In this episode of the Radical Personal Finance Podcast, we dig into Jacob Lund Fisker’s seminal book “Early Retirement Extreme” for a book review and commentary.
I love this book. I think it can serve as an overarching manual for designing your financial plan so that it funds your life. It’s also one of the most intensely practical books I’ve ever read. Listen to the show to see just how pithy his writing really is.
Jacob’s core belief is that anyone who wants to can achieve financial independence in about 5 years if it’s important enough to them. His plan for achieving that goal is robust and repeatable by others. it doesn’t rely on making a huge income (it seems from his blog that he made about $40,000 per year while he was achieving financial independence). It doesn’t rely on re-selling a dream (such as making a book or blog about achieving financial independence and using the sale of that dream to others as your method for achieving it). It doesn’t rely on any tricks or questionable tactics.
Rather, this book focuses on the basics: achieve great skill with how you allocate your time and money resources so that you can live a rich and fulfilling life on a tiny fraction of what most people spend. Combine this skill with a moderate income and you’ll have a very high savings rate (on the order of approximately 70% of income). Invest that money wisely and you’ll be financially independent in a few short years, able to sustain your lifestyle purely off of investment income.
That’s the simple formula and it can be used by anyone.
But the key strength of the book is the philosophical framework that re-frames each financial decision in light of what it costs us. What are the costs of following society’s “normal” in terms of our own happiness? Why is the system designed in the way it is? Could something else be achieved?
By re-framing the conversation, we don’t operate out of a sense of deprivation or sacrifice but out of abundance and intelligent design. That is powerful.
I highly recommend it if you’re interested in challenging each and every one of your assumptions about money and life. Jacob’s book is a comprehensive, textbook on how to think through how work and money fit into your life. It’s philosophical and tactical. The major benefit of the book is how it frames each and every decision of our lives in light of its impact on our financial independence.
I love this book. And I highly recommend it. I think you should buy it and read it. I wish this book were used as a textbook in college. It’s far more practical to real life than most of the finance textbooks that I read in college.
As one example, consider the power of his formula for achieving successful change in any area of life:
- Increase your dissatisfaction with the present situation.
- Strengthen your vision of future situation.
- Build a plan to get from the present to the future.
- Lower the perceived cost of the plan.
You don’t have to agree with Jacob’s outcomes. You don’t have to choose to adopt his lifestyle as your own. But do yourself a favor and think through his questions and through his mental models. Consciously choose what’s right for you and your life based on what you want and why. But first, consider everything that’s available to you.
This book is incredibly dense with philosophy and insight. It’s not something you can race through. Be prepared to enjoy an incredible rate of return on your investment in this book. For the price of an average dinner at a mediocre restaurant, you can acquire the manual that will give you the tools to change your financial life forever. Choose wisely.
Resources for today’s show:
- Early Retirement Extreme on Amazon (affiliate link) – paperback version
- Early Retirement Extreme on Amazon (affiliate link) – Kindle version
- Jacob’s blog: www.earlyretirementextreme.com
- “How I Became Financially Independent in 5 Years” on Jacob’s blog
- “How I Live on $7,000 per year” on Jacob’s blog
- Plato’s Allegory of the Cave on Wikipedia
[0:00:01.2] JS: Welcome to the Radical personal finance podcast episode three. I’m your host Joshua Sheats. Today’s show, we are going to do a book review. It’s the first time I ever done a book review so I hope it’s good. I’m going to start with a book that’s extremely challenging to do a book review, though.
I’m going to challenge myself and hopefully going to challenge you and give you a broad overview and in depth review into a book called Early Retirement Extreme: A philosophical and practical guide to financial independence by Jacob Lund Fisker. Warning upfront, this book is not a fluffy book. You may not want to listen to this, you may not be ready for the concepts, we’re going to jump right to one of the extreme aspects of financial planning which is specifically on early retirement.
This show and this book does not contain a list of tips on how to save money on your groceries by shopping at one store over another or by using coupons. Nothing wrong with that, that’s helpful but that’s not what this book is for. This book is a philosophy book. Today’s show is going to be a philosophy show.
The author of this book is a physicist, so the content goes extremely deep and very theoretical. Now personally I love this book. I think it ought to be given to students at a young age as a handbook that they have to learn and understand so that they can be conscious about the choices that they make. And I believe it would be a worthy focus for people to begin their lives by building in financial freedom.
The author titled this book and his associated blog, Early Retirement Extreme, but he’s actually written many times that it’s probably not a great title, there are probably a lot of other titles that are a lot better. The words “early retirement” have a different connotation in our society. Usually when people think of early retirement, they think of somebody instead of retiring at 65 to play golf, think of somebody retiring at 62 or 55 or 50 years old. That’s not what this book is about.
This book is about achieving financial independence in an extremely short period of time. To give you a preview, the author achieved financial independence himself in approximately five years on an annual salary that didn’t exceed more than about $40,000 per year. I had to check his blog, and check his writings but those numbers should be fairly accurate.
So many people can get themselves to a position where they’re able to earn $40,000 a year and to be able to be financially independent in five years on that kind of salary might be worth something, might be worth understanding what the author has said and what the author has done.
The other thing I like about this author’s story — by the way again, talking about Jacob Lund Fisker. You could read his blog at Earlyretirementextreme.com. You could find this book on Amazon, it’s available for Kindle and available in paperback. The book is not — most information you could get for free off of his blog and off of his forums.
The author’s no longer actively blogging, he did it for a period of years and then came to the conclusion that he’d said just about everything he had to say on it and the blog is still available but is no longer being actively contributed to. The author’s gone on to do other things with his free time, you can do that when you retire.
This book was kind of a seminal work, his ultimate synthesis of all of the ideas and strategies and philosophies that he has developed. Early Retirement Extreme is a handbook of robust strategies and philosophies that can help people achieve financial independence at a very short period of time.
Now, this may not be your goal. If it’s not your goal, no problem. Remember we’ve talked in the past that first question of financial planning, “What do you want?” So stated right up clearly, if you want a very large boat and that’s important to you, go after it, go get a very large boat. This book is not about getting a very large boat. This book is about not having to work ever again so that you can go out on boats every single day that other people own and enjoy being out on the water.
I’m going to do my best when I record shows or when I do things like a book review, I’m going to do my best to make the author’s case for them extremely strong manner. So expect me to try to take on the author’s point of view more so than my own. I think that’s one valuable way to learn is it’s extremely valuable to build somebody’s case for them in your mind. Fully embrace it, fully adopt it so that you can be sure that you fully understand it.
Then go back and revisit your own goals, your own life, your own situation and decide what’s appropriate for you which may or may not be something that would be appropriate for the author. To me that’s a fair way of approaching life and so I’m going to do my best to do that with book reviews. This book is a heavy book. I’m not sure that in one podcast here I’m going to get through the entire thing.
My goal is just to provide an exhaustive audio resource for people who are interested in the topic to refer to and my hope is that if you find it interesting, go and buy the book, read it and consider the themes that are held within it. I really would love to interview the author as well and do a phone interview to be able to understand more details and hear from him. I’ve heard him interviewed before and really have enjoyed that. So planning to reach out to him to see if he’s willing to come on the show.
