The Three Paths to Financial Independence

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Over the past 2 years of post-retirement, we’ve met dozens of people who had either reached Financial Independence themselves or were well on their way there. And something we noticed over time was that while many of them had similar views to money as we did, not everyone necessarily agreed with us on everything. And not everyone took the exact same path to get there. Some bought investment properties, some started businesses, some invested in individual stocks, which on the surface contradicts everything we talk about on Millennial Revolution. Some weren’t even millennials! *gasp* The horror.

Yet these people still made it to FI? How?

Well, as it turns out there is no one single pathway to FI. Instead, there are three. But before I explain what those paths are, let me introduce…The Money Triangle.

The Money Triangle

Check that baby out. I whipped it up in PowerPoint myself, in case you can’t tell. Patent pending, bitches.

Anyway, this is how I like to show people how personal finances work. Like most triangles, this has 3 corners.

The first corner represents Income. This is money you earn at a job, your business, whatever.

The second corner represents Expenses. This is money you spend on your day to day life.

Finally, the third corner represents Investments. This is money you get from investing your existing money.

So here’s how this works. Your finances are in the middle of that triangle, and for your finances to be stable, all 3 corners of your Money Triangle have to be stable. If any of those corners collapses, it doesn’t actually matter how strong the other 2 corners are. Your Money Triangle collapses and your finances are left in ruins.

For example, if your Income collapses, then it doesn’t matter how well you control your expenses or how good you are at investing. Your finances will never be stable since you don’t make enough money. You can’t invest money that you don’t have. An example of this is someone who never gets out of minimum wage work, or someone who just can’t hold down a job for whatever reason.

Likewise, if you can’t control your Expenses, then it doesn’t matter how much money you make, nor does it matter how good you are at investing. Your can’t invest money if you don’t save, and you can’t save if you can’t control your expenses. These are the people who may have high-paying jobs, but keep blowing it all on fancy bags or sports cars or whatever and then complain that they never seem to have any money.

Finally, if you’re terrible at Investing, then it doesn’t matter how much you make or save, because you’ll keep throwing it away on bad investments. These are the problem gamblers and amateur stock-pickers.

So in order for your finances to be stable, you have to be OK at all 3 things:

  • Income – Have a decent salary, which I define as an average family income for whatever country you live in. For the US, this is about $60k per year, according to the US Census.
  • Expenses – Keep your expenses relatively well controlled. No credit card debt, reasonable living expenses, and able to save a small amount (~10%) each year.
  • Investments – Be OK at investing by using low-cost Index-hugging ETFs. Conservatively, you should be able to get a 6% annual ROI over 15+ year periods.

So this person who’s pretty average at all 3 things can expect to have an average financial performance. This person can expect to be working for about 40-45 years, starting in their 20’s until they retire at the “normal” age of 65. Add in Social Security and that is the “normal” career path of an average American household.

The FI Triangle

Now here’s how the Money Triangle works for FI people. FI people are OK (average) to Pretty Good (slightly above average) on at least 2 out of those 3 corners, but Exceptional (WAY above average) on that third corner. Which corner they excel at changes from person to person, but what that corner is determines their pathway to FI.

And those pathways are:

Path #1: The Hustler

The Hustler is an expert at making money. The Hustler falls asleep with business ideas swirling around in his head and wakes up with a fully-fleshed out business plan. The Hustler may be a full-time entrepreneur or have a regular job, but either way the Hustler typically works 60+ hours building businesses and side hustles.

Common things I hear from Hustlers:

  • Why clip coupons when you can make more money?
  • You’ve got to get out there and PUT POSITIVE ENERGY out into the Universe!
  • At any given moment, you need to stop and ask yourself: Am I adding value to my business?

Hustlers are the people making more than $200k+ a year and often have multiple businesses running at the same time. Hustlers are the people who are always bouncing around with seemingly limitless energy all the time. Hustlers also tend to be extreme extroverts and just love being around other people. It makes sense, you can’t be a serial entrepreneur without liking people as well.

The biggest danger for the Hustler is to not watch his spending and lose it all. Hustlers understand that sometimes it takes money to make money, so there’s a temptation to over-extend their finances in pursuit of an even higher payoff later. If they give into that temptation, I’ve seen Hustlers like this get blown up and wind up broke. But if they can control that urge, their income upside is potentially unlimited.

Notable Examples: Grant Sabatier.

