[As part of our weekly column by Mr. 1500 of 1500Days.com – a fellow blogger who retired at 43!]
My cover as a blogger was blown last year when a story about us went viral.
I knew something was wrong when the blog went down. When it finally came back up, I had over 30,000 page visits and it was still before noon. On that day, we weren’t so anonymous anymore.
We then started getting texts from friends and relatives:
Hey, you’re on Yahoo!
You have a million dollars? What???? Huh??
To my surprise, it turned out to be a much less painless experience than I had assumed. No one asked us for money. No one treated us any differently. I was hoping that the article would trigger some interesting conversations about money, but that didn’t happen either.
Life moved on. Except for one person who did want to talk money.
Aunt K Loves Her Job!
One family member was excited to learn about our secret lives. The first conversation took place last year when we had the big publicity. It went something like this:
- Aunt K: That’s so awesome that you’re planning to retire! Congrats!
- Me: Thanks! How about you? At what age do you see yourself retiring?
- Aunt K: Not any time soon. I absolutely love my job. I’d do it for free! I’d like to retire, but probably not until 65.
- Me: That’s wonderful! If you’re doing what you love and you happened to get paid for it, that’s hardly working.
- Aunt K: I know! It’s amazing.
Unfortunately, Aunt K’s bliss was not to last. A couple months ago, we saw her again and she was singing a different tune. While Aunt K loves her core job, there are other problems. She works in a school district that has issues with administration. The state that she teaches in is also mismanaging the teachers’ retirement fund, so she’s worried that all of the money she’s saving may be blown by politicians.
I feel bad for Aunt K. She loves teaching, but the circumstances around it have changed. Just last year, saving money wasn’t a priority and she dismissed the idea of financial independence. Now, she worries that she’ll never be able to stop working when she’s finally ready to.
Excuses, Excuses, Excuses
I hear folks making excuses for not saving All. The. Time. Here are some of my favorites.
“I love my job!”
Aunt K’s excuse is the most common one that I hear. If you love your job, that’s awesome! What an amazing gift in a world where many folks dread their 9-5! You’ve got something wonderful there.
However, will your job always love you? Plenty of folks who worked at Enron loved their jobs too. There are always other factors at play. Robots and artificial intelligence are going to start taking more and more jobs. This will be a major societal change that you don’t want to be on the wrong side of it.
“I’m going to die young.”
This is the favorite excuse of a good friend. He insists that he will die before he’d ever retire, so he doesn’t save. I’m not sure why; both of his parents are in their 90s and he has no serious health problems.
And why would you want to bet on an early death anyway? What’s the backup plan if you don’t die?
“The money won’t be there for me anyway, so why bother?”
Bad things happen to good folks. Maybe you know someone who retired in 2008 right before the Great Recession clobbered us all. Maybe a family member got taken by a Bernie Madoff character. This stuff happens, but not to most. Put your money away and stop worrying.
“I could never do that.”
A friend recently lamented her financial position:
We have nothing saved!
I replied with:
Get rid of the new SUV.
Rent your mother-in-law apartment on Airbnb.
Take local vacations instead of exotic ones.
Every single suggestion was met with the same response:
I could never do that.
Well, I hope you plan on working until a ripe old age because you know that whole retirement thing? You’re never going to be able to do that.
Money doesn’t matter. Until it does.
My mantra in life is this:
Hope for the best, but prepare for the worst.
Optimism is the only way to go through life. And a little preparation can make you a better optimist. Because I’ve taken care of myself financially, I’m prepared to deflect the curve balls that life throws at me. Money doesn’t matter most of the time. But when it does, and you don’t have it, it’s going to hurt.
To the folks who make excuses for not saving money, I say this:
Financial independence isn’t about quitting your job. It’s about options. If you love your job, stay there. It’s much better to work because you want to than because you have to!
You get nowhere running on the hedonic treadmill. Stuff doesn’t bring long term happiness. Spending time with loved ones and meaningful activity does. A frugal, simple life is the most efficient and rewarding way to live.
If there is anything true about life, it’s that it’s an ever changing, unpredictable journey. If you would told me 5 years ago that I’d no longer be programming computers or have a job, I would have thought you were crazy. But, the serendipitous turns of life are what makes it fun and interesting.
