There’s more than one path to a First Class life

Your life and my life are completely different. Even though we’re both living (or striving to live) the First Class lifestyle powered by frugality and optimization, it doesn’t mean that we’re necessarily going about it the same way.

It also doesn’t mean that our definition of First Class is exactly the same either. You may require certain things in your ideal life that I might find to be ridiculous. I’d be surprised if you didn’t feel the same way about the way that I choose to live.

You don’t need to cut your own hair, be an extreme couponer or ride a bike to work in the snow. I do NONE of these things, yet maintain a nearly 70% income savings rate.

**This isn’t the type of First Class that I’m talking about! If you’re unfamiliar with my definition, read this article before proceeding.

But there are core concepts that define our collective movement. We have a shared ethos, and values, and our bond in creating a self-sustaining life separates us from the average Middle Class consumer. We abhor waste. We strive for personal betterment on a consistent basis.

We’re choosing to live a lifestyle that differs from the norm. It goes against the general nature of the American Dream and from an outsider’s standpoint we don’t seem to have the essence — or stench — of wealth found in members of the Old Rich. To us, moving up in the world doesn’t imply moving in to a bigger office or a house with 2,500+ square feet of living space.

This is for good reason, as we didn’t have trust funds or Million dollar salaries to support us into our independence. Standard Middle Class jobs and Middle Class paychecks alone with allow us to craft lives full of endless wealth and bounty.

When I see regular Middle Class citizens, who earn far more than their international peers, complaining about their financial situation, it doesn’t really make sense to me. The math doesn’t add up. Our American brethren should be prospering with the blossoming economy, not complaining about a subtle new tax or Federal politics in general.

We live in an era where everyday items like cell phones, transportation and clothing are extremely affordable, but most people are too blinded by their bad habits to realize how inexpensive a luxurious First Class lifestyle can be. This doesn’t mean that we don’t have our own bad habits, but we’re more aware of our deficiencies and blunders — and we try to prevent them whenever we realize our faults.

We look like the average Middle Class family, too. Take my family for example. We’re attached to the grid, and are seldom without portable electronic devices (phones, Kindles, etc). We dress well, and our kids are well-kempt and well-mannered. You wouldn’t be able to pick our family out of a lineup for being the most frugal based on appearance.

Not until you look at our six-figure investment accounts, and our steadily building passive income stream, would you realize that “shit, these aren’t normal people”. Especially, because we’re part of the ‘lazy’, ‘self-righteous’, ‘entitled’ Millennial generation that grew up on the Internet, microwave dinners and handouts.**

We choose to reject the modern conveniences that so many take for granted, because we are trying to build a self-sustaining life. Every financial move we make favors our future instead of the present day. This is apparent by the way we shop for groceries, our plans for renovation and remodeling of our properties, even in our interest in carbon-neutral/eco-friendly technologies.

Instead of listening to people complain about health care laws, I surround myself with like-minded people who enjoy talking about investing, finances, and functional minimalism. J. Money (a blogger friend of mine) and I were discussing ways that we had been applying minimalist principles within our households. He told me that he reduced his wardrobe down to almost nothing.

This kind of shit really inspires me. And it was something that I never really thought about. My dress shirts took up half the closet. I used an entire 5 foot tall dresser to house my t-shirts, socks, underwear, jeans, etc. I had a second closet where I kept work-related clothing items as well. I took ALL of my clothes out and created a perfect, minimal wardrobe and donated the rest. I reduced drawer space by over 50%. And as an added bonus, it now takes me less time to pick out an outfit.

Your quest for independence and sustainability doesn’t necessarily have to align with my values. Just realize that all of the expensive conveniences in life add time to the end of your working career. And spending habits don’t just magically disappear after your working career is over. If you have a shopping problem, an eating-out problem, or an obsession with leaving every light in your house on all-day-every-day, you’ll face a constant stream of expenses throughout the rest of your life.

To save money, you’ll have to take on “cut-backs”, or lifestyle reductions — austerity measures that you aren’t used to. I equate this to a Sumo wrestler, who normally maintains a daily caloric intake of nearly 5,000 calories per day trying the SlimFast diet. Their body will reject the change, and more than likely they will submit to their old habits.

Instead of an eventual financial failure caused by 180-degree lifestyle change, we can ease into the First Class life through a slow process of adaptation. We can challenge ourselves with voluntary hardships to test our limits. We can slowly reduce the amount of money we spend every month on our Chipotle burrito addictions. We can pinpoint our financial failures over time through budgeting, which we can then correct and learn from our mistakes — because everyone will have a budget snafu at some point or another.

One thing that sets us apart from the Middle Class is our ability to save and invest in our futures. We realize that saving 20% or less of our income just isn’t going to cut it in the long run. While we’re fully funding our 401k’s, as well as our IRAs, the general public looks at this type of behavior as overkill and excessive. Obviously, we know better than to listen to the mainstream media for financial advice, and to ignore complaints from over privileged Middle Classmen.

If you haven’t started investing yet, you should check out Betterment to start a Roth or Traditional IRA today. Through Betterment you can start investing with as little as $5.

In the end, the strategy that takes you to financial independence will be different than mine. But it’s the similarities that we share that make our choice to leave the Middle Class such a powerful thing.

**All of these words and more have been used to describe Millennials.

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