I’m also going to quote heavily from the book because I can’t add to how well written it is but even though I’m going to quote heavily, you’re not going to be able to get a sense of what the book contains just by the quotes. First and foremost in the introduction, quoting from the book:
[0:07:04] JLF: “This book is not a how to manual to a specific lifestyle but a how to manual for how to manuals. The intention is for each person to create his own strategy. In this sense, this book isn’t a travel journey nor is it a set of map directions. It’s a book that teaches you to become a navigator. I used the principles in this book to reduce my expenses to a quarter of the average person and become financially independent in five years.
While my story may be entertaining or inspiring. It may not be directly useful towards reaching a similar goal. Similarly, while initially motivating due to their actionable form, a set of map directions would fail the first time one reaches a crossroads not on the map. This would end the journey if the pilot has no navigational skills. I have therefore written the book as a text book. Learning how to become financially independent requires study.
This requires effort and is not easy. If it were truly easy, everybody would be doing it. But it’s no more difficult than getting a college education or becoming a skilled tradesman in your respective field. What I’ll describe here is another kind of life, the life of an independently wealthy and widely skilled person, a modern renaissance man.”
[0:08: 25] JS: The thing I love about this introduction is that and what I’ve just read is that, it states the theme for the entire book. Jacob Fisker is not saying, “This is what you have to do,” which is one of the things that frustrates me so much about most finance books and authors who say that this is the way that you should live your life.
He says, “Here are some tools for you and with this tools, you’re free to accept the ones that you want and free to reject the ones that you don’t want. Feel free to take these tools and apply them to your own life to create your utopia in your life.”
Hopefully I can do that same thing with this podcast over the days, weeks, months, years as time goes on. Continuing to read here:
[0:09:21] JLF: “This book is not a book for beginners, it’s a book one can pick, it’s not a book one can pick up, read and proceed to become financially independent, just as reading a text book about physics won’t turn a person into a physicist. This only happens when the concepts are constantly applied and one starts thinking like a physicist. Things are similar for a person pursuing financial independence.
This is a book which I think can be read at several different levels. The reason for different levels is the people change, they learn. Depending on where you are, the book will relate to you in different ways. This is good, because those who evolve will become different people eventually. What used to seem like sacrifice will seem natural and what used to seem natural will come to be seen as sacrifice. What used to be a collection of techniques will become a general principle, what used to feel challenging will now feel easy.”
[0:10:17] JS: This is a concept that’s often lost in the financial world and you can start, I believe, in personal financial planning at a variety of different layers. For example, if somebody’s deeply in debt, has a spending problem of spending too much money on their credit cards, they can start by learning to set a budget and diminish their credit card spending. They can also start by having erratically different philosophy.
You could either start with little changes or you can start with a complete change. To me, I often think about this in terms of something like diet and exercise. I find diet and exercise to be a useful comparison tool because many people know what they should be doing about diet exercise and health and yet sometimes many of us don’t do it. Just like with financial planning.
With diet and exercise, if someone is sick, unhealthy, overweight and terrible shape, there are a couple of ways to approach things. One is you can make gradual changes. So make one daily choice different. Instead of choosing to eat a donut for breakfast, choose to eat a piece of fruit or choose to cook some eggs. That one small change over a long period of time will make a dramatic difference in somebody’s life.
So in financial planning, this would be analogies to if somebody doesn’t save money, starting to set aside one cent out of every dollar into a automatic savings account or into some sort of retirement plan. This is a great place to start. For many people it will be a really intelligent way to live, a intelligent first step. Now on the flip side, someone who is horribly out of shape, and extremely unhealthy, that person could also make all the changes all at once and completely go to perhaps a three week or a one month retreat at a health spa of some sort where all they do is eat the right food and exercise and work out.
This would be maybe an example would be of a TV show like The Biggest Loser, where the contestants completely change their daily life in pursuit of one goal. They get dramatic results and this can work as well. Perhaps the people who most effectively follow that type of prescription are those who are told flat out, “If you don’t do this, you will die.” Well with enough motivation, someone can change everything in their life very quickly. This can also be an effective strategy.
In financial planning this could be where somebody gets extremely bad news and their child is sick and they need to completely change their financial life to be there for their child’s future. Well under this scenario, they could absolutely change everything quickly and stick to it. One is not right and one is not wrong. You can read the research and see about the efficacy rates of gradual changes versus complete changes and look at your personal experience.
In my personal experience I’ve done both in various areas of life and some have stuck, some gradual change have stuck and some gradual changes happened and some complete overhauls have stuck and some haven’t. You’ve got to be the judge for yourself to see what is going to be most effective for you.
This book however, is going to be a completely comprehensive overhaul if you want it to be. Once you understand the philosophy of it, you could take this philosophy and apply it radically to your own life, after all, this is the Radical Personal Finance Podcast or you may choose to simply to make some small adjustments in your own life and it’s okay. My goal, and I think Jacob Lund Fisker’s goal, would be to simply provide you with the tools that you would need for you to decide what’s right for you and your life.
The author starts with the allegory of Plato’s cave. If you’re not familiar with Plato’s cave, this is a classic allegory that tries to explain how we live. So my short summary of Plato’s cave. Plato put forth this thought experiment and said, “What if you were born living inside of a cave, changed to a row of prisoners with a fire behind your back that reflects the light of the fire up upon the wall in front of you and there’s no other source of light?” Well if you were born in that type of scenario and type of circumstances, that would be your pure normal.
So your pure normal would be that you interacted with your fellow prisoners based upon what they look like on the shadows on the cave wall. You would interact with them through, in the dim murkiness of the fire light. You wouldn’t be looking at them, you would be seeing the shadows on the wall. But if somebody came into the cave, unblocked the shackles, dragged you out of the cave, first of all, no doubt you would not go or you would go kicking and screaming or perhaps you’re the type of person who would jump up and run out, seek new adventure.
This would tell you a lot about your personality type. If you were taken outside of the cave where you saw the real world as others would see it, your eyes would, it would take some time to adjust but once it adjust, if your eyes would adjust to the light and you would see how things actually were. If you then went back into the cave and tried to explain your world to people in the cave, it will be very challenging for them to be able to relate to you.
You’d be talking about green and blue and white and brown. And yet the only colors that somebody in the cave can relate to is orange and I guess grey. You would talk about seeing people as they really are rather than simply saying their shadows reflected on the cave wall. Yet, people in the cave would not likely understand. That person who had gotten out of the cave would feel the duty to need to go back in and try to release the other prisoners.
But most of the time, that person would be expected to — that person would be treated like a danger to the others in the cave. They might not take off the the chains, they might stay in their seats. So you have to be a brave person to be willing to go outside of the box and to live a life that’s different than most people would live.
This is where Jacob’s background as a scientist can be useful. A Scientist is taught and trained often to ask why. Reading from the book here, the author says:
[0:17:54] JLF: “Yet I never learned why the world worked the way it did and wrote retrospect, I think nobody ever even asked the question. Everybody always focused on the what and where, no questions asked. But as I started my career as a research assistant in physics, I started getting interested in all they why’s of life. As I studied and thought about various fundamental questions such as why do we use money instead of promises or favors?
