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He made it happen by working hard and not buying into the "consumer culture."

2 minute read

After Michael from Financially Alert graduated from the University of California, San Diego with an economics degree, he and a few friends started an “IT support and integration company.”

Michael says, “It was 2002, just after 9-11 decimated the dot-com era. I was responsible for my company’s finances.  I managed cash flow relatively conservatively and always paid our employees and vendors on time.”

Michael and his friends grew it for 10 years before selling the company to a private equity firm. As a result, Michael retired early, at age 36 in 2012.

Sounds like a lucky break, but Michael dreamed of “financial freedom” from as early as 10 years old.

“I was exposed to some extended family that did pretty well with business and real estate,” remembers Michael. “I wanted to emulate them because I saw the freedom they experienced.  As for my own family, we were middle class, but I definitely felt poor at times when my parents divorced.”

As he worked at the IT support company, Michael did not spend lavishly or subscribe to the “consumer culture.” He lived a relatively frugal life and sometimes saved as much as 50 percent of his income.

His financial philosophy does not include what many Americans accept as normal — massive debt.

“I think debt is a terrible lie that our consumer culture promotes,” says Michael. “If people really understood they were getting such a raw deal with their debt, I don’t believe there would be as many people in it.”

Michael also believes that buying more “things” won’t make you feel rich or fulfilled. “Keeping up with the Joneses is just another way to propagate this myth of ‘more is better,'” says Michael. “The truth is we decide when we feel ‘rich’ and it’s not controlled by a number.”

He recommends taking a “balanced” approach when dealing with finances. “I think balance is the key component to happiness.  Therefore, after my basic needs are met, I will occasionally purchase my ‘wants.’ But I don’t tip the balance.”

He doesn’t ask for much. He travels, enjoys some good meals and maybe buys a tech gadget. I think Michael’s perception of money differs from most people’s perception. Whereas some believe money brings them “things,” Michael believes it brings him the freedom to experience life — or as he says, “to live a life of abundance.”

Michael provided us with three financial tips that helped him secure financial freedom:

  1. Educate yourself about money.  You don’t need to know everything, but enough to be a good steward of your money.  Don’t hand over the keys to your castle blindly.
  2. Invest regularly and consistently from your income.  When you get a raise, increase your contributions and let compound interest do the work over the long haul.
  3. Dollar cost average into low-cost index funds.  It’s as simple as that.  You will have access to substantial market returns with relatively low risk.

I’ll leave you with Michael’s words: “As long as you are living your life to your highest potential, with purpose, and gratitude – you are already wealthy.”

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About the Author

Brian Bienkowski

Brian Bienkowski

Brian Bienkowski has been writing about personal finance for over 15 years covering debt recovery, fraud, and credit topics. He has worked on several personal finance books and guides that help consumers navigate the US credit system. When he’s away from the keyboard he enjoys craft beer and fishing – and once enjoyed a cold Sweet Water IPA after catching a sailfish.

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