Nobody Is Coming to Save You. You Have to Save Yourself.

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FIRECracker is Canada's youngest retiree. She used to live in one of the most expensive cities in Canada, but instead of drowning in debt, she rejected home ownership. What resulted was a 7-figure portfolio, which has allowed her and her husband to retire at 31 and travel the world. Their story has been featured on CBC, the Huffington Post, CNBC, BNN, Business Insider, and Yahoo Finance. To date, it is the most shared story in CBC history and their viral video on CBC's On the Money has garnered 4.5 Million views.
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Nobody is coming to save you. You have to save yourself.

The first time I heard about “child abuse,” in the context that it’s a bad thing to do and technically a crime, I was extremely confused.

Screaming at your child and telling them they’re worthless every day is a crime?

Beating your child until they’re covered in bruises is a crime?

Where the bloody Hell were these people when I was growing up?!?

Because growing up in rural China, screaming at your child, telling them they’re worthless, and beating them until they’re covered in bruises is not only NOT a crime, it’s considered good parenting.

“I beat my kid until he cried.”

“I beat my kid until she was covered with bruises!”

“I beat my kid until she was afraid to come out of her room!”

At which point the last parent would be heaped with congratulations, mixed in with a teeny bit of jealously that while they loved beating their kid, they would never be able to beat their kid THAT hard. Wrist problems. You know how it is.

I distinctly remember my Mom bragging to her friend about a particular brand of feather duster that was especially comfortable on her hands, allowing for the most ergonomic beating experience. And then her friend admonishing her for not using a belt instead, as the metal studs caused extra damage!

I suspect this might explain my insanely high pain threshold.

Hee hee. That tickles!

Anyway, this isn’t even the story I’m trying to tell today. This is just the background info to make my actual story make sense.

The actual story I’m going to tell is about my kindergarten teacher.

He was an old man who walked with a limp. We were never allowed to ask where the limp came from but I suspected an old injury. Maybe a war injury. Who knows. The important thing is because of that injury he always walked with the help of a long, black cane.

And us kindergarteners quickly grew to hate that cane.

Even the most random provocation, “why aren’t you all sitting down?” (despite the fact that he hadn’t asked anyone to sit down yet) would cause him to fly into a rage and beat kids left and right with that, long black cane.

So it didn’t take me long to become terrified of that teacher.

As soon as my Dad brought me to school and I caught sight of that teacher, I would immediately latch on to his leg, hide behind him and refuse to let go.

And as he later told me, seeing this fear his immediate instinct was to pick me up and sprint me the Hell out of there.

But something in the back of his mind stopped him. He remembered the nightmare he went through during the Communist Revolution. He remembered how your life could be turned upside down in an instant. He remembered what it took to save himself. And that’s when he decided I had to learn to save myself.

Thus beginning my lifelong love hate relationship with communism. Except, you know, without the love.

“I know you’re scared,” he said, squeezing my shoulder. “But the world is a scary place and I won’t always be around to save you. You need to be brave.”

I responded by whimpering and crying harder.

“Learn to save yourself, honey. You can do this.”

And then he left me there, with that teacher, my sobs echoing behind him.

Years later, when he told me this story he said that walk out of the school was the longest and toughest walk of his life. But he forced himself not to go back, even though he really wanted to.

After Dad left, I found a closet and bravely hid there while my teacher terrorized the other children.

Okay, you guys go out there and fight. I’ll stay here where it’s warm.

But the old man knew I’d have to come out at the end of the day. So unfortunately I got a caning for that.

And the next day, a caning for not raising my hand often enough. The next day, a caning for raising my hand too often. And the next, a caning for getting too many canings.

By the end of the week, I was getting pretty sick and tired of all of it. So along with the other kids, we came up with a plan.

“Hey, Teacher!” I yelled in Chinese. “There is smoke in the hallway! I think something is on fire!”

And when he got up to check on the “smoke,” one of the other kids grabbed his cane. And then together, we threw it out the window where it landed in a nearby river to float all the way to Beijing.

Which just goes to prove the age-old adage: When God closes a door, he opens a window. And then a bunch of kindergarteners will throw a crippled guy’s cane out of it.

Now, our teacher wasn’t particularly happy about that, obviously. But because he didn’t have his cane, he was powerless to hit us! And as every abusive parent in the world knows, never hit a kid with your open palm, because then it leaves a suspicious palm-shaped red mark on the kid’s face, and then those annoying authorities get involved.

