It’s time we got back to the basics of life

Everyone has their own story about how they got to where they are now along their path to financial freedom.  Some are further along than others; some are just starting.  Likewise, we all have acquired different levels of knowledge, wisdom and education relevant to our journey.

A brief overview of my beginning

Had I been a little (OK, a LOT) wiser, my journey would have began in the late 90’s when I was making decent cash, with stock options, during the dot com boom.  Instead I fell victim to the spoils of money, enjoying being a young 20-something with a fancy sports car and a downtown loft.

I took a career detour, spending the next 10+ years in the music business, which is not exactly known for high salaries and primo benefits, while dabbling in a couple of small retail shops of my own.  I lived paycheck to paycheck, like many Americans, with no savings to speak of.  My 401(k) balance was zero.  They say ignorance is bliss, and they might be right.  I was content because I didn’t really know any better.

You might have heard of a little thing called Napster, or maybe iTunes and the iPod, or Spotify, or or or or and on and on and on.  All of these contributed to the demise of the compact disc, the sales of which were my area of focus.  Come 2010 I was an unemployed former indie record label employee in NYC searching for what came next.


Luckily for me, through a friend of a friend, I landed a job in advertising operations at CNNMoney.  Not only did this give me a new job in a new field (with a better paycheck and benefits), but it also provided me with an introduction to basic personal finance, through articles on the web site.

  • “How much do you need to retire?”
  • “What to do with $1,000 now”
  • “Smart money moves in your 20’s, 30’s and 40’s.”

These are just some of the “groundbreaking” articles one might find on CNNMoney.  They may not be of much use for those  far along in their journey towards financial freedom, but they did open up a whole new world for me.

I realized that if I didn’t make some changes, I’d be behind the eight ball later in life.

I read more, digested more, saved more.  Even though I couldn’t really afford it, I enjoyed socking money away in the 401(k) and seeing the balance grow.  The timing was great, as we were in the middle of a fantastic bull market.  My balance kept going up and up.  Factor in my employer match and I had a nice little savings before long.

That was my beginning

While no longer employed by the site, and even though they’ve undergone some changes that I find less appealing, I still check in from time to time.  One article recently caught my attention: “How to retire by 40: 3 proven tips from someone who has“.

My initial thought that there was likely nothing new for me in this article proved to be correct, but sometimes a refresher on the basics is in order.  Three proven tips.  What’s complicated about that?

  1. Save more
  2. Earn more
  3. Invest more

Success in these three areas is not always easy, but the concept is really quite simple.  Spend less than you make, invest in quality companies or index funds.  Watch the balance grow.  Easy.

A little reminder never hurt anyone

It’s easy to get distracted by the minutia.  What’s the stock market doing today? What did the president tweet today? Who announced a dividend raise, or cut, today?  And so on and so forth.

Sometimes it’s helpful to be reminded of the basics.  Save.  Invest. Wait.  Regardless of the noise, with a long enough timeline, sticking to the basics should get you to where you want to be.

And yes, I stole a lyric for the title of this post:


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