Not So Hardcore…


If you spend any time reading this blog (or other financial independence blogs), you might begin to develop something of a false impressions about this whole financial independence thing — specifically that we’re really hardcore people.  Extremists.

Occasionally I get emails from people saying, “It’s great what you’ve achieved, but you’re so hardcore.  I could never do that…”

Readers get the impression we’re hardcore money fanatics, hardcore savers, hardcore exercisers, and even hardcore investors.  It all sounds super extreme!  But is it really?

The public faces of financial independence movement definitely seem extreme when you read about them in the news (or on our blogs).  The media likes to emphasize those more extreme bits — cold houses, cooking every meal at home, riding bicycles instead of driving, living out of vans by the river, and traveling to 3rd world countries to cut medical costs.

For everyone that has an interest in financial independence but is scared off by this image of a “hardcore lifestyle” — take heart!  The reality isn’t nearly as extreme as you might think… it only appears that way from the outside.

extreme sign
Is it extreme, or does it only look extreme?

 

Every Journey Begins With A Single Step

To be fair, from an average person’s point of view many of the things I do might seem extreme.  For example, it’s been over 3 months since Mrs. Tako and I last ate at a restaurant.  That might sound extreme the first time you hear it.  Many people eat at restaurants daily, and don’t even think twice about it.  For them, that’s just a “normal” way of living.

But every great journey begins with a single step.  Financial independence is no exception.  It is a journey.  Some of us are just happen to be a little further up those “steps”.

machu picchu
When viewed from the top, every “great view” seems extreme.  To get there, you just take one step at a time.

It begins with a desire to see change in your life.  For me, that desire came from a string of really terrible jobs and really terrible bosses that made my life miserable.

I was working 10 hour days (including weekends).  Once I added in the commute time, I was easily putting in 12 hour days.

Up at 6 AM for work, and back home at 7 PM for dinner.  That was my pattern.  I’d come home, eat dinner, then put the boys to bed at around 8 or 8:30 PM.  Only to repeat this pattern 6 or 7 days a week.  My boss always had work for me on the weekends.

On a busy week, I only got to see my kids 1 hour a day.

Some people claim to enjoy working.  They report feeling fulfilled and energized by the work they do.  That might be the case, but don’t include me in that category.  Work was a place I hated.  It felt like I was trapped in a kind of crazy prison.  Only this prison came with a paycheck and a boss that enjoyed criticizing my every move.

That was my work experience, and I had a whole string of terrible jobs.  Ugh!  It makes me depressed just thinking about it!

 

Saving Was My Only Escape

Rumor has it that difficult jobs (or high stress jobs) come with commensurate pay to make up for all the bullshit.  Supposedly.  This was never my experience.  I was paid a decent salary, but I was never a high earner.  Only in my last two years of employment did I finally break the $100k/yr barrier.

Obviously, I wasn’t getting rich doing things the “normal” way.  Rather than earning a super high income and coasting into my retirement years, my escape had to come from learning how to save.

The first steps started innocently enough — Instead of buying lunch like the rest of my co-workers, one day I just decided to start packing my lunch to work.  Every day.  That was the first step on the staircase to a bigger savings rate.

At the time it certainly didn’t feel like a hardcore move.  I had a bunch of student loans, not a lot of savings, and a pretty stressful job.  It made sense to try to save a little more.

Then I took one more step — I started taking the bus to work.  Again, this move made sense because my employer gave out a free bus pass as a company benefit.  I’d catch my bus at the park ‘n’ ride every morning, and then ride for 1 hour to work.  Me, and all the other commuters that didn’t want to sit behind the wheel in traffic.

It didn’t feel extreme.  It felt normal.  This was just the next logical step to improve life — Instead of driving, riding the bus gave me time to read or get caught-up on work before the day started.

After that, I started walking to the park ‘n’ ride instead of driving.  I only used my car on the weekends.  Sure, it took 30 minutes to walk to the bus stop, but I got some daily exercise doing it.  That exercise meant I didn’t need to pay for a gym membership to stay fit and healthy.

More savings!

Step by step up the stairway of savings it went like this.  I just kept going.  It didn’t happen fast either, this happened over months and years.  I made tiny little tweaks to my daily routine to keep saving even more of my meager income.  None of it felt ‘hardcore’.