Why do we live in houses and not boats or cars? Why are there usually two to four people in a home and not 10 to 20? Why do we move away from home? Why do we work until we’re 65, all while getting assaulted with well-intended encouragements that I should make sure to open a retirement account before I was 30 and put 15% of net income into it, that I should buy a house, that married home owners were more prosperous and therefore I better get married too.
That I should buy a new car. That people would like me more if I wore a particular brand of clothing, that I would enjoy a beverage more if it came from a certain kind of bottle. I was beginning to feel that something was wrong. Why is the emperor not wearing any clothes? I started getting an uneasy feeling that something about the world was not quite right. Nobody explained the why.
Sure they could explain how I should first purchase a starter home so I could upgrade later. But nobody could or would explain why I should buy a house in the first place. Nobody could or would explain why I should have a career, only that career development was important.”
[0:19:30] JS: Interesting questions. Have you ever stopped and asked yourself why? “Why am I supposed to,” and using his examples, “Why am I supposed to buy a house? Why am I supposed to build a career where I work until 65? Why?” Again, this takes us right back to yesterday’s episode where I said, “What’s your why? What do you really want? Why?” If you want to own a house, go for it. If you want to work until you’re 65, go for it.
But have you ever thought about other options? Have you ever thought about working for five years and then quitting? Or, have you ever thought about working for the rest of your life, because you want to not because you have to? All three of those options are available to you. You could work for five years, you could work till 65 and you could work the rest of your life. And depending on what your why is, each one of those choices might be correct. But there’s value in thinking about it.
I love Jacob Lund Fisker’s here, commentary on society is, I’m going to read a couple of excerpts here, read the whole book. It’s fascinating, but referencing Plato’s cave:
[0:20:57] JLF: “In real life, the prisoners of Plato’s cave are those who are prisoners or slaves to their wages and their culture. A wage slave is a wage earner who is entirely dependent on their wages. While the wage slave is free to leave the current job, he isn’t free to leave the job market all together, and he can likely not imagine the possibility of doing so. He is still entirely focused on the wall.
The wall shows other people not as who they are but as what they own. There goes a man in his new sports car, what is not seen is that the car is bought on credit, that the man is stressed because he is having trouble making the payments. Wage slaves have jobs where they can go and spend their most productive hours writing high powered memos so they can be more productive. While other people spend their time ignoring memos so they can be more productive too. This is how it goes.
In fact, one of the great inventions of the 20th century, the personal computer has made it possible to write even more memos and notices. This is great because it allows people to do their job while looking busier than ever. Looking busy is important because in this culture, business is a virtue, just as being in debt is a virtue and the most virtuous are those with the highest credit scores, they’re better at being in debt compared to other people.
This endless working and paying is called making a living. Yet, people are so busy making a living that they have no time for living. A wage slave is a person is not only economically bound by mortgages, loans and other obligations but also mentally bound by the inability to perceive that there are other options available, like the prisoners in Plato’s cave. Their chains are not physical. Like those of 150 years ago, though they still are in some parts of the world.
The chains are mental which in some sense makes them worse because it turns the prisoners into their own prison wardens. Like the slaves in Plato’s cave, the only commonly accepted way for one of them to leave is to win the prison game, which means accumulating at least a million dollars to retire. The disenchanted grumble about the system or the man, the analogy of the system is the people walking around behind the chain slaves, keeping them going. However it’s mainly the slaves themselves who keep themselves going.
We don’t realize that we don’t realize that we maintain this system by lack of imagination and questioning. Like birds, which never seem to have a flight plan, yet always seem to fly together in a swarming flock, we don’t question. We obediently picked whatever options are handed to us, often choosing based on what our neighbors have chosen. We make the best of the shadows on the wall but we do not question the wall. The best prison is the one with invisible bars.
Perhaps one reason for this complacency is the large quantity of material good available to the chain game. Material goods are often used as compensation. Frequently when someone is depressed, the advice is, “Go out and spend some money, buy yourself something nice, treat yourself. Try a little retail therapy.” People don’t seem to realize that this attempt to feel good is exactly what propagates the problem. Compared to people just 50 years ago, modern wage slaves live a life of material abundance, they’re consumers.
They have big screen TV’s, movies on demand, microwave ovens, food processors and 24 piece of flatware. They own multiple pairs of shoes and enough clothes for more than a week without doing laundry. They have carpeted floors, matching furniture and vacuum cleaners, they have expensive toys, they have car payments, college degrees, five bedroom, three bathroom mortgages. Laptop computers, cellphone contracts, power tools with 108 piece bit sets.
Premium cable, air conditioning systems, blenders, food processors, pool tables, DVD players and granite counter tops. They redecorate, attend sporting events go on vacation and occasionally play with their toys. Society has made it very easy to spend money. Shopping centres line every street, many creative means of spending money have been devised. Instead of spending 30 seconds opening a can of tomatoes with a traditional can opener, it’s now possible to spend 30 minutes working to pay for an electric can opener that can open the can in the same amount of time.
Similarly, many of the ways we used to do things have been redesigned to ensure that instead of doing it ourselves, we can buy some gadget or some service to have it done for us. This is convenient because we’re usually too busy working to pay for it to do it ourselves. This is the gist of the service economy. Presumably, if we didn’t create enough problems to spend time solving them, the economy would collapse.
To speed up consumption is possible to obtain loans and spend money that’s yet to be earned. All it requires is a promise of increased amounts of work in the future. A commitment of up to 30 years to pay the money back, plus twice the amount in interest. Lots of personal finance gurus are willing to charge you money, some will do it for free to advise you as to exactly how to distribute your money into retirement plans, college savings plans, mortgages, credit cards, et cetera, to maximize your lifetime consumption. Success and power are equated with spending money.”
[0:26:07] JS: The author continues, but I obviously can’t read the whole work. It’s worth reading though. Interesting thoughts, huh? This paragraph I think sums up other options:
[0:26:27] JLF: “Is spending the most productive years of your life chained to the job market to collect a lot of rarely used stuff that gathers dust in the closet or takes up space in junk yards a wise choice? Were you really born just to die leaving a large pile of discarded consumer goods? Probably not. I realize that not wanting a house full of things makes me look weird and recently even, unpatriotic. After all, more is better, who doesn’t wants to be better?
But perhaps conformity is not the only way to live. In fact, by taking the other end of the bargain, saving as much as other people are spending on wants, it’s possible to retire and live on invested savings after just five years of full time work. Rather than increasing the amount of work to acquire more stuff, reducing this superficial need reduces the amount of necessary work.
It’s possible to reduce the amount of work all the way down to zero — financial independence. Indeed, playing the shadow game for five years provides a permanent way out of the cave. Alternatively, it’s also possible to return to the cave for a few months every year to earn money for the next adventure out of the cave. This is living ‘on the economy’, so to speak, rather than living in the economy.”
[0:27:48] JS: Interesting, huh? One thing that I like also about the author’s story is that he didn’t start out this way. He started with as a consumer. Read the book and read his blog to find out but picking up in the middle of his consumer story:
[0:28:15] JLF: “As a lifelong consumer, used to spending large amounts of money to obtain food stuff and entertainment, it’s hard to imagine how it’s possible to spend practically nothing on furniture, a few dollars on clothing, very little on food, almost nothing on transport and generally less on rent or mortgage. However it’s possible to live on a third or even a quarter of the income, putting one solidly below the government to find poverty line without living on austerity or eating grits.
