A few weeks ago, Yahoo Finance ran an article on Mr. and Mrs. 1500, detailing how they retired early after setting a goal of doing so in just 1500 days. Yahoo screwed the pooch with the title, “How one couple saved $1 million in 4 years to retire by age 43,” implying that they raised the full million for retirement in those 1500 days, when in reality there were 17 years of hard work and flipping houses before that.
As you might predict, the comments were basically a shitshow. People went bananas, mostly over the title, claiming that it was LIES DAMN LIES and basically a scam. Here are some of the more civil ones, to save you wading through the comments section to look for them:
“Whatever. “started with $570,000″ ?? Well at age 38 if you have that much you’ve already been investing a #$%$ load and you probably make a lot of money. Your probably in the top 10% income earners in the US. I’m 37 and have $2,800 in my retirement account. #$%$ loads of student loan debt and I am not able to get a job in my degree. I make about $2400 a month and live in LA where about 60% of my income goes to rent. After student loan bills, phone and regular bills I have nothing l have nothing left for retirement… THIS IS BS! Only for the rich to read.”
– Commenter BrandonM
None of these commenters seemed to check out the 1500s readily available blog about all this where, with just a small amount of reading around, I was able to learn that Mr. 1500 graduated from school with $60,000 in student loan debt. They spent 17 years building up from less-than-nothing, mostly by flipping houses.
But it reminds me of something else that happened on a Yahoo Finance article, years ago (what is it with the comments on Yahoo Finance?): Anya Kamenetz, author of Generation Debt, wrote an article there about some of her frugal money-saving habits, and though I found it tame compared to the lengths I had gone through that year to save money, some commenters ripped her apart for writing the article, and called her life of buying secondhand clothes and having no television “miserable.”
Interestingly enough, Mr. and Mrs. 1500 also got comments like this:
“…You can save a lot of money if you go on no trips and do nothing on your free time besides work, work, work. until you get your goal to retire. But life can be the pits if you do not life a little and go on a trip or two. But if it works for them, that’s good but not everyone can do it.”
– Commenter “Jim”
“Hey, great.. nothing to do but “log expenses” and spend time trying to trim household costs further…with 40 or 50 years to live, without cable and “expensive phone plans”…”
– Commenter “masondixon”
“OK, but they’re not really retired. So shouldn’t the article be titled how we saved $1M to work from home and live a substandard lifestyle. …”
– Commenter “Amelia”
Which makes it seem like some people understood that financial independence isn’t magic, at least.
First, let me get this out of the way: You can say whatever you want (within the Terms of Service of the site you are commenting on). Feel free to complain away, cry foul, yell, scream, rant, and do as you please. Freedom of speech, or whatever.
You are not doing yourself any favors by responding to articles like these with a bunch of complaints about how “normal people can’t do that.” Every single person has their own advantages and disadvantages. The genetic lottery is not equal or fair to us all. I grew up in a rural area, across the street from a cornfield, born to parents who themselves didn’t have the grasp of good financial practices to be able to pass along to me. Some people have parents who teach them a lot, and they learn to save early. Some people are born with a silver spoon in their mouth and get a large inheritance.
None of these real-life “How They Did It” articles are ever going to be a turn-by-turn road map for you to follow. But all of us who want to achieve financial independence without a big, big inheritance? We can all do it, and there are only three ways to get there:
- Earn More
- Spend Less
- Earn More AND Spend Less
That’s it. Those are the options. Everything that can be done to achieve financial independence falls somewhere in there. Even if you win the lottery, you’ll only be financial independent if you figure out how to not spend it all right away.
It’s hard work, and some of the frugal choices that the 1500s, or Anya Kamenetz, or I, have made… well, they’re not for everyone. Just like how you may not be willing/able to go down to one car like my husband and I did last year, my husband and I are equally not able/willing to move to a lower cost of living area.
If you read an article like the one about the 1500s and you can’t find a single takeaway for your own life, that’s fine. They may be so very different from you that you simply could not replicate a single thing they did. But… I doubt that. They are normal people. Anya Kamenetz is normal. I’m normal. We’re all just folks here, and though no one can do exactly what I or the 1500s have done, 99.999% of people can do some of the things I’ve done, and some of the things that the 1500s have done, and form your own plan to reach your unique goals.
If you read an article like that one and all you can feel is anger, envy, and insecurity, it’s because you are missing the forest for the trees. That’s also true for people who pity me and my husband for our “miserly life” without cable television and a second car. Choices the 1500s have made put them on the path they are on, and choices I have made have put me on my path. But we’re all on a path of one type or another.
You can choose to take away useful lessons for your own life from any “How I Did It” article. Or you can brush people off and say “it can’t be done!” Those are choices, too, though. Which one do you think is going to help you on your own financial path?
Photo credit: yell by thorntocon on Flickr