Just incremental steps that I barely even noticed after I adapted in the following days, weeks, and months.  Before I knew it, I was saving more than 50% of my income.

 

Investing Became A Passion

Investing is one area where I might seem a little more “hardcore” at first glance.  I absolutely love investing and it’s a personal passion… but I wasn’t always this way.

I grew up learning zero about investing.  The schools I attended never taught investing.  My parents didn’t know anything about investing.  I went out into the wide world knowing absolutely nothing about investing.  I was as dumb and naive as you can get.

Thankfully, I made a friend at my first job out of college that planted the investing seed.  That seed sprouted and took hold in me like you wouldn’t believe.  I devoured every investing book I could find.  Every possible scrap of information about investing got consumed — books, newspapers, prospectuses, websites, annual reports, quarterly reports, trade publications, everything…

That sounds kind of hardcore, right?  What kind of crazy person reads all of that, right?

It’s really no different than discovering a passion for gardening, cooking, or photography.  You just throw yourself into your passions because you love it.  What might seem boring to some people (or a ton of work), is actually a relaxing experience for me.

I just happen to be one of those people that enjoys reading and learning about investing.  You certainly don’t need to share that investing passion to reach financial independence.  By reading a few good investing books like The Simple Path To Wealth, or any of the books on my book list, you can learn A TON about investing in a very short amount of time.

In fact, I decided there were ultimately 4 books that completely changed my life.

 

Final Thoughts

On the surface, it might seem like members of the Financial Independence movement are a bunch of hardcore extremists.  In other words — crazy people.  The kind of crazy people that only eat beans ‘n’ rice, and unroll double-ply toilet paper for the “extra savings”.  People that give Ebeneezer Scrooge a good name.

The truth couldn’t be further away.  Achieving financial independence isn’t something for a select few extreme people — it’s for everybody!

In fact, I believe the financial independence movement was inevitable.  Societal changes have forced financial independence to be a thing.  Everybody should be doing it.  (Sooner or later.)

The under-the-covers reality I’m trying to illustrate here is that it only looks extreme when viewed at the end of a financial independence journey… after we’ve walked the road and become completely different people.

Taken into context, each little step isn’t extreme at all.  It’s a natural progression as you walk The Road to FI.

Make no mistake, we’re normal people… and normal people have things they get really passionate about.  But don’t let a few interesting hobbies scare you away!

A life of financial independence (and all the freedom it contains) simply allows us to indulge those passions.  We get to do what we love after reaching FI.  It’s not nearly as “hardcore” as you might think… but it is a pretty amazing way to live.

Now it’s your turn — Are you hardcore?  Extreme?  Did you do something “out-there” to reach your financial independence?  I’d love to hear about it in the comments!

 

[Image Credit: Flickr1, Flickr2, Flickr3]

34 thoughts on “Not So Hardcore…

  • February 27, 2019 at 5:54 AM
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    Ha love it, we think alike. I did a post a while back about the exact same thing, I called it being “Alterna”. My experience is that you don’t have to be extreme, you just need to be different than the norm.

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    • February 27, 2019 at 8:53 PM
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      Absolutely Dave! Being different means different results!

      Reply
  • February 27, 2019 at 6:53 AM
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    my situation was a lot like yours, tako. i was working a decent paying job with crappy hours and no satisfaction. there was lots of mandatory overtime but i never broke 100k even though i came close. i never spend much of that “extra” overtime money but paid off student loans and then our house. we invested along the way but only moderately compared to extreme savers. we never even maxed our 401k’s in my house. i enjoy learning about investing and executing what i’ve learned and that helps. we went from 2 incomes to 1 a couple of years ago and barely felt a blip in our lives. the whole thing took less than 15 years.

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    • February 27, 2019 at 8:54 PM
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      It happens amazingly fast once you get things ‘tuned’ doesn’t it? Worked that way for me at least!

