Financial independence is a dream of mine, but to discover how it came to be involves retracing back to the early days of my youth. During this period of time, financial independence didn’t yet exist for me, but pure, unrestricted play time was something I truly embraced. In fact, my first recollections of desiring to be free take me all the way back to the beginning of grade school. I used to dread the end of Summer, as this signaled the end of fun and the re-emergence of forced routine back into my life.
An episode of The Simpsons always pops into my mind when I think back to these early years. In particular, episode 101 – The Boy Who Knew Too Much, which starts off with Bart daydreaming in class, picturing himself lying on a raft on a calm, sunny day, drifting aimlessly to nowhere. It wasn’t before long that I would start replicating this exact daydream during my own time in class. I longed to live in a world without any: bells, whistles, teachers, principals, etc. The seeds of anarchy had infiltrated my mind! The idea that one SHOULD be free was no longer an abstraction, but something that I now felt was my God-given right. The intervening years could be classified as a forced struggle, but altogether manageable, since I was always rewarded with Summer vacation at the end of each school year.
As the years passed, I adapted to the fixed schedule of school for 9 months, and Summer break for 3 months. It wasn’t what I would call the perfect compromise, but it was obviously better than the alternative, school for 12 months STRAIGHT, which some kids did have to endure (luckily not me).
As I got older, money started to cross my mind with greater frequency. Growing up in a poor family meant that there was never enough to go around. So, I knew I had to take measures into my own hands if I wanted to better my situation financially. I got my first job while in high school, at 15, bagging groceries on the weekend. The work was difficult, as it involved standing up all day and constantly moving/lifting things. Even more taxing was I often had to collect shopping carts and push them up a ramp in order to return them to their designated location. Many times, at night in pouring rain. Looking back, I am most grateful for this early exposure to hard work as it helped instill a strong work ethic, and resolve, which I feel will be necessary to achieving early financial independence.
The combination of work and school meant there was little leisure time for me. This went against the now ingrained belief in my mind that one ought to be free. Still, I couldn’t imagine not working, since I so desperately needed the money. The pure, unrestricted play time of my youth was now a thing of the past. I now knew that cash was indeed king, and it was probably something that would be closely coupled in my life from that point on. The first taste of the working life, unfortunately, left a lot to be desired. I constantly questioned, “this can’t really be all there is to life can there? Do people really just work all day until they retire?”
Frustrated, I used this anger as motivation to find answers. I searched online to find ways to “make it rich”. In time, around my junior year in high school, I started educating myself in all things, finance. With luck, my first finance read was- The Richest Man in Babylon. This book taught me the importance of holding money close to the vest, protecting it, and watching it multiply. I was too young to know much about investing, so I simply hoarded the cash (at least 10% of my earnings, stashed safely away in my comic book box). It felt good coming home each day from work and adding just a tiny bit more to the collection. When the pile of money got too large, I would exchange the $10 bills and $20 bills for a $100 bill.
I kept this up throughout the last 2 years of high school, always envisioning the clay tablets from Babylon whenever I bagged groceries. I knew that each day I put my nose to the grindstone would be one less day I would need to do so in the future. I simply forced myself to adapt to a frugal lifestyle, coercing until it fit like a glove. Even though I vacillated at times, succumbing to peer pressure and spending large chunks of money on hopeless endeavors, I now knew what steady-state felt like. I was off to the right start, and laying out the first blueprints for achieving early financial independence… little did I know then, that someday I would be blogging about it 🙂