Go to school, get a job, work your ass off, then retire. Whether spoken or implied, this is how most people believe life works. Mom and Dad tell you to study hard and get good grades, so you can get into a good school, so a good employer will want to hire you, so you can exchange your time for their money and at 65.5 years old retire. After 40 years in the workforce you now have all the time and money in the world, but none of the energy to do anything you wanted.
For those that have read “Rich Dad, Poor Dad” by Robert Kiyosaki, the above should sound really familiar. For those that haven’t, you should.
Have you ever met someone that said “when I retire, life is going to be great! I’m going to fish, and travel, and...”. Next time you do, do me a favor and ask them “why can’t life be great right now?”. Put on your crap coat (like a raincoat, but for crappy excuses people spew out) and get ready to listen to all the reasons they can’t go on vacation, or balance their work, or do all the things they supposedly want to do when they retire. “I can’t take a month of work to backpack Alaska, I’d get fired!” Do you really think you should wait until your 70 to venture into the last frontier? You don’t have to outrun the bear, but you better be able to outrun your tour guide (who won’t be 70, I promise you).
If you’ve never read the Mexican Fisherman Story, I highly recommend it. I’ll give you a quick summary… you don’t need millions of dollars to achieve your life goals! Heck, if you live a simple life and are cautiously frugal, you might not even need a million. There is a tremendous growing movement of financial independent folks that are finding ways to cut costs without sacrificing their lifestyles (too much). Tiny houses, grocery hacking, house hacking, travel hacking… it’s almost 2020, you can hack basically anything at this point.
The FIRE movement (Financially Independent and Retire Early) tends to embody some of these beliefs, but in some areas tends to deviate too far from the main goal. This movement in some cases would be at the other extreme end of the spectrum from working 40 years, as these folks sometimes sacrifice SO much while trying to achieve their FI number as quickly as possible, that they too sacrifice their quality of life in exchange for a goal they may (or may not) really want. Living with 6 roommates, spending $30 / month on groceries, never eating out or owning a car can be fantastic ways to cut costs… but deep down, is that really how you want to live the rest of your life? Not for me…
So how can I build something that falls between these extremes?
Step 1. Identify your life goals and what makes you happy.
Look, this doesn’t have to be a day by day road map for the rest of your life. Nor can I explain to you how to figure out what makes you happy, but chances are your iPhone 11 pro isn’t doing it. This also isn’t a static target… what makes you happy today likely won’t tomorrow, you need to continue to reevaluate your needs and adjust. What likely CAN be achieved at this stage is a basic financial sense of what you will need to achieve your goals and hint hint… it’s less than you think.
Step 2. Build it
What is your target monthly income (TMI) to achieve the lifestyle you want? Start to build passive income streams to achieve that goal, types of streams that no longer are an exchange for your time but are an exchange for the value you’ve created. Rental property, build a business, write a book, dividends from stocks or investment portfolios… there are a ton of great ways to create passive income, but it requires some dedication and discipline to get it done.
Step 3. STOP building!
Two friends were at a cocktail party at a billionaire's house, checking out the redonkulous “man-cave” with 12 tv’s, full bar with beer on tap, massage loungers, pool table… you name it, this guy had it. After marveling for a little bit, one friend looked at the other and said: “This room is amazing, but I have something this guy will never have”. With a confused look, the other friend asked him what he could possibly have that this billionaire didn’t.
The process of building can be exhilarating. The art of the deal is what keeps many wildly successful people still pursuing bigger, riskier deals day after day. Just make sure when you get there, that you are acting in line with what you decided in step 1. If you want to be like the Mexican Fisherman, you might not need businesses with revenue in the millions to be happy. If all you ever do is build more and more, you may end up with a lot of stuff to look back and wish you had more time.
Don’t build your future at the expense of the present, and don’t build your present at the expense of your future. Find the balance in life so there no longer become stages, but rather a journey worth enjoying every day.