The Handy Millennial enjoys reading blogs, especially Financial Independence Blogs. If you don’t know what that means, stay tuned.
A common thread on these blogs, or more accurately on the comment sections of these blogs, especially the ones that have the seen the light of day on CNBC Make-it or another esteemed outlet, is hate. That’s right, hate.
Because you see, my dear reader, if there is one thing that your fellow man hates more than himself, it’s probably you, if you happen to do better than him. Mind you that this doesn’t mean that you are doing better, or even that you claim to be doing better. It simply means he has decided you are doing better.
So today the Handy Millennial wants to talk about why you, the royal YOU, should all be working on FIRE and how this will help you learn how to plan.
What does it mean to FIRE?
Before we get too deep in the philosophy, what the heck is FIRE? FIRE stands for Financial Independence and Early Retirement. Let’s take that in pieces. Financial independence means you no longer need a W2 (USA) or 40 hour a week (32 in France) job to sustain your life. Pretty cool right? Sounds like something only Richard Branson and Bill Gates should be able to do!
Early Retirement means just that: retired before the magical retirement age (read: whatever some legislator decided way back when) of whatever country you happen to be residing in. Now this sounds pretty glorious right? You somehow no longer need a job and you leave the workforce so you can sit around in your pajamas and watch reruns of Maury Povich.
Well I’ll let you in on a little secret – there are many people who are Financially Independent. In fact, taken at face value (because, well, it is the internet), I could probably finish the post with an endless string of URLs of blogs by people who claim to be Financially Independent.
There are also many people who have retired early – again, a pretty long list of blogs I could point you to. But most of those people aren’t actually retired. Well, there a couple notable exceptions, and here I’ll give a shout out to Justin Root of Good, Mr. Tako, and Early Retirement Dude. OK, maybe there are more but the point stands: lots of early retirees are not actually retired – the most famous example being Mr. Money Mustache.
Well why the heck not, you might wonder? Well the reason, my dear reader, is that these people have mastered the art of planning and goal setting. And once you do that, why would you waste your precious time listening to quasi-motivational garbage on daytime TV? And that right there my dear reader is why you should be trying to FIRE right now. Not for money, not for the freedom to watch Ellen DeGeneres in your underwear, but because you NEED to master the art of planning to have a successful life.
Why you should learn how to plan
The life plan of your average person goes something like this:
- Successfully graduate kindergarten
- Finish elementary school
- Don’t get too much into trouble in middle school
- Somehow don’t get pregnant in high school and get that diploma
- Finish college in about 5 years before the debt burden gets too exceptional.
- Get married
- Have 2.5 kids
- Almost forgot #8, buy a house on a 30 year mortgage
Isn’t that great? So you’re sitting here at the age of 22, or maybe 30 or so, and the Plan is Over. Woohooo!!!! Only 60 more years to go. But to do what?! And here lies the problem. You’ve got ostensibly your whole life with nothing planned! Well you do have something planned (30 years of work), but it’s mundane. The popular term in the blogosphere is soul sucking.
But planning, doing, and accomplishing goals are essential to the human spirit. Planning and conquering goals makes you a better person. Planning and conquering keep that uniquely human spark of exploration alive within you. And most importantly, consistently planning and conquering goals nourishes your soul.
How to plan
“OK Mr. Handy Millennial, if learning to plan is so important, how do I do it?” Planning is actually quite simple:
- Identify a goal.
- Learn what you need to learn to accomplish this goal.
- Start working towards that goal.
- Refine the goal as you learn more.
- Persist until the goal is achieved.
The trouble with this list is that it is quite misleading. If you have ever had an idea and then promptly recycled it in favor of your favorite movie, then you know what I’m talking about. But for sake of completeness, let’s discuss by giving an example with the HandyMillennial.com.
Step 1: Identify your goal: Start a blog. Simple! Got it!
Step 2: Learn what it takes: Well, we need to write good posts. Again, been there done that, simple!
Step 3: Work on the goal: Write 6 posts.
Step 4: Refine the goal as you learn more: Crap, no one is reading this. I need to learn how to promote on Twitter.
Step 1: (repeat) Identify goal: Start a blog that is well-marketed on Twitter.
Step 2: (repeat) Learn what it takes: You need to write good posts and then Tweet them. You preferably should engage your audience in lighthearted banter to display your not so robotic side.
Step 3: (repeat) Work on the goal: Write 6 posts. Now write some witty Tweets.
Step 4: (repeat) Refine the goal as you learn more: Twitter isn’t the best place to display your work right now. You need to learn Pinterest.
Step 1: (repeat) Identify goal: Start a blog that is well-marketed on Pinterest while engaging other bloggers on Twitter.
repeat…repeat… repeat… repeat
You get the picture.
Setting and achieving goals is hard
Setting and conquering goals is hard, and this largely because of the refinement and learning that must happen between you and the goal that you have set. But this is only natural. We, as people, should dream BIG. Who wants to waste time with small potatoes?
The problem is that this complication prevents people from learning how to independently plan and accomplish goals. I emphasize independently because for so much of life someone else told us what the goal was. Yes, you had some choice in the matter – you picked some high school classes, you picked your major, you picked your house, etc., but you always knew what the plan was… didn’t you?!
But what do you have to contribute to the world? What do you think you can create? That’s a big question, and probably one you’ll never answer unless you learn to plan and conquer goals.
FIRE as a way of personal improvement and a way to learn how to plan
So now here comes FIRE, the perfect way to train your skills. Huh?! How’s that Mr. Handy Millennial? FIRE is big-time complicated and intimidating. I mean, I read that weird Mustache Guy’s forum and he said I need a MILLION DOLLARS!
Well, that’s true, my dear reader, but you already have all the tools you will ever need to FIRE. Do you have a job? Great! Can you think of just one thing you can avoid buying? Great! Then you are on your way!
You see, with FIRE, the goal is clear: Save enough to pay your bills automatically. What you need to do is clear: Make money and buy less stuff. And finally the refinements are easy:
- First save a small emergency fund. Say $1,000.
- Now save a bigger emergency fund, maybe $10,000.
- Now see you if you can get to saving $50,000
- and so on…
The tools are there – check out this post on tax advantaged accounts, check out this next post on why you need so many. Check out why you shouldn’t worry about market gyrations, and how to keep that money safe. Then go on RockstarFinance and learn from others about little tips you can use to save money on, for example, your utilities.
What you will gain
Along the way as you accomplish that first small goal, you will learn persistence. And once you’re done with this goal, this persistence will stay with you for the next goal, the one after that and the one after. Each step will make you more persistent and will increase your power to achieve and conquer.
You will also learn to set micro-goals, the art of breaking up a big goal to make it manageable and easy to tackle. This will be invaluable when you take on more abstract goals like learning to blog, learning to code, and learning to manage your life.
Lastly, you will learn that accomplishing goals and growing your strength and persistence will make you happier. Because we are happiest when we are striving and achieving. Of course while you strive, don’t forget that you are not alone, and that you can always reach out to the community, and they will respond back.