How am I able to do what I’m doing — quit my job at age 36 to travel the world?
Critics call it privilege, and I’m not denying certain benefits I’ve had, but I want to get real for a second.
There’s privilege, there’s luck, and there’s choice, and the differences are distinct.
PRIVILEGE: You don’t choose your privilege, or lack thereof; you’re born with it. It’s the cards you were dealt. My privilege does include USA citizenship, physical health and ability, skin color, and socioeconomic status (I grew up in a single income, middle class family). However, my privilege makes me no different than millions of other people in the U.S. who also fit my description, but I don’t see them all out here with me, semi-retired and traveling. (Although I’m definitely hoping more join the ranks!)
LUCK: I bought a house in Phoenix in 2013, at the tail end of the recession and housing crash. When I sold it in 2020, I made a fair profit. The opposite would’ve been true had I bought and sold perhaps 10 years earlier. Luck was in my favor on that one. (I also got laid off, twice. That was rather unlucky.)
CHOICE: Choice includes education. I went to an affordable college, applied for scholarships, and had jobs throughout college to help pay for it. (Full disclosure, my parents contributed about $16,000 for my degree, a result of their choices to save while I was a child.) My choices include studying a career path and pursuing high-profile jobs that pay well, over what was “fun,” spending less (living beneath my means), making more money (side hustles, second gigs), and paying off debt as soon as possible by foregoing things I wanted and enjoyed. I’ve bought affordable cars, avoided lifestyle creep and credit card debt, and I invest. (And of course, staying child-free has also increased my wealth.)
I am healthy, I am educated, and I’m a United States citizen, so yes, I have a number of privileges. But financial security is not something that was given to me. It is something I created.
I get to live this life not because of any rare good fortune. I had some luck, and was born with some privilege, but this is mainly about choices. I tell you all this not to brag, but to emphasize — YOU HAVE CHOICE TOO.
There’s no magic, secret formula besides: 1) Spend less than you make or make more than you spend and 2) Do it for as long as it takes to achieve your goals. Or, 3) Do it for a while, take a break to travel, and make another paycheck later.
- Some people rob Peter (their future) to pay Paul (their present).
- Other people pay Peter (their future) and limit/restrict Paul (their present).
- Me? Peter is taken care of, due to the power of compounding interest in my rollover IRA; I will be fine, come age 65. Paul, on the other hand, is going to enjoy himself for as long as he can by living on savings, practicing geo-arbitrage, taking up side hustles, and keeping a budget. (Do you catch my metaphor?)
“Your present circumstances don’t determine where you can go. They merely determine where you start,” said Nido Qubein. I’ve made some poor choices in the past: new cars, numerous, costly purchases that didn’t bring me joy, and I didn’t really get into investing until my early 30s. Still, I’m thankful for all my experiences; it’s how I know what I know today.
Now is YOUR time to choose your path. 😘