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The Number One Reason People Settle For Less

Most people are not living an abundant life. They’re not living their dreams. They’re not even working toward such lofty destinations.

Understand that I’m not talking about people in third-world or communist countries who are true victims of the corrupt governments they live under, suffering from starvation and experiencing constant oppression. I’m talking primarily about Westerners, as well as people who live in the second-world nations such as India and China where there is some choice to move up from the bottom ranks available for many.

Also understand that it while it takes some money and resources to move in certain directions, it doesn’t take nearly as much as people think. I’m taking excuses to claim victimhood away from you here. 😉

With those excuses taken away – such as, my parents were poor; I couldn’t afford to go to college; my father was an abusive alcoholic; I’m not that smart – you might feel more motivated to go after your dream life. Or, if you’re not sure what that looks like at this moment, to improve your present circumstances.

But even if you do, you are still likely to run up against the Great Wall of Awful, which may be the biggest reason that most people are not as happy, healthy, or wealthy as they want to be.

The human propensity to awfulize

To “awfulize” is to fear that a future event will end up in the most awful way possible. It’s the extreme end of worry.

When you worry, you’re not necessarily imagining the worst case scenario. For example, if your leg hurts while you’re walking you might worry that you strained a muscle and won’t be able to run the 5K with your friends this weekend. Or you  might worry  that you’ll have to postpone your weight loss goals because you’ll have to stop exercising for a week or two.

On the other hand, you might worry that you have bone cancer and will be dead in less than six months. That’s a worst-case scenario, and is what is I mean by “awfulizing.”

In my post about how not to worry, I described how my husband awfulized an upcoming solo road trip. To be fair, I should confess that I’ve done my own fair share of awfulizing. My strained vocal chords aren’t healing. Is it cancer? The principal at my school is upset that I prayed with one of my students. That’s it – I’m going to get fired!

Awfulizing is paralyzing

Stepping out of your comfort zone is hard enough. It’s scary. But when faced with taking a risk that could lead to a better life in the long run, many people don’t just worry. They fear the worst-case scenario.

They awfulize.

And no matter how excited they might have felt when first visualizing their attainment of whatever goal or dream, eventually they begin to imagine the worst possible outcome of taking the risk. And they get afraid.

And they let the fear overpower the excitement.

Did you see that? They LET the fear overpower the excitement.

You have control over your thoughts.

Which leads me to…

…how not to let awfulizing drive you into mediocrity

You need to grasp the truth, deep down inside, that the worst rarely ever happens. You need to believe it, and remind yourself of that truth constantly.

It will help a lot of you first grasp the truth that there is a  loving Creator watching over you, rooting for you, and helping you when you ask – sometimes, even when you don’t ask.

God desires the best for you.

Nip negative thoughts in the bud. Especially thoughts of the awful. Awfulizing paralyzes. It keeps you from growing. It keeps you from moving forward.

Where do you want to be in five years? Ten? If you’re like most people, you want to be more prosperous, to be as healthy as possible, experiencing joy and fulfillment more often than not, and to be a more loving person.

Direct your thoughts toward those goals, then. You will still feel some fear when you take the risks necessary to achieve your goals and live your dreams, but the strength of your positive thoughts will overpower it.

And your bad habit of awfulizing will be a distant memory.

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The Pitfalls Of Early Financial Independence

I hinted in this blog post that the “financial independence, early retirement” (F.I.R.E.) concept has potential pitfalls. This revelation might startle a lot of people, because isn’t super-early retirement a lofty and noble goal to have? Doesn’t it mean that you spend most of your life spending most of your time the way you really want?

Yes…if you are disciplined enough. The sad fact is, however, that most people are not so disciplined at this moment, and – despite their best efforts – many will never be.

I’m going to say something controversial: Some people have no business trying to retire before age fifty-five. Why? To answer that, we need to look at the four big potential pitfalls of being part of the FIRE movement.

Pitfall #1: Overspending.

If you are going to retire super-early, you must be able to keep a keen eye on your accounts. This doesn’t mean you have to live a life of depravity if you quit working at age forty, but it does mean you always have to know the state of your investments and be able to modify your spending accordingly.

Even if you invest using the Ivy or Permanent Portfolio, the two safest ways to invest and still obtain a decent annual return, the value of your assets will drop down at times.

People who have trouble reining in their desire for the latest and greatest thing – or even from making frequent thrift or dollar store purchases – are in danger of ending up homeless if they retire before they hit their fifties, possibly their sixties. This is true especially if they end up living to 100 years of age.

Pitfall #2: Not having extra cushion for emergencies.

In the post where I discuss why Suze Orman despises the FIRE movement (linked in the first line of this post), I argue that the people planning to retire super-early responsibly plan out their finances, including leaving room for emergencies. However, it is a legitimate danger, so I wanted to discuss it for a moment.