That week between us tossing his cane out the window and his new one arriving was the best week of our lives. Don’t get us wrong, we didn’t run amok and cause havoc or anything. We just sat quietly and learned our lessons like good little schoolchildren. And when our teacher got his new cane, he realized he didn’t actually NEED to hit us to get us to behave. We were more than happy to behave on our own.

And this, circuitously, brings me back to my original point.

Nobody is coming to save you. You have to save yourself.

Ever since we started this blog we’ve been flooded with emails and comments from people debating what role others have had in creating a generation of whiny entitled Millennials.

Banks shouldn’t have given us such big mortgages!

Schools shouldn’t have charged us so much for useless degrees!

The government shouldn’t have propped up a teetering housing market!

Yeah, yeah. I get it. Other people had a hand to play in the shitty situation you’re now in.

But you know what the cold hard truth is?

Nobody is coming to save you. You have to save yourself.

The Millennial Revolution, at its core, is a rebellion of the status quo. And Financial Independence, at its core, is a pursuit of the most American of all values: Freedom.

The freedom to decide when to wake up, how to spend your day, and to stop working when you no longer have to.

I have no idea what Wanderer is doing here, but that’s basically what he did all day that day.

And as I’m sure our American readers know: Freedom is never, ever, handed to you on a silver platter. It is never gifted to you. It is fought for. It is ripped from the hands of a tyrant you just punched in the face. It is won.

Nobody is coming to save you. You have to save yourself.

But don’t for a second think that just because nobody is coming to save you that nobody is coming to help you.

Financial Independence isn’t won alone. We did it, and we were the youngest people in Canada to do it, but we didn’t do it alone. We had Jim Collins to show us the way. We had Brandon from MadFientist to teach us the math. And we had Pete from Mr. Money Mustache to threaten to punch us in the face if we didn’t listen.

In short, just like in the kindergarten classroom 30 years ago, we had help. We stood on the shoulders of giants to get to where we are. And now that we’ve actually pulled it off, our duty is now to offer our shoulders to you so you can reach even higher.

Nobody is coming to save you. You have to save yourself. But you don’t have to do it alone.

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57 thoughts on “Nobody Is Coming to Save You. You Have to Save Yourself.”

  1. OK, clearly you don’t have kids or you’d be advocating toward more caning.

    Pain *is* a good teacher, but sadly we live in a world that’s numb and expects to continue that painless existence. Which isn’t reality.

    Like you, I grew up with a lot of pain, and maybe that’s one of the reasons why we wanted FI…to escape the pain of mortgages, 10 hour days at the office for the next 40 years, canings at work….

    But then again, some people like pain.

    1. Sorry but that is such an archaic ideology. “If you had kids you would support physical punishment”.

      You might be surprised to see many parents don’t beat up their children in order for them to learn a lesson.

      You might also be surprised that you CAN go through life without experiencing substantial PHYSICAL pain. There are many ways to teach a person how to deal with pain without physically hurting them.

  2. I bet there’s better ways to educate other then beating kids up. Shunning, ignoring, chores, rewards/disincentives, “ostracism” if needed. I’d say beating kids up causes unnecessary fear and obedience to authority, complexes which a healthy individual should at least learn overcome or even better- not have at all.

    1. Oh definitely. But that’s what happens when you live in an authoritarian society. Questioning authority or your elders will get you a beating. Otherwise, people will think outside the box and start riots. I’m SO glad I don’t live there anymore. *hugs Canadian flag* *starts singing “Oh Canada…”

  3. Having grown up to plenty of beat downs in late 90s in China, I feel your pain. I don’t have kids yet, but honestly I’m a believer in instilling discipline in your kid. I’m not saying abusing your kids with beatings, but occasionally a good kick to the butt won’t hurt them in the long run. There’s a fine line between abusive and parenting. These days I feel like we do coddles kids too much as if they’re glass dolls (watching my nieces growing up). I hate that people freak out about these things. Your cane story is terrifying and I wouldn’t condone that sort of behavior. But at parents you can’t let have children have all the power, which is what I’m seeing these days. I’m just old school I guess.

    1. I wouldn’t wish beatings on a kid and it definitely didn’t do me any favours (other than my awesome pain threshold :P).

      There are SO many things wrong with the authoritarian way of disciplining children, I don’t even know where to begin. The key is to to be “authoritative” (assertive but not controlling) not “authoritarian” (strict and controlling). The coddling type you’re referring to is “permissive” or “uninvolved”, which is also bad for kids. Gotta have balance.

