Halloween has been my favorite holiday since I was old enough to trick-or-treat. But none has been as special as this October 31, 2023.
This is the Halloween that launched…
Within months of that book’s release I began to receive incredible stories from people all over the world telling me how they had taken the approach laid out and applied it to their own unique lives, location and circumstances.
Since contracting with Harriman House to publish Pathfinders, we’ve collected more of these stories and in these pages present ~100 of the very best.
As the stories rolled in they mostly self organized into the nine sections…
(Freedom, Debt, Saving, Lifestyle Inflation, Investing, F-You Money, Staying the Course, Family, & Endgame)
…that make up the core of the book, along with my preface, introduction and commentary on each.
In today’s post I thought I’d share with you a few quotes that struck me along the way. I have even, rather immodestly, included a couple of my own.
Let’s start with the Foreword, written by Hasan Minhaj.
I first met Hasan this past spring after he praised The Simple Path to Wealth on The Daily Show, while interviewing Kevin O’Leary. He tells Kevin that, instead of giving his own financial literacy advice to high schoolers, he should “give them JL Collins’ book ‘The Simple Path to Wealth.’”
In fact, it was The Simple Path and his savage Google Talk that helped start my FI journey. By “savage” I mean JL had the guts to tell Google employees to not hold individual Google stock while he was speaking at Google. In that moment, I knew that either JL was the truth, or he was completely out of his mind.
Introduction: Walking The Simple Path to Wealth
Want to know a secret?
The Simple Path to Wealth was just the working title I came up with while writing the book, and I never liked it all that much. I always figured, at some point in the process, something cleverer would come to mind. Nothing ever did.
That turned out to be a blessing. That title describes exactly this proven and remarkably straightforward process of becoming financially free—forever.
Here’s another secret: It really is simple…
- spend less than you earn
- avoid debt
- invest the difference.
Investing is one of those rare (maybe the only) areas in life where once you get those basics set, the less you do the better your results. The more you tinker with them, as those of us interested in this stuff are prone to do, the worse your results will likely be.
Secret #3: The investing part is simple, too, not that you’d know it listening to Wall Street and the financial news.
What you do today is either going to leave you broke in the future or it’s going to leave you financially free. You get to decide.
The Path awaits. And you don’t have to walk it alone…
Part One: Freedom
I get a little impatient with people who dismiss the importance of money. It seems to me that comes from a very privileged point of view.
Jim Dahle, author of The White Coat Investor, says money is like oxygen. As long as you have enough, it’s not important. You don’t think about it. But the moment you don’t have enough, nothing matters other than your next breath.
“Cathy,” I said, “I’m going to tell you a little secret. The truth is, I have personally spent every dime I’ve ever gotten and, for the most part, I’ve spent them as soon as I got them.”
“Really?” she said, clearly not quite believing what she was hearing.
“Absolutely, and I’ve spent at least half of them on the single thing I value most. The thing that gives me the most joy and satisfaction of anything I own. I’ve spent them buying my freedom.”
The other half of those dimes have bought many wonderful and essential things, but nothing else comes close.
But that’s just me.
Most people don’t even consider that this is possible, and even when they do they still choose to buy the luxury car, fancier house or remodel of their kitchen. And that’s fine. It is their money.
But you, like me, might be different.
I grew up thinking that if someone had a flushing toilet in their house, they were well off. If they had two toilets, they were rich.
I am a former child migrant worker. At the age of eight, I began working in the fields alongside my parents and siblings. I continued there until the age of 16. I grew up near a reservation, my community was poverty stricken, and child agricultural workers were common.
I am a server at a restaurant in a busy high-end ski resort in North America on track to reach FI in the next few years, despite working an unskilled minimum wage job.
People without college degrees might be interested to know that three months of work in the winter is often enough to fund my entire year’s expenses.
Part Two: Debt
The process of paying off debt totally reoriented the way I thought about money, time, and energy. Material things beyond necessity have almost no significance to me. I refuse to be dominated by things.
To get debt-free, I’ve had to unlearn all the bad financial habits I acquired when growing up. Things like paying bills late, only making minimum payments on credit cards, taking on enormous debt for things like luxury cars (for the sole purpose of impressing others).
Chicago, Illinois, USA
Part Three: Saving
Our motto became: “Work hard now so we can be lazy later.”
When people ask how it’s possible that two public school teachers—a notoriously underpaid profession—retired so early, the answer is simple, because the path is simple.
Seattle, Washington, USA
One day in early 2016, I casually looked up from my laptop and announced that I had just checked our Vanguard accounts and we had passed the $1m mark in our financial (non-real estate) accounts. I finally had my husband’s attention. He stared at my spreadsheet for a solid hour in disbelief.