Just save some money so you can embrace the fun opportunities when they present themselves. Save enough so you never have to worry. Money doesn’t matter. Until it does.
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The biggest excuse I hear is from my family members and it’s “We don’t make enough to save anything. So I guess we won’t ever retire”. It’s frustrating to hear this, but since we’ve tried to talk to them before about all of this, we decided we can’t anymore. They know where we stand and that we’re happy to talk to them about it. They just choose to have excuses rather than do anything about it.
I actually had the same money mindset before marrying my husband. Luckily, he didn’t. He’s always planned to be a millionaire, so God willing, we will be one day. I just wish other people would actually listen to us when we talk, especially since THEY usually have asked US how to manage their money. But, we can only put it out there. It’s not for us to make them listen and implement any life changes.
That’s right – until people actually *care* enough they’ll be stuck in their own patterns! You really gotta want it!
By hook or by crook I’ll be retired long before 60. I like my job, but I wouldn’t do it for free.
BOOM! This —>>> I like my job, but I wouldn’t do it for free.
I don’t think many of us would, but this is the litmus test.
I like my job. At a previous company they decided to sell the building, equipment and staff, you weren’t allowed to apply to the main site. A different job, one day in November we were informed the site would be closed as of Dec 31st. A teacher I know saw the administration give harsher reviews to older teachers than young ones, while there were questions about funds available for retirement. A much greater number of teachers retired that year.
With so many factors out of our control, I am 100 % on board with FI as my safety net.
Yep, FI is the ultimate safety net.
I honestly thought I was the only one with a friend who thought they would die before they retired lol! I have one of those as well or the friends who say they don’t have time for a side hustle but don’t make enough money at their day job. But they have a huge cable bill and sit there in the evening watching tv for 3 hours a night.
I love your saying of hope for the best, prepare for the worst. So true!
True enough Mr. 1500!
It’s funny, I was just writing about your newfound internet fame! http://bit.ly/2ypE3AQ
“Look at who they were before they were famous, before the Business Insider features, before the book deals, and before the internet groupies. They were just regular guys (and gals).” – yup! Anyone can get their $$ on track – you don’t have to be any special snowflakes :)
Wait, internet fame? Me?!?
If I was 10x as popular, I’ve still only be 10% as big as J$! :)
Would fancy hair take me to the next level?
Saving is a choice, a very mindful one. My daughter was off to college this year. In the prior 4 years, a number of her classmates’ parents sold their homes to downsize, getting cash for the college bills to come. Two sets of parents were neighbors on our street. They drove cars that cost far more than our’s did, and one of them belonged to a local country club. Not cheap stuff.
In the end, it’s a matter of priorities. “Show me your budget and tell you who you are, what you value.” In our case, the week our daughter was born we started saving for college. I assumed a target of the cost of a private college (not the local state ones that offer a great low tuition). At the same time, we were also saving for retirement, 20%/yr on average, including the 5% employer match.
When we were both let go (my wife and I worked at the same company) 5 years ago, we didn’t panic, didn’t need to sell the house, etc. We were already at our “number” and decided it was time to retire. The getting let go just meant no need to quit and a 6 mo severance to help us along.
Bingo! Love that you started that college saving the same week she was born, haha…
“However, will your job always love you?” BIngo! The “I love my job” and “I plan to work for the rest of my life” arguments are ones that people raise – I’ll say it – with a touch of arrogance. Like you, I say, “Great!” – and as someone who is lucky enough to love her job too, I mean it. But jobs change, and so does health. For many, it’s simply not desirable or even possible to keep working once the ground shifts beneath their feet. SO much better to leave options open. The freedom to quit work is not the same as actually quitting work. And it makes work all the better to know that you’re not “stuck” in it. You choose to be there.
That was my thought as well. Industries collapse or move to low cost regions all the time. Companies will also lie about your future employment right up until they lay you off.
I’ve been down sized twice. I can’t guarantee that it won’t happen again, but I CAN guarantee it would be the last.
This is an awesome short little article. Congrats on the feature. I guess we missed it SMH.
Love the conversation you had with your friend. Some people will never change.
I shouldn’t be surprised but I still am that you didn’t have more friends/family reach out when your cover was blown. I want to believe there are a few curious people in the bunch that might want to embrace this lifestyle.
