I recently listened to an episode of The Art of Manliness podcast in which the host interviewed Ramit Sethi, author of I Will Teach You to be Rich. I first picked up this book nearly a decade ago, as an almost-broke college student trying to figure out how to cut a few more corners. My mother is highly financially literate, so we listened to Zig Ziglar on the way to school and I frequently plucked the ever-intriguing Millionaire Next Door off to figure out which person in our middle-class neighborhood was actually loaded. I never did figure that out. However, I did learn about compounding interested around the same time that I was forced to memorize the state capitals, presidents of the United States, and planets in our solar system.
The principals were planted in me at a young age and they’ve always made sense. I’ve picked up on the psychology of spending, saving, and paying myself first. I’ve paid attention to what works best for me. One of the things I figured out several years ago is that are some areas in which I am willing to spend more for quality, while other areas that I don’t care about at all. Ramit calls this our Rich Life, and the beauty of it is that everyone’s Rich Life can reflect their own priorities and values. You can splurge on the things that you absolutely love, but you must also cut spending mercilessly on that things that you don’t.
Personally, health, wellness, and longevity are my top priority. I will gladly pay extra for organic, non-GMO, wild caught, ethically raise, locally grown, locally made products to reduce my exposure to potentially harmful chemicals. When I was in better health, I paid to meet with a fitness and nutrition coach weekly. Since I spend so much time cooking each day, I’m happy to purchase small kitchen gadgets that I’ve identified will make the work easier. On the other hand, eating out is not important to me, so I go to restaurants and coffeehouses less than once a month.
A second example is clothing. I don’t enjoy clothing shopping and I don’t care about variety–in fact, I repeat the same five outfits to work each week. However, I do appreciate well-built and buy-it-for-life articles. I don’t buy clothes often, but I will buy multiple of a guaranteed-for-life product that checks all the boxes and I absolutely love. I have three pairs of J Brand jeans, purchased on sale, because a hand-me-down pair gifted to me years ago fit like a glove. I recently purchased a second $120 Patagonia romper because it’s comfortable, flattering, breathes well in the stifling AZ heat, and because I can send it in for repair or replacement if anything goes wrong.
On the other hand, I don’t own a television, I don’t subscribe to Netflix or Spotify, I don’t attend concerts, I don’t eat out, I don’t spend much on clothing, I don’t drive a new car, I haven’t considered remodeled our 30-year-old home, and I haven’t traveled the world. Why? Because these things don’t align with my values right now. Instead, I prioritize contributing 20% of my meager income to retirement funds and purchasing high-quality, locally-sourced, nutrient-rich foods. I look at both as an investment in my future.
Ramit encourages people to truly envision what their ideal reality would like–to dive into the nitty gritty details. So often, personal finance experts and internet gurus instruct us on how to save, but not how to spend. Thus, many of us have not necessarily take the time to do so. When I accepted a job at 70% of my previous salary, I was forced to review my priorities and trim the superfluous. Inadvertently, I stumbled right into my personal Rich Life
How about you? What does your Rich Life look like?
You may be a foodie, a car fanatic, or have a serious case of the travel bug. Great! Spend the money on those things, but then cut your spending mercilessly in the areas you don’t care about. Trade in your car and take the bus. Eat peanut butter and jelly sandwiches for lunch each day. Say no to social outings you’re not excited about. Stop buying those dresses promoted on Instagram that never look as good in person. Start thinking–really thinking–about money. Spend guilt-free on the things that bring you joy, and pass up the things that do not. The caveat here is, of course, to be mindful of debt. If you have student loans, a car payment, or a struggling to pay bills, start with small, intentional splurges until you have the funds to no longer think about what it’s going to cost.
In the podcast, Ramit says that he often follows up on the Rich Life question with the following: What would your Rich Life look like if your income quadrupled?
Here’s mine: I have a generously-sized kitchen with cabinet space to store pots and appliances, and enough counter-space to work on multiple meals at once. I wake up early and spend an hour or two writing because my flexible work schedule allows me to do so. I then prepare breakfast with organic produce from my garden or a local farm and enjoy the meal with my boyfriend and any friends that drop by. We have a home near a forest and start or end the day with a long hike, enjoying both the beauty of nature and great conversations. I have durable, comfortable hiking gear and never worry about anything failing me. I regularly donate money to SENS in support of anti-aging research and MAPS in support of psychedelic research because I believe both hold promise for enhancing future wellness. I have the income to boost retirement savings to 50%, allowing for a mid-life career change without having to worry about money. Reading over that, it sounds so simple, but that is my Rich Life. All else could fall away and I would still be immensely happy.
When I was young, my mom would always emphasize the importance of paying yourself first. At first, I didn’t get it. I thought she was encouraging me to spend, rather than save, which didn’t align with her money values at all. But, as I got older, I began to understand that she was referring to this very concept. Paying myself first means that I am am funding my future wellness, whether that be security in my far-off retirement or the excitement of per-ordering that book I’ve been dying to read. When you succumb to external pressures to consume, you are paying someone else and prioritizing their values over your own. However, when you have taken the time to honestly assess your goals, values, and sources of joy, you are claiming the power to say yes and developing the cognizence to say no. No matter your income or circumstances, your Rich Life is within an arm’s reach.
What does your Rich Life look life? And what would the Rich Life on steroids look like? I would love to hear!