a different approach. If it helps to narrow your focus to a more specific goal then do so.
As you travel along in your quest keep in mind that money is important but it isn’t all that matters. The greatest gift of financial independence is the recognition that time, energy and enjoyment are just as important as dollars and cents. Of course, that clarity is easier to see once you reach FI. If you haven’t reached that point yet you’ll have to trust me.