Today I want to take a minute to write about my friend Jim. Here’s a guy who embodies what I talk about on this site: getting rich by identifying your priorities, being frugal on things you don’t care about and spending on the things you do, taking entrepreneurial risks, and realizing the difference between being sexy and being rich. He exemplifies conscious spending.
I went to junior high and high school with Jim, and now he’s one of my roommates. Man, as I write this, I realize we’ve known each other for over 10 years, making me simultaneously amazed and disgusted. Anyway, Jim graduated from Berkeley and now works at a great tech company as a software developer. He found a job he loves. He does entrepreneurial projects on the side. And he’s not fancy about managing his finances–he doesn’t make a big deal out of it, he just methodically handles his business.
I remember him calling me up a while ago, telling me he had just gotten another raise. “Awesome!” I said. Ironically, that was the same week he moved into an even cheaper place to live. Maybe it’s not actually that ironic. Whereas a lot of us take our new raises and spend it, really rich people take those raises, invest them, and continue living on the older wage that they’ve become accustomed to.
He makes conscious choices about what he spends his money on. Jim has told me over and over that he doesn’t care much about living in a fancy place, so he saves money on that. He cooks at home when he can instead of eating out every day. But he loves outdoor stuff–biking, camping, travel. And so he splurges on those things. He has a top-of-the-line bike. He just got back from a week-long trip to New York, just for fun. And he uses his coding skills to do cool things; he’s one of the guys I co-founded an education company with (more info), which we spent our own money on but ultimately failed. The downside was a few thousand dollars. The upside was the potential to have a big impact, learn a lot, and possibly make a lot of money (which we didn’t). He took the risk.
Too often, we think that our rich friends are the ones with the highest-paying jobs who have the nicest clothes, eat at the nicest places, and have the most glamorous lifestyle. No. Those are the people who spend the most. There’s a difference. And a lot of times we think rich means the person who talks about their finances all the time, shows off about the new stock they bought, and uses fancy words like derivatives and options.
There’s a difference between being sexy and rich.
Jim is already rich (more: Why do you want to be rich?). He can live anywhere, but he lives beneath his means. Although he hates Suze Orman and mocks me for watching her (I love her), he’s spent the time to learn about growth and asset allocation and investing. However, if he doesn’t know something, he asks people who do. He saves and invests agressively. Best of all, he doesn’t live like a pauper: His frugality about the things he doesn’t care about allows him to spend a lot on the things he loves. There’s a difference between cheap and frugal.
A couple months ago, Jim jokingly asked me, “Why don’t you ever write about me on your site?” That surprised me and I thought about it for a while. Too often, personal-finance blogs berate people for failing to plan and manage every aspect of their financial future, or only focus on the outlier issues. It’s easy to spend every day writing about the things that we’re not doing, and I think I’ve fallen into that trap a little bit. But I want to celebrate the people who have taken the time to set up their accounts right, thought hard about investing and saving, and created an infrastructure so that it actually gets easier over time. That’s rich. Happy 25th Birthday, Jim.