I met Grant in person for the first time at FinCon and MAN, this guy is a fuckin’ bundle of energy. He’s the founder of Millennial Money, and will talk your ear off about SEO and keyword densities and all sorts of digital marketing terms I still don’t understand myself. He also saved $1M in just 5 years.

And I met him at a talk he was giving, titled “How I Grew from 1k to 250k Monthly Visitors in 6 Months, Got on NPR, and Landed a Book Deal!” And remember when I said that Hustlers can sometimes lose track of their spending? At his talk he recounted how one year he just blew through $200k on wine. On WINE! IN ONE YEAR! I threw up in my mouth a little when I heard that.

Since then, Grant and I have gotten to know one another and I would describe him as a really fascinating bundle of energy. Every time I Skype him, it’s like he just drank 4 pints of Red Bull or something. Guy literally can’t sit still. But the guy knows so much about blogging and digital marketing and email funnels and whatnot that every time we talk to him it feels like we’re brand new babies in this blogging world. Comparatively, I know NOTHING about marketing compared to this guy.

Path #2: The Optimizer

The Optimizer is an expert at optimizing their spending. These are the people who LOVE clipping coupons, LOVE poring over spreadsheets, and would sooner cut off their pinky rather than pay an ATM fee. These people have no idea what the interest rate on their cash-back credit cards is, because they’ve never ever missed paying a bill on time. They WILL, however, be able to tell you exactly how much they spent on coffee last week, or how much to the PENNY they spent in any given month.

For the Optimizer, tracking their spending isn’t work. Tracking their spending is FUN. It’s actually relaxing and comforting to them, because it allows them to exert control over a chaotic and unpredictable world. If a waiter or cashier asks an Optimizer whether they want their receipt, the answer is always YES, at which point the Optimizer will carefully place that receipt inside a special compartment of their wallet/purse until such time that expense can be inputted into their spreadsheets and analyzed within an inch of its life. Optimizers tend to be introverts, and are more comfortable spending time with their spreadsheets than actually interacting with people.

Common Things I Hear from Optimizers:

  • Quiet! I need to be with my spreadsheets right now.
  • I just bargained 25 Baht ($0.75 USD) off that shirt! Now I can get a whole smoothie!
  • You can’t control how much you earn, or how well the stock market does. But you can absolutely control how much you spend. It’s a chess game that you can’t lose.

Optimizers are the ones who get to FI by being ruthless with their spending. Their earnings may be OK to Pretty Good, but the thing that makes them stand out is their insane savings rates, usually in the range of 70-90%. Optimizers are often misinterpreted by others as misers or “cheap” and this intensely annoys Optimizers because they see their behaviour as extracting the maximum value out of each dollar spent. An Optimizer doesn’t see their behaviour as minimizing cost and are acutely aware that buying cheap crap costs more in the long run. As a result they are more focused on value and getting good-quality items for as little as possible.

The biggest danger for the Optimizer is being too conservative in their Investments. Optimizers are naturally risk-averse, and believe that the key to controlling costs is to reduce risk. However, when time periods are long enough, the risk of losing money to inflation outweighs the risks of investing in low-cost Index-hugging ETFs.

Notable Optimizers:

Mr. Money Moustache. And FIRECracker.

That’s MMM, FIRECracker, and Paula Pant in one picture. It was pretty epic.

ANYHOO, it should surprise nobody to learn that FIRECracker is absolutely an Optimizer. The detail in her spreadsheets is INTENSE, and that meticulous spending tracking is the reason she’s able to produce the accurate numbers she does in every Friday Travel Post where she details exactly what she spent on each category in a particular city. She didn’t record those numbers to make the blog posts. She recorded those numbers because she’s CRAZY.

Mr. Money Mustache is also one of these people. He famously spends $24k a year, which is impressive even by our standards, considering we spend $40k CAD, or $32k, or 33% more a year! And in true Optimizer form, despite the fact that his net worth is now worth multiple times what he retired with, his baseline spending hasn’t really increased. Which just means his money will continue to go up and up and up. Not a bad problem to have…

Path #3: The Investor

The Investor is the one who knows how to turn money into even more money. This person takes many forms. Sometimes they’re stock-picking experts who have consistently beat the S&P 500 for a decade or more. Sometimes they’re real estate investors who own houses all over the country. Sometimes they’re literal professional poker players who somehow live off their poker earnings. In whatever form, these are the people earning 10%, 15%, even 20% on their money year over year and are somehow able to live off of those earnings.

