Welcome to episode 6, so in the Jones household, fresh back from our UK trip we have been spring cleaning, and it feels so good to remove all that clutter in your life. Over the last couple of years, I have been really intrigued by the minimalist movement. This movement has been around for a long time but it only really caught my attention a couple of years back during a TED Talk by Joshua Fields Millburn and Ryan Nicodemus aka The Minimalists.
Before I go any further, you, maybe wondering why I have started this episode by banging on about minimalism when we are here for Financial independence? Well, I truly believe at the grand old age of 37 years that your ability to manage finances is primarily determined by your mindset, and the mindset of a minimalist sets the perfect foundation to become financially free. Let me illustrate this for you, as you know from my famous Versace jacket back in episode 1, my mindset you could have guessed was hedonistic, impress others with your possessions and live for the day. It is not difficult to see the link between this mindset and poor financial decision making as to be honest financial planning did not exist in my lexicon pre 25.
But now my mindset is the complete opposite, I don’t buy designer clothes, I don’t live for the now, and I can delay gratification safe in the knowledge that I am secure and preparing my family for not only a safe, secure but also bright future. Joshua and Ryan were able to illustrate this a million times better, telling the stories of their previous high-flying careers, accumulating tonnes of “stuff” only to realise the increase in “stuff” wasn’t making them increasingly happy, if anything it was making them feel worse. And Why?
Well, greed to accumulate more affects what you value, you start to value salary and status, demonstrated through your possessions and the way you think the world sees you more than your loved ones, your family and friends, even your passions that have no financial return. The accumulatatist (a word I have just made up) as a warped value around time and how best to spend it. It is only through the eyes of a minimalist that you can truly see the value of time. As you strip away all the stuff that adds no value to your life, and your happiness (or contentment) you start to realise you don’t need to work all the hours under the sun just to afford the repayments on an overpriced flashy car because you don’t need that flashy car as the extra time spent working in a job your potentially hate could be used to spend time with your kids and help them to grow to be the best versions of themselves. As Gary Vee would say, don’t be that guy who just goes to work, to buy dumb shit to impress people that he really hates. Now I don’t want to spoil the whole TED Talk that the Minimalists gave, so I will give you some homework please look at the notes to this podcast for links that are great around minimalism from Joshua and Ryan’s TED Talk, movie and podcast to Matt D’Avella’s podcast the Ground Up Show and YouTube Channel and even the realm of Essentialism by Geoff McKeown. And if you are brave enough for it the in you face, honesty first opinions of Gary Vee, e.g. Gary’s eat shit philosophy to entrepreneurship.
Whilst I would love to say that I had the maturity to change my mindset through simply seeing and taking the advice of others resulting in a Shaolin monk style dedicated determinism to become a minimalist and financially savvy ? I have to hold my hands up and say like many new found learnings its originated from cold hard life lessons, making huge mistakes along the way ? much in the same way a Christian can re-born, I am a re-born financial independentist (again not really sure if that is a word, but have you seen some of the words being allowed into the Oxford dictionary lately? I mean “Whatevs” and “Chillax”? come on Oxford Dictionary ? you used to have so much grace! Anyway I digress, I have already given a bit of insight into my manic spending and lack of saving during my late teens and early spending, the end result of this equation was Desmond Two Two from a Business and believe it or not? Financial Management? degree? which I didn’t utilise for six years and approximately $25,000 pounds or $50,000 in today’s NZ money of debt of top of a moderate student loan and numerous jobs with relatively low salaries to try and service the debt.
I remember as clear as day the morning after the night before after another night of classic British binge drinking, starring into the blurry mirror in my bedsit studio flat in the steel city of Sheffield, thinking I need to eat some humble pie and make a change and look after myself. Fortunately at this stage I was 25, I had no girlfriend let alone wife and no dependents, so there was no selfishness in this decision making I had almost hit rock bottom in terms of the way I was treating my physical self and my same reckless attitude towards money was now scaring me, in particular this debt – this was a new feeling to me and I felt that I really needed to do something about it. So I made a decision to call my Dad and ask him to come to visit me in Sheffield as we needed to have a chat and I need to be honest about my life, work and financial position.
Like the best Dad in the world, he came to see me very quickly, and we sat down to have a chat in the local Wetherspoon’s pub ? I do miss those cheap family boozers! So I ate some humble Wetherspoons’s pie and was frank with my Dad about my financial situation and asked for some help. But I didn’t go into that conversation seeking a hand me out, I needed to show some growth, so I had done some serious thinking and came up with a plan on how I wanted the next few years to pan out in my career as at this time this was a major missing piece, I needed a foundation to build upon. I had once turned my nose up at the thought of a graduate job, but now I had reached a low point it was time for a reset and to retrain.
My job at the time was as a recruiter in the construction industry, I had seen various Quantity Surveyor CVs cross my desk, and they seemed to earn a decent wage and used a similar skillset to those that I had developed during my degree ? so I made a commitment to myself and my father ? Dad if you could lend me the money to free myself from this debt I will promise to retrain as a Quantity Surveyor and get my life back on track and of course pay you back every penny. I know this sounds like a recipe for a guaranteed appearance on Judge Rinder, and there was even no paper created in the form of contract that Mr Rinder loves to see ? but my Dad and I do have a genuine mutual trust, and I could see he believed me and I didn’t want to let him down. I had a flashback from the film The Graduate where the young kid at 25 is told that it is the next ten years of his life that will make him the man ? I saw this as my last opportunity to get things right. So within weeks I had written unsolicited applications to every QS practice in Sheffield ? and my Dad posted them out for me ? I probably couldn’t even afford postage at the time and definitely wasn’t organised enough to have any sort of stationery ? embarrassing to think back on this time really.
Anyway, the result was a new job starting in the new year of 2008, only a few weeks after the chat with my Dad. With my debt paid off, I was now ready to start my adult life again and get my parents paid back. I still wanted to have fun times, but I was slightly more careful with my money and when the opportunity came to make more money by moving jobs forced through a potential redundancy situation at my first QS job I was able to start paying my parents back big time and in on New Year’s Day 2013 after a move to New Zealand mid 2012 my parents were paid back in full, so other than my Student Loan which had a minimal amount left I was virtually debt-free. Given the shock and risk of moving to the other side of the world I had achieved a full minimalist approach to finances and was able to save a large proportion of my salary ? which at its peak would have been around 70-75% – my debt was soon a thing of the past and now my focus was building up my savings, and within two years of paying my parents back I had met my future wife and we were able to put $164,000 deposit down of our own cash for our first home together.
From the ages of 16 ? 25 and 25-37, there were great shifts in mindset, values and beliefs around money. I honestly believe if it wasn’t for the decision to call my father after that night out back when I was 25, my life would have panned out much differently. So what is the moral behind Dale’s episode 6 fable, well a leopard can change its spots. If you Google personality theory and do a bit of reading it become logical that you are not the same person you were when you were a baby, a toddler, at school, in your early years of work and so on and so on. Our thinking, our mindset changes, it is shaped by our environment, our experiences, our mistakes. As humans, it feels like we are wired to set ourselves goals and strive to see them through. You, like I was and to some extent still am, may not be exactly where you want to be on your journey, be that to financial independence or another journey but if a change a of mindset would help you pivot to a more successful route this is possible, you just have to work out what levers you have to pull, make promises to yourself and stick to your plan. Keep that I mind and until next time Happy Fiday?