Staying Motivated On Your Way to Financial Independence

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As financial weirdos surrounded by normal people (or “normies” as we like to call them), it’s a rare and wonderful event when we meet another person just like us. In the 2 years we’ve been retired, we’ve only met a handful of these people in real life. And usually only 1 or 2 at a time.

That all changed at Chautauqua UK, when we got to spend a whole week a whole group of our peeps, which turned out to be the best week of our lives.

I thought that would be over once the week was over.

Thankfully I was wrong.

Because after Chautauqua UK, not only has this new group of life-long friends kept in touch on Facebook, there are actually reunions popping up all over the place, in the US and UK, because try as we might, we can’t stay away from each other.

So when one of the attendees reached out to me to chat about what it’s like to go back and adjust to normal life and work, I knew I had to write this post.

This is why I’m dedicating this post to Brandon, and all those FI-ers in the making who need an extra boost of motivation to keep going.

You know how it’s easy to get discouraged from “impossible” tasks because of how long it takes? Like if you find out your FI number is 15 to 20 years. Or if I tell you that publishing a novel takes 7 long soul-sucking, life-draining years?

In year 1, that journey seems to stretch on forever with no end in sight. You can’t see the finish line so it feels like you’re never, ever going to get there.

But here’s the thing. One of the best life lesson I’ve ever learned, that I credit to getting me to where I am today is this:

“The time will pass anyway. ” –Earl Nightingale

Unless you have a Time-Tuner from Harry Potter, there is NO WAY you can stop time from passing.

So if you don’t do something simply because it takes too long, the time will pass anyway.

If you give up and don’t start something because you think it’ll take 20 years, well, 20 years will pass and you will still have nothing to show for it. At the end of your life, do you want to look back at a life with no regrets or think about all the time you squandered talking about how long it takes to accomplish things?

Take my ex co-worker for example. Let’s call him, Jake.

Well, when I started working with him, he had been there for 4 years already and made more money than I did. I didn’t tell many people at work about my retirement plan, but I told Jake.

Big mistake.

The first thing Jake did was laugh so hard he almost fell down. To him the idea of retiring early was as much of a joke as me becoming an author (I know, I have such nice friends).

Never mind that I spent all my after work hours writing and going to writing conferences, while he never wrote a damned thing. Never mind that I was the one binging on FIRE blogs and fiendishly tracking my expenses while he was blowing through his stash like it was burning a hole in his shiny Versace pocket.

He amused himself by wrinkling his nose at my homemade lunches, my “thriftstore-chic” wardrobe (“you’re never going to climb the ladder dressed like that”), berating me for not buying a house or car, and told me I was crazy to think all these silly little moves would help me retire by 31.

Luckily, having been bullied by idiots in grade school, my don’t-give-a-shit-what-you-think muscle was hulk-sized. So I ignored him and kept going.

I knew I was still years from retirement, but I kept thinking “the time will pass anyway.”

And guess what? The time did pass. My net worth grew over time, while his shrank.

When I gave my notice after working just 9 years, I had published a novel and built a million dollar portfolio. After working 13 years, he hadn’t published a damned thing and had amassed a massive pile of credit card debt.

In fact, it’s been 2 years since I retired and he’s exactly where he was 15 years ago. STILL working the same, hateful, stressful job while continuing to bleed money.

I’m so glad I didn’t look at the finish line back then, thinking “this is taking WAY too long” and give up. Because if I had, I wouldn’t be here. I wouldn’t have written a book, I wouldn’t have travelled the world, I wouldn’t have built the life of my dreams, and I sure as Hell, wouldn’t have started this blog.

And you know what else? We wouldn’t have written 221 posts in a little over a year! At around 1000 words per post, that’s 221,000 words! Enough to fill 2 and half adult books.

When we started this blog 1.3 years ago, if we had been thinking “Oh God, I can’t write 2 full books in just over a year! That’s insane”, we never would’ve gotten to the 2 million views we have today.

What most people don’t realize is how much small efforts incrementally add up over time. Writing a book seems insurmountable, until you realize that if you just write 250 words a day (that’s only 1/3 of the words you’ve read so far in this post) or 583 words 3 times a week, that’s 90,000 words a year! You’ve written a whole book in just one year by writing only a small number of words per day.