      Reply
  • February 27, 2019 at 7:05 AM
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    Yes, everything is relative, and viewed from the opposite end I can see how folks would see you as extreme. But since the world revolves around me :-), I’m starting to view the people who spend money like it’s going out of style as the extreme ones. Saving money in reasonable and logical ways has become so normal that I look at Tako and others who might be just a wee bit further along the path (I’m not making Xmas gifts anytime soon…) and it’s totally normal.

    I do think that frugality in general can overwhelm people not just because it’s different but also because it’s so conscious an endeavor. The attention and optimization to spend can shock people who aren’t used to it.

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  • February 27, 2019 at 7:10 AM
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    I can certainly relate to your story, or at least portion of it! Think you did well considering the circumstances.

    But this: “It’s great what you’ve achieved, but you’re so hardcore. I could never do that…” This is wrong as heck. The final section should be “I don’t want to do that”. “Could” is the completely wrong word that most often comes out of most people’s mouths! No dedication and/or motivation for change.

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    • February 27, 2019 at 8:58 PM
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      I think they could see this “extreme” lifestyle and thing it’s this gigantic wall they could never overcome.

      Like an insurmountable obstacle from their perspective. The reality of course, is the tiny steps I wrote about.

      Reply
  • February 27, 2019 at 7:30 AM
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    This blog post title made me flashback to the School of Rock movie. Remember that song Jack Black sang? “You know you’re not hard core, until you live hard core, and the Legend of the Rent is way hardcore!”

    Anyway, you not-hardcore financial blogger, you, I agree with you. My parents seem to think that we are the frugalist of the frugal (which is so ironic, considering how much we spend). Once you get used to spending a little bit less, it’s no big deal. And like you said, incremental steps seem to be key. It’s been almost 2 months now! that we haven’t gone out (okay, except for one extreme birthday celebration lunch) and I’m totally adjusting to it. I think starting small and gradually getting better is the way to go, much like the way I’ve been gradually adding more decaf to my coffee to ween myself off caffeine.

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    • February 27, 2019 at 9:00 PM
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      Haha, Jack Black is awesome!

      Great job on cutting back on the eating-out Laurie! I really don’t even miss it anymore! 🙂

      Reply
  • February 27, 2019 at 8:36 AM
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    One man’s hard core is another person’s walk in the park. People called me hardcore and disciplined when I went through a 60 day juice fast, taking no food during this time. Actually it wasn’t particularly difficult, you just take it one day at a time, and since then I’ve coached some 35 people or so through the same journey successfully.

    You sure accumulated a huge net worth in spite of not breaking $100K in earnings save for two years. That’s incredibly impressive! By comparison I’ve had a pretty strong career for over a decade and probably fell into the jackass mode of spending a few times, particularly in some investments in early stage companies. They are still around and growing slowly however I’ve done better with dividend growth of publicly listed companies. Receive annual cash flow is a huge criteria to making an investment for me these days.

    -Mike

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    • February 27, 2019 at 9:02 PM
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      Thanks Mike, I’m a big believer in cashflow too. There are certainly tax disadvantages (depending upon your tax situation), but I believe these disadvantages are overcome by the advantages of additional control!

      Cheers!

      Reply
  • February 27, 2019 at 11:08 AM
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    Pretty much every psychology model for how people create change in their lives starts with the first stage which is denial or defending their current way. To be blunt, I have come to believe that those in this stage are often the ones loudly cherry picking details about the miserly poor lives of the FI people or pointing out reasons that FI is extreme and doesn’t work for the average Joe = the person complaining. I don’t know that this post can appease those emotions or if one has to be ready to enter the next phases of change which are acknowledging problems in current way of life and contemplating change.

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    • February 27, 2019 at 9:07 PM
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      OK, well you could be right. 😉

      My view is that almost everyone *wants* financial independent, but overcoming that mental mountain to push yourself to the next level is part of the difficulty.

      My thinking was about breaking down that mountain into smaller steps. I did it almost unconsciously in my own life.

      Reply
  • February 27, 2019 at 12:39 PM
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    This rings true in my life as well, Mr. Tako. I was working hard at a regular career like most folks. It didn’t take anything hardcore to make financial independence happen for us. By just making a few intentional changes in how we did things, FI was inevitable… and thank goodness for that one because I’m loving the life of FIRE! 🙂

    — Jim

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    • February 27, 2019 at 9:07 PM
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      You guys are doing great Jim! Can’t wait to read more about your adventures in Panama!

