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I love obstacles. Put an impossible task in front of me, tell me there’s NO WAY I can conquer it, and I will kill myself proving to you that I can.
Like when my childhood bullies said I’d always stay poor.
Like when I failed an exam and my professor told me I wasn’t cut out for engineering and that I’ll never get my degree.
Like when my ex-coworker scoffed at me for quitting my job, snidely saying that I’d come crawling back in 6 months after running out of money.
I’m now a millionaire, I got my engineering degree, and not only did I NOT run out of money more than a year later, I now have MORE money than when I left.
I never give in to bullies. And I love obliterating obstacles.
That’s why when readers subscribe to the Millennial Revolution, I ask you all the same question:
“What is the number one obstacle keeping you from living your dreams right now?”
That’s right, we actually do read every single one of your responses. And here’s what you told us. Note that many people named multiple things in their responses, so that’s why the percentages don’t add up to 100%.
#1 Obstacle: Debt:
A whopping 64% of you said debt. The most prevalent one being STUDENT debt. Followed by mortgage and consumer debt.
Considering how 70% of Americans graduate their bachelors with debt and Americans collectively owe $1.2 Trillion in student debt, this is problem that’s threatening to swallow not just our readers, but most American graduates.
Across the border, Canadians are also drowning in debt. But a different kind of debt.
With the debt to income ratio at 171% (meaning we owe $1.71 for every $1 we make) and a combined MORTGAGE debt of $1.29 Trillion, Canadians have gone past the precipice and exceeded the 147% debt-to-income ratio of the Americans right before 2008.
#2 Obstacle: Investment Knowledge:
Nipping at the heels of debt, at 59% is: lack of investment knowledge. Many people who mentioned this as their obstacle have either been tricked into bad investments by shady “investment advisors” or had no idea how to start investing.
From “advisors” telling readers to take out a loan at a crappy rate of 3+% interest to put into risky investments, to ones who flat out lie, refusing to admit Preferred shares ETFs exist, to ones who advocate risky and zero-sum game Forex plays, the list of investment horror stories goes on and on.
No wonder readers are confused and scared of investing. The financial industry is full of greedy assholes trying to steal your money and telling you lies for their own personal gain.
Believe us, we know. When we first looked into investing back in 2008, we met those very same people.
#3 Obstacle: Lack of Money:
32% say lack of money, either from high expenses or a low paying job was the reason they couldn’t live their dreams.
As an engineer, I was lucky enough to have had a high-paying job for the last 9 years, but that wasn’t always the case. In fact, I grew up poor. And though it wasn’t easy, growing up poor has taught me that not having enough money, tough as it is, doesn’t mean you’ll never become rich. It means you will have to develop the creativity, resilience, adaptability, and perseverance to get out of that situation. And let me tell you, had I never been poor, there’s no way I would be where I am today.
#4 Obstacle: Fear:
27% are terrified. Terrified of running out of money. Terrified of investing. Terrified of failing.
I was terrified too. Even though I had enough F-U money and the math told me our plan was sound, I was still scared shitless when I quit my job.
But as it turns out, I had nothing to worry about. Once I started travelling and my costs were much lower than expected, I realized reality is FAR FAR less scary than the terrifying, fake reality that happens in our brains.
#5 Obstacle: Lack of Budgeting tools/Skills:
13.6% said they didn’t have the budgeting skills or the tools to help them save more money.
If you read the first article in our “how we got here series”, you’ll notice the title is “God, we were spendy back then…”
No one is born with budgeting skills. This is something we learned over time. Don’t worry, once we show you how to get started, it’ll get easier and easier over time.
“What is the number one obstacle keeping you from living your dreams right now?”
So that’s it in a nutshell. You’ve spoken and told us your obstacles. From debt, to bad investments, to fear, these are not exactly easy problems to solve.
But that’s okay. A road with no obstacles probably doesn’t lead anywhere good anyway.
So we are going to get through this together. Roll up your sleeves, grab some dynamite, and over the next series of posts, we’re going to work together and blow these obstacles of yours up. Because you’ve told us what’s holding you back, over the next few weeks we will be directly addressing each and every one of these concerns, and hopefully generating a healthy conversation about how some of your fellow readers also tackled some of these issues themselves.
Let’s get this shit done!
Oh, and special mention to the funniest response we got to the question: “What is the number one obstacle keeping you from living your dreams right now?”
His answer: his wife.
Ouch. Not sure we can’t help you with that one buddy…
Update: Click below to tackle your obstacles:
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59 thoughts on “Your Number One Obstacle”
Yet another interesting post! I thoroughly enjoy reading your work here. I also pick up bits of knowledge here and there. For example, I did not know that Preferred ETFs exist. I am very curious to learn about this. Looks like a great dividend strategy.