In a way, become FI is like writing a novel. You look at the end point and it seems SO far away (Good God I have to write HOW many words? 90,000? You’re nuts). But in reality, when you break that task down into small, digestible chunks, it’s not that hard to swallow.

Breaking tasks down like this is the exact strategy one of my writer friends used to get published.

Since she’s a lawyer with 2 kids, she had NO TIME to write. So she forced herself to get up at 5 AM every morning (before her kids woke up) to write 1000 words a day. And after an hour of writing, she would get the kids ready for the day, drive them to school and herself to work. It was gruelling at first, but over time, she got used to it. She even started a writing group on twitter using “#5amwriters” so her writing friends could motivate each other.

And guess what? It worked. She’s now on her 3rd book deal with Harper Collins.

So don’t under-estimate the power of doing seemingly small things, added together over time to produce big results.

And here’s the thing. When it comes to investing, growing your money is actually WAY easier than putting words to paper.

Why? Because of this magical compounding concept which Einstein referred to as:

“Compound interest is the eighth wonder of the world. He who understands it, earns it… he who doesn’t… pays it.”

Because you don’t just save money. When you save money and invest it, it generates more money in terms of capital gains and dividends. And THAT money re-invested generates MORE money. Can you imagine how many books I could write if the words themselves wrote more words? And then THOSE words wrote even MORE words? Hell, I wouldn’t even need to remember how to string sentences together because over time, those books would LITERALLY write themselves.

So the next time you think “this FI thing is taking WAY too long. How can I keep going?”, do this:

Create Milestones

Breakdown your FI journey into smaller, more digestible chunks.

For example,  If you need 800K to retire and it’s projected to take you 10 years, use milestones for every 50K that your portfolio grows.


Celebrate Said Milestones:

Celebrate when you reach each milestone

For example, when your portfolio grows to $50K, go out for a fancy steak dinner. When your portfolio grows to $100K, book a weekend getaway. At $150K, book a trip to the Bahamas. And so on…

What you choose for the rewards depends on your personality, but you get the point.

Celebrating milestones is why we allowed our vacation costs to be so high. We would regularly spend over 5 grand a year on travelling, and we never spent that amount on any one thing before. We did it because we used those trips it to remind ourselves of the life we’d be living after FI. We used those splurges to drive us.


Use FU Money to enjoy the Ride:

Realize that it’s not just about chasing your FI number. It’s about FU money. Like when JLCollins was 25 and only needed $5000 of FU money to negotiate 6 weeks off from his job to tour Europe.

FU money makes you powerful. FU money makes you better at your job. You don’t even need to become FI to reduce stress, take more risks than your co-wokers, and be a badass at your job.


Make sure to celebrate the milestones as you go like we did. Don’t think about the end game. Think about the journey.

The time will pass anyway. 15-20 years from now, you could be the person cackling and walking out of your cubical prison for the last time, or the poor sap who gets handed all of your work.

Who would you rather be?

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74 thoughts on “Staying Motivated On Your Way to Financial Independence”

    1. Having supportive friends goes a long way towards any goal…especially FI. This is why I love the Chautauquas so much. People meet life-long friends who can motivate each other towards their FI goal.

  1. ‘Enjoy the journey more’…This was the biggest lesson I learned at Chautauqua. Having implemented it already, it’s definitely making a difference.

    1. Good to know focusing on the journey is already making a difference, Eduardo. It helps to have supportive friends to share the journey with as well. Keep going and stay the course!

  2. For me, the most valuable thing that money can buy is freedom. Even at my relatively meager savings so far, I like the idea that if I lost my job tomorrow I could continue my life exactly as it is for about three years before having to go into debt.

    Of course, that’s not what I want to use my savings for, but I could, and that makes my life better – I stress less about minor financial setbacks that come up, and knowing that I’m not dependent on every paycheck every month lets me relax about whatever negative things come my way at work. Work is a lot more enjoyable when you don’t feel like you absolutely have to be there.

    That’s the power of FU money, even if you’re still a long way from financial independence.

    1. I agree, it is a great position to be in. I remember when I got laid off a few years ago my boss had to let 18 people go that day, calling each one into the HR office and giving them the bad news. I was one of the last people to get called and when he told me I think it was harder for him to tell me than it was for me to hear. I knew I would be fine and I was excited about the new opportunities I would have going forward because I’d been wanting to move on for a long time but knew I wouldn’t be able to find a job that paid as good as that one so I stayed because I thought I’d regret leaving if I did.