      Reply
  • February 27, 2019 at 12:43 PM
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    Agree that to us, the FIRE community that is, the lifestyle choices are not hardcore. To anyone looking in, it is hardcore – simply because it is so different from what they practice. It’s never hardcore when you are in the in; only when you’re in the out.

    Ask a pro-athlete if he considers his workouts to be hardcore. Chances are, the answer is no. But to me it is hardcore!
    Hell, ask a pornstar if their profession is hardcore, even though the word gets its meaning from their work, they’ll probably even say no.

    Reply
  • February 27, 2019 at 1:11 PM
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    Absolutely love the commentary about the small steps, none of which are extreme, to end up at a point that many people consider extreme. I think this is a great lesson for anyone starting on this journey. When people ask me how many rent houses I have, and I tell them 11, I sometimes get strange looks or comments like “I wouldn’t want that kind of headache”. I didn’t buy all 11 houses in the same year. It happened over 8 or 9 years. People get overwhelmed by the sight of the mountain. Just concentrate on your next step.

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    • February 27, 2019 at 9:09 PM
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      Yep, just keep putting one foot in front of the other. Then one day you look up and the view is fantastic! 🙂

      Reply
  • February 27, 2019 at 5:59 PM
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    I find the idea of working 10 hour days (including weekends) to be extreme; not the activity of taking public transport or cooking for yourself. It’s funny what people get used to and consider to be ‘normal’.

    As a regular budget traveller, I routinely do things that some would consider hardcore – such as stay in shared dorms at hostels, sleep on the occasional overnight bus, or travel with carry-on only luggage for six months. For me and so many travellers I encounter, these are totally normal things we don’t give a second thought to; travelling cheaper to travel longer/more often.

    It has been fascinating to be told so regularly how ‘brave’ I am to be travelling on my own. Meh to that. I think that the hardcore and unattractive thing to do is to work 50 weeks of the year, breaking only for a short and expensive packaged group vacation! To each, their own.

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    • February 27, 2019 at 9:11 PM
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      Great perspective Michelle! I love how you flipped the equation around and showed that “normal” is the “real” extreme! 😉

      Reply
  • February 27, 2019 at 7:48 PM
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    Mr.T, you are definitely hard core,but only in the best possibile way. High earners like me are not inspirational, only a total idiot who made what I did could not become FI. I was lucky, you were focused. That is what makes your message resonate. Great post.

    Reply
  • February 27, 2019 at 7:59 PM
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    Baby steps are definitely the way to go and you will hardly even notice the change.

    I too developed a passion for investing and finance (quite late in my career at the age of 40+). I find reading blogs and finance books interesting. And the best part is the more you learn the more you can actually increase your chances of becoming wealthy.

    Out of all the hobbies to have, I would say that it pays back the best. The return on my time investment has been phenomenal as just reading a few simple books has likely saved me 6 figures.

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    • February 27, 2019 at 9:13 PM
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      Couldn’t agree more Xrayvsn! The time I’ve spent learning about investing and the business world has been invaluable. By the time my days on this world end, I would guess that what I’ve earned from investing will greatly outnumber what I’ve earned from labor.

      Reply
  • February 27, 2019 at 8:46 PM
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    I am a saver myself. When I was starting out in my professional career about 2 decades ago, I tried to save as much as possible. I knew I wanted to have a strong degree of financial freedom sooner rather than later. I did very little to tell people about my frugal lifestyle. I just did my thing and kept my eye on the prize. Other people can be very judgmental. Even as a strong saver myself, I know there are certain people who take frugality to the extreme. Once again, my opinion. Different people have different perspectives. That’s why back then I kept quiet about my frugal lifestyle. Why create unnecessary roadblocks (ie people’s negativity about savings) to your own financial independence.

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    • February 27, 2019 at 9:17 PM
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      I think it’s pretty funny how even pretty relaxed savers like me get called “extreme”. I could certainly push the frugality a bit further, but I’m just not that extreme.

