What if you didn’t have to work anymore? Seem like a pipe dream??? It isn’t—getting to financial independence is a 4-step process that anyone can do, and the first step is to decide that you’re going to do it. Listen to this episode to find out why making the decision is so important as the first step. You’ll also learn why so many of us are reluctant to make this decision, and how to make it easier for yourself.
Welcome to Rich & Thin™ Radio, the only podcast that helps you get more bank with less bulk. Today’s episode is for every listener who is seeking a reliable roadmap for financial independence, which by the way is the point where your investments cover your living expenses and you only work because you want to. I’m Kelly Hollingsworth, and if financial independence is what you’re seeking, I’m glad you’re here because this episode is the first of a four-part series on how to achieve it.
The first thing I’d like you to notice about financial independence is that it’s the place where rich happens pretty reliably. As we discussed in Episode 1 of this podcast, rich is about a lot more than money. When we’re rich, we also have time for our hobbies and interests. We contribute to our communities in ways that we find important. We get to do meaningful work that matters to us. And we have deep and meaningful relationships. We also get enough sleep, which is something that so many of us are lacking these days.
And in theory we can achieve these things under all manner of circumstances, but it’s a lot easier to achieve them when we’re financially independent, so today like I said is the first in a four-part series that talks about how to get there. Two of these episodes are going to be released as bonus episodes, so if you haven’t done so already, please hit subscribe in your podcast app to make sure that you don’t miss out on these bonus episodes.
So with that housekeeping stuff out of the way, let’s now dive in to how to achieve financial independence. As a former hedge fund manager, as a woman who’s worked with other hedge fund managers for the last 25 years, I can tell you two things about this topic. The first thing I can tell you is that the process is not complicated. The steps are simple and they’re available to all of us—that’s how simple they are. It’s four steps, they’re are very simple to understand and anyone can learn them.
But this doesn’t mean that they’re necessarily easy to execute, and this is the second thing I have to tell you about achieving financial independence. Many of us find these steps difficult or even impossible to do, and the reason for this is very nicely illustrated by a scene in the movie When Harry Met Sally. The scene I’m talking about is the one where… it’s toward the ends of the movie, their relationship is going south, and Harry is on Sally’s answering machine, groveling and pleading with her to pick up the phone and talk to him. She’s standing there in the apartment looking at the machine and listening to him speak, and he says something along the lines of, “the fact that you’re not answering leads me to one of three conclusions. Either you’re not home, or are home and you don’t want to talk to me, or you are home and desperately want to talk to me but you can’t pick up the phone because you’re trapped under something heavy.”
And that’s exactly where Sally was. Trapped under something heavy. She was home, she desperately wanted to talk to Harry, but she unable to do so because she was weighed down by something heavy that prevented her from answering the phone, and specifically it was a whole lot of disdain for Harry and the way he had conducted himself previously. And If she hadn’t been operating under that weight, walking over to the phone and answering it and talking to Harry would have been a fairly simple matter.
And this is exactly how it works when we’re talking about achieving financial independence. The steps are simple and they’re not terribly difficult once we get out from under the weight that’s preventing us from doing the steps. So today and in the three episodes that follow, we’re going to talk about the weight that makes each step seem impossible to do, and once you lift that weight off of yourself, then the steps become possible and maybe even as easy as answering the phone.
So now that you know where we’re going, let’s dive into the first step, and it is very simply to decide. Rarely do people luck into financial independence. It can happen—money can just fall out of the sky and land on your head—but that’s not a reliable strategy. It’s not a strategy that anyone can take to the bank.
The truth is that getting to financial independence is a journey, and as with any journey, it starts with the decision to go. You don’t just wake up in San Francisco one morning and wind up in New York that night by accident. Unless you’ve been kidnapped and transported across multiple state lines against your will. To get to New York you first have to make the decision that you’re going to go to New York.
