Everyone who gets paid for a good or service1 is competing for your dollar and needs you to want to spend your money. But spending your money means you’ll always need to earn more so the spending can continue. Which, in turn, means you’ll never build the savory self-generating miracle wealth necessary for FU money!
To tempt you to part with your money, there are a certain set of lies that you’ll be told time and time again. These lies will come from Villains who want to you to give them money. They’ll come from Normies who have succumbed to these lies in the past and now unwittingly believe them out of pure habit or laziness. But you’re a Vigilante:2 You’ll learn these lies ahead of time, and you’ll be able to spot them and avoid falling for them.
Or you’ll fail your training and return to your local designer toilet paper store to waste your money in shame. Either way…
Here are the five Villainous Temptations that will guide you on the path to continued financial dependence!
Lie #1: It’s not worth it.
There’s no reason to pursue financial independence – adult life revolves around work. You’ll miss human interaction. You need a job to occupy your mind. You won’t feel accomplished without a high rank or corner office. You’ll watch The Price is Right all day. Alone.
This lie comes from the mental shortcut of every person who hasn’t felt what it’s like to have truly “free” time. It’s easy to assume, if your only free time is Sunday morning, that retirement will basically be an extended Sunday. Every day will feel like you just finished a long, six-day overtime-filled work week. You’ll be tired and want to relax, because that’s what unoccupied minds do. But is it true, or is another option being conveniently ignored by the people who spread this lie?
When was the last time you sat in a cubicle and thought “These people are exactly the people I want to spend this beautiful, sunny day with!” When was the last time you felt so stimulated by your job that you thought “There’s no way I could possibly be this happy on a weekend!” When was the last time you laid awake in bed at night thinking of your troubles, only to sleep soundly after reminding yourself “Hey, at least I’m chief waste management and disposal technician now!” When was the last time you felt like there was absolutely nothing in the entire universe you have yet to experience except watching Drew Carey flirt with college girls?
Ultimately, the lie relies on failure to consider the option that you might actually want to do something productive, yet non-work-related, with your free time. It’s the Close Enough fallacy – omit all details of a life slightly different from the one you already have, and it seems reasonable to assume what you have is all there is.
If you find yourself drawn astray by Lie #1, you’ve probably lost track of your own interests in a sea of mistaken sense of “duty.” Duty to a job, to a nation, to your family, to “others” generally. You were told to do your duty, and you lost sense of what you wanted. You’ve forgotten your most important duty: to yourself. Luckily, there’s only one step to find yourself again:3 self-reflection,
Lie #2: You deserve this.
One of the greatest temptations you’ll face – especially if you’re a middle-class American – will be lifestyle inflation. You’ve worked so hard for so long to get to where you are, so why not enjoy it a bit? Why not lease that brand new Mercedes rather than continuing to drive your 10-year-old Honda? You’ve got the money, and you’ve gotta impress clients! Why not get that pontoon and live the redneck yacht club lifestyle? You pay that exorbitant real estate tax bill to be close to the river and city views, might as well use it! Why not get one more roll of designer toilet paper? Treat yo’ self!
The mistake in thinking here is that spending money is thought of as a treat – a value in itself. It’s an easy trap to fall into: Giving money away gives instant relief to whatever problem you might be facing in your life, because you’ve masked it with an invigorating sensation of “newness.” It’s the heroine of human interaction: easy, immediate, and overwhelming pleasure.4
Nevermind that spending – and heroine – has negative future consequences. Nevermind that everything you can buy pales in comparison to the value of your time. Nevermind that the sensation is only temporary, and over time you build a tolerance and need more.
When you think that you should spend more because you deserve it, remember the primary lesson of Harry Potter, as taught by the Eccentric Millionaire: Every “thing” you own – no matter how high your income or how lofty or small your goal – owns a little piece of you. Like Voldemort.
Lie #3: It’s impossible for the average person!
