Recently, I recalled being a kid in middle school and stumbling upon the concepts of dividend investing, as well as building long-term, generational wealth through Joshua Kennon on About.com.
When I first came upon the concepts, I was misguided as you would expect a middle school kid to be in that I wanted to build obscene wealth during my lifetime that would put me among the Forbes billionaires just for the sake of being obscenely rich and giving into consumerism.
I would continue to possess this mindset of striving for obscene wealth for no serious reason (though, perhaps my reason in the back of my mind was the freedom aspect that I'll delve into) until I began high school.
Around the time of high school about a year later, I began reading Joshua Kennon's personal blog, Jason Fieber's Dividend Mantra blog (and as of a few years ago, his MrFreeat33 blog), and Tim McAleenan Jr.'s The Conservative Income Investor blog.
It was really upon reading those blogs, and especially Jason's blogs that I began to think about more than just the scoreboard aspect of money and more deeply about the aspect of money that is the most powerful, which is the fact that one of the things that money is capable of buying is freedom over one's time to choose what they'd like to pursue.
I'll Take Freedom And Frugality Any Day Over Excessive, Meaningless Wealth
As part of my foolish thinking in my early teen years, I envisioned that I would own my own exclusive and luxurious private island somewhere in the Caribbean in my later years. How I thought at the time that purchase would be able to allow me to live a fulfilling and happy life is beyond me to this very day.
I suppose that would be a reflection of the consumerist culture we live in and the fact that by the time an American teenager reaches age 18, they have seen approximately 350,000 advertisements, according to the University of Washington, which all seem to promise happiness and fulfillment designed to encourage consumerism.
As I read about dividend growth investing and the ability for average wage earners to achieve financial independence at a relatively early age by spending purposefully and investing aggressively in high-quality dividend stocks, a light bulb went off in my head that I could be one of those people to achieve financial independence and pursue my passions rather than having to work a job just for the sake of paying bills.
Even though I don't have all of the details of what my post-FI life would look like at this time, I know that I wouldn't mind having more time to exercise, watch sports, blog more, write more for Seeking Alpha, and spend time with family. I often find that weekends go by too fast and I am unable to do all that I would like to do.
I came to the realization that rather than simply working at a job I may not be fulfilled at for the sake of acquiring wealth beyond what I would even be able to reasonably spend as a naturally frugal person, I would be happier by achieving financial independence to enable myself to pursue the interests and activities that enhance my quality of life.
While obscene amounts of wealth aren't necessarily a bad thing (and one can actually create even more significant wealth by being FI and leveraging their enthusiasm for their passion to produce valuable goods or services for society), I came to the realization years ago that beyond the basics of food/an abundant source of clean water, housing in a reasonably safe area, quality healthcare, and taxes being covered, nothing else is needed to fulfill the two rungs of Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs, which cover physiological needs and safety needs.
Simply by having the financial means to passively provide the basics in life and a bit of money for discretionary spending, you are living better than the vast majority of the world, which lives in fear of possibly losing their job and being unable to provide for themselves and their family's basic needs.
It is from that point, one is able to focus solely on building stronger relationships and connections with others to meet their psychological needs and to focus on their passions to give themselves a sense of accomplishment and eventually, self-actualization.
When someone is getting ready for a job, working a job, and decompressing after a job, they lose much of their time that they could otherwise be focusing on working toward self-actualization, which is necessary to live a happy and productive life.
Money is a tool and just as it can be used for bad purposes that prevent one from living a fulfilling and happy life (one purpose of which, is unchecked consumerism), money can be used as a tool to improve one's friendships and connections, and to pursue passions in a manner that would otherwise be difficult when working full-time at a job that may be unfulfilling.
It took me until high school to come to this realization, but I'm glad I did because I believe it will ultimately help me to live a more purposeful and fulfilling life.
Did you have any excessive consumerist thoughts that were guided by a society of consumerism as a teen? If so, what were they?
Since you're on this blog, I'm assuming that you have probably since changed your beliefs on consumerism and have adapted a more mindful approach to spending.
If that's the case, what made you change your beliefs and adopt frugality as a way of life?
As always, I appreciate your readership and look forward to reading the comments that you are free to leave in the comment section below.