The options and flexibility – even before reaching FI are empowering, we are only 1/12th of the way there and are already seeing the benefits
Probably because most people in the real world are too busy dicking around to even notice their friends are spouting truth :)
“I shouldn’t be surprised but I still am that you didn’t have more friends/family reach out when your cover was blown.”
This happened over a year ago, but still make me sad. I know I can’t force my choices on anyone, but I’m soooo damn happy with my life that I can’t help but wish the same for those I care about (and even random internet strangers too!).
But no, my story was a mild curiosity for a week or so and then life moved on.
And I consider it a failure on my part. Perhaps if I had a more forceful personality (MMM) or was a better, more thoughtful writer (Frugalwoods), I could get through to more people people. Dunno.
I never set out to change the world or anyone else, so maybe I should just let it go…
The oblivious 99%? They’re too busy reading People Magazine and farting around with Fantasy Football.
I had the exact same thought; I wouldn’t assume hundreds or thousands of people would come knocking on the door for advice and/or money, but I’d also hope some would be curious.
This is where I sometimes see others taking interest though: “what’s in it for me right now”? While the answer is usually “nothing right now” but your future self will thank you, I’ve seen some friends take interest in short-term saving hacks (vs. the longer term retirement mindset). I had a friend recently download Qapital, and he and his wife love it; they’re starting to begin taking a look at other ways to reduce their spending and identify what they can save for now.
Albeit, this doesn’t solve the long-term retirement question, but I believe they’ll be more than likely to take the same positive behavior changes toward their spending and short-term savings and gradually make changes elsewhere. They’ll continue to work to find their balance for what works for them.
For a second I thought Tom Cook was you! I would think Yahoo would reach out to you for permission before posting your picture. It seems like they didn’t.
I tend to think about those excuses myself every once in a while. It is usually the I love my Job one. I think I do, but maybe not all the time. But I would definitely live to FIRE and are working at it.:)
Yes, always have plan A, B, C….Mr99to1percent is even taking an artificial intelligence course just in case…Like you said artificial intelligence and robots might take over our jobs one day…
Money buys options. It’s that simple. Maybe you never need them. Maybe you use them in a different way then you expect. But having those options at minimum should allow you to sleep better. The upcoming layoffs or suprise repair bill is less of a worry if you have those options.
I have a relative who is in her mid-fifties and has saved nothing for retirement even though she makes over $100K per year. I’ve tried to get her to start savings but I get one of several responses:
– I’ll just keep working until I die
– I like to live like a peasant and live only for today.
– I’ll be living under a bridge when I’m 70.
When I try to reason with her, she makes it clear she doesn’t want to talk about it anymore. Arghhh! :(
She and others like her are one the main reasons that we need a Basic Income. There are always going to be people that for whatever reason will not or cannot save.
I wonder if a basic income would work. I’m no economist but if all my basic needs were guaranteed to be met, I probably would spend a lot less time in the workforce. I’m not sure if that would be a good thing for our economy.
I frequently wonder why people are resistant to the message? Is it lack of confidence? Is talking about money uncomfortable? Do they think money is just too difficult to grasp?
We’d all be a lot better off if we were more open.
Your unplanned fame is exactly why I don’t have a photo or my last name on my site. I don’t really want to be having those conversations at work before I’m fi. Thanks for sharing.
I’m also amazed how people can put off saving as if they have it all figured out. The more I experience life, the more I realize that it’s unpredictable. Saving will give me options in the future. Maybe I will use those options to retire early or maybe I will keep working and go on an extravagant vacation and/or make a huge donation to a charity. I’d rather have the options than anything else I could buy right now. My 2006 Altama has gotten me everywhere I’ve needed to go…so far. No need for a shiny new SUV.
I hear the “I could never do that” argument all the time from friends and family. Like they would somehow be depriving their family without 2 SUVs or every single premium cable channel subscriptions…
Yes! “Money matters, when it does!” Just the other day, my husband and I were discussing that we need a new roof soon. A new roof where we live can run between 6-10k. What happens next is the furnace goes out. Now we are looking at a replacement cost of 7-10k. Then a couple of days later we get a mailing from a reputable roofing company that will replace our roof for less than it cost 15 years ago. Could we do this, if we didn’t have some money saved?? We could but we would have to finance. We won’t finance because we would rather have our money working hard for us, not someone else. This is why you save, so when opportunities knock, you can be prepared to take advantage of them.