      With the option of staying taken away I was free to move on and I did have to take a huge paycut when I found a new job but the position was something completely different and I grew and learned so much doing it over the last few years instead of the mindlessly stale job I’d been doing for most of my 20s.

    2. This is me. I value my time and my freedom. I hate HAVING to work. Debt stresses me out.

      It’s ironic that with my freedom, I’d probably choose to keep working if I didn’t HAVE to work. I expect that when I retire, I’ll happily go out and find a mundane job with no stress or responsibilities.

    3. See, this is exactly why I said FU money gives you power. And 3 years of expenses is not “meager savings”! Most people I know can barely survive for 3 months if they were to lose their jobs. Some are living pay check to pay check. Others have massive credit card debt.

      This is why you are a badass and can sleep at night and take risks at work while they can’t. Well done! Grow that FU money!

    1. That’s the spirit, Joe! As Gandhi said “First they ignore you, then they laugh at you, then they fight you, then you win.”

  3. Part of staying motivated is making FIRE part of who you are. I never even really thought about saving all that money as something special while I did it for 15 years… it was just who I was.

    Riding the bus, bringing lunches to work, wearing thrift store clothes…. it’s all just part of who I am.

    I never thought of FIRE as something I had to “stay motivated” about. I was just living the life I chose… which just so happened to have a pretty badass ending. 🙂

    1. yeah, that was us too, we just saved most of our money because we didn’t want to waste it on stupid things and we have low cost hobbies. We weren’t thinking about FIRE but we did want to pay off our house a quickly as possible. This whole FIRE idea kind of snowballed really quickly. One weekend I found this blog and realized that if we sold our house (which had gone up in value quite a bit since we bought it due to the Vancouver real estate boom) and took advantage of a cheap rent opportunity we had available to us we could FIRE right away so I pitched the idea to my spouse and he agreed, we basically decided to FIRE within hours of me finding this blog and spent the next couple of months getting our house ready to sell and doing research to make sure we were doing the right thing.

    2. I can attest to your badassity with all the awesome recipes and money saving tips I’m stealing from your blog. Keep up the good work!

  4. One of the best pieces of advice I’ve been given that can be associated with any goal is to make sure you enjoy the process, rather than the result. If you hate the process, especially in a long-term goal like FI, you will likely never achieve the result. If you have that burning desire day in, day out, you will reach the goal with ease and enjoy yourself on the way there.

    The great thing about enjoying the process is that you will probably continue it even once you have reached FI. If somebody strives for FI but hates being frugal, they’ll probably go back to their spendy ways if they ever reach their goal anyway.

    You need to design a process you enjoy, even if that means compromising in some way in terms of your savings rate.

    1. See, this is why I’m not a fan of the word frugal. The way I see it, it’s more about priorities. I would not consider myself frugal since I easily spent over $5000/year on vacation and $900-$1750/month on eating out and entertainment (MMM would’ve told me to punch myself in my the face for sure). But I cut back my expenses for housing, clothing and everything else because “having nice things” wasn’t high on my list. I’d rather “have nice experiences”.

      So at the end of the day, it’s easier to become FI if you’re frugal but it’s not a prerequisite. Very few people want to live in a basement, eat kraft dinner all day, and never go on vacation (myself included). That’s not sustainable. But if you track your expenses and prioritize, you’d be amazed at how much money you’d have at the end of each month.

      Not depriving yourself is the key to enjoying the process.

  5. It’s is hard to stay focused on your goals and big picture because we have to live in the day to day. As someone way smarter than me has said, “the days are long but the years are short.”

    Also, we just made the final payment for ~$150k (USD) student debt. It took five years, but it feels great!

        1. I will happily take my face punches while stuffing it with lobster, burritos, tacos, pad thai…

          Worth it!

          *drool* And now I’m hungry again.

  6. “The time will pass anyway.”

    That is some powerful stuff. This clock is churning no matter what I decide to do — might as well use that time to my advantage and work towards my goals, instead of letting the far-off-seeming milestone scare me.

    Time to start writing.

    Great, great post. You two are killing it.

