Variations on the path to financial success. Part 1.
Career and wage growth are at the core of strong personal finances; however, with underemployment remaining as high as 15% in some states, a lucrative career can feel out of reach. Surprisingly, some psychologists and economists have found that hope itself is a force powerful enough to lift people into higher income brackets.
According to Psychology Today, "Hope is not just a feel-good emotion, but a dynamic cognitive motivational system."
In other words, if you believe that you can achieve a better life, it's quite possible that your belief could become a self-fulfilling prophecy. I'm not an entrepreneur or a job creator. I cannot impact American jobs shifting to the traditionally lower-paid service industry. However, all of us can sow seeds of hope.
There is no one way to be successful.
Success with personal finances can start so many ways. I've met people in the personal finance world who started out late or came from non-traditional beginnings and now have masterful financial plans. Some of these people are on track to reach FIRE (Financial Independence/Retire Early) status in short order. Some have used persistence to create financial wins with modest means.
Today, I am sharing the stories of people who don't have a Leave it to Beaver story. Maybe they seemed to have the odds stacked against them or they made decisions that seemed irretractable at the time. In each of these stories, the person found a way to rise up and be savvy commanders of their destiny -- financial and otherwise. If hope is indeed the powerful thing they claim, these inspiring stories are sure to give you a huge dose of it.
Being Born at a Disadvantage
Does not Define your Destiny.
The Luxe Strategist Story. One of my favorite personal finance bloggers first caught my eye when I first read about her decision to move to New York City, a move that many would consider foolish and financially risky. When describing why she made the decision, the Luxe Strategist (who adheres to the time-honored tradition of anonymous financial writing) stated as her first reason: "I had faith in myself." She also had the will to get it done. She went on to not only live in NYC, but to save 61% of her income while doing so.
If you've opened some of the same click bait headlines that I have, you know that many flashy stories of achievement come as a result of good luck rather than hard work. Oftentimes the story behind these headlines will include a trust fund, large inheritance, or overly generous parents to pave the way. Not the Luxe Strategist. In fact, she started out with less advantages than many of us have growing up.
The Luxe Strategist's story begins like this (as told in her own words):
Most Americans would say I grew up financially disadvantaged... My parents were low-income refugees from a third-world country; my dad finished third grade, and my mom is illiterate in every language. I’m actually the first person in my family to graduate high school, and then college. And, even after living in the US for over 30 years, my mom still works the same blue-collar jobs, never making more than $14/hour.
I didn’t have a model of success to work from. Instead, I forged my own.
After college, I could have chosen to stay in my hometown. Work at the same factory where my mom worked. Live at home. I could have been comfortable. Safe. But instead I chose to move to a big city where I knew no one. To hustle to find a job, and work for every single penny I had. To take risks, and fail disastrously. To take more risks, and then lead myself to success. And eventually draw my own financial map.
The Luxe Strategist did not just "survive" her upbringing. Those things that others might consider disadvantages gave her the tools to achieve more: She credits her mom with teaching her the resourcefulness, self-reliance, strategic risk taking, modest standards, and strong sense of self that helped her succeed. With vision and determination, even a seemingly big dream like being financially successful in NYC is absolutely attainable.
Author's Note: If you haven't clicked on any of the Luxe Strategist hyperlinks yet, you are totally missing out on a great blog. For more great reading on living a mindful and financially sound life in New York City (with kids!), I highly recommend Brooklyn Bread.
The Next Best Time to Start is Now.
The story of Building Income. We can call the author behind Building Income by the name Colin... because his name really is Colin. If you have ever asked yourself whether it's possible to recover after a couple decades of bad choices, Colin is here to say it is totally possible:
For years, I blew up my finances with stupid purchases and poor life choices. I finally woke up around forty years old and realized how much trouble I was in. Soon, I was facing a divorce which would force my net worth to nearly zero.
I work in the commercial real estate industry where I have experience in investment sales & leasing, property management and development. I began building my real estate portfolio in 2010 after realizing I'd completely mishandled my 20s and 30s. Watching my clients build wealth, while mine continued to fritter away, I started asking questions, reading the right books and paying attention to those who were signing "the front of the checks."
There is a Chinese proverb that says "The best time to plant a tree was 20 years ago. The second best time is now." This proverb is often borrowed to describe the best time to begin paying off debt, saving, and investing. Colin is a living, breathing example of how starting late (rather than never) can result in success.
Now, Colin boasts a net worth of over half a million dollars. He has learned a lot along the way and often writes about the lessons we pass down to children and the value of simple things in life (like drinking cheap beer and using our focus to find a deeper level of fulfillment).
He also still makes mistakes sometimes, proving that successful people are, indeed, still incredibly human.
Listen up: Broke, depressed, alcoholic...
and then financially successful?
A Story in Podcast Form. Laurie at the Frugal Farmer turned us on to an incredible interview with Joshua Smith from GSD Mode on the Money Peach Podcast. This was how Laurie got our attention:
One of the first things guest Joshua Smith said was “If you’re not reaching your goals, it’s because you don’t want them bad enough.”
Could be, I thought. Keep talking.
The guy went on to tell about his life, about how he went from broke, depressed alcoholic at 23 to uber-successful guy at 35 (with a wife and some kids) who owns several businesses, one of which was making him $7,000 a month.
I'm not completely convinced that sheer desire can make any goal come true, but Joshua's meteoric rise is certainly impressive. You can read all of Laurie's review of the podcast and the article it inspired here. Or snap up your earbuds and skip straight to the Money Peach podcast.
What's your story?
I'm not always a "Pull yourself up by your bootstraps" preacher. I know firsthand that there are times of need when we cannot do things alone, and the challenges that each person faces are unique. However, I also think it's possible that we often underestimate our own potential. We accept the mediocre options offered to us by our tragically limited imaginations or resign ourselves too soon to an underwhelming, soul-sucking existence.
What's your story? Did you have a non-traditional beginning? Did you need a helping hand to take achieve financial success? Is there some especially hard work you're proud of? What ways have you overcome the limits of your imagination?