You have said that you are not investment professionals so you cannot disclose your portfolio. I am interested in reading about Garth’s allocation philosophy. Is there a book or a blog post I can read?
Here’s the blog post where Garth breaks down the model portfolio:
It’s bit complex if you want to do self-directed investing, so if you want a simple portfolio, the recommended funds on Canadian Couch Potato is a good one to follow:
Since many readers have asked the same question, we’ll be writing a step-to-step guide on how to invest soon.
Firecraker, thank you so much for the blog post. I had some trouble finding something like this on Garth’s website. This makes total sense now.
Since you guys are writing your own investing post, have you ever seen this website? https://www.portfoliovisualizer.com/backtest-portfolio
I think it makes some cool historical plots that you might be able to use.
Interesting! Book-marked for later and thanks for sharing!
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Garth has a funny but informative blog called the greatfool.ca. I would recommend taking a look because Garth is a clever and great writer like Christy. In fact I learned about Millennial Revolution from reading about them in Garth’s blog. In particular, I highly recommend Garth’s post where he introduces Millennial Revolution and Christy takes questions. The greaterfool audience were stunned to learn of these young ‘uns success and Christy put on a hell of a great performance- pure literary theater and don’t forget to bring a bowl of popcorn!
Oh yeah, that was a fun day.
That was the day I broke in my new riding crop! Good times.
The part about ‘greedy assholes’ … so true! I personally will NEVER have a ‘financial advisor’.
Strangely, my net worth continues to grow into the multi-millions. Hmm…I wonder if that’s somehow related?
Very difficult to find a good financial advisor. We had to interview a LOT of bad ones before we finally found Garth and he’s proven his worth.
But yeah, in general, most financial advisors are not to be trusted.
Well done on growing your net-worth! What’s your allocation and what investment strategy do you use?
Before I started getting interested in personal finance, I’d probably say my obstacles were debt, lack of investment knowledge, and lack of budgeting.
Debt: Went into law school and took out $87k in student loans. I wisely crushed that student loan debt as fast as possible. Ms. FP still has $131k in student loan debt, but she’s in residency earning zero dollars. We’re gonna crush that student loan debt as soon as she starts getting a paycheck (and we’ll live off my paycheck during that time).
Lack of Investment Knowledge: Oh man, I didn’t know sh*t. Never invested anything legit during college or law school. My only investment I ever made was to put $100 into Border stocks (for some reason, I swore it would go up one day). You can guess what happened to that $100.
Lack of Budgeting: From college through law school, every dollar I got, I spent. In my summer associate job at my law firm, I made over $20,000 in 10 weeks. I spent every single penny of those paychecks.
Looking forward to your next series of posts!
Both of you have very high income potential so you should be able to crush that $131K with no problems.
As for investing and budgeting, we didn’t know our ass from a hole in the ground when we started either. But once you have the goal of getting enough F-U money to quit, you’ll be AMAZED at how easy it is to invest and save.
Biggest obstacle: lack of money. Didn’t make a heckuva lot during my 20’s/30’s. Making up for it now, but accumulation is slow. I’m 1/3rd where I want to be, but my financial independance fund is definitely at FU status.
Second biggest obstacle: I have a very low tolerance for losing money. I’ve tried to overcome this, but it seems to be an ingrained flaw.
(Going for my ITIL in January – thank you to everyone here for your suggestions. You really helped me.)
I hear you on #2. Took me a long time to overcome that one myself. Best solution is exposure therapy – if you only wager a little over time you’ll get more comfortable with the idea of sometimes having things go down in value.
Yup. That’s why we recommend DCAing (https://www.millennial-revolution.com/invest/dolla-dolla-dolla-cost-averaging/)
Good luck with the ITIL! That should definitely help you with increasing your salary!
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Can’t argue with that list. Debt was our first big obstacle to tackle, and we were Dave Ramsey fans back then specifically for that reason. His plan worked for us — we were completely debt free, including the mortgage, in less than 5 years. And once you clear that obstacle, the rest get pretty darn easy.
Good stuff as always.
Nice! Debt can’t hurt you too badly if you get out of it in less than 5 years. Good thing you found the Dave Ramsey plan!
Maybe. The opportunity costs from paying off our mortgage might actually exceed the total interest payments on our bad debt (like student loans). Might make for an interesting blog post.
But there are some salient benefits, too. Paying off the debt got us organized (had to track spending, make a budget) and built the foundational habits that we still use today. So, all in all, yeah, pretty good that we found Dave Ramsey. I just wish he got rid of baby step 6.