There is no reason to pay retail. You can enjoy the fun of beating the system that exists to take your money and live a middle class lifestyle on a quarter of the usual numbers. Why aim low? Why not live an upper class lifestyle and think of yourself as a poor aristocrat? It requires a somewhat different approach though and it requires some skill.
It also requires a reprogramming of the way we’ve always done it or rather the way we usually do it. In fact, a frequent question I get when I talk about frugality is what kind of things like CFL’s or pressure cookers people should buy to become more frugal. Wrong question dude. Leaving the cave takes some effort, it would be easy if the framework or mental models of thinking outside the cave were similar to the shadows.
In that case, I’d write a list of 25 ways to save money, 25 ways to earn money and 25 ways to save time. And you’d just add them to your check list and squeeze them in during your lunch hour. It’s acceptable to use this list as inspirations but don’t follow them like recipes. You’d be missing the point. To paraphrase Einstein, you can’t solve your problems with the same mindset that created them.
To live as a free person following list of easy repetitive things, possibly in return for some reward is exactly what should be avoided. Instead, it’s necessary to understand how the world works and how people have been specialized to the point of general incompetence. Like ants, which only know how to do one job but do it very well. This is not human nature.
To live well, one must go beyond lists and start thinking creatively about solving problems. One must accept a lot more personal responsibility than merely showing up on time, following orders, checking off boxes and trying to fit in.”
[0:30:36] JS: Challenging, huh? I find it a very challenging philosophy. Author goes on:
[0:30:49] JLF: “Is this book for me? Well here’s some questions to ask yourself; Are you completely happy with your life? For instance, why do we still work eight hours a day, 50 weeks a year when we’re twice as productive as we were 50 years ago? Why do we have children, then send them away for most of the day shortly after they’re born. Is there more to life than work, more work and more stuff? Can happiness be bought? Do you want to live on a solid foundation?”
[0:31:19] JS: He goes on to talk about starting with a solid financial foundation so that you’re free. Interesting thoughts on that one. I find — let me read this paragraph and then I’ll comment.
[0:31:35] JS: “Many people get married, start a family or buy a home without a solid financial foundation based on savings. Instead, they borrow heavily hoping to make up the difference later. This can easily turn into a lifetime of struggling to make ends meet because such a large fraction of the income goes toward paying interest on past consumption when instead could be used to live better.
For example, people could work less and spend more time with each other. A good financial foundation allows parents to raise their own children instead of outsourcing the job to daycare centres and babysitters. A good financial foundation allows people to spend more time working on things they want to work on, instead of working on things they have to work on things they have to work on to pay the bills. In general, financial independence creates much more flexibility and allows a greater choice of how one lives.”
[0:32:23] JS: As I record this, it’s early in the morning and about five AM. And last night I had some friends over to the house and we were talking about the difference between starting a life on a solid financial foundation versus a shaky one. Imagine just for a moment if all young people were taught to be financially independent in perhaps five years, maybe 10?
So imagine that — let’s call it your 20’s. So imagine that instead of being taught that you should finish high school, go to college or learn a career, graduate, start buying stuff and then plan to work till 65, imagine if people were taught that you should be financially independent by the age of 30.
So your entire job in your 20’s is to continue living on a college budget for five to seven years, living well so that from 30 on, you are financially independent so that when you started your family when you had kids and kind of entered that phase of life, you had total time to spend with them and raise them.
Question: would people make different choices with their lives? Often times in our society we talk about pursuing your passions, I love that topic. Would it be easier for people to pursue their passions if they didn’t necessarily have to earn an income? I think what you find when you study wealth is that people don’t often give up incomes just because they’re financially independent.
Some of the wealthiest, happiest people in the world don’t ever have to work again the rest of their life. But they choose to because they love it. So there’s a couple of ways to achieve that. Number one is find something you would do even if you didn’t have to, that’s the short circuit, that’s the hack. I support that. But the other way is get yourself in a position where you don’t have to so you could be sure that you’re doing it because you want to.
I think the person is most famous for this one is Warren Buffett who always says, “I tap danced my way into work every day.” Interesting thought, starting on a solid foundation of financial independence. Question: do you want to start a business? If you want to start a business, would it be nice to not have to pay yourself a salary right at the beginning? Do you dream of doing instead of having things? Reading here:
[0:34:53] JLF: “The question you need to answer is what do you want to do with your life given that you don’t have the time to do everything. Do you want to spend most of your life paying off the interest of a 30 year mortgage and working so you can fill increasingly bigger houses with increasingly more stuff while being stuck in your daily commute and increasingly nice cars?
Or are you prepared to give up the stuff so that you can do whatever you want, whenever and wherever within reason? What will your legacy be? What you owned? Or who you were? Do you believe life is an adventure? Many people, particularly young people are starting to realize that the pursuit of happiness isn’t found through the pursuit of accumulating things.
They don’t drop out, they opt out and forge their own path. Starting up internet companies, traveling the world and retiring early from the rat race so they can spend their lives living rather than just buying stuff. Which do you prefer? Do you want to make a difference?”
[0:36:01] JS: Interesting commentary here:
[0:36:06] JFL: “The system, which many of us like to blame our problems on and get count on for our solutions, is not really governed by a mysterious group referred to as “them”. The world that we live in is the aggregate sum of the individual behavior of all of us. They are not responsible for our world, we are, you are.
Unless you are a dictator, a rock star or in another person with enough influence to facilitate a top down approach with decrees or manifestos, the most effective change starts with individuals using a bottom up approach. You have to become the change you want to see, you have to set an example for other people to follow, if you’re not part of the solution, you’re part of the problem.
Unfortunately, many people in our culture are part of the problem. We’re concerned about our dependence on oil imports and the resulting wars, yet we drive 30 miles to work every day to pay the bills. We’re very much locked into an economic and behavioral model that conflicts with our values. What other choice do we have?
Well, read on. Society offers you a deal, get a student loan, get a college degree, get a mortgage and become a home owner, build your life with a deck of credit cards, just sign the dotted line and before you know it, you’re on the hook for a house, a car, the basic human needs of cable TV, fancy restaurant visits, cellphone and gym subscriptions and a house full of toys.
After a few years, it will be hard to imagine life without all that stuff. You will therefore spend all your time, all your life working in a possibly unfulfilling job to pay the bills for all the things you’ve signed up for. If your job brings you down, you buy something on credit as a reward dragging you further into the spiral of addiction.
You’ll be living in a virtual debtors prison, except you’ll only see the bars if you miss a payment. If you have debt, you’re not a free person, you’re explicitly owned by your debt and implicitly owned by the creditor. You put 15% of your income into a retirement account for 40 years, plan to retire at 65, then try to spend the remainder of your life making up for lost time and health. Are you willing to take that deal? If not, there’s another way. Don’t accept the chains, leave the cave.
Changing your frame of mind is key to escaping but change is a challenge. This challenge can become a struggle if your frame of mind is incompatible with your adopted lifestyle. In other words, you need to believe in your lifestyle as an end, rather than as a means to an end.