“This is why you save, so when opportunities knock, you can be prepared to take advantage of them.”
Yep. Along those same lines, one of my favorite quotes of all time is from Charle Munger:
“Our experience to confirm a long-held notion that being prepared, on a few occasions in a lifetime, to act promptly in scale, in doing some simple and logical things, will often dramatically improve the financial results of that lifetime.
A few major opportunities clearly recognizable as such, will usually come to one who continuously searches and waits, with a curious mind, loving diagnosis involving multiple variables.
An then all that is required is a willingness to bet heavily when the odds are extremely favorable, using resources available as a result of prudence and patience in the past.”
“I am going to die before that happens” — a part of me definitely expects that: all the women back several generations on both sides died at about the age of 70 while all my ancestral men died in their 90s+. So, I expect to die early, and am planning for that (will, trust as necessary, etc — do you have YOUR will set up? Do you?? So what if you are 30?) However, I am also investing and saving to plan to live until 100. This would be a bad thing to be wrong on that 70 and not have anything to live on. And, if the 100 years old does not work out? My kids will have help. Win-win.
I’m rooting for you to be the one to break the chain!! You can do it!!! ;)
An ever-changing and unpredictable journey for sure! I have friends and co-workers that say they’ll never be able to afford retirement and plan to work until their 70 or more. I’m always replying with “you may not have the choice to work until your 70, you better start saving now!”
Referencing the I could never do that statements:
I live in a very well-to-do area, I have no shame in telling people what we do, I find that most people don’t listen if say for example, I cut cable to save money…they look at you like you’re some sort of freak or obviously house poor. I mean why would anyone deprive themselves of something so common as cable.
One thing I have to understand about most people is in general everyone does a certain thing, because everyone else does that thing. No one really thinks for themselves or questions why people do it in the first place. In keeping with my cable example, people tend listen when I talk about my personal values and the cost of cable weighed against the value you receive. Also, I find that whatever you do, people tend to get on board if you just own the shit out of it. Like when I was ridiculed by my friends for buying a minivan, I owned it, I mean am I trying to be something I’m not? I’m a dad, with young kids, I might as well own the shit out of that, what better way than buying a minivan, I live my life for myself, not for peer acceptance, and a minivan makes my life at least 20% easier….and wouldn’t you know it, those very same people, now own minivans and don’t remember getting on me about it…
Moral of the story, Reference personal value and own your decisions. People will get on board when they see you being satisfied walking the walk.
Better moral of the story – Own the shit out of it!!!
I might borrow this little phrase. Love it!
Oh, and BMW driving parents – watch out. The Mini-van Crusader is coming to repo that beyotch!
Oh my, LOVE this:
“One thing I have to understand about most people is in general everyone does a certain thing, because everyone else does that thing. No one really thinks for themselves or questions why people do it in the first place.”
And it’s all human nature. We’re programmed to be followers, not leaders. This is what make Mr. Money Mustache great. He does whatever he wants and couldn’t care less what anyone else thinks.
Spending money is easy. Saving money is difficult and it takes dedication and discipline. Most people don’t have the discipline to defer their gratification now and control their desire for consumption. This this what people do to deflect their unwillingness to delay gratification and they just make excuses.
I don’t make excuses. I would rather live my life modestly now and not have to worry about money in the future. It’s a trade off, but I think it’s worth it.
It’s true that many things matter more than money, but we shouldn’t forget that, at the end of the day, money is a tool that our society uses to find means to an end. So yes, money actually matters A LOT. Especially if you don’t have enough of it.
Not only does “Money not matter. Only when it does” but retirement will come with or without plans. There will be a day when you may not be able to work. Your body or your company can make that decision for you. I plan on working until 62-65 because I believe I have a plan. I only hope that plan will be what happens. I also live by the motto “Hope for the best but expect the worst” and it has prepared me for a lot of up and downs.
Nice point Lisa!
Great post. Whenever I talk with people about early retirement, most have similar excuses. Even if you like your job, you should still be working on reaching financial independence in case things change.