Common Things I hear From Investors:

  • You can get a mortgage at 2.5% APR? That’s practically free money!
  • That property was HOW much? How do I get in on that deal?
  • Working’s for suckers. Money works harder than you ever could.

I’m not gonna lie. A bona-fide skilled Investor is exceptionally rare. I’ve met people who’ve profited off of luck, timing, or a hot streak. But a year or two later, they’re destitute. The biggest danger for the Investor is overconfidence that they, in fact, know what they’re doing. Investment success is so easy to be mistaken for luck, and when luck gets misattributed to skill, bad things happen. This is ESPECIALLY true for real estate investors, who get so often suckered into thinking a real estate investment’s a good idea simply because the counters look nice and “real estate always goes up.”

But when we peel back (as we often do) the math behind people’s understanding, it becomes obvious that almost everyone who invests in real estate doesn’t have a clue what they’re doing. So while it’s possible to achieve FI using this path, this is the easiest path to get lured down thinking you know what you’re doing, when in fact you totally don’t.

The (successful) people in this group are also unique in that they share traits with the Savers AND the Hustlers. Namely, they tend to be introverts AND comfortable with debt. Quiet yet comfortable with risk. A person like Warren Buffet, regularly placing multi-million dollar bets while simultaneously avoiding the spotlight. It’s a REALLY odd pairing.

Notable Investors: Paula Pant

I met Paula Pant for the first time at Chautauqua Ecuador, and again at FinCon where she gave an absolutely BRILLIANT keynote speech on how to be a thought leader to your audience. And if you’re not familiar with Paula Pant, she made her money with Real Estate, something I absolutely loathe. But if you were to talk to her or read her site, you’d realize that she knows so much about real estate it’s not even funny.

She understands how to evaluate the TRUE value of a property, and not just what some idiots in a bidding war think it is. She understands the impact of carrying costs/interest rates/leverage have on a property’s cash flow, and why that even matters. And she’s the one who taught us the One Percent Rule, which is how we figure out whether a real estate deal is worth investigating or not.

Choose Your Own Adventure

So there you have it. The three paths to Financial Independence.

The funny thing is, it took us over two years to understand that these paths even exist, because while on the surface it might seem that people who pursue FI would naturally have a lot in common, Hustlers, Optimizers, and Investors don’t necessarily jive with each other since our personality types are such polar opposites.

But as I think more about it, that knowledge gives me hope. You, the reader, may not agree with everything we write on this site. Our complete disgust of housing as an investment is one big example. But just because you disagree with us doesn’t mean you can’t reach FI yourself. In fact, it’s more of a Choose Your Own Adventure.

Every one of us who makes it to FI ends up choosing one of these 3 paths. We may add our own twist to it, but ultimately it’s one of these paths I’ve outlined. And the ones who make it end up choosing the path that most closely matches their personality. FIRECracker made it using the Optimizer Path so quickly because it matched up so well with her personality, and as a result she was able to save money like nobody’s business. But if she were forced to go down the Hustler’s Path or the Investor Path, that would have been a TERRIBLE fit for her since she’s naturally so risk averse, and as a result she would have take much longer to hit $1M and retire, if she managed to there at all.

So the question for you is, now that you know what paths are available for you, which path will you take? Let us know in the poll below:

[totalpoll id=”7518″]

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70 thoughts on “The Three Paths to Financial Independence”

  1. I was relieved to see that you put FIRECracker as an example of The Optimizer because while I was reading it I kept thinking “how does he know me so well?!?” The only way I’m different than the description is my “balls to the wall” asset allocation (copyright pending): 100% stocks baby!

    Awesome post! I was actually berating myself yesterday about having no motivation to be a hustler. Being an introvert in an extrovert job takes all my energy currently….also laziness :). You made me see I have other strengths so I’ll lean into those instead. Thank you!

  2. Interesting take FireCracker. I’m wondering, which came first when you wrote this post, the people or the categories? I would say you nailed those descriptions pretty well. I think you could also make a healthy argument that successful FI seekers/achievers must be some combination thereof. For example, Warren Buffer – he is an optimizer – same house his whole life, clips coupons at McDonalds, reads company disclosures for fun on Sunday morning – he is also an investor – I don’t really think I need to point out why 🙂 – he is also a hustler – have you ever read about his childhood hustles? Of course I think there are natural inflection points, I think Married with Money was talking about this last week. At some point your money starts working harder than you could so you focus more on doing what you love than on hustling – one catch is that I don’t think an Optimizer ever really stops optimizing.

