No. of Recommendations: 118
I have always looked at the many books that profess to tell us the "X" number of "keys to success, happiness, personal or financial fulfillment" with great disdain. During one of our Hocus debates last summer I said that there were at least 20 things more important to FI than a SWR. My guess is that there are at least 100 such things.

Now that I have been called on it, I find myself in the postion of having to spell out 20 that I view as important. I recognize up front that any such attempt is largely futile as each one many not apply to every person. It is also very likely that I will leave out a few that some of you will deem more important than the 20. Hopefully, if nothing else it will provide a breather for those growing weary of the constant political debates. So here goes.

1. LBYM. All things flow from this one IMHO.

2. Learn to work both sides of the financial equation. This should be intuitively obvious, but I believe it is essential to one's ultimate success.

3. Consider your LT physical health to be just as important as your financial health.

4. Strike a healthy balance in your life. While striving to reach your LT goals, you should not forget to enjoy the journey. I was never a brown bagger in my working career. It would have been cheaper for me to bring my lunch, but I always felt it was mentally important to get out of the office and clear my mind each day. If you really enjoy your Starbucks Double Latte go for it, providing doing so does not cause you to violate point number 3. Back in 1991 it took me a year to refinish my basement. I enjoyed the project and it relaxed me. I rewarded myself at the end with a big screen TV (my incentive for finishing). If someone were to tell me that the $1100 should have been invested in the S&P500, I would tell them to go to hell.

5. Learn as early as you can that most bosses are not any more intelligent than you are.

6. Along with point #5, learn that while they may not be very smart, they still have power. Don't let the incongruity of #5 and #6 mess with your head.<g>

7. To the degree that one employs choice in selecting a SO, pay attention to the obvious warning signs. Likewise, if you are lucky enough to find a real keeper, don't be stupid.

8. Bill O'Reilly may not be everyone's favorite here, but I wholeheartedly like his oft repeated advice to surround yourself with people who are looking out for you. There are lots of selfish, shallow people in the world. Aligning yourself with too many of them can prove fatal to both your FI and personal happiness. BTW, it may again be stating the obvious, but you have an obligation to always be looking out for those who are looking out for you.

9. Read The Millionaire Next Door. I found that book very enlightening as it dispelled many of my previously held beliefs concerning income and wealth.

10. Get used to people not understanding you because your lifestyle choices are very different than theirs.

11. Become a Fool and hang out at the REHP board.

12. Get yourself as much education or training as you need for your field of choice. Avoid having a major disconnect between your expectations and what is readily achievable. There is nothing wrong with becoming a social worker. However, taking on massive student loans with the expectation of RE from working in the field may leave you a bit dissillusioned on the FI front.

13. If you are fortunate to receive a financial windfall make sure that you are prepared for it. Far too many people make far too many mistakes in this area. Realizing that you have squandered a golden opportunity is not a very good feeling.

14. Don't ever buy an annuity or other financial product from your BIL (or any other family member).

15. Regarding family. Don't let the chronic financial problems of other family members derail you from reaching your personal and financial goals. Don't let yourself get guilt tripped into helping out those who never have and never will be looking out for you.

16. Develop and pursue other outside areas of interest. If you like fishing, bird watching, hiking, golfing, swimming, running, walking, etc, do not minimize your enjoyment of them. Too many people wait too long to do them and miss out on the chance to have their fun. I found it interesting that Walter Cronkite was interviewed last week and he said if he had known he would have had 88 generally healthy years he would have stayed on at CBS for another 5 more years. Of course had he stayed for those five more years there is no guarantee he would have make it to 88. I look at this (like many other things) from the opposite angle. He should have gotten out at 55 so he could have had another 10 years of sailing whereever and whenever he wanted to. Anyway, this goes to the core of why spending too much time on a SWR is a waste of time. None of us are assured of seeing 88 either.

17. If you have kids, try to instill a good amount of independence and compassion in them. Keep them well grounded and make sure that they get a good financial education long before they go off to college. These good moves should also reflect positively on you in the long run. They should be less vulnerable to the many bad people out there. The compassion end of things should help them to have genuine empathy for those less fortunate than they are.

18. Consider alternate investments. We have had some very astute posters here who have been more than successful in the real estate area. Folks like Seattle Pioneer have pointed out both the benefits and the drawbacks of owning income producing rental properties. Do your homework and learn all you can. Don't read (or watch) anything by Kyosaki. For me the many posts on the subject made me realize that being a landlord was not for me. However, I have greatly benefitted from the sector by making significant investments into REITs.

19. Even if you are the oddball that totally enjoys the working experience, you should not let go of the idea of FI. There have been way too many testimonials from those who liked what they did only to be totally turned off by an internal regime change. FI provides the means to remove yourself from such situations until another good one can be found.

20. Don't confuse investments with expenses. The simplist examples are education and training. Upgrading your skills may cost you money, but I tend to view that as an investment in your future, not an expense to be avoided.

So there you go. It is a real chore to write a Hocus length post. I do not know how he managed to do that time after time. My list is by no means all inclusive, but I hope it provides some food for thought. Any additions or corrections are most welcomed.

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