Get Rich Slowly

My financial philosophy: The core tenets of Get Rich Slowly

As I resume writing at Get Rich Slowly, one of my goals is to share a unified theory of money. This is a big change from when I started the site in April 2006.

You see, 11-1/2 years ago, I didn’t have a coherent financial philosophy. Not even close. Because of this, I was deep in debt and struggling to make ends meet on an average American income. I was lost in the woods. The only thing I knew was that all of the books I read seemed to say the same thing: “There’s no reliable way to get rich quickly; however, there’s a time-tested path to get rich slowly.” That’s why I started this website.

Back then, I was fishing around for anything that would work. I’d try any tip or technique that sounded plausible — and even some that didn’t. Here are a few examples:

Over the years, as I read and wrote more about money, I began to see other patterns similar to “get rich slowly”. Gradually, I adopted a series of rules (or “tenets”) that I believed could help me — and others — live a more prosperous life. I developed a rough financial philosophy, one that became more streamlined as the years went by.

The Fundamental Tenets of Get Rich Slowly

Although my tenets have shifted slightly over the past decade, they’re still remarkably close to what they were when I first published them on this blog back in 2008 and 2009.

Here are the current core tenets of my financial philosophy (with links to my Money Boss website):

Please note that these are not fixed in stone. My financial philosophy has evolved with time, and will continue to evolve as I learn and experience more with money.

Also, these are my rules and guidelines for building wealth. As you begin to manage your money more mindfully, you’ll develop your own financial tenets. Your experience may or may not match mine. Your tenets might be similar — but there might be some differences too.

The Biggest Change to My Financial Philosophy

There’s been one huge change to my financial philosophy over the past 11-1/2 years.

When I started this site, I firmly believed what I wrote at the start of this article: “There’s no reliable way to get rich quickly; however, there’s a time-tested path to get rich slowly.” Today, I realize I was wrong. There is a reliable way to get rich quickly — or at least moderately quickly. But it’s not easy.

Since I sold Get Rich Slowly, I’ve discovered the financial independence movement. (This is commonly called the FIRE — or FI/RE — movement. These letters stand for Financial Independence/Retire Early.) Financial independence (and early retirement) are all about achieving a high saving rate — through a combination of frugal living and high income — so that you’re able to quit work in years instead of decades. A great intro to the topic is Mr. Money Mustache’s article about the shockingly simple math behind early retirement.

Here’s the basic idea: The higher your saving rate, the sooner you can retire. If you save ten percent, as is commonly recommended by financial advisers and personal-finance books, it’ll take you roughly 50 years to stockpile enough to quit your job. If you save twenty percent, as recommended by aggressive advisers and money bloggers, it’ll take you about 35 years to accumulate enough to leave work. But if you can, say, save half your income, you can retire in less than 20 years.

This isn’t a scam. It’s math. It’s truth.

Discovering this “secret” (which isn’t really a secret, obviously) changed my entire financial philosophy. Sure, it’s great to get rich slowly — but you can do better.

The Bottom Line

Now, five years after becoming an advocate for the “shockingly simple math”, I’ve moderated a bit. I’ve returned to center.

I still believe that early retirement via a high saving rate is a fantastic goal for many people. If you’re one of those who wants to quit the rat race as soon as possible, you should absolutely do what you can to live on less while earning a high salary.

At the same time, I recognize that not everyone is eager to retire early. Some people like their jobs. My ex-wife Kris, for instance, loves her work and has no desire to rush to retirement. She’s saved enough that she’ll be done soon anyhow, but she’s happy to continue doing what she’s doing for the next few years.

Plus, there are people who like their luxuries. They like driving a nice car, and if that means sacrificing a few years of retirement, so be it. They enjoy living in a nice neighborhood or taking fancy vacations or spending big bucks on their cable television package. For them, these expenses align with their values, but early retirement isn’t as appealing.

When I first learned about early retirement, I looked on people like this with disdain. Sad but true. After thinking about this for a few years, though, I’ve come to realize that it’s not fair of me to judge the choices others make — as long as these choices are deliberate and aligned with their value system. (But if people are spending out of habit or because that’s what their friends do, or if their spending isn’t congruent with their life purpose, well then I’m here to help!)

The bottom line is that my goal is to help you no matter what your goals are and no matter where you are on the road to financial freedom. I understand that people are imperfect. We’re not machines who can automatically make optimal choices. (Hell, I’m not even sure there are optimal choices in most circumstances.) I’ve made plenty of money mistakes in my own life, so I’m not about to judge you for your missteps.

And that’s what I want to do here at Get Rich Slowly.

If your goal is to achieve early retirement, I want to give you the info you need to achieve that aim. If your goal is to have a happy home in suburbia, I want to help you do that too. If your goal is to drop out of society so that you can travel the world with only a backpack of possessions, I’ll do what I can to teach you how to make that dream come true.

One last thing: As always, I believe personal finance is personal. I believe our choices are shaped by who we are and what we believe. I intend for Get Rich Slowly to be a place for everyone to come together and exchange ideas, regardless of belief. In the past, I kept things as free from politics and religion as possible. I’ll continue to do that — with an exception here and there. Get Rich Slowly isn’t blue or red. It’s purple. (Well, it’s green actually…)