    1. I think it really was the people that came first. When you talk to enough FI-ers you start to realize that “cliques” start to form between them, and when I started digging into why is when I realized what the differences are between them.

      That being said, it’s entirely possible that people move from group to group at different points in their life. I used to be an Optimizer and now I’m more of a Hustler. But their actual path to FI is based on the trait that’s their most dominant one.

      1. People definitely move around within the different categories as they go through life. Used to be mostly a hustler, now mostly an optimizer but always an investor.

      2. Ah yes! I find it so interesting how when you start writing, the writer in your head never stops. I do this all the time now. I’m talking to people and something will come up and I’ll think – that would be a good post! Love your posts guys and I’m looking forward to the series today.

    2. Heres the thing, if you are frugal with money, you will be frugal in Business. Its not about the amounts of cash you save, its the process of getting more for your dollar, and learning to budget, and balance your finances.

  3. Interesting Wanderer! I’ve never thought of FI this way!

    If I was to peg myself into those three groups, I’d probably a combination of an Optimizer and an Investor. Those are the main areas I’m best at.

    Good enough to get us to FI in our 30’s at least!

    When you have 2 kids like I do, time is pretty precious. There’s probably no way I could have succeeded going the hustler route.

  4. Hmmm I don’t know what I am predominantly….I achieved FI through investing in real estate….I maintain FI by being an optimizer. Definitely not a hustler…..enough is well…enough for me. I have enjoyed reading Paula pants blog, but even though we chose similar paths, there are many different strategies. I find the one percent rule sooooooo misleading…..and especially in Canada rarely works.

    1. I agree, hard to find any real estate using the 1% rule these days. It is a nice concept but not sure it is realistic in certain markets.
      I am predominantly an optimizer but also an investor, I think you have to be if you want to reach FI (or maintain FI) .

      1. It can be a challenge, but they can be found. I live in Toronto and 1% properties are nonexistant. I’m looking in Thunder Bay right now, and Winnipeg also looks promising. I find smaller, somewhat less affluent cities seem to have more hits.

        1. There are actually many properties in Canada that can “meet” the one percent rule, but what I feel is that it may not be a great investment. As an example many places in northern Ontario may meet that rule, but the cost of maintenance and repair and management may not make it a sound investment. When I lived in the north, costs to maintain homes are much higher, paying for repairs can be a nightmare especially in remote areas. On the other hand I recently bought a house for $180,000 with 0 down, pay interest only $500 per month, and it rents for $1350 plus utilities. I’m making 500$ after paying insurance taxes and mortgage, and saving 12% for maintenance reserve. Doesn’t meet 1% but solid investment, in an area with growth. In fact it’s value now after only one year, has gone up 50,000. So I feel that the one percent rule is misleading, because it eliminates many properties that could be a great investment. If you are looking in thunder bay or Winnipeg, I suggest investigating costs and timelines to have repairs done. I wish you the very best, I hear thunder bay can be promising for rental properties.

          1. Thanks! That’s some great advice, I hadn’t factored in higher maintenance costs in the north. I’m curious about your finance arrangements, was looking into ways to get around the 20% down on investment properties bit.

            1. I financed using a home equity line of credit….so technically no “mortgage” on the house, but with a well documented paper trail still able to claim interest expense on my taxes. Certainly getting more difficult to get loans.

              1. I have done the same in the past with my HELOC. I put as little of my own money as I can. I only have three rentals and they are all close to where I live. I am not sure I am ready to be a long distance landlord . None of my properties meet the 1% but have done really well so far anyway, too bad there is so much stress associated with being a landlord sometimes.

                1. All my rentals are close to where I live as well. Only one meets the 1% rule because it is a multi dwelling. However after ten years of being a landlord, I have never ever used 50%of rental earnings in the upkeep of them. 12% at most. Never ever have had to evict anyone, never had non payment. Being a long distance landlord would in my opinion be much more difficult to achieve those results.

                  1. Really? That is some hot streak. Every real estate investor eventually gets some deadbeat who won’t pay the rent and won’t leave. Do you have a secret to that or is it just good luck?

