We are not the same. I know I say it a lot, but it’s worth repeating. When planning for your retirement/financial independence you really, really, really, need to keep that in mind. Why? Because we are not the same.
You need to dig in deep and think about the things that truly make you happy. Hint: it’s not money. Money is a tool you will use to buy/do the things that allow you to get closer to the things that bring you happiness. But, money in and of itself will not bring you joy.
Yes, you will need money to achieve financial independence. Yes, you will need money to retire and yes, you will need your money to grow so that you can stay retired and enjoy the life you want. So yes, money is an important part of the life you want to live and having it is necessary to achieve your goals. Just don’t make money so important that you forget what truly brings you joy.
It’s important to know what you really need in life.
Let me tell you about a couple we came to meet years ago. I love and care about these people and they have made an impact in my life. What I’m describing here is to show you the difference between knowing what you want and what you need.
Mr. Rap is the kind of guy who loves to laugh. You know that person who is able to laugh at every joke and yet can’t really seem to tell one. He’s a super friendly person who’s ready to chat with you all the time.
Our family was invited over to his house (because our kids played together). I remember the first time I walked into his house. Wow! The entrance had a 25 foot ceiling and a double staircase going up to a large open hallway-like balcony. It was at least a 6000 square foot house. It was incredible, I was in awe.
My first thought was, I want to be this rich one day. I want to be as happy as he is. This guy had it all. A successful business, a wonderful family, a couple of nice cars, tons of friends and the list went on and on.
What I didn’t know at the time was that he was on the verge of bankruptcy. He was stressed out and suffering with depression and anxiety. About a year after meeting him he lost his house, his cars and his business went under (for a variety of reasons).
I caught up with him some time later and asked how things were going. He had to start everything from scratch. He had moved his family into a basement suite and started his business all over again. After two years he was able to buy the house he was living in and was working his way back to the top.
A couple of more years passed and my wife and I ran into him and his wife. We asked how things were going. Turns out they were having a really hard time not spending money. They were constantly trying to keep up with everyone or someone who was just ahead of them.
It’s like those tailgaters on the highway who just need to pass you and when they do, they need to pass the next person hoping that one day they’ll be the lead car. But what they don’t seem to understand is that there is always another car in front of them.
Anyhow, it turns out they were back to being heavily indebted. Then they tried to sell us on this seminar they had just come back from. At first it seemed interesting. It was a financial seminar where they taught you about financial responsibility and how to get out of debt. Turns out the seminar cost $2,500.00 per person and they had just flown to Vegas to go see it.
Being who I am, I said, “So, let me get this straight. You’re in debt over your head and you just spent $10,000.00 to go to a seminar about being financially responsible? You don’t see the irony here?”
“Oh no,” they said, “This seminar changed our lives. It was so eye opening that we’re going to Arizona next month to go see the next one. You should come with us.”
At this point in our lives we were working on our retirement plan and we let them know that we were on track to achieve financial independence by 57.
“How is that possible?” they asked. “You guys work at Costco, don’t you?”
I explained our plan and how we worked at being financially responsible and how we were always fine tuning our budget and learning how to be fiscally responsible and growing what we had. I told them if they wanted some advice, we would be happy to sit with them and give them some guidance.
“You know what they say,” Mr. Rap said to me, “free advice is worth just that, nothing.” Last I heard Mr. Rap and his wife were still together living with their 25 and 27 year old children, still had a mortgage and were still in debt.
You see, Mr. and Mrs. Rap thought that happiness was just one car away. If only they could pass this next car, then they’d be happy.
Are they bad people? Absolutely not. They are a wonderful couple who are ready to help their friends at a moment’s notice. They are loving, kind and considerate. Their biggest problem is that they’re constantly reaching for something they’ll never get.
If only they got in the right lane and put their car in cruise control, they might realize that the trip is way less stressful.