Most of your parents will let you know that for all things, there is a need for some balance.
I agree with this generally. My opinion is that the stable state or the long term baseline for most people is to have some sort of balance.
However, my advice to you is to spend a period of time to go very extreme in doing a lot of things you are interested in.
What Would Some Extreme Lifestyle Experiences Be?
I wanted to find out what kind of more extreme life experiments did people do or thought of doing.
So I asked my Financial Independence Telegram group and they gave some interesting answers.
“Starving in order to scrimp every single cent, attain a freegan lifestyle to save 100% of your salary.”
“I went climbing Mount Kilimanjaro when I was bored with life. Snap decision. I booked everything and went in 2 weeks. Didn’t train for it. I reached the summit but would not recommend anyone to not train and climb!”
“I know a friend who got tired of his life, quit his job and went to Thailand to be a monk. He said he wanted to get away from office politics and find meaning in life. He does not know what else will give him meaningful purpose in life, so he packed and left.
Last I know he is still in Thailand and has been there for quite a few years. He says he does not need much in life, even after becoming a monk. Thailand is relatively cheap, so he has no plans to come back for now except once a year to see his parents and meet up with friends.”
“Artificially impose money restrictions (simulated income shock)”
“Quit job (real income shock)”
“Volunteer to help the poor (perspective changes)”
“Try to live like a King!”
“Long Hikes. Not very extreme but on my last hike (in Nepal) was a good reminder of how little it takes to make one happy. We went for days without showering (It was too cold as well), ate basic but tasty vegetarian food using ingredients that the teahouses owners grew in their gardens, re-wore the same few clothes in our backpacks and had no access to data at all (digital detox).
After I got home, I looked around my house and wondered why I ever felt like I needed to buy so much clutter.”
“Take a 10-Day Vipassana Course” (Vipassana Course is a ten days meditation retreat without technology, speaking, reading, writing, listening to music, exercising, or communicating. It is usually free.)
I also asked my friend Caveman whether he has some ideas. The monk lifestyle maybe something he identifies with.
He has some suggestions (and some that should not see the light of the day):
“Go for your round the world trip with zero budget, work an odd job to earn living expenses and fare for the ticket to the next place.”
“Try to take up a 100% comm base job such as property agent.”
Suffice to say, those who aspire to be FI, their brains can be rather unchained. They surpassed a lot of my expectations when I asked that question.
Being Extreme Allows You to Learn the Point Between What You can Accept and What You Couldn’t
What could we achieve by becoming so extreme?
In short, we learn something about ourselves.
We will often ask our friends for advice on what should be a balanced meal, how much should we save, how much cash should we hold as part of our overall wealth.
I believe for most of us, our limits are different and therefore standard markers limits us from fulfilling our true potential.
The way to find that point where you can “tahan” and “cannot tahan”, you either have to slowly ease up the spectrum, or you can immediately ramp-up to the top end of the spectrum, then slowly take it down.
What We Can Learn from Extreme Saving – Fast Feedback of Results
I was recently asked again, how much should people normally be saving. If I have my way, I would tell the person just take their saving all the way up to 70% of their disposable income.
Well, 70% sounds a bit extreme but the beauty of doing something extreme is that you would not know whether it is extreme until you tried it.
So suppose you decide to try saving 70% of your income, after 1 month, you will come up with one of these conclusions:
- This is not so bad (as in life did not degrade as expected)
- Most of it is quite livable, but I do feel very relief I don’t have to be so extreme anymore
- This is bullshit. I cannot do this.
Whichever conclusion you come to, you will uncover that you are left with a lot of money at the end of the month. If your take-home income is $4,000 a month, you would see $2,800 still left in your account.
The feedback of extreme savings is relatively immediate. You see the result. You would realize “I can do this for 12 months, I would have $33,600 a year or $336,000 in 10 years.”
For a lot of us, whether we continue to stick to some routine depends on whether we see the results. Doing something extreme would most often bring out pretty immediate results.
If not, you realize that after doing this, it does not move the needle. You might need to try something else.
If 70% is not tough enough bring it up to 75%. But if you felt that you could not live with this in the long term, cut it down to 60%.
If not you can cut it down further. At some point, you will reach the point where you are more comfortable with.
So 45% maybe that comfortable savings rate.
The Opposite of Extreme – Relying on the Standard Recommendations
The opposite is to slowly jack up from what is generally advised to you.
In savings, this would mean to save 10% of your disposable income. The downside of doing this is that saving 10% will not give you a sum of money that is significant enough.
If it is not significant, the virtues of savings may not hit you.
You would carry on your life saving only 10% oblivious to the life-changing advantages that putting money away can bring you.
Why Standard Recommendations are Not Always Good
When people give standard recommendations for savings, wellness, diet, commitment, they have to give a sound yet conservative recommendation that is applicable to more people.
2 weeks ago, I chanced upon this article in the Sunday Times. The commentator Mr. Ng, recommends that to have recurring income, you should rely on a low-cost, diversified portfolio instead of dividend investing.
Mr. Ng has to risk manage the opinion and provide a solution that would fit the majority of the people. Deep down, he prefers people to give dividend investing a try.
Who knows, some of you would get the hang of it. Just like those who can do a savings rate.
Conservative and sound recommendations will help people but they are not tailor-made for your situation. It left the true potential unfulfilled.
For a lot of things, the standard guidance given to you is likely not suitable for your own situation. That is why there are personal trainers, there are personal financial adviser, there are lawyers, nutritionist to help you calibrate different aspect of your life.
Extreme Habits are Seldom Sustainable…
But you will be motivated to continue doing it if you see results. Which is the beauty of the fast feedback of extreme actions.
If you tried a carnivore diet for 2 months and did not notice any changes to your wellness, weight, you would probably shift back some of the vegetables.
But if you realize that some of your health problems went away, you will be intrigued to do more research on this, and to continue on this diet for a while.
Thus, extreme things are hard to sustain. It has to be replaced by other kinds of motivations (be it results or goals).
Before You Start, Always Ask: What is the Worst Possible Outcome?
The problem with doing extreme things is that in the wrong context, things could go seriously wrong.
But if we ask the following questions, we might be able to evaluate whether we should be so extreme:
- What is the worst-case scenario?
- Is it going to be life-threatening?
- Will your family or parents dis-own you?
You might realize that things are not going to be so bad. At most, you just wasted or live a really funky life for 1 month.
However, these questions will also make us realize maybe we don’t know enough of things, and better take things one step at a time.
Most of all, doing some extreme things allows us to establish how low or high our limits are.
If you need to do something hard, these experiences have let you know that you been through something harder. Relatively, this will look much simpler.
While my friends have given some kick-ass ideas here are some:
- Eat no meat for 1 week
- Save greater than 50-60% of your income, if you earn above-average income (greater than $9,000 – $12,000 a month for a couple or $4,500 – $6,000 a month for single)
- Practice a very Freegan kind of lifestyle
- Do a No-Spend Challenge. A No-spend Challenge is a challenge where you commit to not spend on something. This could be Eating out, Beauty products or treatments, Beverages beside water, Clothing, Electronics, Hobbies, Treats disguised as groceries, cleaning products, meat, books, streaming media, Instagram. There are a few schemes:
- No-spend Days
- No-spend Week
- No-spend Weekend
- No-spend Month
- No-spend Year
- Try a 100% equity or 100% bond allocation for a period of time
This article is part of my Lifestyle Re-design Series where I provide some philosophical and helpful tidbits to get through life.
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