To it, runners and other athletes sometimes get the reverse cum hoc ergo propter hoc comment that they’re already fit so they don’t need to exercise. Yet they’re diligent exercising is exactly what causes their fitness. How is doing good creating wealth, establishing connections, in short, accomplishing anything any different?”
[0:39:01] JS: To me they’re good questions. Author goes on and talks about barriers to change, one of the most valuable sections in the book I think. And he talks about some of the challenges, but most importantly he talks about four variables to change. I think these four variables could be applied to anything.
[0:39:31] JLF: “People want to change, thus have the following four variables to play with. One, increase your dissatisfaction with present situation. Two, strengthen your vision of future situation. Three, build a plan to get from the present to the future. And four, lower the perceived cost of the plan.”
[0:39:54] JS: That’s financial planning. Now obviously that can be applied to everything, every aspect of life. That can be applied to the strength and quality of a marriage, that can be applied to relationships with coworkers, friends, children family members. That can be applied to health and fitness, that’s a formula for change. To me, I think you should go buy the book just simply because of those four things.
So let’s think about how we can manipulate them and use financial situations as a current plan. Number one, increase your dissatisfaction with the present situation. People don’t change until they either have to or they really want to. You can manipulate this, are you dissatisfied with where you’re at right now? Increase your dissatisfaction level, at least mentally. Until you are ready to do something about it. Number two, strengthen your vision of the future situation, learn about what’s possible, think about the things that can be done.
Number three, build a plan to get from the present to the future. Build a plan, make a financial plan, make a health plan, make a marriage plan, make a relationship plan, business plan. Number four, lower the perceived cost of the plan, mentally, internally, lower how difficult that plan is. You can adjust this.
Going to read a section. I wonder how much of the book I’m supposed to read or not supposed to read? But to me, this section of the book, it’s going to take a few minutes, but it’s so valuable as far as just seeing things differently. Now you may make the same choices after seeing the world as you do now. But at least you’ll know you’re making those choices intentionally and Jacob titles this section of his book The Lock In.
In this section of the book, to me I think this is one of the most valuable things in the book. This is going to challenge assumptions, but look at them, try to step outside the way that you currently think and look at your assumptions about life.
[0:42:27] JLF: “The Lock In. We’ve come to a point where spending money is one of the few recognizable science of success. For instance, spending half an hour in a traffic jam, getting from A to B in an expensive car is considered more successful than spending half an hour in a traffic jam getting from A to B in a cheap car. I’m not sure why that is? Even more puzzling, both of this is considered more successful than spending 25 minutes getting from A to B on a train or spending 20 minutes on a bicycle getting from A to B while passing cars in a traffic jam.
Similarly it’s considered more successful to sit on a couch in your home, if there is an additional unused couch in an additional unused room, compared to a house with no one used couches or no one used rooms. In the real estate market, a house with a greater potential for unused rooms generally commands a higher price than a house with fewer but constantly used rooms.
Perhaps there is personal fulfilment that we have, cleaning and maintaining a larger home? Perhaps the fulfilment comes from paying someone else to do it. Many men spend as much time on manicured lawns as some women do on manicured nails. I’m not sure I completely understand the point of pouring drinking water on a lush green lawn, not to mention the sidewalks.
Among the rolling brown hills where we live, when lawns are inedible and all the birds in the neighborhood seem to flock to our freely growing flowers which don’t need any watering. However the Homeowners Association refers to naturally occurring vegetation as weeds. They think they know better than the birds.
Recently, much attention has been paid to great kitchens and great kitchen appliances while less attention is paid to great cooking and great cooks, except those on TV. Why boil eggs in a pot when there are 350 varieties of electric egg boilers available? A common misconception is that money is better or is that more successfully spent on granite countertops and restaurant strength food processors and burners than on cooking classes and practice.
Who has the time anyway? This behavior is pervasive. People with more money than time buy $3,000 road racing bicycles with ultra-light carbon frames to shave two pounds off the bike regardless of the fact that they themselves are probably at least 10 pounds overweight and only take a slow ride once a week because they lack the leg power to go faster and the time to go more often.
Compare this to the amateur enthusiast with more time than money who rides every day and thus has the power to ride his much less expensive bike much faster. Who enjoys riding more? For recreation, many believe that saving for a year to drop a large sum on a hectic one week vacation in an exotic locale is more recreational than staying closer to home and taking a month off to relax.
A hectic tourist experience is considered very successful. A prerequisite for this kind of consumer success is spending money. This money must either be inherited or earned. If that isn’t possible, it will be borrowed. Most are not lucky enough to win the birth lottery and inherit their money, and so hey have to earn their money.
Since acquiring the things that demonstrate success only requires the short time needed to purchase some item and practically no time actually using or enjoying said item that is unless a five bedroom, three bathroom house can be enjoyed remotely from one’s cubicle while at work.
People can dedicate most of their time to earning money rather than using and enjoying the things that money buys. This results in having little time to develop skills other than spending money, which can be witnessed by the confused helplessness modern people demonstrate towards solving problems without spending money or arguing on the phone with a service representative.
Consumers are used to buying or arguing their way out of problems. For $150 you can buy a propane grill at the supermarket or you could spend $300 to have a plumber fix a drain but a person doing these things has learned nothing. Make a habit out of this and you’ll become helpless and deadly afraid of losing your income as the work spend method only works as long as there is sufficient income.
Hence, so much effort is expended on earning money or finding ways to earn money that people mostly don’t fail to work 40, 80 or even more than 100 hours each week leaving little time to question their lives or otherwise get in trouble. Of course being overworked comes with its’ own problem such as stress, insomnia and high blood pressure but typically these problems can be solved by spending money to eliminate or at least cover up the symptoms. Money that ironically has to be earned by additional work.
In many ways, modern society seems to be using a slightly more complicated version of the Keynesian Economic Stimulus Scheme where the economy is stimulated by having some people dig a hole then having others fill it back in the next day. We create problems, spend the next day solving them and then claim we have made progress.
Or even following Keynes’ suggestion quite literally when we dig resources out of the ground, fashion them into consumer objects, temporarily store them in our homes, rarely use them and eventually replace them with a new and bigger model while sending the old and likely still functional object to a landfill back in the ground.
Sure, this increases economic growth, which is a measure of how busy people are turning their money over but is being busy a good measure of wealth? For years I’ve been wondering whether there is a small group of cynical people who are pulling our strings and intentionally creating problems so that others may solve them or whether we’re all pulling each other’s strings because we’re too busy paying attention to day to day problems like paying bills, going to work and keeping up with all the shows on TV.
Seen from the outside, the above mentioned behavior makes no sense. However, when seen from the inside, everything makes perfect sense because personal values and personal behavior eventually become aligned with the interest of the status quo. Having a job so that the bills get paid and one can go back home every night and pass out in front of the TV is what the good life is all about, right?
Most people would agree because most people can’t imagine any alternatives. They are in other words prisoners, chained to the floor in Plato’s cave. To break away mentally, one needs to be conscious of the fact that one is chained to the floor in Plato’s cave. The best way to understand this is to see the cave, that is your current perspective from a different perspective. Namely, looking into the cave from the outside.
