I remember the moment that I decided to pursue financial freedom. It was like I had been struck by a bolt of lightning. The goal of financial freedom seemed so important, so clear, so obvious to me that I was thunderstruck. I was angry that I hadn’t been able to discover the concept earlier in life. I was frustrated that I had no easy path forward to accelerate toward my goals. I felt obligated to tell everyone I knew about this concept, which surely, they too would understand and immediately begin pursuing with their best efforts.
Except almost nobody cared. And of the few people who seemed to agree with me, only a handful of them took any action. It just didn’t occur to me that folks might not be interested in financial freedom.
I remember trying to convince friends, family, and colleagues to go down this route. I thought, truly, that I was doing these people a “favor” by enlightening them! I’d approach them with something more or less like the following:
Great news! Life does NOT have to be spent behind that desk earning a paycheck so that you can invest $5 per day and maybe become a millionaire at 65, just in time to where that is enough to scrape together a passable existence until the end! There is a far superior financial strategy that eliminates the need for work at all much earlier in life and exposes you far less to the whims of the market when you are old and unable to work!
I believe that I am fairly persuasive to some, and I have managed to get multiple people in my life on this train by explaining the benefits and articulating the steps needed to get there articulately and in an easy-to-understand way.
But I’ve also ticked a lot of folks off. Instead of hearing what I’d hoped to be saying to them, they interpreted my words like this:
YOU SUCKER! You are wasting so much money on crap that is not important! You are stuck at that horrible job in your mediocre house, with your mediocre car. You’ll be doing that same old stuff for the next 45 years because your ability to handle money STINKS! Listen to me instead, because I, Scott Trench, Lord of the Universe, am smarter and more happy than you, even though I know very little about you. Change your entire life to be more like me!
When you come off like this (and you do come off like this if you try to tell people how to live their life to pursue early financial freedom in an annoyingly superior tone), you make no friends and win no new converts. Other people do not care about what you think is best. They do not care to hear that they do not know how to manage money. They do not care to revisit what they feel makes them happy. They do not care to be told how to manage material parts of their lives.
And, guess what? They are absolutely, 100 percent correct.
It is not my place or your place to attempt to persuade them otherwise. This is America, and you get to choose your own path in this country. People who are not interested in financial freedom can and should be allowed to run their lives according to their interests, whatever the financial outcome of those decisions.
In this article, I want to cover this topic at length–the topic of discussing financial strategy and financial freedom with family and friends. I want to talk about how to broach the subject and when to back off.
And I’ll start by saying that I believe that it is important that every single person in the world has the opportunity to become aware of the concept financial freedom and viable approaches to attain it early in life. I also believe that folks should be free to reject financial freedom and to pursue their interests freely.
Related: How to Calculate Your Freedom Number by Learning Your “Real” Net Worth
So, it is important to tactfully present the idea as a possibility, yet not ram it down other people’s throats. This is especially important if you wish to develop in the other person an eager want for this important financial goal. It’s also vital to understand that many people will not wish to hear what you have to say, to understand the reasons behind this, and to allow them to live their lives in willful ignorance of sound personal finance or without the goal of financial freedom in prominent position.
How to Broach the Subject of Money with Family and Friends
Remember, in the context of this article we are assuming that you, the reader, wish to persuade someone else that is not necessarily interested in or aware of the concept of financial freedom to begin pursuing that objective. You have good intentions and wish only to share the good news with people who are important to you, yet those people have not asked for your opinion on how to run their lives.
The worst way to broach the subject of financial independence and financial strategy with folks who have not brought up the point on their own is to in any form insinuate that the other person is “doing it wrong.” The pursuit of financial freedom encompasses almost all of the major aspects of an individual’s personal life, including their career, housing/transportation expenses, children, pets, spouse, entertainment, and money/investment management. Telling someone that they are living their life unwisely is not your job and is likely to create an enemy that loses respect for you.
Instead, if I want to share this concept with someone new, someone who has not asked me to talk about this subject, I explain to them what I am doing and why I am doing it, without any reference to what they are doing or what they should be doing in their life. I simply keep my elevator pitch to the following:
“I am house-hacking so that my tenants can cover the rent. I’ve done this a few times, and I have a nice little portfolio of rental properties and plan to continue doing it so that I can keep easily building passive income to supplement my wage income.”
At this point, folks either have their interest piqued and will inquire further about how I’m doing it (at which point I’m only too happy to dive into my favorite subject), or they have no interest and the conversation ends. If interested, I begin giving a how-to, describing what will and what will not produce a result that accelerates one toward early financial freedom.
The worst follow-up to this is something to the effect of, “You know, you should consider this approach as well!” This statement does not help your cause. If they listened to what you said, they will be interested of their own accord and will follow up.
Why Other People Won’t Listen or Aren’t Interested
Look, I get it. I don’t devote my professional (and much of my personal) life to BiggerPockets and to helping others pursue financial freedom because this is just another job. I do it because I love it. I really, truly do NOT understand why every single person that is making a median or higher income in this country is not moving toward financial freedom with a strong sense of urgency, at least when major life obstacles are not in the way like health or family problems. I really don’t understand how a more expensive home, car, vacation destination, or bottle of whisky can possibly lead to more happiness than the freedom to live out one’s waking hours without the need for a paycheck.
Really, I agree with you, dear reader! I don’t get why people aren’t just hustling for the few years needed to get the snowball rolling and live life on the other side with a huge surplus of passive income for the remaining decades of life! Regardless of whether you continue to work hard at your career for many more decades or “retire” and relax at an early age, the benefits to early financial freedom are crystal clear to me. That plan makes so much sense to me that I really am unable to empathize with people that fully understand it and then reject it.
