I had lunch with Sabino yesterday. He’s my accountant — but he’s also my friend (and a loyal Get Rich Slowly reader).
I told Sabino about how our house has been a money pit over the nine months since we bought it. I told him how much fun I’ve been having with Get Rich Slowly since I bought it back, and about how much work it has turned out to be to get the site renovated.
Sabino told me about his businesses (he doesn’t just own the accounting firm, but bits and pieces of several other companies too) and about his kids (who, to the surprise of both of us, are all teenagers now). He’s worked hard all of his life to give his family a solid future, and now — at age 48 — all of his dreams seem to be coming true.
I’ve shared Sabino’s story several times in the past. But for those who are unfamiliar, here’s a synopsis.
Sabino’s family moved to the United States when he was ten years old. They were poor and didn’t speak English. But from an early age, Sabino wanted to be part of the American Dream. He learned English, worked hard, and put himself through college.
After Sabino got married, he and his wife Kim set financial goals. Their chief aim was for Kim to stay home and raise a family. So, while our friends were buying new homes and new cars, Sabino and Kim rented a mobile home in the country for $200 a month and paid $950 cash for a 1982 Honda Accord. They both worked full-time jobs, but they lived off Sabino’s income alone and used Kim’s salary to repay $35,000 in student loans.
“We made sacrifices,” Sabino says. “We made these choices because of the goals we had. We knew what we were working for, and we were happy to do it.” (Back then, I didn’t understand their choices and sacrifices; twenty years later, it all makes sense.)
Today, Sabino is a successful business owner while Kim stays home to raise their three children, just as they planned. Because of their diligence, they now own a nice home in the country (they paid off the mortgage last spring) and new cars that are fully paid for. By staying focused on their purpose, they’ve been able to build the life they always dreamed about.
Rejecting Society’s Narrative
Yesterday over lunch, we talked about the qualities that lead to success. As I often do, I complained about the current narrative that the mass media is trying to sell Millennials: their lives are tough because the economy sucks and the deck is stacked against them.
“I just don’t believe it’s true,” I said. “The economy doesn’t suck. And now might be the best time in history to be alive. Besides, even if this story were true, so what? If you’re dealt a crappy hand, it’s up to you to make the best of it.”
Sabino nodded in agreement. “I don’t like that sort of thinking either,” he said. “But it’s nothing new. Our culture always has a story they want to tell you about yourself. When I came to this country, for instance, everyone — my friends, my teachers, my family, everyone — had expectations for me and what my life would be like.”
“What do you mean?” I asked.
“When I was young, my parents worked in the fields. That’s how they made money to support us. One day my father pulled me aside. He told me that my future too was to work in the fields — unless I chose to change my destiny. That talk made an impression on me. Nobody expected a poor Mexican kid to graduate from high school, but that’s what I did. Nobody expected a poor Mexican kid to graduate from college, but that’s what I did. Nobody expected a poor Mexican kid to own an accounting firm, but that’s what I did. I decided to live a different story than the one that others had written for me.”
Sabino is one of the inspirations for my financial philosophy, and the reason is obvious. He’s lived it! (And he continues to live it.)
For more on Sabino’s story, check out this interview he did for the Oregon Multicultural Archives at Oregon State University.