Weekly Links – Senators, Astronauts, Millionaires and Travel

I have been a bit busy with my wife getting oh so very close to giving birth to our second son. However, I am working on a new original article and will be publishing it early next week. In the meantime please enjoy the following round up of great articles I’ve read recently.

It appears that being a United States Senator does not mean you have to be particularly good with your money. You can lecture people on their finances and get paid to give speeches on being fiscally responsible, while yourself binging on debt by buying multiple properties and luxury cars you cannot afford. Who knew? OK — not exactly an earth shattering surprise that a government official can’t manage finances, but the degree of fiscal irresponsibility is more than I would have expected.

However, let’s start with some positives examples of making good choices regardless of income and/or wealth.

Good lifestyle choices don’t change much whether you’re rich or poor

  • One family’s downsizing strategy to live within their means (Globe and Mail) – I like this story because it really illustrates how important the choice of where to live is to a families financial health. The biggest difference, between this family and the struggling family I mentioned in one of my previous articles, is that this family chose a place to live that matched their budget and their actual needs. No amount of saving on anything else can fix the monumental mistake of buying too much house.
  • Millionaires Who Are Frugal When They Don’t Have to Be (New York Times) – The habits that make you sustainably wealthy do not just disappear as soon as you hit some particular wealth level. There is no number at which a frugal person turns into a Marco Rubio (more on that below). It’s amazing how much self-made financially secure people have in common with each other.

On the other hand bad choices lead to financial ruin regardless of income

  • Marco Rubio’s Career Bedeviled by Financial Struggles (New York Times) – maybe Marco isn’t exactly financially ruined but he does remind me a bit of a ponzi scheme. The more money is given to him the more he needs to keep going. I believe his situation is actually very similar to many middle and upper middle class families, which is why I started this blog. Still, the level of ineptness here is epic, I just couldn’t help hearing the Benny Hill Show music in my head as I was reading this article.

So where does travel fit in?

  • How we quit our jobs to travel (BBC) – I am certainly not advocating this as a career strategy for everyone, however, it illustrates the importance of understanding your goals. Too often people focus on the progression of their careers and ticking off all the proverbial life-achievement boxes dictated by mainstream society. Others focus on achieving financial independence or a comfortable retirement without a good idea of what they’ll do when they get there. It’s critical to clearly understand why you are pursuing your goals, and what you plan to do once you achieve them, as early on as possible. You may realize you can actually “retire” to your dream activity right now.
  • Why I love the world (BBC) – The more I learn about Chris Hadfield the more I like him.  On the surface this may not appear to have anything to do with personal finance, but I believe there is a very important message here. It goes back to the myopia that drives us to pursue things simply because others around us think they’re valuable. Travel opens your eyes to ways of living that you would have never imagined or thought possible. It reminds you that a large number of concerns everyone in your community is so obsessed with, are actually very specific to the time and place you happen to be living in. They are just distractions that keep you off course. There are values that are universal (same across cultures and geographies), and there are values that are fleeting, and knowing the difference can be extremely positive for your finances.

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