Our brains readily accept this idea about the importance of deciding on a destination when we’re talking about geography. But when we’re talking about money, too many of us play a “heads Carolina, tails California” game, where the outcome of random events determines our final destination. When we play this game, mostly where we wind up is in debt and running on a wheel in a cubicle with no end in sight.
So the first step to achieving financial independence is to decide that we’re going to do it, and this is where our brains start to freak out. Like Sally in the movie, we’re standing in the apartment listening to the message but we can’t answer the phone because we’re trapped under something heavy. It’s very much like you listening to this podcast right now. You’re listening to the message but if you’re trapped under something that’s too heavy, you won’t be able to get there. So what is this heavy thing? What is this weight that is holding us down? It comes in various flavors, but when we’re talking about achieving financial independence, a biggie is the weight of doubt.
Doubt is what happens when we think we don’t know how. When we think something is impossible. Doubt is a horrible emotion for wealth creation because it’s where the spinning starts. Our brains go into an endless cycle of “I don’t know” and “I never learned how to do that” and “that’s impossible, it’s not realistic” and then our brains just want to go take a nap. In this respect, our brains are very much like a toddler lost in a grocery store. They can’t find mom, they don’t even know where to begin, so they just sit down and cry.
If we’re going to get rich, if we’re going to achieve FI, we have to guide our brains gently toward the goal, we have to point them to the destination, and the way we do that is to set the agenda—we say, look brain, here’s what we’re going to do—and our brains go along, just as a toddler would go along when the store manager takes the toddler by the hand and says, “let’s go to the customer service desk and announce where you are so your mom can come and collect you.”
This is essentially what a decision about achieving financial independence does for your brain—it tells your brain where it’s going to go and assures your brain that it’s a nice place.
But the trouble for most of our brains—this is the next thing—is that with getting to financial independence we’re not at all sure it’s a nice place. We give lip service to the idea, we say we want it, (who wouldn’t want it?) but when you scratch the surface it becomes clear that we don’t really want it.
Even among clients who hire me because they want to earn more, I see that this is a big sticking point. They’ll say they’re worth more. They say they want to earn more and they’re underpaid for what they do. If I say, “Great. Let’s talk about how to get rich,” they will then rush to assure me, “No, no, no. I don’t want to be rich. I just want to be comfortable.”
These words are so revealing. Implicit in them is the concept that to be rich is to be uncomfortable. And who would want that? No one, so when we have this kind of thought process going on, the desire not to be rich becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy. We refuse to go down any road that might take us there. We don’t negotiate. We accept less than market rate for our services. We don’t invest. We don’t move our businesses forward. We overspend. If we’re never going to be rich, if we’ve decided that we don’t even want to be rich, every action we take is 180 degrees in the other direction of that destination.
Remember that quote from our friend Ed Seykota—“Everyone gets what they want. Some people want to lose, and so they win by losing.”
This is another reason that the decision matters. It’s so critical. If you’ve made a decision not to be rich, that’s exactly what you’re going to get because every action you take will support that decision. This is true even if you’ve made the decision by default. If you’ve ruled out being rich as an option, consciously or subconsciously, deliberately or simply by accident, you’ve sealed your fate and assured yourself that it’s not going to happen. This is why lottery winners go broke. Financial riches do just fall out of the sky and land on their heads, but if they aren’t comfortable with the idea of being rich, they do everything they can to get out from under that discomfort as quickly as possible.
So here’s something to notice about making this decision It involves two steeps. Every decision involves two steps. First, there’s an invitation to consider something, and then a mental shift where the best option is selected and all the other options are ruled out. Notice that the word decide has “cide” as its root—when we decide something, we kill all other options, just as a fungicide kills a fungus and a pesticide kills a pest.
What are we killing when we decide to get to rich? The only thing we’re killing is the idea that we’re going to work for every dollar until the day we die. That’s it. We’re simply making a decision to have enough money to live off the interest and earnings of that money. But this is where so many of us start to get uncomfortable, because we attach so many other unnecessary ideas to the concept of rich. We think that if we rule out the other options, if we decide to get rich, we’re killing other things that are valuable.
