I have to admit I’m a bit torn by a recent article in CBC about Sean Cooper paying off his mortgage in three years. On the one hand I’ve met Sean before and his a nice guy and I am thrilled he managed to pull off this feat of being mortgage free by age 30. On the other hand, I think that the media attention is bad for most people’s self confidence on doing better in their own financial life.
I understand that from a reporting perspective that showing off the extremes is good way to get interest in your article and provide an example of how far people can go towards a goal if they put everything towards it. Hell, I’ve been in some of those articles. So I do get the idea, but I feel that people that go to the extremes don’t tend to be great models for others. The reason being is largely the fact the duplicating the results is largely impossible for most people. In Sean’s cause, working 100 hours a week over three jobs just ain’t possible for someone with kids if you actually want to see them. Or even in my case, I bought my house at a bargain price of $190,000 (back in 2006) that most people can’t potentially get close to in most of urban Canada today. So while I think these tales can be inspiring to some it also becomes discounted by many as being impossible for others to achieve anything even close to it.
Yet perhaps I’m odd that way, I want to show people what they can do with their lives and not focus entirely on my particularly odd quirks that helped me along my path. While yes, Sean did some extreme things to reach his goal he also did several very normal things like taking a lunch to work rather than eating out each day. Or riding a bike to work. These are not unrealistic changes, but often get ignored in terms of trying to discount why someone can’t do something to be a bit better at paying off their debt. I’m not talking about paying off your mortgage in three year (like Sean) or eight years (like me), but can you take your 25 years down to 18? Likely yes, and without too much effort.
Yet stories like that are common and don’t get much fanfare, so they largely go unnoticed until the person manages to retire 10 years earlier than their co-workers which everyone tends to write off as ‘luck.’ Yet the true of the matter is building a more secure future is the produce of a bunch of minor decisions over the course of decades. Taking your lunch to work isn’t sexy and doesn’t save a tonne of money in a year, but compounding that over three decades and it starts to add up. Repeat that in 25 different ways and add in a touch of taking advantage of a good break during your life and suddenly you are that ‘lucky dog’ that every talks about in the office for a few weeks.
The truth is being financial responsible is rather boring on a day to day basis. Occasionally you do hit those highly emotional milestones which you should celebrate but most of the time it is rather boring and routine. Taking your lunch most days won’t get you in the evening news, but over the years it can make your life considerably better. So don’t get upset at the extremes and remember even they do the boring stuff just the sames as you.