finance

Learning to Live a Rich Life

I spend a lot of time reading personal finance books and blogs. I also think a lot about budgeting and investing. Even in my very first “real” job at 23, I remember poring over 401Ks and investment advice when I barely had enough money to make ends meet – much less to invest! Slowly over time, and with a lot of ups and downs, I’m developing a more well-rounded philosophy of money and finance. I’ve been able to live for years in Spain on a teacher’s assistant salary (read: NOT much) and make it work. I’ve been living for years with zero debt and have been able to save, even when it’s not much, thanks to the advice of some great authors.

I feel I already live a rich life, although I may be 36 and still don’t own a house or income-producing properties. However, I have those as long-term goals on the horizon once I determine where I want to put roots down. (See: I Move Around A Lot … and if I really think about it, moving around so much generates unwanted expenses! Luckily I can fit everything I own in one small car. Food for thought: staying in one place.)

Anyway, here are some financial lessons I’ve learned and habits I’ve adopted over the last several years. Most of them come from reading books written by people who have grown rich by prioritizing assets and minimizing liabilities.

 

The Old Money Book and Old Money, New Woman (Byron Tully)

From these two books of advice from the upper class, I’ve learned to focus my shopping habits by making an effort to buy less things overall, and when I do, to focus on quality and durability rather than quantity. I also appreciated the reminder to shop sustainably, especially for clothes. It’s easy to get swept away by fads and fast fashion – it’s cheap and fun and keeps life exciting! But with time, I’m realizing the importance of buying well.

I’d already started doing this when I bought a little black dress nearly 10 years ago at White House Black Market that cost me $150 – the most I had ever paid for any item of clothing besides a prom dress! I still have it today and it still looks fantastic. Now I’m trying to adopt this strategy in everything I buy, though it’s not always easy.  Only recently have I started looking into sustainability in the clothes I buy. One brand I’ve recently discovered and really like is Thinking MU, out of Barcelona. My goal is to buy WAY less often, better quality, and buy eco-friendly products when I do.

I’m also reminded to make health, education, meditation, and meaningful personal relationships an absolute priority, and these things cost little to no money.

Old Money represents a set of values that prioritizes modesty over display, investment over consumption, work over idleness, and refinement over brashness. It believes in delaying gratification in order to achieve long-term, worthwhile goals.

 

Your Money or Your Life  (Vicki Robin)

This book was a game-changer for me. It’s been around for a long time, but I somehow missed it and just read it earlier this year. The book is a whole program to make over your financial life and get on track to financial independence. I was so impressed by the book’s practical takeaways.

My favorite discovery: Calculate your real income by adding up your net income plus all the job-related expenses you incur, and then dividing that amount by the real amount of hours you work (time on the job, plus commute, plus extra time you spend getting ready for or thinking about said job). It’s an eye opener for sure and shows you just how much you really make per hour.

I did this and it led to searching out new opportunities and landed me where I am now – working less hours for more money doing a job I enjoy and find fulfilling.

Another gem from the book is charting your financial progress to get an overall financial picture of where you are and where you’re headed. The chart includes income, expenses and investment income, and over time, the goal is to obviously raise income and lower expenses.

Now when I consider work opportunities, I do so with an eye for how much it REALLY pays per hour. It also opened my eyes to ways to earn additional income.

Breaking the link between work and money in actual fact will exponentially expand the possibility of discovering your true work, of reintegrating the disparate pieces of your life, and of being truly whole.

 

The Wealthy Gardener (John Soforic)

I may have read this four times in the last year. It’s an easy read and it mixes a fable with the author’s real life experience.  I can’t recommend this book enough! Some important takeaways are:

Visualize exactly what you want and meditate on this regularly.

Be willing to work hard now for a future of wealth, generosity and abundance.

Schedule your time wisely to make the most of every moment, limiting social media and pointless activities. Actually, doing this helped me crank out a website for my very first client while studying and working.

Use your “impact hours” to increase income. For example, during a tough financial period last year, I spent an hour each day looking for new opportunities and ended up with A LOT of private English students.

In terms of gaining productivity, we must always confront the weekly schedule, constantly revising plans that aren’t moving us forward and always seeking more profitable hours in the days. We must always beat the voice of defeat that whispers in our heads. When I maintained a success mindset through the days, everything else took care of itself.

 

Work Optional (Tonja Hester)

This book got me thinking about emotional spending triggers like buying things that I think will make me a different person, or spending because I’m stressed or upset, spending because others expect me to, or to fill an emotional void. It’s a good way to pause before hitting the BUY button, making sure I’m buying for the right reasons.

The book also has a lot of really good questions to reflect on, such as “What ongoing expenditure makes you the happiest?” and “What do you spend money on that you wouldn’t miss?”

Work Optional is another manual for retiring early – something I’m really interested in, though I still weigh the pros and cons, as I’m generally happy with the work I’ve been doing.

We seem to have a collective mental block as a society against thinking about money, especially long-range financial planning. As a result, many of us carry around the misconception that planning for your financial future is a complex, math-heavy endeavor. It doesn’t have to be.

 

And here are a few blogs I keep up with regularly that inspire me all the time.

  • Mr Money Mustache – questioning convenience and the standard American lifestyle.
  • The Frugalwoods  – this young, financially independent family harvests their own maple syrup on a homestead in Vermont.
  • The Three Year Experiment – hey, she’s from North Carolina and speaks Spanish too!
  • The Simply Luxurious Life – great advice on living well and choosing quality.
  • The Financial Diet – very relatable, relevant, geared toward Millennials of which I am one.