We think we’re killing our friendships, because we’ve heard the rumor that “you are the product of the 5 people you spend the most time with” and based on this we can’t get rich if we’re hanging out with people who aren’t rich. So we think we’re going to lose our friends.
We think we’re killing our marriages and families, because if we achieve financial independence and don’t have to work, that means that we’re going to become jerks who cheat on our spouses and get divorced and have kids who abuse drugs and drop out of school.
We think that by becoming rich we’re killing our very souls. We think that if we get rich that means we’re better than other people. That we’ll become selfish snobs who scorn other people and treat them badly.
All of this feels very heavy and yucky, and it’s what prevents us from choosing financial independence as a destination. As ethical people, as people who are concerned about our families and our communities and the world and who want to live a noble and meaningful life, we have all this weight attached to the number that all but guarantees us that we’re never going to achieve that number on our balance sheet.
This is not the way wealthy people think. A truly wealthy person would never think, “I’m going to ditch my friends so I can make some money.” What they think is, “I’m going to make some money so I can treat my friends to something amazing.” I once was at a spa where the owner of a major-league sports franchise showed up on a private plane with all of her friends and they had an absolute blast. The idea that wealthy people ditch their near-and-dear is just hogwash. They become wealthy in large part because they want to do great things for and with their near-and-dear.
Similarly, a truly wealthy person would never think that as soon as they have money they’re going to divorce their spouse and ignore their kids so they abuse drugs and drop out of school. Having money for a wealthy person means having time to spend with your spouse and your kids. To teach them things and take them places so they stay off drugs.
And, similarly, wealth isn’t about snobbery and thinking you’re better than other people. That is the stuff of status, not wealth, and it’s one place where movies don’t correspond to real life, at least in my experience. In movies we see the rich person is always the bad person, who’s out to hurt everyone else. And What I see in the real world is that people, wealthy or otherwise, are good people. They will like you if you like them. They will help you if you are trying to get somewhere and are a kind, ethical person who genuinely wants to improve. I’ve seen this my entire life. Mark Cuban, for example, is a billionaire. He doesn’t have to get on YouTube and share his thoughts on how to get rich. He does it because he wants to, and so does every other wealthy person who mentors others on social media or elsewhere. What I see, what I’ve always seen, is that wealth is a club with an open-membership policy. Everyone is invited.
Those of us who don’t join do so for our own reasons. I recently heard a woman with a big social media following talk about how she couldn’t get started with investing because she didn’t want to get involved in an economy or a stock market that is made for white men. She feels excluded, but what I see is that she’s voluntarily excluding herself. This is not to say that stock market investing is for everyone—it works for some but there are other ways to invest—but it is to say that she’s creating the situation that she doesn’t like—an economy and market of white men and for white men—by voluntarily opting out. No one else is making that happen. She is making it happen, because she’s creating what she’s decided to look for in the world.
When we decide to get rich, when we decide to achieve financial independence, all we’re deciding is to have a bigger number on our balance sheet. The number is neutral, because money is merely a tool. Like any tool, it can be used for good, or it can be used for bad. Too many people are deciding in advance not to have this tool in their tool box because all they want to see is the bad.
So the question before us today is what are you looking for? If you want to get rich, if you want to achieve financial independence so you can focus on other things and get everything you want out of life, it’s critical to recognize that all of this other stuff—all of the derogatory meaning we attach to the idea of financial wealth–is optional. Any of us can simply decide to have more money in our lives, and leave the rest of it behind. If this is a decision you’re ready to make, then please join us for the next episode of this podcast, where we begin discussing how to make that happen. It’s a bonus episode so if you haven’t subscribed to the podcast yet, please do so now to make sure you don’t miss it. And I want to thank you for joining me today. It’s been my pleasure to talk with you and I’m really looking forward to connecting with you next time.