Exciting and exhausting at the same time. That’s the best way I can describe maintaining a blog and putting yourself out in the open like I have the past year. It’s been a tremendous experience that has brought me into contact with tons of like-minded individuals and great people and for that I’m thankful. However, a Dutch proverb also teaches us that tall trees catch much wind.
Now, don’t get me wrong, I don’t consider myself a tall tree at all, but I still attract a lot of readers to this blog that want to interact with me – awesome! As a result, I’ve been working through a massive back log of e-mails and comments to get back to all of these great people. Offering everyone an extensive answer takes up a lot of my time, but it’s totally worth it.
However, sometimes I receive messages or comments that I find hard to understand – this is the wind part of the proverb. I’ll give a made-up but totally plausible example:
Ha, still single! Wait until you’re in a long-term relationship and have children. We’ll see where all those savings go then!
It might be because of my bad nature, but those kind of comments sound quite negative or sometimes downright envious. Maybe even like outright complaining.
Envy and resentment probably aren’t the right words, but even with a thesaurus I couldn’t come up with anything better. As you may know, expressing emotions is one of the hardest things in a foreign language, apart from vegetables and spices – seriously, try to think of three spices in a language different from your own.
Madness, I tell you!
Anyway, I find it difficult to interpret remarks like the one mentioned above. Are they out of envy, ridicule, or simply to troll? I’m not sure.
I suspect that some of the e-mails I receive are a way for the writers to rationalise their own behaviour. Rejecting other people’s choices and actions is a timeless and proven tactic to feel better about your own life stance or success, after all.
Unfortunately, or should I say fortunately, that’s not the goal of this blog. I wish to inspire and motivate other folks, not to have them feel bad about themselves. I feel as if my savings rate is one of the main culprits here.
Look, I’m not going to lie and say my monthly savings aren’t high compared to my expenses, but that’s still no reason to compare yourself one-on-one to me. Savings rates are nothing more than a percentage-based number to see how fast you could become financially independent. It’s not a measure of interpersonal success and it certainly can’t be used to match yourself against others.
You’re very likely to be a fish out of water when you try something as daring as financial independence or early retirement, and I understand that you try and see how you’re doing by checking other folks’ progress, but never ever make a one-on-one comparison. It doesn’t tell you anything and you quite possibly feel discouraged afterwards.
Situations differ immensely and ultimately the grass is always greener on the other side of the fence.
In reality, though, that’s not the case. My grass isn’t greener, it’s just a different kind of grass, without that having a positive or a negative implication. I’m a single guy right out of university – keep telling yourself that, NMW, you’re getting old – of course I manage to put away a lot more money than a single income household with three children!
Besides, does it really matter what my grass looks like? Money is just a means to an end, and your end may differ from mine.
Even Aristotle got that right in his famous Ethics:
The life of money-making is one undertaken under compulsion, and wealth is evidently not the good we are seeking; for it is merely useful and for the sake of something else.
The only reason we’re trying to make and save as much money as we are, is because we need it to pursue our dreams. Your own dreams, not mine. Therein lies the crux of the entire financial independence game.
You should try to focus on expanding your comfort zone as much as possible to make your own wishes a reality without turning the financial aspect into the primary goal or driver of your actions. Focus on what you want and what makes you happy rather than the money.
Let’s put it another way. Imagine you had a loving partner and three children, would you trade away any of the children for an extra 10% in monthly savings?
Of course, you wouldn’t! Your family makes you happy even though they have an obvious impact on your savings potential, but that’d be totally worth it – totally worth it, bro.
Besides, look at Dividend Mantra. Jason’s current savings percentage is lower than mine, but he is actually living his dream already – how awesome is that? Another great example is Jason from Islands of Investing. Yes, he saves less than I do, but he and his family now own their dream home. (Sidenote: based on this small sample size we could also determine that guys called Jason are quirky lads, but let’s stick to the point.)
What I’m trying to say is; everyone’s savings rate is just a number that doesn’t tell you anything without the right context. Focus on that context rather than the number itself and you’ll learn far more from other people than you previously thought possible.
Thank you for reading! This post was a long-time coming, but it took a while to find the right words since it’s partly born out of a small annoyance of mine. Of course, if I decide to write a small rant you guys better get something out of it too – and I hope you did.