                    1. I don’t think it’s luck at all. Of course, there is no 100% guarantee that you r getting good renters, but I think you can increase your odds by due diligence. First off we keep our homes in excellent repair. This attracts all kinds of renters and saves money in long run. We screen extremely well. Out of every 10 email responses we may find only one person we would like to show it to. When they leave the showing we always walk them to their car, the way they keep their car may reflect how well they keep their home. Once we have an application, we drive by their current home. We require two previous landlord references. We even look at social media…this often tells us if they have pets etc. We call personal references to verify things like if they smoke inside or out, how many pets they have etc. We call employer to verify income and employment status. Lastly we do credit checks. We only accept those in the top 5% score range. Once we have found a tenant, we treat them well. We treat them with respect. We attend to any issues immediately. We keep open lines of communication and invest 12%back into the homes. Upon receiving their notice that they are leaving we provide checklist of things that must be done (mostly cleaning, filling holes from pictures etc)before a final walk thru. We appreciate our tenants since they have financed our early retirement, and so far they have appreciated us, we offer them a clean nice home to live in. I must say though we are at an extreme advantage to many landlords in that we are very handy, we rarely ever have to hire anyone to do repairs. We prefer doing it ourselves.

  5. Hustler who wants to stop the hustling here. Only decent at the other two, but a decent income covers all sorts of mistakes. I wish I had the ability to cook up all those amazing business ideas, but instead, I’m just pretty good at poking people with needles and putting in a stent or two…

    Good thing you found yourself such an OCD wife, Wanderer. I’m really glad I got a gracious, thrifty wife or this FI road would have sure been bumpy.

    1. Yeah, she’s pretty great. Spouses really make a huge difference. I’ve seen people who are crazy good Optimizers but then their spouse blows up the budget and they can’t get ahead.

  6. *Sees FIRECracker and Paula Pant in same picture and has mini nerd freakout*

    *Questions life choices and thinks I should probably talk to normal people more often*

  7. Great article. I think it’s really important to note that there are different paths, and this is a good thing because that means we have options and can pick what works best for us.

    I’m definitely an optimizer, and my greatest lament is battling an extremely expensive rental market (the housing market is even higher). I think of how much my apartment would cost elsewhere in the country and how I could be investing that money!

    Many of my friends view home-ownership as a path to wealth, but I love this blog because it highlights how that is rarely the case. Most who succeed with houses do so because they are able to keep stable employment and are fortunate to make it 15-30 years without any major hiccups. Most of them would point to the Investor path because of real estate, but most do not have the personality that really allows them to succeed in that realm, besides of course that none of them yet are shooting for FI. They just sit back and say, “Housing always go up!” and keep living their lives paycheck to paycheck. It’s dumb, and extremely dangerous.

    Either way, you don’t become wealthy without hard work. Fortunately, you have some options for which areas you work hard in 🙂

      1. Denver. The cheapest place I have seen was probably a $750/month studio with no on-site washer and dryer, in a pretty rough area of town. 1 bedroom apartments near the Denver tech center go for around $1400/month :O (I’m right in the middle price-wise, but I have a long commute as a result)

  8. Amazing post 🙂 Loved it!

    Can you be a bit of a mix of all 3?
    I definitely can’t sit still for more than a couple of days. And when I don’t have anything to do I come up with silly business ideas (selling tea, starting a blog – let’s not go there…) that take far too much of my time!

    But I also love a great spreadsheet and counting the pennies. And I really love to save in any sort of way (we normally save around 75-80% of our salaries).

    And I invest in Real Estate (I flipped a couple of properties and also renting out 2 others).

    So I am not sure really, all I know is that we should be a couple of years away from FI and then I would love to start travelling around the world like you guys do! 🙂

  9. I like it!

    Reminds me of the triangle of backpacking gear: your gear can be cheap, it can be quality, or it can be light. Pick two. 🙂

    I think it’s getting more and more common for us in the PF community to see there are many roads to Mecca. Nothing wrong with any of them, either…or even with people who don’t want to reach FI super early and just want to keep rocking a normal job and normal consumption.

    The goal is happiness and if you figured out what that means to you, rad.

    1. Right. That’s been one of the coolest things I’ve learned travelling around and meeting so many FI people. Everyone has their own path, and not all of them have to be the same.

