Society encourages us to work hard so we can keep working our way up the corporate ladder so we can ultimately find success at the top. Along the way, we’ll see our income increase and almost inevitably so will our lifestyle. But, as we’re chasing happiness and always looking for more, what happens when we realize that happiness might have been at our heels the entire time. It’s time to put our personal and financial goals ahead of what society tells us our goals should be.
IN THIS WEEK’S EPISODE
- Our family’s exposure to the societal pressures of climbing the corporate ladder
- How we use Personal Capital to free up time and focus on what matters most to us
- The parable of the fisherman and the businessman
- How focusing on “having enough” can help you simplify and streamline your life
- Encouraging words to help you recapture and find your own happiness
Let’s start today with a quick story. Mrs. Modest and I have found ourselves moving around to different parts of the country due to our jobs and climbing the corporate ladder at a breakneck pace, which has allowed us to experience different societal and cultural trends in different regions throughout the country.
One such time period, or as my wife would say “season of life,” that stands out was when we lived in the suburbs of Chicago.
There is a lot of money there. People earn more, which allows them to spend more. It also comes with a higher cost of living (don’t get me started on property taxes…).
What we noticed is that for us, it was really easy to get caught up in the trappings of a more expensive lifestyle. We were both earning more money when we took jobs in Chicagoland, so it was easier to look around and justify some of the nicer things that people around us were buying: homes, boats, cars, clothes, nice nights out, the latest gadgets and more.
It was easier to say, “Our income just jumped 15%, so yeah, why not? We can swing that purchase.” After a while, we noticed that our spending had increased at the same rate as our increase in income. Our budget had fallen by the wayside and our wallets were loose. We would look back at the end of the month, thinking that we would have a bunch of extra income left to feel good about and start working toward our financial goals, but we’d get discouraged that it all “magically” vanished.
It was about this time that we started having conversations about our career and family goals, so it was an opportune time to start thinking about what we wanted to be when we grew up.
Also around this same time we read a parable that really hit home. We’ll dive into it after a quick break.
One of the ways we are able to free our mind is to leverage tools to track our finances. One of my favorite such tools is Personal Capital. They are an investment company, so ultimately they want to manage your money, but what I love is the free financial tracking dashboard that lets you track all of your income, expenses, debts and investments. It’s a super handy way to quickly review your personal finances so you can get back to what you really want to do in your free time, like listening to this podcast, of course! To do your own personal finance happy dance, snag a free account and start tracking your finances at modestmillions.com/capital.
The Fisherman and the Businessman
Okay, we’re back. The parable is a common one about a fisherman and a businessman. I wanted to look it up again to share with you, but there were so many variations (and nationalities!) of the parable I’m just going to paraphrase. No joke, I remember it being an Asian fisherman, but I also found western European fishermen and one story with a Mexican fisherman who called an American businessman with an Ivy League MBA, “Señor.” So, if I botch the story you remember, just blame the internet.
One day there was a fisherman who was lazily fishing off the shore. He was relaxed with his single fishing pole and bait bucket, enjoying the sunrise. A businessman walked past him and, wanting to help, advised the man that he wouldn’t catch many fish that way and that he could be working harder to catch more fish.
The fisherman slowly turned to look at the businessman and asked what the advantage would be of doing that.
The businessman explained that if he caught more fish, he’d be able to buy bigger nets and more equipment. This, in turn, would allow him to catch even more fish, allowing him to expand to a full crew and perhaps multiple ships. This would bring even more fish and revenue, allowing him to continue to grow to the point where he built a fishing empire.
The fisherman calmly asks the businessman how long that would take, and the businessman replied that it would take 10-15 years of hard work, but, he told the fisherman that he would then be able to sell his company for a lot of money and then retire and give him and his family the opportunity to do whatever makes them happy.
After the businessman was finished speaking, the fisherman, smiling from ear to ear, politely asked the businessman, “And what do you think I’m doing now?”
This story hit home for us and really allowed us to take a step back and figure out what really made us happy. For years, we had constantly been chasing success, and like much of society, we attributed career success and the trappings that accompany success to happiness.
What we realized is that what made us happy (growing a family, lots of quality time together and a simpler and less harried life) was right in front of us the entire time.
Don’t miss hear me: this doesn’t mean you have to settle for less. Instead, focus your resources (time, energy and money) not on the status quo and what society tells us we need, but on the things that make you truly happy.
It also doesn’t mean that you’re lazy or unmotivated if you choose the diverging path, even though you may get some sideways glances from those around you.
This also opened our eyes to what was possible as we looked toward the future and recognized that we could think for ourselves and draw our own assumptions about the retirement that WE want. Could we work until we’re 65 and squirrel away a huge nest egg? Sure. Would it lead to a very comfortable retirement? Absolutely. But, if we could retire 15 years earlier than that and still have a very nice retirement in which we do the things that make us happy, I’d much rather have those extra 15 years to do whatever the heck we want.
When we realized that, it unlocked all sorts of new opportunities for us and our future. And we don’t ever want to look back.
That’ll do it for this week’s episode.
What about you? What makes you happy? I’d love to hear from you.
Also, make sure to reach out with your feedback for me or for the show, topic ideas,
personal anecdotes of your own journey or if you just want to say hi. You can always reach me at feedback[at]modestmillions[.]com.
For a recap of the strategies, tools and links that we talked about today, check out the show notes at modestmillions.com/009.
Also, while you’re on the site, don’t forget to subscribe to receive email updates when we post new episodes (you can do so at modestmillions.com/subscribe). I’ve heard from some of you who have tried to subscribe that sometimes the email subscription doesn’t like your email address. If that happens to you, just send me an email at feedback[at]modestmillions[.]com with “Add Me” in the subject line and I’ll manually add you to the list.
And please, if you like what we’re doing here and you find the information valuable, help us spread the word and show your support by leaving us a five-star review on your whatever podcast platform you’re listening to us on. It’s been hugely instrumental in us growing our community to where it is today, so thank you!
Join me next week when we talk about setting SMART goals.
Until then, remember to keep squirreling away now to earn millions later!
Thanks for listening; we’ll catch you next time!