A person may get tempted to only grow their nest egg large enough to account for their usual expenses in the current economy, and then quit working. Even if you have health and home insurance, and include these in your expenses, this isn’t wise. First of all, there are insurance deductibles. Second of all, you never know when a catastrophe might befall you that goes beyond what your insurance might cover.

J and I choose not to buy health insurance. We know we have enough of a cushion in our investments to handle large, unexpected expenses. And we know that insurance is much more likely to be more expensive in the long run than paying out of pocket.

Here’s a real life example. In the fall of 2014, I broke my left humerus bone to the tune of a total of $25,000 out-of-pocket expenses, including all the X-rays, surgery, and basic doctor visit fees – not to mention the very expensive screws that now live in my arm forever. It’s now February of 2019, and we haven’t had a medical expense since. If we had been buying health insurance, we would have paid at least $48,000 to the health insurance company by now. We’ve saved at least $23,000 by choosing to pay for medical expenses out of pocket.

And yes, our nest egg is big enough to handle more than $25K at one shot, if necessary.

But if you don’t provide for emergency expenses in your nest egg, you may find yourself looking for a job a few years after you retire.

Pitfall #3: Ignoring inflation.

Supposedly, in thirty years things are going to cost two to three times what they do now. Economists aren’t always accurate, but it’s a safe bet that the cost of living will go up a substantial amount during that time period.

When you figure out what your nest egg needs to be in order to be able to declare financial independence, you need to take future inflation into consideration. If you’re going to be impatient and quit your job with $600,000 because that’s all you need in the current economy, you’re going to be in trouble twenty years from now.

Be patient, or get out of the FIRE.

Pitfall #4: Losing your social network.

This danger isn’t huge in the aspect of financial future risk. However, for many people, their pool of friends comes in large part from their workplace. If you quit your job at a relatively young age, regardless of your intentions you may find yourself growing distant from those friends at a rapid speed. For one thing, you will no longer have the workplace or career in common. For another, social media posts pale in comparison to daily face-to-face contact.

If you’re an extrovert and therefore thrive on having a lot of people around, tread the FIRE waters carefully. You will have to figure out how to replace the social network of your job. If you don’t, you might find you were happier working at a job that didn’t fulfill you than with having hours and hours of free time and no one to share it with.

Pitfall #5: Boredom.

Take it from someone who knows: retiring super-early can get boring. And I write novels, create videos, and juggle two blogs!

Many people out there don’t have any hobbies, or any interests they would turn into a hobby once they had the time by quitting their full-time job. They see financial independence, early retirement as a destination rather than a new path offering different opportunities, different ways to spend their time.

We know this by the studies that have been done about people who retire at the conventional age, then die within ten years – often sooner. According to research, the people to whom this happens are retirees who had no hobbies or volunteer work. They retired to their couch and T.V. remote.

People who have nothing to do and no sense of purpose are unhealthy people.

If you want to be part of the financial independence, retire early crowd, you must have some inkling of how you will spend your time once you are out of the rat race. HINT: sitting around all day playing video games isn’t healthy, either!

If you’re planning to do nothing once you retire, stay at your nine-to-five job. You’ll be happier and live longer.

BONUS Pitfall

Your friends and family may try to talk you out of your goal to join the “financial independence, retire early” group. They may think you’re crazy.

If there is one pitfall to ignore, this would be it. Never let the fears of other people dictate your life.

NEVER.

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It’s exhilarating to be able to check off the days until you will be able to tell your boss to take this job and…give it to someone else. However, if you’re serious about FIRE, you need to do your due diligence in avoiding the above pitfalls (though it’s probably impossible to avoid the bonus pitfall).

Want a detailed roadmap about how to achieve super-early retirement? Click here to check out my book Hatching The Nest Egg: Achieve Super-Early Retirement Without Side Gigs, Gambling, Or An Above-Average Income.

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How To Stop Worrying

Wondering how to stop worrying? Fantastic, because people who walk around full of worry are consequently full of stress, which consequently increases their risk of being sicker and/or dying earlier than they would have had they not carried around the worry.

I may have already told the following story at some point on this blog, but it bears repeating.

When I was a freshman in college, a mid-term exam was coming up for my history class. The professor, a wizened elderly man, was trying to convince us that worrying over the exam wouldn’t help. Here’s what he said:

When you worry about something, you’ve got the worry in one hand, and spit in the other. After the thing you’ve been worrying about has come and gone, all you got left is a handful of spit.

How not to worry? In your mind, turn that handful of spit into lost time, strained relationships, lost money, etc.

In our house, when one of us is worried over something, I remind the offender, “You’re just gonna end up with a handful of spit.” (Yes, sometimes I’m reminding myself.)

