By world and historic standards, I’ve lived a charmed life. Great family, Norman Rockwell community, material comfort, plenty of opportunity, and plenty of freedom. I wasn’t an evil One-Percenter, mind you. Not by a long shot. My dad was a cop and my mom was a medical records clerk. But I never wanted for anything. So my story isn’t a miraculous story of overcoming severe deprivation—of living in a car one year and buying a McMansion the following year with cash. No, my story is just a story of a financial slug who finally woke up.
And looking back, as I transitioned from financial slug to financial rockstar, there was clear evidence that something wonderful was afoot. My emergency fund kept getting bigger. And so did the balances in my brokerage account and 401(k). And every year, the difference between my portfolio’s value and the Valhalla of financial independence—accumulating twenty-five times one’s annual living expenses—grew smaller.
But beyond the telltale signs of financial competence, there were subtle signs. As I finally cast aside the yoke of financial sluggary, I began to think and act differently. Here, then, are ten unusual signs you’re kicking butt financially.
Ten Unusual Signs You’re Kicking Butt Financially
1. You lose track of payday. When I was living paycheck to paycheck, payday was huge. But once I had a sizable emergency fund, payday just became another workday. On most occasions, a co-worker’s comment was the only thing that alerted me to its arrival. “Hey, it’s payday! Let’s go out for lunch.”
2. Your crummy car doesn’t hurt your ego. My first car out of college was a 1972 Buick Riviera. It was a clanking monstrosity. And one day, my fireman friend’s friend, who was also a fireman, referred to my wheels as an ADV. My fireman friend later told me that “ADV” was fireman shorthand for Abandoned Derelict Vehicle. I was mortified. Not only did my bank account say I was a loser, but so did my car.
Fast forward to today. I drive a 2004 Toyota Camry. And while it’s not exactly a clanking monstrosity, it’s easily the worst car on the block. AND I LOVE IT! I don’t want people to think I have money. I want people to look at my car and say to themselves, “There goes another poor schlub.”
3. You want to boast about your net worth but your spouse won’t let you. Ego is a fickle beast. I don’t care what strangers think about me, but I care what family and friends think. And I want the latter to admire me. So as I marched toward financial independence, I felt a constant urge to regale my family and friends with my financial achievements. “Hey, my lithium stock is really taking off. And, you know what, my net worth went up by over $100K last year. Aren’t I awesome?” But thankfully Mrs. G was there to quell this unseemly impulse. No one likes a braggart. But more importantly, having your family and friends admire you because you’re a good egg is infinitely more rewarding than having them admire you because you have money.
4. You’re itching to give unsolicited financial advice to family and friends. I guess this is part ego too. Who doesn’t want to be a hero and help a relation or friend overcome some financial woe? But thankfully, Mrs. G was always there to corral this dangerous impulse as well. I may think I know how to fix someone’s finances, but unless I have intimate knowledge of said someone’s income, expenses, debts, needs, and wants, that assumption is very, very presumptuous. Besides, most of my family and friends know the unflattering aspects of my life. They were there when adolescent Mr. Groovy used to sing ditties that incorporated his own farts. They were also there when college Mr. Groovy was found sleeping in some hallway or vestibule atop half-eaten burritos or his own vomit. And once you have such an inglorious history, you can’t expect those who know that history to be very receptive to your advice—financial or otherwise.
5. You become less partisan politically. Haha! I know that sounds rich coming from me. But hear me out. When I was a financial slug, I voted Republican because I thought the GOP was going to save me. But as soon as I got my financial act together, and my net worth began to grow, I realized that I didn’t need the stinking Republicans to better myself. My growing financial competence made me realize that the most important variable in my quest for comfort, happiness, and meaning was yours truly, not some political party. It also made me more objective. I now see right through Republican and Democratic bullshit. So if you prefer to be enslaved by Wall Street and the military-industrial complex, vote Republican. If you prefer to be enslaved by ANTIFA and the compassion-industrial complex, vote Democrat. I prefer to take my chances with freedom, so the below clip perfectly reflects my feelings toward both parties.