  10. I laughed out loud reading the optimizer description. My husband and I meet for lunch to go over spreadsheets for spending projections, etc.

    I’d be interested if you found these types match phases of life. We have 4 children, and are close to achieving our first big milestone to quitting work. So many FIRE types seem to not have kids, or have small families as they make it to financial freedom.

    1. Oh yeah I see all types. Justin from has 4 kids, and he’s a CRAZY good Optimizer. Check out his blog post “How our Family Made $150k yet only paid $150 in taxes”

  11. Very good post! I would consider myself more of an optimizer. Especially now. Earlier in my life it may have been a little different. As you grow, learn and become more confident, you can increase your performance in the other corners. I am new to this community but have heard many times that increasing the gap between income and expenses and save the difference is the key. So work to increase your income and decrease your expenses by optimizing your life. Oh, and have fun along the way!

  12. Hi, I’ve recently discovered this blog and have found the wealth of information very helpful. Thank you for sharing your journey and continued educational materials! I’m very open to FIRE. I have a question for both of you as to why you stayed at the same jobs for 9 years? Were other job opportunities available for both higher salary and better work conditions not viable? I hear that higher job raises usually go with moving positions rather than staying at the same job because raises at the same job usually don’t keep up with the market rates. Any thoughts on this? Pros and cons? Increasing your salary is important to increasing wealth. Thanks in advance!

    1. Hi PurpleSquirrel,

      I guess that moving positions depends on various factors such as timing, preference, opportunities, time to find job and subsequently go for interview etc. I believe that FC and Wanderers could have been too busy in their work and did not have the time to find other opportunities. There is no doubt that salary increases will be faster through such route. This has to be coupled with the ability and desire to maintain the similar expenses so as to increase the portfolio stash.


      1. Ben, what you’ve written above makes sense. There’s opportunity cost to searching vs. staying. If you’re used to an environment and have streamlined work, it’s less energy than actively searching to land a new job. It’s the devil that you know for staying. In the other scenario, where you spend the energy for a better opportunity (however you define it), you’re basically starting all over to fit in a new environment. I think my concern currently is with “golden” handcuffs like vesting time for stocks. Any suggestions on measuring opportunity cost in quantitatively? I’m musing and procrastinating on a decision I have to make.

    2. That’s actually a really Hustler way of thinking. If a job gets bad, Hustlers spend their time either jumping jobs or making side hustles. In typical Optimizer form, instead we focused our time on optimizing our spending and streamlining our investments.

      1. Wanderer, I didn’t think about it that way at first but you’re right about that Hustling mentality. I want to couple the Hustling + Investing. I don’t have many material needs so have been able to consistently save between 50-70% depending on vacation expenses. I need to ramp up the Investor side of the equation for FIRE. Can I say how awesome you guys are at defying Tiger Mom + Dad and making it! (I have a pair at home and haven’t told them that I don’t plan on buying a condo.)

  13. Your post is on point because it matches my personal experiece. I started out as an strong Optimizer and Hustler but was a horrible Investor. But over a very long period of time and much tuition paid, I finally cracked my own code on investing and found the way that works for me. I became a lot less of a Hustler but because of my success as an Investor, it skyrocketed my finances.

      1. When you wrote about a Grant being a Hustler, the Grant I immediately thought of was Grant Cardone. The guy is on point but for my sensibilities, I find him annoying as hell. Whereas a good friend of mine who is also a Hustler loves him.

        I’m fortunate enough to reach a point where my monthly dividends are greater than my monthly savings from my work paycheck, so at this point I’m firmly in the Investor camp, since I’ve already Optimized my savings rate to over 50% of my paycheck, there really isn’t much more I want to go, and at this point my money can earn more than I can and I already earn 6-figures and don’t really feel like Hustling any harder.

        At this point it seems that given these facts, my best use of time is to further optimize my Investing (raising cheap capital and finding investments that are within my risk tolerance that throw off lots of tax-advantaged cashflow). By the way, I’m from Toronto and there’s defintiely no 1% rule properties here!

  14. Fun post! I 100% relate to the Introverted Optimizer. My financial spreadsheet has 25+ tabs; I’ve long lost count 🙂 However, I disagree with the need to optimize everything. Time is too valuable to be lost clipping coupons, just shop at Aldi :), use the library for entertainment, etc.