No one I know loves their job more than they love their weekends and vacation. Once you can admit to that, making the “sacrifices” needed to retire early are much easier to swallow.
Hell yeah. While meaningful work is the key to a good, satisfying life (my work is this writing), it’s absolutely wonderful to do it on your own terms. Going for a 4 hour bike ride on a Wednesday morning is priceless.
That’s a good way to put it, Cubert :)
Ah excuses excuses. I could not agree with you more. Even if you love your job then save. Who knows, maybe one day you will want to take the passion of your job and start your own company. If you have money saved up that is going to be a lot easier. If you are living pay check to pay check, then you will never do it. SAVE SAVE SAVE…then worry about what you will do now that you have made it.
Exactly, people changes. I love my job when I started, but hated it by the end. Financial independence give you more options. Every job has a certain amount of BS that comes with it. You never know when you’ll get tired of it.
I think it’s a matter of balance and priorities. Saving is a huge priority. For me, comfort and a feeling of security are priorities, so I spent a lot on my house. However, cars are not that important, so I spent far less than I could afford. Unless you’re truly rich, you can’t exhaust your buying (and borrowing) power on every single category and still be financially healthy. So that’s why I think it’s important to prioritize, and include saving on the top of the list.
Oh no! Poor Aunt K. Reality throws sucker punches when you least expect it.
I’m dating a guy that is “going to die early”. I can’t tell you how much that mindset irritates me…especially since he has two teenagers!! J believes his life insurance is enough to cover the kids. Um, great. And if he doesn’t die? Though it’s been a struggle, I am happy to report that after putting a chunk into a brokerage account, he is now contributing monthly to an automatic savings plan. I’m not sure why you would have to convince anyone to save, but if that’s the way it has to be, I can be very persuasive. ;)
He better recognize before ever trying to put a ring on that finger ;)
Do you guys think money doesn’t matter as much to your relatives because they know you guys have almost a couple million dollars and can help them out in case of a crunch?
Because I’m assuming they’re thinking, if you aren’t willing to help them out, you wouldn’t be so open about how much you have. Let me know if my thinking is off here.
I hope not! I’ll help folks, but no handouts.
Aunt K is fiercely independent, so she would never ask for money. As for some of the others, they were like this long before they ever knew about the blog.
I’m a big believer in a very simple phrase: “Love your work, not your job”. Jobs come and go. They change. Management changes. Companies get sold. Markets can destroy entire sectors in the course of just a few days or weeks. Jobs are way too fragile.
“Jobs are way too fragile.”
Love that. And if you must depend on it, your life is fragile too.
I love this! I’ve heard so many excuses for why a person doesn’t save for retirement, doesn’t “want” to retire (PSHHHH whatever), and so on. More people need to realize that they are making excuses, and even may be a little jealous that they aren’t on the right path.
Yes, I just said that. Honestly is helpful!
Perfectly simple and clear , thanks for putting together a great overview on why we do what we do. Money gives us options and allows our Optimism to grow and run free. As for those that love their jobs, that’s awesome but don’t hurt yourself by not preparing for the future. It is so easy to do both
I have never believed that money doesn’t bring happiness. I think that’s BS. Saving is so important, but few are able to give up small luxuries in favor of a ‘fatter’ bank account. Even if you’re saving without a clear goal, it still counts for something. Unfortunately, we live in a crazy consumer society and a luxurious car is worth more to people than a safety net for the future.
The excuses you have in your article are the canned ones I hear all the time. It’s somewhat scary for me because it indicates an underlying brainwashing of society. How can I know so many people from so many different walks of life and backgrounds all give the same canned response.
The only one I saw you missing was the “I want to be comfortable” spoken as if being frugal means a life of struggling (when the opposite is true).
Haha yup – that’s a good one too. I used to say the same thing with having cable TV or an iPhone and how my life would be ruined without it! Now here we are 3+ years w/out the iPhone and 1 without cable and somehow I’m surviving (and happy :) (and with thousands more cash in my pocket!)).
Awesome post. I hope you didn’t get into trouble at work after being exposed early. I will try to stay anonymous until next year when I announce my retirement. Not posting my real name (not even first names) and not posting any pictures of me on Yahoo should help in that effort, I hope. :)
Also, if I knew I’d die young, I’d retire today! Maybe even yesterday! What a bad excuse is that?