I’m waiting hungrily for your thoughts on #2. My father-in-law mentioned yesterday (within hearing of my wife) that he’d like it if we had a consultation with his financial advisor. In the third place, as a highly-paid retired boomer, I’m not inclined to trust that his situation is anything like ours; in the second place, it’s not particularly his place to say — and in the first place, he doesn’t know our investment strategy! We’re floating along happily with VTSAX and a bit of VBTLX, with VGSLX in a Roth. At least, I thought we were. Now wife is interested in meeting up with this guy, who’ll probably try to skim a point or two off the top and recommend overpriced annuities.
Ask him about indexing and see what happens. #funTimes #messingWith”advisors”
Love reading your articles. Just had an idea I thought I would throw your way and see if it sticks. Would you consider setting up your website to include some kind of ‘Millennials Corner’ (working title) …. I wish I had a place to connect with other people who have similar life goals to not buy a house, not have kids, and retire early. What would make it even cooler would be some basic way to chart our progress (say I make my personal goal $500k then I retire – I keep charting and record my progress). Users input the data and we have profiles and that kind of thing.
Just a thought, maybe it will catch.
Sounds like something you should do yourself because that’s a good idea and could generate you some cash.
I love this idea! Let me think about it and get back to you…
Great list! We have been doubling up on our mortgage payments thinking that that was the wisest use of our money. No one really talks about investing and markets swing so much that it feels more like gambling.
Less than 6 months of payments left and we burn the mortgage. And Once those payments are done, savings rate will be close to 50%.
Anyways, I would love for you to demystify the investing process.
Nice job on burning that mortgage! You should have a mortgage burning party once you’re done 🙂
We thought investing was like gambling too, back when we didn’t know anything about investing. But after we discovered indexing, we realized it’s actually quite simple and straight forward (and the fact that it’s vetted by Warren Buffet helps too). We’ll break it all step by step down so you can see what we mean.
I think most people’s biggest obstacle is the need to impress others. People care too much what others think. So they go out and look for the easy fix and buy luxury goods to impress or compete with them. My wife and I recently bought electric bicycles and got rid of our vehicle and we cannot leave the house without getting questions and comments every time. I keep thinking if I had a Porche people wouldn’t comment as much as they do on our electric bikes. How much are they, how fast do they go, is that electric?
You don’t need to spend half of your life working to impress others. With the money and time we save we have a lot of money and time for fitness. That is another thing that impresses people. When you look youthful and fit for your age. When you don’t look stressed out from trying to afford all of your luxuries.
I agree that people spend too much time trying to impress others and stressing themselves out. The thing they don’t realize is, if they try to derive happiness from what others think, they will NEVER be happy. Doesn’t matter if they’re working or retired.
Those people who keep commenting on your bikes…I wonder what comments they’re going to have when you’re financially independent, healthy and happy, while they continue working and increasing their waistlines by driving everywhere.
Keep up the good work! You’re saving money, saving the planet, AND keeping fit. Kudos to you!
Do you and Bryce have $2 million ?
If not declaring oneself individually a millionaire losses street cred. More like $500k’r.
If you guys have 2 mil, then you are legit each 7 figs.
CBC, BNN, Business Insider, Yahoo Finance…none of them seemed to have that definition. Clearly you know more than all of them.
“Lets math this shit up”
That wife comment is a little funny , but pilainful on both ends. I personally Sat with my wife and she says she is behind me with investing, but she always purchasing things we do not need despite me telling her where we need to cut back. Then there are the days where she is all money is the root of all evil and I need to focus on GOD…..
Yikes. That sounds hard.
I used to like spending money, buying coach purses, and going out a lot too. None of that made me happy for an extended period of time. You only get a rush from shopping until you get bored of whatever it is you bought and need to buy something else.
Escaping the 9 to 5 and having the freedom to do what I love is the only thing that made me happy and continues to make me happy.
From my experience, the two main things that need to be considered in changing behaviour are:
Whenever I want to accomplish something challenging, I need to find enough motivation to do it in the first place AND have enough confidence that I can eventually get there (usually through lots of practice and taking baby steps).
Is there enough motivation for her to reach the goal? Or maybe she’s not confident about investing?
The bond market bubble has had nasty side effects. It’s caused an explosion of consumer debt & created the greatest housing bubble Canada has ever seen. I don’t think there is a safe way out of this at this point. I think the staggering amount of debt sold to Canadians will have adverse effects on the Canadian economy for some time.
Yup. Very scary situation. Glad I don’t own a home right now and that our investments are diversified.
Great article! What’s your opinion on the robo advisors that are in Canada? Their fees are pretty low and they are simple to use.
Woops I posted twice. Thought the first time didn’t go through. Can you delete this one? Thanks 🙂
We’re currently reviewing WealthSimple. Will post an article on it soon!