I’m either too zealous or too naïve.
Either way, I can understand why someone might be skeptical of you or I when we are explaining early financial freedom and how to attain it to someone else. I believe there are two primary reasons for this.
- First, if you are pursuing early financial freedom, then you are living below your means.
- Second, if you are succeeding in building significant wealth, the scale at which you operate ceases to be comprehensible to your listener.
Reason #1: If you are pursuing financial freedom, you are living below your means.
When I started pursuing financial freedom, I started with just $3,000 in the bank and median salary (and yes, that’s a great head start—better than having significant student loan debt!). I made $48,000 per year. I lived in an apartment with a roommate in a place that could delicately be described as “not cool.” I made lunch. I biked to work. I turned down fancy dinner invitations that might cost money. I didn’t go to Ibiza or Vegas to party. I kept this frugal lifestyle up for four years straight. I still do this.
Don’t get me wrong—I still had and have fun. I still skied the local mountains to Denver, and I still enjoyed moderately expensive nightlife. I still had a great social life, stayed fit, and lived the lifestyle that I hope every young 20-something gets to enjoy. But I accumulated wealth much faster than peers with the same or even greater salaries.
But that’s not what other people saw from the outside looking in on my life. All other people saw was that I lived in a worse apartment in a worse area, drove a worse car, and ate food that took more time to prepare. The fact that I could have spent more money and looked more outwardly successful in all of those categories and chose not to was lost on them.
And if I was living so far below my means, with a lifestyle seemingly beneath my status, then why would others have listened to me? I had nothing to show for all my “sacrifice” at the time except for cash in a bank account at first and then a low-end duplex in a not-so-nice neighborhood. What’s to love about my approach if it means giving up the status symbols and lifestyle habits that are luxury living, driving, eating out, and traveling to exotic places?
Ask yourself the same question: Why should someone else trust your plan when you are encouraging them to cut back on their lifestyle and to do hard things like discipline themselves, set a budget, pay down debt, and read books on investing? It’s not your place or mine to force people to do the things necessary to become successful financially. We can only show them what we are doing and why. Then, we can hope that the merits of our plan will become apparent.
Reason #2: If you pursue financial freedom successfully, you will become unrelatable.
I’m just closed on a quadplex last week. I now own and manage 8 units. Friends are wondering how I was able to purchase so much property. The answer is that I saved my money for years in a row, house-hacked, and have developed passive income. I bought with a partner, and we each brought 50% of the 25% down payment down. That’s around $50,000 each, in this example.
Related: Are Your Children Stopping You From Achieving Financial Freedom?
So, the answer to how I can afford to purchase this property is that I am bringing $50,000 to the table.
Still, $50,000 is a lot of money. It’s unrelatable to many of my peers. It’s also less than half of my liquidity and a sum that I hope to easily be able to save EVERY year by adding this property to my portfolio and supplementing my job income and other rental income with its passive cash flow. It’s a sum that I hope every single person reading this can accumulate on an ongoing annual basis within 3-5 years of aggressively pursuing financial freedom by making the appropriate lifestyle, career, and investment choices.
But it’s a decade (or more) of savings to people saving less than $10,000 per year, compounded by the fact that most of that wealth accumulation is going on inside of a 401(k), where it is less likely to be used toward real estate investing. To folks in this situation, $50,000 is an absurd amount of money, especially in the form of cold, hard cash that they can thrown down on a rental property. It’s so much that they can’t comprehend saving that much in five years, let alone annually.
In my first year out of college, I saved between $20,000 and $25,000 of my $48,000 per year salary. There was no doubt in my mind that with a house-hack or two and some career progression and moderate income gains, I would be more or less able to bring exactly the amount of cash I brought to the closing table. I’ve been publicly talking about and executing my plan on this blog for several years now. It’s no secret. But other people can’t see this happening in their own lives.
If you succeed in your quest for early financial freedom—or even just the first few hundred thousand dollars in real net worth—you will become unrelatable to many of your peers and family members. That’s part of the deal.
Some people can see the snowball. Some people can’t. Those who can’t won’t believe you or be interested in the struggle to get started and won’t be able to relate to you when you begin dropping tens of thousands, hundreds of thousands, or millions of dollars to buy truly significant assets.
I’m sure I’ve been a pain in the butt the last few years. I’m sure that proselytizing this goal almost religiously to family, friends, and colleagues has been annoying. I’ve stopped doing that. I’ll continue to write and talk about it with anyone and everyone I meet on BiggerPockets. I’ll continue to discuss the stuff with people who want to talk about it. And when people ask me what I do for a living or about my career, I will continue to share what I’m doing and why.
And I’ll cross my fingers, hoping they will continue the conversation and make changes in their own lives.
But it’s not my place to tell uninterested people how to live their lives. And it’s not yours, either.
Live your own life, pursue your financial goals with a zeal, and watch the benefits pile up as the years go by. Tell others about your goals, plans, hopes and dreams, and do it early and often, but do not attempt to make your goals their goals.
If and when people become interested in pursuing financial freedom, they’ll know who to turn to for help. But until then, live your own life.
How do you broach the subject of investing and financial freedom with family and friends? What kind of reception have you received?
Leave your comments below!
Note By BiggerPockets: These are opinions written by the author and do not necessarily represent the opinions of BiggerPockets.