Guest Post: How A Simple + Straightforward Approach To Money Can Positively Impact Your Financial Future
Organize work and money around your life, not the other way around
I’ve got a little added bonus for you this week, a guest post from my friend Rocco Pendola who writes a Substack called Never Retire.
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Rocco might not know this but I see him as an unofficial mentor of my writing career. He’s one of the best finance writers over at medium.com and is now smashing it here at Substack. Like me, Rocco believes in keeping life simple for a better, healthier and more enjoyable time on this earth. Especially when it comes to your finances.
If you haven’t already, give him a follow at Never Retire.
By Rocco Pendola
In my writing on Medium, I reference Charlie Brown’s articles more than any other.
This is because Charlie’s Simple + Straightforward approach to life—and money—resonates with me big time.
In part because—
I’ll Never Retire.
Have you ever thrown your hands up in the air (like you just care too much!) and said these very same words?
I’ll Never Retire.
When you come to this conclusion and go looking for money advice, the financial media—across the board—says the same thing. You haven’t saved enough. So here’s how much more you need to start saving to accumulate $1 million. The amount of money we generally agree you need to quit work altogether at some point in your 60s.
Newsflash to the money gurus: If large swaths of us were unable to save enough in our 20s, 30s, and 40s, it’s highly unlikely we’ll be able to save exponentially more in our 50s and 60s to fund a traditional work/retire/die retirement.
Who wants to work/retire/die anyway?
I prefer living the semi-retired life across the lifespan. Organizing work and money around my life, not the other way around.
In my Never Retire newsletter, we explore the psychological components of dealing with the reality that you’ll Never Retire. We also focus on concrete personal financial solutions to ensure you live the life you wanna live now and into relative old age.
A life that doesn’t crush you physically and mentally as you spend 40+ hours per week working to service a mortgage and fund a traditional retirement that might not even happen the way you imagined in the first place.
Instead, a life where you work less now, but across most of, if not your entire lifespan.
A life that prioritizes taking time off. And I don’t mean a two-week holiday every year. That’s the stuff the soulless path to traditional retirement is made of.
I mean taking minutes every hour, hours every day, days every month, and weeks and months every year to:
Go for a walk or hike
Take a day or dayslong trip
Drink warm beer in the soft summer rain (thx, Bruce Springsteen)
Sleep under the stars
Spend a few weeks or month in a different country
Or whatever your heart desires and, maybe more importantly, your mind and body require.
To do this or some variation of it, you need two things—flexible work you love (or really enjoy) and a low cost of living.
However, a low cost of living as we know it is no longer enough.
Here’s what I mean, from a recent installment of my newsletter—
How low can you go while still living a fun and comfortable life?
If you’re a freelancer with variable earnings, this specific and the entire discussion likely resonsates.
If you’ve determined you’ll Never Retire, even more.
I’m in both groups.
As a freelancer or other small business owner, one month your means might be $10,000. Another month it might be $1,500. Another — $4,800. Another — zero. And so on.
So, for all intents and purposes, your means mean nothing. However, finding the floor means something.
As someone who will Never Retire — at least not traditionally — you must allocte and preserve cash differently than someone who will draw down a nest egg — absent cash flow from work — once they turn 65 (or whatever).
In this scenario, the difference between living below your means (paying $2,500 instead of $3,500 for an apartment and saving $1,000) and finding the floor (paying $1,500 and saving $2,000) matters immensely for your future.
You’re not doing the math on the way to $1,000,000 so you can finally quit work and traditionally retire. If you were, you could just invest that $1,000 from living below your means each month between 25 and 65 and get to a million with little problem.
However, if you wake up one day in your late thirties or early forties and realize I’ll Never Retire, you might have no choice but to abandon what has become a futile quest for $1,000,000. You might have to strive to not merely start living below your means, but to find the floor.
Finding the floor. Saving as much as possible on your biggest expenses. Not sweating the small expenses.
Even if you’re paying outrageous U.S. prices for your morning coffee (as in, $5 for a cappuccino), that $5 a day pales in comparison to having more apartment than you need.
$5/day = $150/month = $1,800/year
The time you spend enjoying that cafe—however you do it—is probably worth the price of admission, if not more.
However, thinking about the rent example.
If you opt for the $1,500 apartment instead of the $3,500 one in, say, Los Angeles, you’re saving $2,000 a month.
$2,000/month = $24,000/year
Now that’s meaningful money.
It can be the difference between hopelessly treading the personal financial hamster wheel and living a life with as little financial stress as possible now and for the duration.
Traditional retirement is dead.
It’s another reason why I write about Never Retiring.
We need alternative approaches to managing our money to facilitate semi-retirement across the lifespan. Not the old way of drive yourself into the ground for 40 years/retire/die.
And, as Charlie regularly articulates so well, the Simple + Straightforward approach is almost always best.
So our themes pair well. Like dry wine and stinky cheese.
Ultimately, it’s this sharing of ideas between likeminded people—you, me, Charlie—that offers hope and sets us on unique paths via productive and meaningful action.