A million dollars isn’t what it used to be, but for a kid who had grown up a poor immigrant in East Los Angeles, whose dad often took advances on his pay as a garbage collector in order to buy groceries, it was beyond his wildest imagination that he could ever attain such wealth.
Portland, Oregon, USA
I still spend money that I shouldn’t, or based on obligation, but the more I get myself to think in terms of how I will feel about the money spent, the more my overall spending decreases.
Meridian, Idaho, USA
Now, after maxing out our 401(k) and hefty regular VTSAX contributions (just three short years of following The Path), we are completely debt-free and have enough F-You Money that we are planning on taking a sabbatical so we can buy more time with our kids while they are still under our roof.
Braydon &Laura Larson
Kingman, Arizona, USA
I was later told about Ganesh’s last request, as he was fighting a heart attack on the way to the emergency room. He begged doctors and nurses to keep him alive. “I cannot go, my daughters have just started school,” he said.
I would say that VTSAX is a simple path, and geoarbitrage turns it into an express lane.
Most of her start-up peers spent the money buying houses or investing in lumber. We decided to “VTSAX and chill.”
Living in silicon Valley put us on the path to wealth, and avoiding lifestyle inflation kept us making progress. But ultimately geoarbitrage got us to the finish line.
John & Sara Grafton
Dayton, Ohio, USA
Part Four: Lifestyle Inflation
We bought houses and cars along the way, but unlike our peers we never felt the need to buy the biggest or the fanciest. We had a much more attractive thing to buy with our money: Financial Freedom.
Army training was not only one of the happiest moments of my life, it also represents the cheapest my cost of living has ever been. Though the Army provided me with everything I needed, if I were to replicate such a lifestyle using backpacking gear and living in public forests, I could live in relative comfort for less than $8,000 a year.
I did notice a strange effect, though. Back when I was a street cop, I used to look forward to eating at my favorite burrito joint on days off. Once I could eat there three times a week as a detective, my enjoyment waned. This was the first time I consciously noticed my lifestyle inflating but not bringing about an increase in happiness.
JSD (Just Some Dude)
The one foundational attitude that put us (and has kept us) on the track to financial independence—before we ever heard of FI—was our indifference to the American cultural hunger for more, bigger, better, newer things.
We don’t get everything right, but one of the FI things my wife and I have gotten right over the years is keeping our lifestyle inflation low even as our incomes rose.
Thirteen years ago, some business partners and I started a software company and my wife and I immediately went to living on less than 20% of our previous income. We’d never have been able to take that risk if our lifestyles had gotten bloated.
Chattanooga, Tennessee, USA
My husband and I became young millionaires because a college professor gave us one life-changing piece of advice:
“For the first ten years out of college, don’t upgrade your lifestyle—continue living like broke college students and invest instead.”
Habits, both good and bad, tend to stack and working out made me want to eat a clean diet that would not squander the hard work. Good habits build on themselves like compound interest just as bad habits pile up like credit card debt. I also turned peer pressure on its head by involving my friends. We kept each other on track and made pacts…
We started witnessing blatant crime. Undercover cops would knock on our door and ask if they could park in our driveway.
We tried turning a blind eye to the drug drops and yelling matches around us until one morning we awoke to see yellow tape flanking our mailbox.
Christina Connally Honkonen
Reaching financial independence earlier in my life would be amazing, but so would loving my life along the way. Not only do I want the confidence to stay the course during this wild ride, but also the self-awareness to enjoy it too.
The Simple Path to Wealth doesn’t require sacrificing your happiness for wealth—that’s something I came up with all on my own. In fact, I believe happiness is one of the many reasons to walk The Path.
David W. Bian
San Jose, California, USA
Once you know about FI, you cannot unsee it.
Liz’s quote is a great one on which to end for now.
If someone choses to read Pathfinders, and the stories of success in it, often starting from very humble beginnings, they will never again be able to say “it can’t be done.”
Of course, anyone can say “I chose not to do it.” It is their money, their choice.
But at least they will know there is an option to buy Freedom and become FI, and it can work for anyone.
Next time, I’ll bring you some more intriguing quotes from the second half of Pathfinders and these sections:
Investing, F-You Money, Staying the Course, Family, & Endgame
The illustrations in this post are taken from Pathfinders and are the work of Nikolett Meresz.
Nikolett also did the wonderful illustrations for my second book:
If you’ve read and enjoyed Pathfinders, please spread the word on your social media and blog, if you have one.
Here’s the review from Millennial Revolution.
Pathfinders has already been chosen as one of the ‘Best non-Fiction books of all time’ by Pan Macmillan:
If you have a podcast and would like to have me on to discuss Pathfinders, I’d be honored. Just let me know in the comments below.
Also, leaving a 5-star review on Amazon would be awesome.