Today I had a some adventures in life planning.
I've discovered the (possibly fatal) benefit of hooking one's kindle up to a wireless network. It was a genius idea to to put the store on the device and enable users to buy stuff in one click. I, however, have been super duper smart about my usage and only got a 'taster' of each of the books I wanted to buy. No spending one's self into the poor house $10 at a time for this guy.
Related to the poor house, I found myself reading my preview of J.D. Roth's Your Money: the Missing Manual. I used to follow his personal finance blog at Get Rich Slowly, but I fell off a while ago as the advice ceased being applicable to my station right now. Not really interested in the best rewards cards or the intricacies of investing, I took the personal finance knowledge I had and went on to read other junk.
Well, I still find myself in a less than proactive spot as far as my personal finance goes. The preview I read talked about the necessity for goals in personal finance, and how they get you to the places you want to go. So, I got out the ol' calculator and crunched some numbers. I was dumbfounded.
I'll break here to talk about the power of habit, a concept I picked up first through Leo Babauta of ZenHabits.net. This compounds with the idea of compound interest which I learned more effectively from the aforementioned Mr. Roth than from my Econ classes. In the ZH way, little changes make big differences. Drink a glass of water over soda once and you don't have much to show for it. Drink a glass of water in replacement of a soda every day for the rest of your life and you have a big difference. So, when I took my calculator to the number that represents my mountain of personal debt I was astonished.
I won't go into the vagaries of it here because people don't care about the numbers when they read something like this. But, while stayin in the 'personal finance formula' (50% monthly payments + 20% savings + 30% life enjoyment= 100% period income) That mountain of debt gets blown bit by bit to $0.00 USD, RMB, HKD, or whatever currency you choose by age 35. Let me stress that. 35. 12-13 years from now, if I just do what I'm doing I will be free from debt (provided I take on no more).
The purpose of mentioning this isn't for pats on the back. It just illustrates how a little bit over a long time works. $XXX.XX per month, for 156 months. That's all it takes, and with no stretch or strain. Life will get in the way a as it always does, but still knowing that if I change nothing I have the potential to be debt free by the ripe young age of 35.... that floored me.
But, I wasn't done. That fact is goofy shoes, but what other stuff could I expect as my habits compounded?
That lead a little bit of creative extrapolation and dreaming. E.g., if I keep running I could have run a marathon by 35. If I keep learning languages I could have competency in 10+ by 35. If I keep up yoga, who knows what contortions I could perform by 35? The pasta-bilities are endless. Just do the stupid 30 minute run x3 a week, and it will compound. Just study the stupid cards, grammar, and practice conversation every couple of days and you'll be a polyglot. By 35... not by the time you die, but 35.
Chris Guillebeau, Leo Babauta, Tim Ferriss, Tynan, and the myriad other bloggers I follow have all killed my desire for a normal life. Reading their blogs every saturday over a pot of tea more and more deeply engrains the idea that I will not settle for the mundane. Keep my current trajectory (with some correction along the way) and I will be in what many people would call extraordinary territory by a very young age.
Now, Kelby is starting to sound like a braggart. But, focus not on the 'look at how great I am and will be because I'm a mega ninja sex robot' and focus instead on the power of inevitability in it. Keep improving at the guitar and you'll be stunning at it in ten years. Keep writing and you'll be publishable. This all starts with the tiniest piece. Play the stupid six string once a day, for 156 months and you'll be awesome. Write a little bit of crap daily over the same period and you'll get the results. Stick with it and it will happen.
Now, I already mentioned that life 'gets in the way.' I had a thought about this potential awesomeness. "By 35 won't I be interested in settling down and starting a family?" My mom would probably cry if that wasn't the truth. Indeed, by that time I'll be wanting that sort of thing. I of course can't plan for it. When you meet the right partner it would be stupid to say "I can't marry you until I can speak 10+ languages." Financial considerations work in a little more sensibly, but you can't plan love or the way such a relationship develops.
One might think that family-ing will hamper the pursuit of amazing, as I was considering earlier this evening. Yet, I'll offer a case study against that.
The hostel I'm staying at is great, namely because of the family that runs it. That's right, the family. The mother is a chain-smoking hell raiser, the father is a dutiful, sweetheart, and the daughters reluctantly watch the hostel when their parents go out for what appears to be date time. Do the Jones's live this way? Nope. They all fit into their dumb little American dream stuff. This family, however lives what appears to be a very satisfying, unconventional life.
I don't know which of them started the business, but the entrepreneurial spirit rules this family. Other than the teenage daughters, they seem incredibly happy. So, if I see a family successfully living such an unconventional life, then why should I think a family would interfere with my desire to lead one? If anything a sweetheart and eventually some chillens would compliment the experience rather than hampering it, I think.
I've already said that this stuff is pretty well inevitable, so there's no reason to believe that in the future it won't happen. Especially so as I move into other parts of my life.
Just some thoughty-thoughts for you.
I have been into self-improvement for a long time now. For almost five years now I have religiously followed a number of authors who speak to becoming a bigger, badder you.
However, the pursuit has always felt a little hollow to me. Becoming a better you has always felt to me to necessitate an overly inward eye. Many years ago I took a pledge around a campfire to live my life for others. While I was just a kid at the time, the pledge is still something that I take seriously, something that has been fed by my activities since.
This campfire experience is one that came back to me several years later when I sought to learn more about Buddhism. My interest was academic rather than spiritual, but I was struck by something on a deeper level nonetheless. I was watching a video series with basic information about what it was to be a Buddhist, and I was struck by a statement the monks said ad the beginning of each installment. "... to achieve enlightenment for the betterment of all beings..."
That is how self improvement reconciles with altruistic, charitable living.
That is how I want to live my life.
RATING: 78// Interesting perspective on personal finance worth understanding, but you probably don’t need to buy/read the book to understand the perspective.
THE FACTS // Author : Stephen M. Pollan > Category : Personal Finance > Time to Read : 2-4 Hour
TWITTER SUMMARY // Don’t manage your personal finances like it’s the 19 th century. Always be searching for a job, avoid debt, don’t retire, and die broke.
IMPORTANT NOTES // The book was last updated in 1998 so a lot of the specific recommendations are outdated.