  7. Any idea when the 2019 Chautauqua (or fall 2018 Chautauqua) will be? We had already booked a tonne of wonderful vacations with the family (October 2017/Christmas/February 2018) before I found your site so earliest we can realistically take another vacation is September 2018. Based on my best estimate the Equador one will be again Oct 2018 and February 2019? That consistent with your expectations?

  8. Really agree! My life experience so far has taught me that pretty much anything is attainable if you put enough sustained effort into it, even though it can take thousands of hours. I’m reminded of “The Shawshank Redemption” – you can dig your way out of a prison with a spoon, if you put in the work and the time (which will pass anyways, like you said).

  9. Well……I would rather be you guys and have retired at 31. But as a mujera viejo, that information wasn’t available when I was young. But I follow you now and it has really influenced my strategies. Take it from a 65-year-old woman….time SURELY passes anyway!

  10. Great Post! love this. It’s a great reminder for me to stay on track. I did take a long and hard look at my finance after Chautauqua. I actually pumped my savings up by 2% right off the bat. ( literally 2 weeks after stepping off the plane from UK) It’s a small step, but your article really helped me to be encouraged and not give up to the temptation of instance gratification since my FI journey is going to be 20 + yrs.

    I’m looking at my grocery spending each week now. I also double check my going out, coffee, and restaurant spending to see if I can stay on budget or squeeze away some extra for the saving accounts. While, it’s not exactly as frugal as the community of FIRE people yet, but it’s a big step for me. I’m also reminded by this post that I should remember to enjoy the journey as well. Maybe 1 latte or 2 with my co-workers per week isn’t the end of the world as long I remember to increase my 401K contribution each year and cut back on hundreds of dollars of shopping for new clothes every season.

    I really like the idea of milestones too. 0-1,000,000 is really hard but getting to 50K is doable in a few years. Alright, of to set some milestones and think about the rewards 😀

    Thanks guys!

    1. So so so proud of you, Zoe! I mean, the fact that you increase your savings by 2% right after Chautauqua proves that you can accomplish it if you put your mind to it. And remember, every time you decrease your spending, that’s less money you need for your retirement portfolio. So it’s a double win!

      And yes, set those 50K milestones and celebrate on your journey there. You’ll be amazed at how much progress you can make in a short amount of time. You can do it!

    2. Hi ZoeT, sounds like Chautauqua was very inspiring. Hopefully, I manage to get there next year. I strongly believe you need to do what you are comfortable with. As mentioned by Money Wiser, you still need to enjoy the process. Saving for the future is great but don’t give up everything in the present in order to do so. Life is too short. Just like FIRECracker, I have certain priorities I am not willing to give up on (like travelling with my kids) because it makes me happy and that what I live for. In other areas, I can get extremely frugal. I focus more on experience than ownership but this is all about personal choices, as long as you understand you can’t have it all.

  11. Another great post! So many people are stuck in the right now mentality. We have entire industries dedicated to telling you that you won’t be rich so spend it anyway. Oh and the only way you can make real money is by playing the lottery.

    I think that one of the most important lessons we can learn is that small efforts over time compound. The trouble is that most people never follow through even a single time. You need to see this work 1, 2 maybe 3 times before you catch on and start to believe that small steps matter. I think that this is where people stumble because no one ever held their feet to the fire to see it.

    Lastly about FI, year 1 is probably the hardest. It’s just such a large number and so far away. But by year 2, you saw the progress you made. It feeds your motivation and you just want to keep doing. But year 1 sucks, because its such a change.

    1. That’s a great point! The progress you make feeds your motivation going forward. That’s once of my favourite things about building a portfolio. Unlike writing and starting a business, where effort in doesn’t always equal effort out…at least not for a long time anyway. But for saving and investing, you see your portfolio grow and compound pretty quickly and it just drives you to grow it even more. Math rocks!

  12. Getting up early to create extra time is something I also recommend.

    Quite a large part of my first book was written early morning on a tablet, rather than sat at a PC – by creating small amounts of extra time each day it builds up to a significant amount in a short time.

    1. I’m so impressed with people who get up early to write (I was doing it after work because I’m not a morning person). As my friend and you have proven, this is how books get written–with badassity and incremental effort.