Ah, ol’ reliable: Various insurmountable, undeniable facts exist that make your journey to financial independence irrefutably impossible. You have daycare expenses? Give up now, kids are too expensive! Student loans causing some drag? Facebook complaints go a longer way than refinancing! Your parents were poor and spent all their money on lottery tickets, cigarettes, and a general anger toward the world? Might as well continue the tradition! You never grew beyond three feet tall and can’t find a car with close enough pedals to get to work? Ok, you have a legitimate problem – I have no idea how to solve that, but there’s probably some kind of pully system or something to level the playing field, I guess?
There might be numerous privileges that much of the early retiree crowd has enjoyed and you don’t. But these privileges all have one thing in common. They went by another name in previous generations: excuses.
Frankly, anyone can become financially independent with a bit of work, skill, and luck. You just need to invent the next Uber. But it admittedly does take privilege to have access to the easy, windfall-free average-man road to financial independence: You must be born to non-neglectful parents5 in a developed or developing country in the 20th or 21st century without any major medical issues affecting your ability to use your rational brain.
Seems like a lot of qualifiers, right? But that description fits the vast majority of people who have access to the internet and can read this message!
Before you succumb to Lie #3, ask yourself: Are you doing all you can? Are you working for that bonus? Demonstrating your value to your employer, clients, or customers? Do you have a side hustle? Are you skipping showers like I accidentally did today, saving the soap, hot water, and general expenses of having friends?
Lie #4: It’s too hard to plan.
Even those who manage to avoid lifestyle inflation and the privilege privilege might fail to beat this tempting lie. You’re nothing special; there are millions of smarter people out there who are still working, so what hope do you have? How will you even know if you’re on the right track, or when you’ve succeeded? Will you kick yourself for stashing away money in a place it can’t be reached? How could lowly you figure out how to beat the IRS with all these confusing acronyms?
Even if you do a great job of knowing what you want, keeping your lifestyle inflation at bay, and understanding just how lucky you are, you still might have a problem with the technicalities. You might think, as I once did, that if it were so easy to retire early, everybody would do it. So, obviously, there’s a catch. The devil is in the details, and the details are beyond your comprehension right now. You’re too busy with work and the stresses of everyday life…
Not so fast! The process of starting a FIRE is remarkably easy.6 Your starting point is so stupidly simple that even I was able to do the heavy lifting for you: The Millionaire-Maker Flow Chart of Freedom! It’s mostly a matter of setting priorities.
You might be wondering: If it’s a one-size-fits-all solution, why do we have finance blogs explaining this stuff all the time and coming to different conclusions?
This answer is also simple: We’re all special little snowflakes! We have different goals, and therefore different teensy variations from the Flow Chart’s commandments. For example, I’m not following my own advice, because I’m putting a ton of pre-tax savings before debt.7
Lie #5: What if…
Let’s face it: things change, and emergencies happen. What if HSA rules change and you can’t get your money out for non-healthcare? What if the stock market drops for six years in a row? Is it worth all this work and dedication for years on end if it can all disappear with the stroke of a pen (taking away your Backdoor Roth) or the snap of a finger (and medical bills to replace said snapped finger)?
YES. Emphatically, unequivocally, YES.
Unforeseen circumstances can impact us all. Setbacks will happen, and they will slow you down. Regardless of whether FIRE is a goal for you or not.
To beat this lie and finally have that Kevlar vest of protection from stupidity, ask yourself: Where would you be if you hadn’t conquered these Lies and started saving before an emergency hit?
- Really just a long-winded way of saying “everybody who gets paid.”
- In training…I can’t just be handing that title out to every masked freak who drops in here.
- Not a dirty joke, guys, stop laughing.
- I hear. I wouldn’t know…I don’t spend money.
- Not necessary, but greatly beneficial. Also notice it’s a super low bar.
- The Boy Scouts told me to use tinder, but I don’t see what any of this has to do with dating apps.
- I used to pay my student loans at an accelerated pace, per the Flow Chart, but then my situation changed a bit. Mrs. Vigilante and I realized we could reach coast FI in a few short years and spend more time with our future child, so we targeted that goal rather than the possibly mathematically superior goal of paying down my student loans.