      1. Exactly! Authorative and not authoritarian. Sounds the same but it is a world of difference.

        I hope to be like that towards my kids and teach them how to be self supporting/self saving with a freggin big “can do anything” attitude.

  4. This is simply just an awesome article. I learned to dread the feather duster too (“tung tiu” in cantonese phonetics)!

  5. I think it’s really easy to blame banks, the government, etc. for your own personal finances. “Taxes are too high, they gave me too big of a loan, yadda yadda.” I was one of these people, too. But at the end of the day it’s about ponying up to your responsibilities and tackling them head-on.

    Bad things happen to everyone’s finances in some way–don’t blame it on the system, though. Find a way to fix your situation instead of feeling helpless.

    However, I would argue that physical/mental abuse is a different realm from thi altogether, but I get where you’re coming from.

  6. This is an amazing article!

    Once I realized that my life was a product of my choices, I took control and I’ve never looked back. It was by far the most important realization of my life. It doesn’t mean that all of my choices are easy, but knowing that they are my choices and mine alone completely changed my life.

    Unfortunately it also meant that I had to take responsibility for my poor choices (a.k.a. dropping out of college and not going back and finishing until I was 30). Admitting that it was my fault that I wasn’t where I wanted to be in life was really hard. But guess what? I had a choice to fix my situation, and I did!

    Nobody was coming to save me, I had to save myself.

  7. Great article. Great motivation. Keep it up;) I’m working through your Investment Workshop now in order to “save myself.” Thank you.

  8. A strong blog post. I agree with comment above that “there’s better ways to educate other then beating kids up.”
    There are better ways to make an individual street smart. No matter if you are a kid or an adult.

    1. Yup, definitely agree that beating kids up is not the way to go.

      That’s just what happens when you live in an authoritarian society and it’s completely out of your control. Can’t change the past, but it did teach me a lot of lessons about toughing things out. Wouldn’t wish it on my worst enemy though.

      1. Just reading a book suggested by ERE

        How to be free in an Unfree world

        So far- fascinating- and touches upon things you’ve mentioned. Did you have a chance to have a look?

  9. Hello! I love your blog!! I read every email!! something had just caught my eye on this page, was the advertisment of Bloc school for coding… reason for wondering is that I have been researching online coding schools and wonder if this is one you would recommend?? I had tried out the school Udacity, but found the wait was soo long for help as well I had just had a baby so my time was pretty limited… in any case Im looking to get back to learning and am surrounded by many choices… any you would recommend!????

    Thank you SOOOOOOOO much!!!!!~

    I keep looking forward to the emails!

    1. You clearly need to learn how advertising on the internet works.

      The adverts are not chosen by the bloggers, they are chosen by Google Ads and targeted towards you based on your history, hence, surprise surprise, they’re advertising what you already searched for.

    2. Thanks for vicariously reading our content! I’m glad you enjoy it 😉

      As for the google ads, they are just there to keep the lights on. I would just ignore them since we’re planning to replace them with something better in the future.

      If you’re looking for online coding schools, I would recommend the FREE courses at Khan Academy:

      This is non-profit site created to make free education accessible to anyone. Highly recommend it!

      Kudos for taking the initiative to learning coding and congrats on your newborn!

  10. Hey guys… you are awesome! Thanks for all of your work here. What a gift to the millennials who’ve made the effort to discover your page. I was inspired to follow suit by reading Mr. Turners blog a while before MR started up and had my beginnings investing in ETF’s by following some of his suggestions on asset allocations etc within a TFSA. What Garth seems to lack, however (or maybe it’s just my inattention to detail) is the desire to share exact etf picks like you have on MR. Years ago, Garth suggested owning REITS etf and preferred shares within a portfolio and I noticed that you guys have left those out… any specific reason? Also, at what point in your net worth did you choose to consult him with regards to which index funds should go into which accounts to minimize taxes etc… I’m feeling as though maybe it’s time I got a little bit of help now that my net worth is more sizeable.

    Thanks so much! Keep livin the dream!

    1. The portfolio we use in the Investment Workshop (based on Canadian Couch Potato) is a simplified version of Garth’s portfolio because it’s geared towards self-directed investing and people who are in the accumulation phase.

      Once your net-worth is big enough (150K+) or you are closer to retirement, you may want to considering hiring Garth to create a more complex portfolio that gives you a higher yield and lower volatility.

