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.
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”.
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.
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.
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!