      We eat well, and live a pretty comfortable life. Plenty of toys and entertainment too! Yet I get called “extreme”. It’s funny. 🙂

      Reply
  • February 28, 2019 at 4:33 PM
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    For skeptics out there: I’ve made a simulation where a hypothetical person of Tako’s age starts saving and investing at age 18 in 1995 ($2000 in the first year, $3000 in the second year, and so on for a few years, then after graduating from a university starts saving 15K, 17K, 20K per year and so on, as career, experience and income grow and finishes with saving 48K in the last year (2014). This person invests ONLY in the S&P index (regardless of price, just buys at whatever price on Jan 1st every year). It cannot be more passive than that. Nothing to read, nothing to learn, buy the index once a year. I took real S&P annual returns and reinvested its meager dividends.

    I did not account for taxes, but most of the capital would have been invested in the tax sheltered accounts and the remainder would have been taxed at very low tax rates anyways (there’s no trading, long term investing has the lowest taxation; only tiny dividends would have been taxed at a very low rate). That’s why I ignored taxes. But if I did, the difference would have not been huge.

    By 2014 this person would have had 1M. If his spouse did the same with her income, they would have saved 2M together. Just like Mr. Tako, when he retired.

    This is intended for those who have an inclination say: “Oh, Mr. Tako, you have an “unfair” advantage of being in love with investing and you have a huge edge over those who hate studying businesses and accounting. What do we do in this case? You’re just lucky to have this talent, I don’t have it.”

    Well, the answer is that if you had invested alongside Mr. Tako in real S&P index and had those returns (you would have lost 37% in 2008, btw!), then you would have finished approximately where he had ended up. Maybe he had *some* advantage, maybe he would have had *a little* more money, but it would not have been orders of magnitude difference. You could have really beaten Mr. Tako without any effort – you would not have spent tens of thousands of hours reading all that super “boring books on accounting” and enjoyed your life or your job or your time (whatever) instead, while achieving comparable results.

    So no, there is absolutely nothing extreme in Tako’s achievements, in fact, it was almost inevitable. Almost guaranteed. The only really extreme and enviable thing in his results is… discipline. This one is really hard to master for many people (including myself, of course).

    Reply
    • February 28, 2019 at 8:51 PM
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      My name is Mr. Tako and I approve this message.

      Right-on Michael! The only real difference between me and the hypothetical individual who invested alongside me is a couple things:
      * My income wasn’t steady. It was uneven and there were months and years without any income (during the great recession for example).
      * I have a bunch of money in taxable accounts as well as the tax advantaged accounts. It’s easier to access, but I probably paid a little bit more in taxes as a result.

      Reply
  • February 28, 2019 at 8:58 PM
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    There are a few hardcore people out there. I’m a big fan of Extreme Early Retirement. Although, he probably mellowed out by now.
    I leaned toward hardcore frugal when I was young and penniless, but I’m a lot more relaxed now. Life is way better when you take the moderate path.

    Reply
  • March 1, 2019 at 7:25 AM
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    This is how we started on our savings as well, a single step.
    We were working in tech during the dot com bust and survived. This flipped the savings switch in us, we paid off our mortgage in 7 years. Then that money just switched to the Rainy Day Fund. We never increased our spending to match our slightly rising salaries.
    We were made fun of by friends for using coupons and being frugal, but we stayed the course. Finally after all this time, these people are finally wondering about what we did with out money as they will be working well into their 60s, at least, before they can retire.
    At the end of 2018 we were saving almost 80% of income ( net salaries and dividends). We don’t really feel like we are missing out, we go on a vacation a year, and enjoy ourselves.
    That Rainy Day Fund is now the FIRE fund and with only one of us currently working, the goal has been reached.

    Reply
  • March 1, 2019 at 10:22 AM
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    “Scrooge was better than his word. He did it all, and
    infinitely more . . . He became as good a friend, as good a
    master, and as good a man, as the good old city knew . . . ”

    Ebenezer Scrooge hasn’t been able to improve his reputation in 165 years,
    I think you can give people some time to come to understand what
    Financial Independence is all about.

    Reply
  • March 2, 2019 at 7:26 AM
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    Nicely done squid-bro. Next time I’m short of ideas for a post, I’m going to steal this format. Imitation is the highest form of flattery bro!

    Reply

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