Gifted. It is a term I always hated in school because it labels certain kids “smart” and others, well…If you weren’t in the gifted program, you were just “average”, learning the best you can alongside the rest of those lemmings.
I was never in the gifted program. I was a B-student with the occasional C sprinkled in here and there. Until I hit high school and took an earth science class.
I rocked earth science, getting straight As throughout the year. I loved it. That class made me want to become a meteorologist (though I never did). It was a subject I was naturally good at, and I excelled. But in truth, science was my only real strength in school. Math, on the other hand, was always my weakest area. I’d get my ass kicked if I took a “gifted” Math class.
I needed extra time getting my work done. I was one of those people who would read several pages in a book, then pause and realize that I had absolutely no idea what I just read. Very little was retained, and it didn’t help that I truly didn’t care about any of it. I hated school.
My mind was elsewhere. Nobody accused me of being one of the “smart kids” in school. I am not particularly gifted. I read slowly and get easily distracted. No recommendation letters from my teachers. I was like “whatever” to the notion that high school prepared me for much of anything.
But you know what?
Who gives a flying whip?
I am 35 and preparing to retire early and live the rest of my life in complete control of my time. We are 100% debt free and accumulating wealth rapidly as we wind down our days of working. Hell, we live in a 200 square foot Airstream with our two dogs, just waiting for the clock to strike “retire”.
In fact, I know that I’m retiring far, far sooner than probably anyone in those gifted classes in my school. I say that not to insult them or the choices they’ve made, but to make a point.
You don’t need to be gifted and talented to retire early.
You don’t need to be a personal finance wizard to control your own destiny. As with anything, it takes practice; a willingness to learn. A desire to want something better, damn it. Better than the average.
Big salaries are not required. Natural mathematical talent need not apply. Why?
Here’s the secret: Personal Finance can be learned. By anyone.
How to learn personal finance
Don’t let anyone tell you (or imply) that being smart enables early retirement. It doesn’t. While it is true that those with higher IQs tend to make more money, big paychecks don’t enable it either.
Nor does having ninja-level knowledge of the stock market matter. Seriously, sometimes the less you know about the stock market, the better you’ll do. Because you stop meddling. You let the stock market do its thing while you sit back, relax and watch your money grow before your very eyes.
Personal finance is easy, and it only takes three steps:
- Want it, bad. Like me with mathematics in grade school, if you don’t want it bad enough, it’ll never happen. If you half-ass this thing, you’ll get half-assed results. I promise. So, don’t. Set your mind to mastering your money and you will. I don’t care what your background is, where you came from, how many hardships you’ve faced. Hell, even if you won the lottery, it doesn’t matter. Dedicate yourself, damn it. Want this more than you want the new iPhone. Don’t let me catch you camping outside the Apple Store on Black Friday. Or at least if you do, don’t complain that retirement just seems so far off.
- Stop spending money. Seriously, bloody stop. Stop shitting on your future so you can buy the latest nonsensical gadget, or keeping up with the latest clothing styles that are controlled by the fashion industry to keep you buying, or dropping large sums of money on stupid expensive cars and huge houses so you can look like you’re smart, rich and successful. Don’t be that person who uses stuff to prove their man (or woman) hood. Just don’t. You lose that way. Every time.
- Invest. It doesn’t even matter in what so long as you’re diversified. Don’t know what diversified means? No problem, just pick a Targeted Retirement account from Vanguard and call it a day. Vanguard diversifies for you. And if your company offers a 401k, use it. Max that shit out through automatic deductions from your paycheck. It lowers your taxable income, which means you’re responsible for paying fewer taxes come April 15th. Don’t meddle with your money. Let it be. Think of your money as a miniature house built from tissue paper. You’re flirting with disaster if you try and mess with it. Send your money into the market and stay away. Don’t touch!
Personal finance is simple
Geez, that’s really it. Stay motivated, stop spending money and invest as much as you can. Quite literally, that’s all there is to personal finance. No need to be a rocket scientist to figure this stuff out once you understand the basic foundation of how wealth is built.
Some people choose more complicated routes like day trading, or more active investments like real estate. That’s your call, but understand that you don’t NEED to take a more complicated route to learn personal finance, master your money and quit the rat race early.
It’s as simple as letting your money work for you rather than the other way around. The more money you spend, the more work YOU need to do to get more of it.
Too many Americans are caught in this wicked spiral.
Steve is a 38-year-old early retiree who writes about the intersection of happiness and financial independence. Steve is a regular contributor to MarketWatch, CNBC, and The Ladders. He lives full-time in his 30′ Airstream Classic and travels the country with his wife Courtney and two rescued dogs.