Here is what I see. Education and training. Children naturally try to emulate their parents at least in the early years. And for the most part, a child’s values are a direct reflection of his parents either conformingly aligned or diametrically opposed. Traditionally, parents have played a large role in their children’s upbringing.
Through watching and emulating, children learn life skills such as respect for others, the virtue of doing chores or performing a days’ work for a day’s pay, balancing a checkbook or keeping track of money, how to judge value, how to get good deals, eat inexpensively, cook a meal and do dishes, bake bread, clean, declutter, ride a bicycle, tend a garden, hang up a shelf or fix a plugged drain.
However, as people have increased their expenses, households now require two incomes and thus as it’s so often goes in our time, parents have outsourced their children’s upbringing and it’s possibly taking a lesson from their own situations as wage slaves, they now act as managers of their children’s lives and careers rather than as role models, signing them up for the extracurricular activities that are so very important for the resume to get into their dream college.
What happened is spending all day kicking a rock around or catching frogs in the creek? For that matter, what happened to the frogs? Fortunately, most of the skill necessary for success as a consumer and wage slaves are taught in the institutions of the public school system. It’s not the subjects that are taught so much as it’s the way they’re taught.
During children’s typical 12 years stint in the public school system, the most successful read, well-adjusted learn not to question authority, not to ask questions which don’t pertain to the task at hand, to follow procedure that trying is better than doing, to be a team player and not to stand out.
Most importantly, children are trained to sit still for increasingly longer timespans while doing mentally menial busy work. During recess, children learn the importance of being well liked and fitting in. That is being unique and special within a certain restricted range. These are the essentials for later success on the job.
If it wasn’t for this behavioral training, the limited subject matter that is actually taught can be accomplished much more quickly. However, imagine what would happen if 12 year olds with the same intellectual power as high school students but without the acquired discipline and dulled creativity to sit still and follow boring work procedures for extended periods suddenly flooded the job market. Would they even want a job?
The mass education in high schools reflects the mass production of the real world. The teaching style has one teacher (supervisor), lecturing (leading) 20 to 25 students (workers), sitting in rows, much like a manager and his employees. Practically all problems that are presented are closed form problems where there’s only one answer that, by construction, can be found using the methods in the text book.
The subjects taught are selected to be testable, preferably using standardized exams with predefined answers. This means the most subjects are mechanical rather than organic in nature. The sense that they have a well-defined problem with an easy step by step method of arriving at a solution, rather than an open ended problem with non-linear and complex solutions. There is therefore an advantage to focusing on memorizing the text book rather than obtaining a broader understanding.
This is excellent training for intelligently following procedure but also a powerful counter training against using intelligence creatively. The testing structure’s fairly simple. Some chapter in the book will have a paragraph which reads, “There are three known instances of?” While the test will have a question, “Name the three instances of?”
This is not much different from a job where there are three kinds of burgers for sale and the cash register has three pictures of burgers, press the correct one. Or three kinds of situations with three different forms to fill out one for each. This kind of education doesn’t instil much permanent information and it doesn’t require much deep understanding of the fundamentals.
It doesn’t instil knowledge and it certainly doesn’t instil wisdom. In that sense, I guess it’s much like the news media. What it mostly does is to test the student’s intelligence and short term memorization skills and the willingness to use these talents to maximize their test scores and grades. It’s fortunate that most office jobs don’t require much prior knowledge from the job applicant.
The procedures for most jobs can be learned by a sufficiently intelligent person with a sufficiently good memory and the condition to concentrate on the same task for long hours. Most employers however don’t hire people without the required proof of achievement and conformity. That is, a degree.
Meanwhile, many subjects that could be taught in school are not. It’s probably safe to say that the adolescent children growing up in a primitive tribe understand the world around them by the time they reach adulthood. They know which plants are safe and which are poisonous. They can hunt and cook and they know the real nutritional value of various foods.
They can clothe themselves, they know how to fix and even build a house. They know about sex and having children. On the other hand, people in our advanced civilization know practically nothing about our world. Despite being wholly dependent on technology for all our needs, few understand how technology provides us with light, heat, food, communication, transportation, et cetera.
All we know is how to turn on the ignition and press a button so technology magically performs its intended function. Despite their “education”, students are still left to magical thinking and thus unable to understand the direct causes in the world around them. Specific functions are thus associated with specific brand named products rather than the operating ingredients in construction of the product.
It would never occur to them that the majority of their collection of 20 different and highly advertised cleaning products could all be replaced with vinegar and baking soda which people used to use. It would never occur to them to chop garlic with a knife instead of using one of the many different designs of a garlic press. This product oriented thinking extends to health.
The connection between lifestyle and health has been lost. The focus has moved from a healthy lifestyle to affordable health insurance, making health a product rather than a state of being. Cardiovascular problems resulting from stress and a lack of exercise can be solved by purchasing triple bypass operations and popping specialized aspirins.
People have heart attacks because they don’t see the connection to their stressful, unhealthy lifestyles. And people die from heart attacks despite being surrounded by bystanders because practically none of them knows CPR or basic first aid. Critical thinking has been replaced by opinions derived from penance and political and religious leaders since people prefer having other people think for them. World affairs are replaced with celebrity reporting and satirical news is often more analytical than real news.
In conclusion, after growing up, the only thing children know is that problems are solved by buying products. That in order to buy something, one needs a job and in order to get a job, one needs a college degree which happens to be considered a brand name product as well.”
[0:56:39] JS: The author goes on, talks about college degrees which is an interesting conversation, it’s he himself has a PhD. He talks about careers, talks about specialization which is a fascinating concept. The one thing I’m going to add is I want to read three paragraphs on careers and I’m going to probably get close to wrapping up this podcast with just some comments. Kind of my interpretation.
[0:57:17] JLF: “Career. Most career people’s lives are dominated by schedules and procedures. They get up at the same time every day, they take the same route to work and sit at the same desk and do the same thing day in and day out for many years.
At the end of the day, they go back along the same route, they have various chores and activity scheduled until they go to bed at the same time. Maybe they occasionally go to a restaurant, the movies or a sports event? Weekends are like evenings, structured around chores that didn’t get done during the week. Like laundry, cleaning and sleeping. Vacations are arranged in the same manner.
If not taken between job transitions, vacations are spent a few days here and there as people spend one day traveling and then frantically go around and try to see everything they want to see before they head back exhausted. The reward for running on this treadmill occurs not through the satisfaction of doing a good job but from the semimonthly paycheck.”
[0:58:15] JS: Skipping a little bit.
[0:58:15] JLF: “On top of that, everyone seems to want a cut of your earnings. The harder you work, the greater the cut. The tax authorities want their cut and the more you work, the more they want. People want money to manage the money you don’t spend and money to take care of the things that you don’t have time to take care of yourself.
This requires more work and hence even more costs in terms of daycare, business clothes wear and tear, expensive haircuts, power lunches and snack bars. People run harder and harder but somehow don’t seem to get ahead. Continuously bleeding money as luxuries become wants, wants become habits, and habits become needs.
And so they slowly die a financial death by a thousand nibbling ducks. Living to work and spend, it’s not surprising that people derive their main identity through their job title and their purchases. What do you do for a living and which brand names do you buy to express your lifestyle?
