There are many reasons for me to consider myself lucky. I began thinking about early retirement when I was only 18. I was reading books on personal finance in between studying for exams. Later in college, I was already contributing to a Roth IRA and had my student loans lined up on death row. With a degree in chemical engineering, I was also bound to an above average salary.
It may seem from the outside that every little thing in my financial life runs smoothly. This must be why I am so overly optimistic about the future. With this, it is easy to assume that my being on the road to a brief work life is atypical, and therefore a waste of effort for most people to pursue. I mean, normal people’s lives are riddled with bumps and hiccups along the way, what do these people do?
Surprise, I am a normal person. My life is just as full of as mistakes as the next guy. In fact, I probably encounter MORE mistakes than the next guy. This is because I recognize that mistakes are a good thing. I will only depend on paid employment until age 30 or so not a result of luck, but as a result of trying new things and failing.
Life is not like following a road map. It is continuous trial and error so that you may create your own map.
And boy, did I have some errors early on… as a college student dreading a life of corporate work, I began to explore possible alternatives. I tested the waters in the world of stock trading. This was one of many ideas I experimented with as a means to escape the rat race. I decided that I could realistically play with $500. This was an amount that was safe to lose in my mind. I began to play around in the tantalizing minefield of penny stocks. I picked a lucky company and turned my $500 into nearly $3000 in just a few weeks. My excitement was through the roof. I decide that since I was now a pro stock trader, it would be safe to throw $1500 more in. Gotta go big to win big!
You know the rest of the story. I just as quickly dropped down to about $400 before fear replaced hope and I got out. I lost $1600 on the endeavor (or $3200 after 10 years).
Another big mistake of mine was how I handled college. I do not mean with academics, but with planning. I put no thought into my college plan until about a week before my freshman year. I started as a psychology major and switched to mechanical engineering FOUR DAYS in. Did I mention I also started at a school that had no engineering program? I decided I would stay two years to get my general courses covered before transferring to a more expensive engineering school. I also developed an interest for chemistry along the way and switched engineering disciplines.
When it came time to transfer, I was to complete some summer courses at the new school (University of Maryland) before coming in. I decided I was going to commute 3 hours a day while taking two condensed and extremely difficult courses (Thermo and a Numerical Methods course) oh, and that I was going to spend my weekends at the beach, it was summer, after all.
Most would realize beforehand that this was a recipe for disaster, however I did not have this foresight. Recognizing about halfway through that I would not pass a course needed to move on, I withdrew from both courses. There would be no refund on the $3000 tuition, not to mention losing another $800 on subletting the apartment I already had for the fall and would no longer be using.
These two mishaps happened in the same years as each other, resulting in a $5400 loss very early on in terms of my saving and investing years. I also would end up taking an extra year to graduate, and paying OUT OF STATE TUITION at my backup school, West Virginia University (Every dime for tuition is out of my pocket), ouch.
These mistakes pushed my stress and anxiety about the future past their limits. For months I experienced stomach problems and trouble sleeping.
And then something amazing happened. The increased difficulty forced me to be more creative in solving my problems. I learned about other forms of investing and now make money in my sleep. I learned about the true correlation between spending and happiness and discovered it was easy to cover tuition once I cut out the monetary leakage. My next year in college was a bit of a transitional period. I took only 18 credit hours over the course of the year, most of them filler classes.
In this time I pursued personal goals, like training for and completing an English century on my bike. I took my personal finance education to a whole new level, reading books and blogs, experimenting with this and that. I discovered that this type of lifestyle, working on what you want, not feeling like your nose was to the grindstone… this was the way to live. I decided I would make it happen, and now I am well on my way to my goals. By age 30 I will have a paid off house and half a million dollars working for me, safely kicking back $20,000/year for me to live off comfortably. I will also have the extra margin of safety from the fact that I will surely make some income here and there pursuing my passions.
We all know that mistakes are a result of failure, but what we don’t know is that mistakes are something to be sought after. Mistakes are how we learn and improve. I could fill pages with some of the other mistakes I’ve made, just as any other human being could do. I covered these two big ones because I believe they helped trigger getting my life in order later on. Never believe that success is impossible if you are making mistakes. Success is only possible IF you are making mistakes
Success is a journey, not a destination.