6. You’re annoyed that you haven’t had to use your emergency fund. When I was teetering on the edge of financial solvency, Mr. Murphy was a frequent visitor. But as soon as I got my financial act together, he decided to shun me. In fact, the last time I saw him, the financial consequences were so minor, it was the social equivalent of a wave from a passing motorist. C’mon, Mr. Murphy. Stop by for a real visit. I got a formidable emergency fund that’s sitting in a savings account doing squat—and I’m itching to use it.
7. You lick your chops when there’s a stock market correction. When the 2008 recession visited ruin upon the stock market, I did what any self-professed FIRE enthusiast would do. I increased my 401(k) contributions. My reaction to the Brexit and Trump election hiccups was the same. The market dipped, and I upped my stock purchases. Now, I’m not hoping for another massive buying opportunity. Another 2008-like recession would bring financial calamity to millions of Americans. But should such a massive buying opportunity arrive, I’m ready for it.
8. You spend a lot of time reading personal finance blogs. CNBC? Wall Street Journal? Broadcast television? Cable news? Reality TV? It’s all the same, boring crap. Personal finance blogs, however, are another matter. After all, where can you read about a petite lady who goes salmon fishing with a gigunda butterfly net? Or read about a guy who sees eerie parallels between the quest for FIRE and the quest for finding bigfoot? Or better yet, read about a guy who used a tragic death and a 10-year prison sentence to redeem his soul and his finances? Blogs are where it’s at, baby. Nothing staid and boring there. Real people with real stories and real wisdom.
9. You become less enamored with watching sports. Sorry face-painters, but professional sports are nothing more than adults in costumes chasing a ball or a puck. When I was broke and living paycheck to paycheck, this sobering reality escaped me. I actually allowed my happiness and identity to be partially determined by what happened on a football field, a baseball diamond, a basketball court, and a hockey rink. When my team lost, I experienced a sudden loss of contentment. I was no longer “number one.”
Ah, but with a growing net worth comes wisdom. Perhaps it has something to do with the extreme sense of ownership that many FIRE enthusiasts develop. In other words, FIRE enthusiasts don’t wait for others to improve their financial situation. They get off their asses and do it themselves. How likely, then, are FIRE enthusiasts—people who have been conditioned to get jacked up by their own actions and achievements—to get jacked up watching others do things and fight for glory? If you said “very little,” go straight to the head of class. I for one don’t want to revel in someone else’s glory. I want to revel in my own glory. Now, granted, devising a suitable drawdown strategy or getting one of my posts featured on Rockstar Finance isn’t nearly as impressive as throwing the winning touchdown in the Super Bowl. But it’s MY glory, however pathetic either achievement may be.
10. You appreciate the simple joys of life more. Mrs. G and I spent the last 11 days of September out west in Washington, Idaho, and Montana. It was one of the best vacations we ever had. And while Glacier National Park was surely the highlight of the trip (see the picture below), my fondest recollection was spending time with Ms. Montana and her family.
Now call me pathetic, but the best time I had with Jillian, Adam, and their remarkable tribe was the time after we supped on Billy Bob’s famous BBQ. We all went to Super 1 Foods for dessert. A huge box of donuts was $3. Soft serve ice cream cones were $0.25 a piece. The kids had their table. And the adults had theirs. Were they the best donuts I ever ate? No. Was it the best ice cream cone I ever had? Of course not. But for a mere five bucks, 9 people had a fabulous sugar rush and a rollicking good time. And a little ol’ country blogger from North Carolina got a memory he’ll cherish forever.
Okay, groovy freedomists, that’s all I got. Or is it? You didn’t think I’d leave Montana without roping Ms. Montana into an episode of Talking Trash, did you? Have a great weekend. Grease for peace.