  13. Great take and great reminder. Always reminds my of the saying…. How do you eat a whale? One bite at a time. Just gotta keep trucking one foot in front of the other. But don’t just look at the finish line. Look at the progress you’ve made as well. It’s amazing when you feel like you’re getting no where.

    1. Yes, exactly. Breaking it down into digestable chunks is the key. Our brains have a way of tricking us into quitting things when the task is too big. But every time I break it down, I can finish it because it no longer seems daunting.

  14. Wonderful, and important, post.

    “Like if you find out your FI number is 15 to 20 years.” This is why it is so very important to start while you still like your job and working. Wait until you are fed up with it, as almost always happens, and 15 years to get free seems a death sentence.

    “The time will pass anyway.”

    What a powerful and simple observation. Somehow, I’ve never heard it before. Wish I had.

    1. The first time I heard “The time will pass anyway”, it was brilliant in its simplicity. I was like “how come I’ve never thought of that before? Seems so simple.”

      I guess the best life lessons are the simplest ones. Like quitting when you were 25 with $5000 in the bank and realizing how badly they needed you. FU money is the best!

  15. “Can you imagine how many books I could write if the words themselves wrote more words?” I literally lol’d!

    Dare I sum this post up as “A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step” – Lao Tzu

    Thanks for the inspiration!

  16. Thank you for motivating once again. This is exactly I am doing. All credit goes to you by awakening my inner FIR out.
    Being illiterate in financial market, I pulled the trigger exactly 3 months back (thank you to FC & WR for your patience and answering all my dumb question via emails).
    My target was 60k/year investing in the portfolio articulated here..
    I successfully made 30k (2 times/month) in 3 months and confident for another 30k by December.
    On this occasion, I booked a cruise trip at whooping cost of 5k..while pressing the enter button on the payment page…5 minutes I was in I deviating the course or should I motivate myself..
    finally I patted myself with this made up statement “Life comes only once..don’t wait before it gets too late”.
    During the last 3 months, I tried to motivate my near & dear..though they did not laughed at me (atleast not on my face)..but no one able to understand and started giving lame execuses..
    Well…I did my part and hope they follow me after I get FIRED in 2002 (cannot wait for this year….it looks too far for me…but as you said..”time will pass anyways ”
    Once again thank you to both of you and keeping the blog active as well as us.
    PS: I am surpised that I did not even bother my 30k cash is now 29.5k (loss of $500)..but the dividend of $30 (VAB) made me so excited…)….

    1. That’s the beauty of dividends! Investing is a long game, but you get paid dividends no matter which way the market swings.

      Glad the workshop has been helpful and your portfolio has been growing! Stay the course! You will be the one laughing when you never have to work again and other people continue making excuses! “The time will pass anyway…”

  17. “You know how it’s easy to get discouraged from “impossible” tasks because of how long it takes? Like if you find out your FI number is 15 to 20 years”

    I actually think it’s quite amazing when you do your readers cases and there are people who are starting off at worse than zero and they only have 15 years to FI or if someone is only 30 and hasn’t really been saving that much and you give them a set of instructions to follow that will get them on their way to retire in their 40’s. People work their whole lives thinking about retiring in their 60’s and it is amazing to find out that you could retire much earlier than that. sure 15-19 years is a long time but if you are able to retire 15 years earlier than you had been planning then that’s a long 15 years of FIRE you could be enjoying rather than working a job you don’t like.

    I realized a long time ago that time and peace of mind are the most valuable things money can buy so staying motivated to save money was never an issue for me.

    1. The Friday Reader Cases are surprising to us too! Despite debt, loss of jobs, underwater houses, we haven’t found anyone who is totally screwed. They’re still only 10-20 years from retirement. There’s ALWAYS a way out. It’s hard to see when you’re in that situation, but it’s so uplifting to see how seemingly tiny incremental results applied over time can give you MASSIVE results.

    1. Bite-size chunks. That’s the key to eating an elephant 🙂

      I know how hard it is not to fall for FOMO when your friends are buying all that crap. But the reality of there situation REALLY comes into focus when they’re all stressing out, paying off their debt, while you’re are sleeping well at night and marching towards freedom. It’s the best feeling in the world.