    We have everything automated, save 70% of our income and are letting compounding do its thing. Now the priority becomes focusing on optimizing day to day happiness and being present in everyday moments. When focusing on optimizing, it’s easy to look ahead and miss out on opportunities right in front of you.

    1. Thanks for making me feel less weird about loving my financial spreadsheet and all of its tabs as much as I do. Optimizers unite!

  15. And with that, I realized in horror that I was the Work Until 65 While Pretending You’re On Your Way To FI person.

    Go me.

    ARB–Angry Retail Banker

  16. I loved this article! All of the people mentioned and others in the FI community are all inspiring on our journey! I feel like my husband and I are a blend of all three! I’m a nurse and I just love to work, do my job, and go home. Being a nurse, there’s unlimited overtime. We track our finances and research FI topics and try to continually increase our knowledge of money and investing. My husband is actually in the process of getting his real estate license so hopefully we can get some investment properties! That’s the plan so far! We both are 27 and hoping to reach FI in 1o years or so! We are still working on calculating and “mathing shit up”. We both aren’t financial wizzes so that’s something we are still working on! Keep killing it guys! We love this blog and all the great information!

  17. I am more of an optimizer with a bit of investor thrown in. My partner is a hustler. Both with the same goals but very different ideas of how to get there!

  18. Working as a couple helps improve the overall score. On a scale of 1 to 5, I am a 3H 3O 4I. I have a decent job as an engineer but nothing else, I use Quicken to track everything, but I own a 60 in TV, and to my surprise I seem to be smarter than the average bear at setting a winning asset allocation. That and not panicking when the market goes south.

    My wife is a 1H, 5O, 1I. She makes a token income and has no interest in investments other than yes, I want some. But she is great at keeping costs down. I think that since she grew up poor, however much we have is plenty by comparison.

    Overall, that gives us a 3H, 4O, 4I since I manage the portfolio and we both decide how to spend the money.

    This sounds like the makings of a personal finance personality test. You just need the questionaire.

  19. You are on point, as usual, but I felt a bit bad when I read this, because I’m not particularly good at any of these.

    I’m an optimizer, but actually tracking expenses to the penny bores me. My dad used to invest for me until I knuckled down in 2014, and I still took a long time to really jump on the ETF bandwagon. I hustle for my writing, but have not managed to turn that into significant income, so we rely on our day jobs for that.

    On the other hand, “pretty good” at all three means FI just as much as expertise in 1/3. So here’s to the generalists!

    1. Hey Melissa, there’s no need to track expenses to the penny 😛 I never did that while we were working (who has the time?). I basically just exported everything from our credit card statments at the end of the year and worked it all out. I only do detailed tracking now as we’re travelling, mainly because I’m curious about how much everything costs in different parts of the world. Also, as we travel some places don’t accept credit cards, so having to use cash a lot makes it necessary to track it more frequently.

      Don’t worry, you don’t need to feel bad! I’m in the same boat as you.

  20. Great article! It taught me that I am more of an optimizer and that I should be tracking my daily expenses more closely. My favorite thing about FI/RE was tracking my dividends, stock growth, and net worth on a spreadsheet. Oddly, I never considered tracking my expenses because I felt that as long as about 10% of my monthly income went towards saving/investing, I was ok. But if I actually tracked my expenses, I could easily be investing a lot more. I’m really new at this stuff… Anyway, thank you, Wanderer!

  21. Loved this post.

    I’m an Optimizer all the way. I eat, sleep, breathe it, it’s a part of me.

    Has Paula posted about her 1% rule? Real estate and/or Investing isn’t my thang but I’m always interested in learning.

    Where are you headed next?

    In less than four weeks, we’ll be in San Cristobal de las Casas until the end of April 2018. Look us up if you’re in the area. You might need to send a smoke signal as I don’t always have internet at home (the sacrifices I make 😉 ).

    Besos Sarah.

  22. lol @ “She didn’t record those numbers to make the blog posts. She recorded those numbers because she’s CRAZY.”

    love this site. please keep up the awesome work!

  23. To me it seems like there’s a lot of overlap between hustler and investor. If you were to simplify these categories even more, you could say they all boil down to those who have a tendency to earn more vs those who save more.

    It’s an interesting thought experiment to think about where you stand and how you want to grow based on that. If I’m already an optimizer, should I be leaning into that even more? Or should I try to cultivate my hustler/investor skillset since that is likely to reap the most relative benefit?

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