Thanks ERN! Your kind comment is making me blush because I really respect your material.
And yeah, my work found out and it was an uncomfortable week. Like everyone else though, they didn’t seem to care much. Life went on.
I was distracted by the tidbit about your post going viral. I guess I’ll put that on my life goals one day. I hide content away from most of my friends/Facebook, I was hoping for some juicy stories! I can’t believe no one opened up the dialogue of money.
My favorite life from Financial Samurai is how incapable people are of seeing their misfortunes. Yes things are good now but that doesn’t guarantee later, start saving!! Save a lot! Save like it hurts!
*line, although Sam’s life is pretty sweet too I bet hahaha.
I think you’re right on that one – can’t say I’ve ever seen him frown before :)
Having money matters even when you are working. It allows you to avoid going into debt for an emergency. You can take those exotic vacations you mentioned. You can give more to charity or to ailing family members. A whole new world opens up if you have money.
So what did you advise Aunt K to do? My frustration with many columns about saving for retirement are that they say the same old thing – start saving (even modestly) when you are young, and you will develop good habits and eventually have a reasonable cushion. But what if you didn’t do that? What can one possibly do to fix that? I came to the game late- I didn’t save much in my 20s and 30s (patchy income and bad decisions), but finally saw the light when I entered my 40s. I’ve saved almost $100k for retirement over the last 8 years, despite still not making a great salary, but I realize I am still way behind. So what now? It seems like I am in hopeless situation and I never see any advice for people like me.
Good job getting to $100k! The financial habits/tips are generally the same regardless of age (it’s just things need to be turbocharged more the older you get from starting), but I do see your point that most $$$ blogs skew younger/millennial.
Maybe try checking out some of the blogs that focus on traditional retirement more? Since we all like to talk about early retirement? :)
Here’s a list from our Directory that might help, and you can search through a handful of other variables as well which will hopefully pinpoint better aligned blogs for ya:
Thanks, J! I appreciate the acknowledgement, helpful advice and words of encouragement. I am definitely trying to turbocharge my earning and saving over the next few years!
Sounds like Aunt K teaches in New Jersey. I am trying to save enough money so that I don’t have to rely on my pension. I just can’t ever trust that our state government will live up to its promise.
Nope, the Midwest. I’m sorry to hear others have these same issues.
Mic Drop! Well done Mr.1500, well done.
I can so relate to having people in real life finding out your business on the blog. We shared our debt-free story and it went viral. The gist was to say “hey, we made NO money but made saving and paying down debt a priority. If we can do it, anyone can!” I had so many (well-meaning) friends jump on that! “Wow, I had no idea you guys were so broke!” haha Thank you…I think?? It’s still strange when people approach me at church or on a Friday night hang-out and ask me about one of my posts. I always pictured my blog and my real life in two completely different worlds. Not so much.
That is awesome :) So much more impactful talking about this stuff in the real world too than online, so hopefully they’re smart enough to ask you questions when they see you! :)
I found that the people who say they love they love jobs most are the ‘spendypants’ ones. They know they are not saving enough so the ‘job loving’ line is a bit of a cover for them to also make themselves feel better.
We’ve been through so many ups and downs, and we haven’t always been financially prepared for the down times. Those situations are so incredibly stressful that I don’t want to be in that position anymore. I’d rather work my butt off for the next few years, get rid of this debt, and save for the future than cross my fingers and hope it all works out.
Jobs definitely do not care about you and whether you love them. They will change based on so many factors outside of your control. I was having dinner with friend last night. She previously loved the job she’s in as the work is highly engaging, but recently all of her close friends at the organization have found other employment. The things she does at work are still enjoyable to her, but the job is different. She’s not as thrilled with it.
Things change all the time and the ability to absorb some of the punches while dodging the knockout blows is definitely something worth striving for.
Oh yeah – the *people* matter a lot at jobs!
Spending money is easy. It is difficult to save money and takes dedication and discipline. Most people do not have discipline that they now postpone their satisfaction and control their desire for consumption. These people who do their delicacies to delay the satisfaction and they just make excuses!!!