Be different. The stress of peer pressure can change a young person. It can make someone do things they might never have planned, just to fit in with other people. The news story I was watching made me realize that I—and probably most of the FIRE community—do not fall into this trap (“it’s a TRAP”). We probably look at the Jones’ and think, too bad [insert: they must spend so much on…].
This does not mean we in the FIRE world do not have good stuff, maybe even “nice” stuff. I surely hope we make sure we enjoy our lives every day. I hope our FI is the special secret that eases some, or much, of the stress you don’t have to face. Even better, I hope your FI allows you to resolve some of the stress that isn’t avoidable, but extremely manageable with your financial resources.
The news story made me think how I am different from so many peers:
Saver – even raises/bonuses were just an opportunity to grow my security. I NEVER once got a raise and used all of it to buy something. Maybe I took a chunk 10% or 25% of a bonus to buy something small as a token reward. But I never used the new money to increase my lifestyle, especially into some monthly payment plan.
Drive older cars– no bonuses/raises used for new monthly payment plans here. We learned to buy 3 year old cars and drive them 10 years. Yes, we have financed 3 cars in 20 years but both were special <2% interest rates for 2-3yrs. My thinking was to arbitrage my money AND show a different type of credit to help strengthen our credit scores. It seems like a strong credit score can help keep your car insurance low, mortgage rate low, and any future loan we may want to undertake.
Older small house– I’m not sure if our 20+ yr house ownership helped our FI more than avoiding tens of thousands lost to auto depreciation, and higher insurance rates, due to newer vehicles. I am 100% positive that if we had upgraded to a nicer house our hit would have been hundreds of thousands of future dollars to the bank. We love our house, our street, and deal with not having the newest of every feature (just like no Bluetooth in our cars). We did a little surface remodeling to get a new feel for the house, not for resale, but for our enjoyment. In the future, I will write about fixing up a Mustang right before selling it and not being able to enjoy the repairs yourself, oops.
Music – This has nothing to do with money but I don’t know anyone who listens to the same music as I do. I’m just different. It seems strange that growing up MILLIONS of people bought the hard rock music I listened to, yet today it’s super rare. I’m not saying I’m stuck listening to the same music from 20-30 years ago. I constantly find new bands creating the music I love, but their audience seems minuscule. Minuscule like so many reports claim of people’s savings totals. I guess one man’s treasure is another’s thrash.
Eat strangely – In my about post I mentioned I was a big guy who lost a lot of weight. Over fifteen years later I still eat almost the same as I did over my two-year weight loss timeline. That is pretty rare, but many people have this success. I feel I’m different from others because I have a nutrition framework. I try to have normal/popular foods, but mine are slightly different. Less cheese pizza, Mexican food-avoid the chips, cheese, sour cream, Asian food-limit the sauces or won tons, fried rice, etc. I’m not a salad freak or anything too crazy, but I’m very conscious of my calorie intake. Some days are lower, some higher, but I always have an idea where I’m at (I roughly track what I eat each day). I also eat a LOT, something every hour or two. I eat a lot of good food, fruits, some vegetables, whole grains, etc. Maybe because I exercise (get moving) most every day. I’m not like my peers. Though I wasn’t like my peers when I was a big guy in the 80’s or 90’s either.
Alcohol – To be honest, this difference may need to change. I have not had alcohol in 20+ years. No real reason other than driving safety. However, I’ve noticed how much wine costs at dinner, or beers would cost with the guys. Sure, I still get to hang out some with friends/teammates and do most of the activities without drinking, but the savings in my wallet has to be hundreds (or thousands?) of dollars per year, multiplied by decades. Just a strange perspective on money and spending decisions. Enjoy every day, Cheers!
Stay married – We hear about how many people do not stay married these days. Being a two person household can be great for finances. Dividing housing, TV, internet, electric, insurance, etc. by two people is equivalent to cutting costs in half. Unless of course, you buy a bigger home because there are now two people. For some magical reason, my wife still hangs with me and life if great. It is not me, but really because she is super great. Oh, this really requires two (or more) incomes to share the split costs. See the math working all by itself in my favor here?
Career – Finally something different from almost everyone I know: Working from home. Somehow over the last decade of my corporate career I became a full time (when not traveling) work-at-homer. This was not something that anyone did in my department. As our team grew to well over 200 people and large groups began traveling around the world for weeks/months at a time, we began to feel comfortable with communicating remotely.
I started working at home on Wed, then Tue/Thu, then Mon/Wed/Fri, and within a few months to full-time from home. I never asked for permission. I assume because I did a great job, kept my customers, peers and my leadership happy, there was no reason for my boss to change anything I was doing. I always said yes when asked, and often found issues early and resolved before my boss was affected.
I learned leaders love low maintenance employees who are productive, proactive, positive and communicative—especially when they have the knowledge/skills required for success in their role.
The point with my career is, I did something very different in my career than my peers. This made me keep working an extra 3 years because work was great. (I banked nearly all of my income these “extra” years as we lived at our “FIRE spend level” as practice. Yes, we did a couple home projects and trips with this “extra income” that was in out “future planning.”
Different? – I feel like my mentality is a little off kilter from most everyone else I know. That’s not really a bad thing because I fit in well when I hang out with others, but they know I have a strangeness. I truly believe my independent thinking—and actions—helped layout my future, which is now my present and beyond. Want proof you’re different, do you have a Schetchle, or what do you do? The answers to these questions will prove you’re different.
BE YOURSELF, THE BEST SELF YOU CAN BE. It’s one small step at a time, always pushing to combine those steps forward.