      In our case, we found Garth once our portfolio reached 500K.

    2. Garth never recommends specific ETF’s because he is a portfolio adviser and thus has skin in the game, whilst Firecracker and Wanderer are not. It comes down to a few reasons:

      1) He doesn’t want to appear biased in any way by promoting ETF’s he invests his clients in, thus inflating their prices. Ethically this would lead to a lot of questions and even legally I’m not sure if there would be an impact.

      2) He doesn’t want people to come and say “you told me to invest in XYZ and I ended up losing a load of money!”. That being said, I don’t think Garth would give a rats ass if that were to happen, he seems to take pleasure in other people making bad decisions.

      3) He gets paid by his clients a substantial amount of money to manage their investments. If he simply told everyone exactly what to invest in he would likely be shooting himself in the foot.

      I suspect reason 1 is the prominent reason, it would lead to a lot of unnecessary suspicion about his reasoning. I’d be quite sure A LOT of his readers would invest in the specific ETF’s he promoted if he did so and it would probably have an affect on the price of those ETF’s.

      Anyway, it’s not like there are a ton of ETF’s in Canada to pick from. Going on his fairly precise descriptive recommendations you can easily build a portfolio of your own.

  11. I read somewhere last week (was it here?) that there are “blamers” who attach blame to someone else who is responsible for all of their problems. And a blamer is unable to solve his problems. Only when you take ownership of the negative circumstances of your life can you begin taking actions within your power to fix them.

    1. You are so right. Only when you take ownership can you begin taking actions. And yes, sometimes it’s not within your power to fix everything, but you need to work on what you can work on and get help for the rest.

      Blamers are the least productive people ever because they get NOTHING done. Even if someone was to blame for your problems, what’s the point of blaming them? The problem is already there, so unless you take action to fix it, complaining doesn’t change a damned thing. Best thing to do is acknowledge that the problem is there, realize you can’t change the past, and then ask yourself “What do I do now?”

  12. I’m writing now from China; will be super suspicious with men with black canes 🙂 But seriously it’s a terrible story and such kind of things should never ever happen to any kid.
    As for the financial side, I totally agree everyone should help themselves. Especially when it comes to pension, due to the demographic structure the official retirement age will continuously increase, while the support people get from the state (if any) will decrease. Luckily you have the power in your hand to do something about it and get financially prepared.

  13. I’m in China now; will be careful with men with canes… But seriously, this is terrible; no kid should go through anything like this.
    Regarding the finance part: yes, everyone should learn how to take care of themselves. Especially when it comes to retirement. Due to the demographics, it is very likely that we will see the official retirement age increasing continuously and at the same time the amount of pension from the government (if any) will decrease. People should be aware of this and start saving now…

  14. Clearly, Wanderer is punching what would have been Lenin (see FC picture above), but it’s just empty space, because Lenin is dead, you’re Canadian, *and* financially independent. You don’t have to punch anyone anymore! Except in crazy dance moves!

    Congrats on surviving and pointing out that you have to depend on yourself. We don’t need to beat our kids, but they do have to learn how to survive on their own.

    1. Yes, being Canadian is the BEST thing ever!

      And my crazy dance moves probably involves causing injuries to myself rather than other people. Clumsiness + high pain threshold = win!

  15. Wow I thought the Chinese were all Zen and stuff! Must be a side effect of the opium intake. Once that wears off, their peoples’ true nature comes out?

    Oh and by the way while we’re speaking of Chinese torture techniques to properly discipline children, I have to say you were negligent by failing to mention chop sticks. Consider the advantages: always at hand, make a great swishing sound when swung quickly, the authorities won’t think anything awry when you keep a chop stick constantly on hand. Just use the wooden or bamboo ones and not the plastic ones because the plastic ones break easily. (my kids fear Grandma when she comes running with the chop stick; I kind of fear her too)

  16. “Nobody is coming to save you. You have to save yourself. But you don’t have to do it alone.”

    Love this! I have found this whole FIRE community to be exactly what I needed. I think most of us would agree that our FI-ways are often difficult for our friends and family to understand, so it is imperative to have support elsewhere. Ultimately, it is up to the person to get his/her ducks in a row, but that doesn’t mean you have to jump in the pond alone.

  17. I think saving yourself is a very important lesson to learn……..but hate how you learned it. Those things leave scars on our hearts.
    I think it’s interesting when people compare generations and label them with certain characteristics. The lesson to save yourself…to take control of your own finances, quit being a “complainy pants” as MMM would say is vital in achieving FIRE. That attitude has far more to do with FIRE than wages.

