When I tell people that I’m finally heading out of the country after 10 years of working toward this goal, I get the funniest responses.
“You’re so lucky. I’m jealous. I wish I could do something like that.”
“You’re so fortunate to be able to do this. Most people will never get the chance.”
I am very lucky to have good health. And fortunate that no natural disaster or ‘act of God’ sidetracked my plan. I’m lucky to come from a country with generally high earnings, whose passport is widely accepted around the world.
But would you say “you’re so lucky” to someone who had worked for 10 years on their doctorate? Or to earn a military rank? Or achieve an athletic or career goal?
Yes, I feel slighted when 10 years of work, sacrifice, and single-minded dedication to a goal are waved away as if they’re nothing. But that’s not what bothers me when I hear “you’re so fortunate.” The troublesome thing about that statement is that it strips the speaker of power to achieve his/her own goals.
I am here to tell you that you can do whatever you want! I am living proof of that. If you give yourself 10 years to achieve your dream, and do what it takes to get there, then I don’t think there’s anything that’s out of reach. I did it while earning well below the poverty line and supporting 2 kids as a single parent — most people won’t have to make all the sacrifices I did to get where I am. (honestly, I was self-employed and earned between $16,000 and $24,000 most of those 10 years.)
Here are the steps I took to achieve this goal:
- I haven’t owned a car that was less than 10 years old, or had a car payment, since I was 20 years old.
- I have never paid a cable TV bill in my life.
- I have never bought a home, or lived in a place bigger than 1000 square feet (even when I had a family of four)
- I have never had internet on my phone.
- I have spent five years experimenting with various writing projects and publishing formats, and stuck with each one for over a year. even when they were earning only 30¢ a month. I have built three blogs, a website, two Examiner accounts, a gig writing for CBS, a book, and a DVD.
- I have taught myself how to invest for maximum cash return. I read books, magazines, and websites, watched DVDs. Then I experimented with what I was learning, using fake portfolios at first, then small ones, and finally real ones (see the first three bullet points if you want to know where I got money to invest).
- I taught myself Spanish. And Italian. And Arabic. Not a lot… but enough to get by when I travel.
- I learned how to track my finances, and watch my bottom line like a hawk — I check my net worth every single day. I watched it go from depressingly negative to zero to positive, and the faster it moved, the more motivated I was. I learned the difference between spending money on assets and just spending money.
- I wasn’t a Spartan. I lived very well for my income (if you don’t count my cozy house and well-loved car). I splurged on the things that matter to me… mostly my children, travel, art, dance workshops, perfume and great meals with friends. But I didn’t spend on late fees, interest charges, cable TV, car payments, full-coverage insurance, more house than I needed, or other large monthly expenditures. The net effect was a great life AND a growing bank account.
|The rules say you have to spend your money on a big house and a shiny car, and spend your free time and money watching a giant television set with a thousand channels.
You don’t have to live by those rules if you don’t want to.
- How do you spend your time and money on a daily basis?
- How much do you spend each month on your TV, your car, your cel phone, fast food, beer, clothing?
- Are those the things that matter most to you?
- Are you spending money to help/support adults around you who should be pulling their own load? Do you need to start expecting and demanding that these people step up to the plate and stop draining your resources?
- How do you spend your time after work? Are you learning new skills, researching your dream? Or are you watching your expensive TV?
- Is your dream important enough to you to focus your efforts and finances toward it?
- If not, could you at least change your language to something more empowering? Stop saying “I can’t…” and start saying “I have so far been unwilling to do what it takes to …” or “I haven’t been willing to make the necessary sacrifices” or “I wanted to do that, but decided it wasn’t worth the effort to me in the past.” This at least allows for the possibility to make different choices in the future.