Take my husband’s recent out-of-state trip to a funeral for an aunt. He went by himself because our son would have been bored out of his mind, he wouldn’t have been able to sit through the service, and he’d never met the aunt. I had only met her once before.

My husband worried so badly over the trip two days before leaving that he had trouble finishing his meals. He walked around bloated most of the day. He worried about getting lost. He worried about the awkwardness of seeing his semi-estranged brother and sister-in-law (long story that I’m not going to share; let’s just say they judged us harshly for leaving the institutional church a few years back).

He worried about people asking about our son’s education (he would be labeled as “A.D.H.D.” and “developmentally delayed” if he were in school, and J didn’t want to have to answer about B’s academic abilities and explain all that).

I kept telling him not to worry. Reminded him about the spit. But he despises facing awkward situations alone (another future blog post idea!), so telling him how not to worry didn’t do any good.

My husband found his way to the funeral – five and a half hours away – and back just fine. His brother didn’t make it to the visitation the night before, and J had a pleasant visit there with “younger” relatives. Nobody asked about B. Or me, for that matter, but J wasn’t worried about that. For some reason, explaining to people that I have nine novels published, a YouTube channel with close to three thousand subscribers, two blogs, and more novels coming isn’t uncomfortable for him. 😉

When J got home, I tried to keep quiet. I did. But it wasn’t long before the words forced themselves out of my mouth: “So, how much spit do you have in your hand?”

How not to worry? Imagine the worst-case scenario and prepare yourself mentally for it. All the while, keep reminding yourself that statistically speaking, the chances of the worst-case scenario happening is small. Believe in yourself that you can handle whatever comes your way.

Because, as Christopher Robin once told Pooh, you are stronger than you seem.

Most of all, remember that there is nothing pleasant about walking around with a handful of spit.

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Why Suze Orman Hates The F.I.R.E. Movement

Suze Orman has come out and declared that she hates the F.I.R.E. movement. The acronym stands for “financial independence, retire early,” and the “early” there refers to an age somewhere between thirty and forty-five years. What I refer to as “super” early retirement.

When my husband and I declared financial independence in our early forties, we had no idea we were a part of a movement. When I wrote my book Hatching The Nest Egg, I didn’t realize I was promoting the movement.

But we are, and I was. I do.

So I take issue with Suze Orman’s strong feelings against it. Her implication is that people who retire before the age of sixty are either idiots – because they can’t do basic math – irresponsible, or a combination of both.

Retiring super-early has its risks and pitfalls, which I will get into at a later date. However, Hatching The Nest Egg explains how to reduce the risk of super-early retirement down to nothing. Then there is this page on the blog of the guy who came up with the F.I.R.E. acronym.

In this post, I want to address each of Orman’s implications, one at a time, and show how her extreme view is not relevant to most people who believe in “financial independence, retire early.”

People in the F.I.R.E movement are idiots

The people who have either achieved, or are working on achieving, super-early retirement have done their homework. They’ve researched the different modes of investing to discover the ones that will be both relatively safe from the movement of the stock market (NOT mutual funds!). They’ve figured out the minimum amount of money they need per year to live the desired lifestyle. They’ve used a calculator to figure out how big their nest egg needs to be in order to be able to pull out that amount every year without seeing the value go down.

If they’re really on top of things, they’ve figured out the amount they can pull out every year that will allow their investments to grow in order to account for future inflation.

They’ve also provided for a cushion for large unexpected expenses, which seems to be the biggest fear that Suze Orman has regarding the F.I.R.E. movement.

People in the F.I.R.E. movement are irresponsible

Suze Orman’s big fear about financial independence, retire early is that people will end up with large, unexpected expenses that they won’t be able to handle.

Hello?! That’s what insurance is for.

In addition, any health expert worth their salt will tell you that cancer, heart disease, most autoimmune diseases, and so on, result from lifestyle choices, not genetics. In other words, if you eat extremely healthy and keep toxins out of your system as much as you can, plus integrate daily movement into your life, your risk of developing chronic and terminal disease plummets.

Even if you do develop something like cancer, the treatment is unlikely to cost you hundreds of thousands of dollars. And the kinds of emergencies most people face – having to mend a broken bone via surgery (as I had to four years ago) or buy another car – won’t cost more than tens of thousands of dollars.

And the chances of a family experiencing these types of emergencies every single year are slim to none.

People who are aiming to retire early provide themselves a cushion for such occasional emergencies.

If worse came to worst, there is the Go Fund Me website.

Suze Orman is wrong

Orman needs to stop freaking out about those of us who believe in super-early financial independence. She needs to stop telling people what to do.

For more of my two cents on this subject, you can watch the video below.

For a roadmap on how you can retire super-early, read my book, Hatching The Nest Egg: Achieve Super-Early Retirement Without Side Gigs, Gambling, Or An Above-Average Income.

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