    1. I didn’t have a great time learning it but I survived. Funny thing is that, growing up in China, I thought beatings were completely normal. It was just a thing that all parents did. Only after coming to Canada did I realize…wait, you’re NOT supposed to beat your kids? That’s weird.

      And yes, taking control of your situation transcends all generation gaps. Complaining, whiny, crying over stuff that happened in the past–none of it helps. Roll up your sleeves and take action.

  18. I’m still wary of wooden spoons… I’m taking care of the weilder of said weapon, they get chocolate and hugs when they have a tough time, oh the circle of life!

  19. Great story! Is it bad that I laughed at your telling of the beatings you received as a kid and throwing the teacher’s cane out the window? 🙂

    I’m a huge proponent of holding yourself accountable. It’s not entirely the bank’s fault that you got greedy and took out a larger mortgage than you can afford. It’s not the school’s fault you took out $100,000 in student loans to get a psychology doctorate and now can’t find a job. Take ownership of your actions. That’s what led me to chase FI. Taking control of your future!

    1. Yeah, I have kind of a dark sense of humour 🙂 I’m weird.

      And yes, taking ownership of your actions is VITAL in becoming FI. It’s okay to make mistakes, but you have to take control of your life and future. I had to learn that lesson very early on and it’s served me well throughout my life.

  20. Wow, way to overcome life’s obstacles to get to where you are today. This is true for helping others as well. I know that I have tried to save people instead of helping and in the process it was a disaster. We can be a helper if they want it but forcing it causes destruction and enabling. It doesn’t create a heart change in the person that you are trying to help. You can’t create that in someone. They have to want it for themselves. We each need to save ourselves and ask for help along the way. Thank you for sharing.

  21. Think we almost had something in common, my reminder of this “No One Is Going to Save You” is my mom’s bamboo sticks – she had several of them. Usually, she used two very thin ones 0.5″x4′ and we knew we were, or one of us was, in trouble when she headed to the kitchen pantry. By the time we heard the swishing sound of the bamboo sticks we knew we got two red parallel markings on our legs for the whole school to see – and here was the peer pressure, the kids saw them automatically thought we committed some sort disrespectful crime against our parents, our Chinese ancestors and whoever – the bottom-line is, we were punished for misbehaving or not following our parents’ teaching/orders.

    I understand your sentiments – and honestly, while I didn’t like such public embarrassment of bamboo stick red markings while growing up, those moments of pain and awkwardness became a constant reminders – there were always consequences of my actions. Now I really wish I practiced the same on my children.

    Thanks for sharing the article that took me down the memory lane of childhood – it propelled my ambition to start a family in a foreign land and made something of myself – after all, no one would ever save me but myself and I’d better get that through my naïve and arrogant thick skull while I was young…and I did.

    1. Well, I definitely wouldn’t wish beatings on any child. There are much better ways to teach resilience and self-reliance. But my childhood does serve as a reminder that I don’t need anyone to save me, I can save myself. So I’m grateful for that.

      I’m glad it helped you become a stronger person! We can’t change the past but we can change how we react to it.

  22. I was just having a conversation with someone about how we really live in the easiest and safest time in history. While that’s great, we really haven’t had that huge struggle to overcome, therefore when something tough comes up, we tend to blame or look for crutches. Now I could say “millennials” since I’m Gen X, but I’ve seen it in my generation and generations that came before me. Having some struggle, failing, then overcoming it builds a toughness muscle that helps you out in future situations. Now I’m not advocating that someone beat their child by any means, but to look at struggles, not matter how big or small, as a learning opportunity.

  23. As an (older) product of a similar corporal punishment schooling system, I know exactly what you went through. Over time, I developed good techniques to deflect my body at the right angles so the hit wouldn’t hurt so much. Of course, as a young student, my body used to listen to me much more than it does now! It took me years to get over the ‘authority figure’ phobia but in the end, all I remember is that the poor teacher was just getting by on a low paid job and getting nagged by his wife for getting enough money so was taking it out on students. You are absolutely right, there isn’t a ‘golden parachute’ waiting for ordinary folks like us. We have to make our own parachute and make sure it stays strong enough to reach the promised land!

    1. Ouch. Sorry to hear that. Oh well, what doesn’t kill you will make you stronger. Wish I had thought of deflecting the blows with body contortions. Live and learn, I guess 😛

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