Despite a doubling of productivity over the last two generations, our culture is still perpetuating the old ritual of eight hours of work, eight hours of sleep and eight hours of spare time. Even though they should have been reduced to four hours of work, eight hours of sleep and 12 hours of spare time by now.
Salaried wages lead to an employer preference for longer work hours. Also employers have fixed cost and thus prefer workers to work to capitalize assets as hard as possible. By paying higher wages and limiting the number of jobs on high salaries, employers can make workers compete for these jobs. Advancement does not work on the model of the ladder as much as that of a pyramid.
As workers spend more time on the job, it leads to a dependence on the job since little time can be spent on alternative pursuits. Having several income streams is in fact highly dangerous to worker motivation. This is why capital income is generally cordoned off into special retirement accounts with penalties for withdrawal. This is also why many employers discourage workers from working competing or even noncompeting jobs.
In addition, debt plays a major role in locking people into working for most of their lives. It used to be that marriage was seen as a lock in. Unlike a bachelor, a husband would need a job to take care of his dependents. Today, this is no longer the case in being single is more of a lock in since the family’s income isn’t diversified by a working spouse.
Our culture is founded on the idea that maximizing production equals maximizing happiness. In the past, pursuing this goal was admirable, since any increase in production resulted in an increase in wellbeing; better food, better medicine, better clothing, better housing, better work and better living.
At some point, the focus changed from better to more. More food, more medicine, more clothing, more bedrooms, more bathrooms and more work.But can we honestly say, this still results in better living and greater wellbeing?”
[1:01:20] JS: To me — it’s probably enough. This book is probably one of my most highlighted books that I own. It’s funny, I keep saying “it’s probably enough” and then I keep seeing another three pages that are highlighted and I keep feeling that it’s not quite enough.
At the risk of going on too long, I’ll read two more quick pages in the book here that I think also should help to challenge our thoughts and then I’ll summarize a promise.
[1:02:17] JLF: “For many, status is associated with expensive items thought to be fitting for someone with a higher salary. Certain jobs are associated with certain levels of spending. This means that the price itself is often considered a complimentary good. The item is considered desirable simply because it’s expensive. This locks one into a spiral of upgrading.
An expensive shirt leaves the purchase of an expensive suit. The car must match the expensive home. An increase in pay allows one to buy goods which previously seemed like a luxury. Another increase leads to another upgrade. Soon, these become a normal part of life and people start identifying with them.
When you identify with an object, you’re defined by the object, then controlled by it and ultimately owned by it. If you relate to your possessions, you’re owned by your stuff and it will make many of your decisions for you. This trap is not only mental but also physical. When moving into a new place, there’s a tendency to rapidly fill all rooms with furniture and TV’s and perhaps there’s a taboo against empty rooms?
Those extra rooms which are rarely used, the so called media rooms, the basement bar, the crafts room, are then used for storage space and slowly fill with stuff that people need yet never use. In fact, in many houses, those rooms like attached garages serve no purpose other than storing unused stuff and furniture. This of course makes it challenging to move into somewhere smaller.
In particular, the very idea of moving is rejected because it requires too much effort. So not only are people attached to their stuff, they’re also attached to their homes. Continuously accruing stuff soon makes any home too small regardless of its size. Therefore much effort has gone into optimizing total square footage including repurposing the garage and parking the car on the street.
People don’t seem to realize that the quest to bring more possessions in through the front door is a chronic disease and at the shortage of space is a symptom rather than an underlying problem. Consequently, modern homes are mostly big, poorly constructed, poorly located and financially leveraged.
Like the big gas guzzlers used to drive back and forth to them, they’re very energy intensive and thus, in light of nascent recourse constraints are also outdated and old fashioned. Ironically, buying things is often used as a deserved reward for hard work. Why don’t you go and buy yourself something nice?
The idea is that work is drudgery. So in order to ease the pain, the money earned working is spent on some gadget, thus requiring more work. This spiral makes little sense. So either work isn’t so bad or perhaps there is another reason for this behavior. One reason may be that many people are salaried full time employees. They can’t choose to work any less so they might as well spend the superfluous money they earn.
As a result, no matter how much someone earns, expenses tend to match income. This is called lifestyle inflation. Without the wisdom to determine when enough is enough, consumption is taken to its’ extreme and people still work as much as ever, if not more, despite doubling their productivity over the last half century. On the home front, the growing use of time saving to technology doesn’t result in time saved either. Rather, it results in more being done.
For instance, thanks to the washing machine, clothes are now washed more than ever before and as a result, households spend as much time doing laundry as they did before washers moved into people’s homes. It seems to be a tragic comic fact that every time saving invention is immediately canceled out by an increase in activity or change of behavior.
When the automobile was made affordable to the masses, people moved further away from work and further away from the stores. While transportation speed increased, transportation distance increased proportionately, keeping transportation time constant. It did however result in the creation of the auto industry and thus created jobs.
On the surface, job creation may look positive but all it has accomplished is to replace a previously simple, a non-economic activity such as walking, with an entire industry of building cars, highways and oil rights to accomplish the same task of getting between places.
Cars can go many places but most trips can just as easily be done in an hour of walking by choosing one’s home location wisely. If you wish to go further, there are other means as well. Many other activities which people use to do themselves have also been turned into products. Consequently, people spend time working to buy products rather than learning and doing the activity themselves.
The result is a downward spiral of fewer skills. Greater need for technology leads to more work, which leads to less time to practice the remaining skills, which leads to further loss of competence. The more things consumers think they need, the more control they relinquish over their lives and the more their lives are shaped by the products they own.
Thanks to the focus on technology, many skills have been forgotten. Eggs can’t be boiled without egg boilers, bread can’t be toasted without a toaster and a counter can’t be cleaned without dye colored chemical products. Walking five miles is now considered an ordeal to be avoided.
Nobody with the conventional frame of mind would spend one hour walking every day when they could drive.Yet people don’t stop to reconsider spending 10 weeks each year working full time to pay for that car just to avoid the inconveniences of a daily hour of laborious walking and fresh air. The idea of economic growth seems to be a very intricate version of digging holes and filling them up again.
It creates economic growth in the traditional sense but so does breaking a window and replacing it. What is ignored are wasted effort and natural resources, which should be subtracted from the growth calculation to reveal a more accurate number of how well people, not the economy, are doing.”
[1:08:40] JS: I’ve probably read enough of the book. I hope Mr. Fisker is pleased that I think highly of his work rather than that I’ve read too much of it. To me however, this type of philosophy is so key. We’re going to talk a lot about tactics in this podcast. I love tactics. For example, we’re gonna talk about how to save money on phone bills, how to save money on internet bills, how to save money on living expenses, how to save money on taxes. I love tactics.
But ultimately, you need to know what you’re doing and why. You have to answer the why question first of all. If this entire approach of the things that I’ve read about makes sense to you, that’s fine, it’s a free world, it’s a free country, you can do as you like. You can live where you want in the manner that you want and you’re free to do that and I think that’s awesome. We live today in a world that is incalculably better than it ever has been at any time in the past. Incalculably better.