I have to tell you that you guys ROCK! Talk about having your heads on straight. And eloquent to book. And funny too. I hope to God that your message is heard far and wide and followed because you know what you are talking about. Okay, enough gushing but i am serious. I am an old geezer (55) and planning to retire in 6 months. The number one issue that I faced as an investor was insufficient knowledge which rightly lead to inertia. I couldn’t bring myself to invest my cash because I didn’t trust that I knew what I was doing. And, it didn’t help that my husband was so conservative that he thought that investing in the stock market was no different than playing the lotto. So I educated myself. An excellent site to learn from is seekingalpha.com. A free site with wonderful contributors and excellent commentary. From that site I learned about dividend growth investing and have used that method of portfolio construction for a number of years now. It gives me (and my husband!) peace of mind since I essentially know the income that my stocks are generating and I will have no need to tap into capital. When I retire our portfolio will be generating over $230,000 of dividends a year without us ever needing to sell a single share. And yes, we have a very large stock portfolio. And yes, we both have very high paying jobs. But we have also never allowed wage inflation to dictate our spending. We live simple but very comfortable lives. No showy jewels, no furs, no custom made clothes or shoes, no fancy cars, no gigantic estate home. I would never in a million years spend $20,000 for a stainless steel BBQ (like some of my friends). I would never even spend $200 on a pair of jeans (like some of my nieces who earn roughly 4% of what I make). Our car is a 9 year old Nissan for christ’s sake (and yes, we only have one!). But it looks brand new because we maintain it. We’ve also travelled the world in case you YOLO types get your hackles up! And yes, we donate well over 10% of our GROSS income and we have paid for all of our nieces and nephews university education, for those of you who think we are selfish. Those are the things that make us happy. If you looked at us in the grocery store you would think that we are your typical middle class family. We fit right in and we like it that way. Keeping up with the Jones is so passe. It is really “keeping up with the losers”. My only regret is that I didn’t start earlier. I would have been retired years ago. You guys keep preaching the word because you are RIGHT….
Well done! You should be very proud of all your accomplishments and your awesome life! I would never spend $20K on a BBQ or $200 on a pair of jeans either. Those things do NOT add to my happiness and all they do is depreciate in value.
Welcome to the blog! It’s always nice to meet like-minded people.
Debt is certainly the villain that holds you back in chains. I am surprised to see ‘lack of investment knowledge’ ranks so high up. Jim Collins has a detailed stock series for those interested. My article on investing is a summary that anyone can read and implement within 5 minutes: http://tenfactorialrocks.com/how-to-invest-efficiently/
Investing is very simple once people grasp the basic concepts.
Jim. L Collins is my hero. Everyone needs to read “The Simple Path to Wealth”!
” A road with no obstacles probably doesn’t lead anywhere good anyway.” Probably one of my favorite lines I’ve read on this blog 🙂
Thanks! It’s been proven true in my life so far…
fear of not getting that nice watch
fear of being able to travel in luxury
fear of being poor
fear of driving the same old car for the next 10 years
fear of not being to have fine dining
I’m not a saint, these thoughts come across my mind everyday despite myself control to not act on any of them.
I would say our obstacle is lack of money. While we make an okay income, we live in a high cost of living in NYC. Maybe the obstacle is actually the fact that live in a high cost of living area…and that we have no plans to leave. It’s actually something that I think about often…leaving. But it is tough to leave family, friends, the job…sigh…so I have mostly myself to blame
Balderdash. I am from NYC, and while I choose not to live there now, there are still plenty of reasonable areas. Riverdale. Washington Heights. Flatbush, if you must have Brooklyn. The entire rest of the Bronx!! You don’t need a car, the mass transit is excellent, food is actually quite cheap.
So…go to free museums, get discount Broadway tickets, and walk, walk, walk your way to freedom!
Wow! Good to know there are still lots of reasonable areas to live in NY. And I do agree that the subway is affordable and convenient (though INSANELY hard to navigate if you’re not a NYer! We got SO lost when we were there), so definitely a plus.
Choosing to live in an expensive city does mean that you will need a bigger portfolio. The less flexible you are, the longer you will have to work. And vice versa.
That being said, you do have the option of going down to part-time instead of fully retiring. That will reduce the portfolio size you need and let you continue to live in NY.
Great point! I was actually thinking about doing that if my employer allows for it. I don’t hate my job that much but crave freedom and flexibility, so part time works for me. As to snowcanyon, I’m not in Manhattan or Brooklyn…I’m in Queens. Yes, there are reasonably priced areas (well comparatively), but it is still expensive nonetheless, especially when you have little ones and having a being in a decent school district is important to me.
For the guy who said his wife is his number one obstacle there is a solution:
I find fear to be the biggest obstacle. But as the Notorious BIG once rapped, “livin’ life without fear, puttin’ five karats in my baby girl’ ear.” OK, I’m not puttin’ five karats in my baby girl’s ear, but I am definitely living life without fear, in a super conservative frugal sort of way.
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