  18. This is a good reminder to myself. I am trying to finish a book now and have been at it for a few years. I need to create some milestones and attack them like a vengeance. I keep lamenting the book isn’t done, but the fact of the matter is I am the one that is making it not done. I have to find the time to write and it might be that I step away from my blog for a while to do it. In 3 years of blogging at 2-3 posts per week, 1000 words a post (like you all) that is almost 6 books right there (maybe I should put a compilation together for a publisher). Actually that isn’t a bad idea….

  19. When I was a teenager I was considering pursuing a career in medicine. At my pre college physical I asked my doctor to tell me her story of how she became a doctor. She went to medical school later than most, age 40. She was a librarian prior to that. She said the time was going to pass as a librarian or becoming/being a doctor. She chose the latter and became an internist.
    The path is long, I want FI so bad right now. Gotta keep the faith and keep investing!

    1. What a smart doctor you have! Stay the course and find ways to enjoy the journey. It’s always easier to look back at how much you’ve accomplish rather than forward at how much more you have left to go. But as long as you remember the time will pass anyway, you will keep going.

  20. So important to break down life into small, accomplishable tasks. It is so easy to get bodged down, thinking something is just too big that you don’t even start or find yourself quitting halfway. We definitely have our moments were we feel like we aren’t getting anywhere, but luckily we just crushed our NW goal for the year. This, as well as reading encouraging posts from you guys, gives us some much needed motivation to keep going.

    1. Our brains are weird that way, aren’t they? Whenever we see a big task, our brains love to sabotage us into not doing it. But I’m glad you didn’t fall for it!

      Way to crush it, Mrs. Wow!

  21. I hear ya, just wish Mrs. Spaceman could get in the groove, i want to save $1000 a month, and I know we can do it, but she likes to eat out every night cus shes too tired.

    I met a young lady, and she has inspired me, 33 years old, Swedish, and free. She peddles around Victoria, with a small backpack and a pup tent, camps out in the city park, and yes its legal, if you know the rules. Stays in a shelter, eats in a soup kitchen, and gets clothing from the local Value Village. And she is happy. She call’s herself Nikita the Butterfly.

    Ok thats a bit extreme, but what it taught me is this, you can live on practically nothing, so how much do I really need to be happy?

    1. So true. This is what we learned from meeting different types of people all over the world. If you’re healthy and don’t have to deal with famine and war, it takes very little to be happy.

      As for getting Mrs. Spaceman on board, this will take time. She has to come to the conclusion herself…can’t be pushed. I used to want to eat out all the time too, but then I found the benefits of cooking (losing weight from Paleo recipes) and learning how make a enough for multiple meals so I don’t have to cook everyday. The slimmer waistline and bulkier wallet was enough motivation for me 😀 But everyone needs to decide what makes sense for them.

  22. Thanks for this post. I have thought the same thing but you made the years passing feel more tangible. I think you’re inspiring and your writing makes me laugh.

  23. Considerations like these raise the question, “Is goal setting useful?” Not so that Jake-like you can go aimlessly through life, but because hope deferred makes the heart sick.

    Scott Adams advocates doing stuff now that tend toward the goal. Establish habits of frugality and industry–do the things within your control that go the right way down the FIRE way. Enjoy the immediate win of buying a discounted necessity, or engaging in free entertainments, or scoring a lucrative side-hustle deal.

    Considering the distant goal discourages more than it motivates. But savoring today’s win will spur you to redouble doing the things that brought that win. Curate your joys to cull the ones like “acting rich,” “putting on airs,” or “lifestyle inflation.” Did you write that novel? No? So what. Did you write 1000 words? Yes? Good for you.

    1. I agree that distant goals discourages more than it motivates. That’s why I like having milestones to celebrate along the way.

      I like the Scott Adam’s book too. Very interesting to see how he uses systems to succeed.

  24. “The time will pass anyway….” – I love this!!! Thank you for inspiring new FI aspirants (like myself) that sometimes question whether or not this whole process is worth it, especially over a 5-10 year timespan.

    1. Thanks, Sherry! “The time will pass anyway” is what got me to keep going and looking back, I’m so glad I did. The time did pass…as it always does 🙂

  25. It’s easy to get motivated. The hardest is staying motivated. I’ve written quite a few articles about the power of motivation and self-discipline as it relates to financial success. My personal experience taught me that financial knowledge is not enough, business knowledge is not enough. A combination of knowledge, self-discipline, and motivation is what we all need to become successful financially.

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