Today, people have better, even with everything I’ve just read. People have better standards of living, greater abundance, more free time than they’ve ever had in the past and that’s amazing. The various technologies that have been developed to help people achieve this are truly incredible. But question: why stop with that? Why not spend time figuring out exactly what you want and then structuring a life around it?
There are always ways to exploit the system but in order to exploit the system, you have to be willing to step outside of it. Each and every system can be exploited in our country. I use the word exploit in a very positive way without any negative connotation. Understand the rules and then work within them. That’s where the great value is.
But if you spend the majority of your life living according to someone else’s rules, and you get to the end of your life. Are you really going to be pleased that in your eulogy, your best friend says that you had the greatest collection of high quality consumer gadgets? There’s a huge difference between the way that the wealthy think and the way that poor people think.
Wealthy people surround themselves with the luxuries of life, many wealthy people do. And these luxuries of life enhance their standard of living. But the true freedom comes from having the wealth, not from having the luxuries of life. It seems like in so many ways, the US American society has worked to try to get people to spend time putting in increasing their standard of living instead of enhancing their quality of life.
We’re going to talk about these things. For example, it doesn’t make any sense to me why we have to spend hundreds of thousands of dollars for housing when there are construction methods and techniques that are extremely robust that use practically free materials to create comfortable, modern, wonderful homes for merely thousands of dollars. Or tens of thousands of dollars instead of hundreds of thousands of dollars.
If you could live in a home that was built for 30 or $40,000 that’s just as comfortable as a home that’s built for $300,000, why not? Why are our homes so energy inefficient? Why not create a home that’s energy efficient. Not because I’m worried about carbon in the atmosphere and global climate change. I’m really not. I’m worried about a better standard of living and paying too much to heat and cool my house.
Why do we spend 15, 10, 15, 20, 30, 40, 50, 60 minutes a day sitting in a car on a highway to get some place that we don’t really want to go? Now, if you said, “Joshua, you can trade your life today with a life of subsistence farmer 100 years ago,” I’d probably keep my modern lifestyle, I really would. But you know what? That subsistence farmer could walk outside of his door every day and do his work right there.
It used to be that the store keeper lived above his store. Why not anymore? I’m not too concerned with the changing society, that’s up to society to change and ultimately society will change when people change. What I do believe is there are better ways that we can do it. There are better ways to run our personal finances, there are better ways to run our financial plans, there are better ways to run economy and today, the future is brighter than it ever has been in the history of the world.
For, I think it’s $8? You can purchase this book that I’ve just read heavily out of. I’d encourage you to buy it and read it. You can learn how to become financially independent in five years. I’ve spent most of the time on philosophies but the book is chalk full of both philosophy and strategy and tactics. Who knows, maybe in the future we’ll come back and talk more about strategy and tactics but I really feel bad reading the whole book on the air but it’s just such a wonderful resource.
$9? The price of a meal out? Never in the history of mankind have you been able, for the cost of one meal out, purchased from someone else been able to purchase information that is available to you on a computer or Kindle or an iPhone or an iPad or a tablet of some kind that you will obviously have because you’re hearing my voice, that would teach you how to become financially independent in five years.
Now it’s up to you whether or not you want to do it and I’m okay if you don’t. I personally am not too concerned about the five year plan. I’m more concerned about making sure the things I enjoy are enjoyable for the next year, two years and 25 years. But it’s pretty empowering to know that it’s available. The opportunities are there, it’s up to us to learn about them, educate them about them and exploit them. The opportunities are there. The question is, do we understand what we really want and are we willing to go after it?
I hope that this has been helpful. I hope it hasn’t been boring for me to read on and on. This book is not a financial bible. Reading the one book is not going to solve anything, and that’s the problem is that a lot of times, interestingly, I think Jacob Lund Fisker talks a lot about even the problems with the financial world, and the problems with financial planning. You can’t buy a product that solves your life. There’s no product available in the financial services world.
You can’t buy a product from a bank or a brokerage company or an investment company that is going to solve your problems. There are lots of financial products available but that’s the problem, they are products. Now you can choose as an individual to use a product to help you solve what you’re doing but ultimately you need to understand what it is and how it’s useful and what’s going on for it to be helpful. Otherwise you’re going to stay stuck in the same consumer cycle.
Hopefully this has been helpful I’ve enjoyed reading this book again. Buy it, today. I’ll put a link in the show notes. Buy it. I promise, buying this product, $9 or whatever the Kindle version is or buy the paperback. It’s worth it. If you don’t have the money, don’t. Go to Earlyretirementextreme.com, read some of the essays. We’re going to feature a lot of other financial writers but Jacob’s one of my favorites because he gives frameworks that can be applied in every circumstance.
Instead of saying, “Wave money in your 401(k),” which when you go to Canada, you don’t have a 401(k) or if you go to Ireland, you have something different. It talks about a robust strategy and framework for life that can be applied. And we’ll get into more and more techniques and tools as time goes on, I promise. But consider starting with that, and consider your why. Realize that for every choice that we make, there’s an opportunity cost.
The choices that we make have a cost in that we’re not able to do other things because we’re making the current choices. We’ll talk about opportunity cost in the future as well. In my example from yesterday, if you were given a choice, would you choose to visit a hundred countries or would you choose to buy an SUV? ‘Cause that’s your choice.
If you were given the choice, would you choose to go to work every day, to leave a house that sits empty and chilled or heated while you’re there and work in a cubicle or work in a job that you love, I’m okay with either one of them, so that the walls can be pretty and painted accordingly and so that your driveway and parking lot can have a proper brand of automobile in them? Or would you choose to have your freedom and to do the things that you love every day?
In the founding documents of United States of America it says that, “Man has an alienable right, granted by his creator to life, liberty and pursuit of happiness.” So my question to myself and also to you is this, “Are you filled with life? Do you have a life? A real life, not just physically but also physically.
Are you physically alive? Are you healthy? Are you filled with a vibrancy and health and ability? Is your life the life of your choosing in your creation? Are you free, do you have liberty?” There’s a certain amount of liberty that’s given to you as individual but here’s the question, “Have you given some of it up? Have you sacrificed your liberty for stuff? Have you sacrificed your liberty to meet other people’s expectations of you? Are you truly free to pursue happiness in the way that you define happiness?”
Again, I’m completely okay if define happiness in the consumerist way. We’re going to talk about some ways to get a lot of consumer stuff at a really good price. Hopefully that will help you to be more happy, that’s totally cool. But did you make that choice consciously or did you choose it because that was what society chose for you?
With that, I’ll wrap up for the day, again, this is Joshua Sheats, this has been episode three of the Radical Personal Finance Podcast. Hope this has been helpful. Leave some comments for me, encourage me, learning how to do this little by little, I’m going to get better, excuse my roughness but give me some insight and to what I can say and do that can help you. What questions do you have, what resources can I bring?
I’m still crafting on a vision for the show, still trying to figure out exactly how it’s going to work. So very open, I’d love to know what you would like to — what would be helpful for you. Leave comments in the questions, Radicalpersonalfinance.com/episode3 if you want to find the show notes. I’ll put some links in on in here as well to the book to Jacob’s blog, some of the other resources that I mentioned. Have a great day.