Can we also talk to the person who’s reading this from, say, a ski town where they’re making minimum wage waiting tables or patrolling? A lot of these folks might think, Saving and investing seems impossible for me right now, making $13 an hour. Is there anything they can do differently to attain long-term financial freedom?
That’s a challenging lifestyle, but I like to think of it like an optimization game, because I lived it for a long time, too.
I grew up in a poor, small town. My parents probably had a middle-class income, but they lived so frugally that my siblings and I would never have known it. We were always the last family in school to get flashy new technologies, like the VCR or the microwave, and we generally had to buy our own toys or bikes or movie tickets. I started working at age 11 as a newspaper delivery boy—yes, I’m that old—and then cutting grass, painting houses, and working my way through minimum-wage jobs in order to save for college and pay for my own clothes, food, and gas and insurance for the rare times I was allowed to borrow the family minivan.
This made me really appreciate how valuable money is, so I learned to stretch it. The tricks were pretty basic: Don’t own a car unless you absolutely have to, and if you do, make sure it’s a manual-transmission Honda hatchback that you know how to maintain yourself. Cook your own food, brew your own beer, grow your own pot, and share a rental house with great friends rather than rent your own apartment. Work hard, and take a step up the ladder whenever you get a chance, and start a side hustle or help somebody else who has their own business. Save money, stay out of debt, and eventually you won’t have a shortage of money anymore.
I don’t want to sound too glib here—there’s still privilege inherent in my situation. But the biggest gift my parents gave me was the assumption that I need to work for what I get, and conserve it. Learning to optimize everything in order to have the most fun with the lowest cash flow was the real trick that made my teens and early twenties still work out well, even when I didn’t have money.
Many people put off financial planning, because it can be viewed as boring compared to planning something outside that weekend. What do you want to say to people who have that attitude?
I admit, I do find money interesting aPost too long. Click here to view the full text.