Many believe that the world is objectively at its worst right now and that anyone who would say otherwise is stupid or ill-informed. To that, I’ll say you’re objectively wrong and, even if you were objectively right, you are still wrong to act in a pessimistic way.
I’m still an optimist (yes, even in 2020). And I’ll tell you why I refuse to succumb to pessimism and why everyone should be optimistic, even you.
Many people think the American Dream is dead – but immigrants like my parents continue to escape the lower class. Here are some tips on how they did it.
It’s ingrained in the national psyche that “all you need” to achieve the American Dream is to “work hard.” But there are far more people willing to work hard than people are willing to acknowledge. There are plenty of day laborers and people toiling away at minimum- or low-wage jobs or in the gig economy who will never get ahead. Hard workers are not hard to come by, but hard work is not enough now and has never been enough in the past. Truth is, America has never cared that much about hard work. Why do we keep perpetuating this myth?
My parents came to this country with very little and are very comfortable now. My parents didn’t work that hard. And by that, I mean to say, they weren’t toiling in the fields, doing back-breaking labor. They weren’t working crazy hours hustling. They worked hard on a few finite items that I believe led to their ultimate success. Here are the reasons I believe they were able to escape the lower class.
Why do nice girls finish last? Being “nice” is different than being “kind”, even though the two can look the same from a distance. Being nice is performing acts in order to get something in return. Being kind is treating people with compassion without any expectation of return. Surprisingly, despite the lack of manipulation, being kind will get you far in life while being nice will give you nothing but frustration. Always be kind, don’t waste time being nice. Nice girls always finish last.
My friends still talk about the buffet to this day – raw oysters, fresh shrimp, smoked salmon, caviar, fresh carved prime rib. And all sorts of other foods that were delicious (and expensive). Beautiful ambiance. It was cheaper than what we thought they could charge, but it wasn’t so cheap that we suspected something.
It was great but it was also all a bit too much. It was fun mixed with guilt, and the guilt subtracted from the fun.
Sometimes excess is actually an obstacle to being happy, and it’s very possible to have joy even on a bare bones budget.
The 50-20-30 budget is one of the most popular budgets according to personal finance “experts.” In it, you spend 50% on needs, 20% on savings/debt reduction and 30% on “wants.” This is a terrible plan for almost every income and lifestyle and below I will explain why. The 50-30-20 budget is stupid and I will show you a better way.
How to Waste Money on a Budget
The 50-30-20 budget has pitfalls for entry-level and high salaries alike. First, let’s consider the following hypothetical spending of a 23-year old singleton college graduate who makes a slightly below average entry level salary of $38,000/year ($30,000/year post-tax) and has 4% salary increases:
I was chatting with someone about who’d you most like to be quarantined with and we were debating the perks of being quarantined with a billionaire. He figured that any billionaire would have a fantastic personal chef, but I wasn’t so sure. Billionaires tend to have weird eating habits. Extra money means more options – it might mean you can try things you hadn’t had before. But money doesn’t change what you like.
I saw a FIRE blogger mocking the idea of following one’s passion. Instead, the standard FIRE plan is to find a lucrative job, save money, and then retire early to THEN focus on one’s passion. And granted, I’m a lawyer, and I’m on a mini-retirement so it would seem like I would agree with that path.
But I don’t. Here are several reasons why I think you should pursue your passion.
On February 4, 2019, I quit my job. February 19 was my last day at work, and February 20 was my first day of freedom. On this one year anniversary, I’d like to look back at what happened the year that I retired at 35.
I read another blogger’s early retirement post and he could quantify a great deal of accomplishments. And I guess I can rattle off things I’ve done, but that seems like running a different kind of rat race.
I kept busy on my time off. I’ve traveled a bit – to L.A., New York, San Francisco, Redmond, Capetown, Johannesburg (South Africa), Lisbon, Porto, and Sintra (Portugal). This is what I would say if people asked me what I had done with the year. Travel seems to be the only “real” accomplishment worth noting when you’re retired. And to be fair, South Africa was eye-opening, especially after listening to Born a Crime: Stories from a South African Childhood. But to me, the really interesting changes were when I was home.
What I’m focusing on in this post is not necessarily my choices during the year, but the repercussions. I often would made one choice that led to another choice and all those choices led to a different trajectory. It’s like when I started this blog, then I started Twitter to promote it, then I met friends, and two of those friends were the duo that started Chain of Wealth, who will figure significantly in some of these adventures. You just never know where things are going to take you. And the oddest part of any journey may be where you end up.
At 11am on a nondescript Monday in February, I noticed that nothing unpleasant had happened yet. That was unusual. And noting that peculiarity seemed like reason enough to quit my six-figure attorney job.
I told people it was a spontaneous decision. I hadn’t picked a particular day, but I knew that day I couldn’t do it anymore. Rereading my journal, however, I came across this entry:
I just can’t continue on at my job. It’s never-ending [work]. I’m constantly stressed and crying and there’s no relief in sight.
I wrote this in March of 2017, almost two years before I gave notice.
They say it takes decades to become an overnight success, so maybe it’s also true for overnight failure. I remember for so long actually liking my job that I failed to look around and notice, hey I don’t like this anymore.