Why Ask Why?
As parents of a three year-old, we can tell you that being a parent is the best thing that has ever happened to us. However, anyone who tells you that being a parent is all butterflies and rainbows is quite frankly full of it. There are several phases of your child’s life that simply suck. Any parent can’t wait to get through them.
As a new parent, it is an awesome feeling to bring home your newborn. Until an hour after you put them to bed when they start crying. And then the next hour. And two hours after that. And another hour later. Night after night after sleepless night. AAAAGH! Please just let me sleep!
Then there is potty training. I never spent much time around kids. I did have a dog growing up and we now have cats. Surely a kid is smarter than that. If you can train a cat to go in a litter box in a day or two and a dog to go outside in a week or two, it can’t be that hard to potty train a kid. I honestly had myself convinced of that. Over two and a half years, hundreds of dollars of diapers, and countless sights and smells I could never have imagined tolerating before becoming a parent, I realized I was very, very wrong.
Our newest annoyance is the why phase. It’s time to eat. Why? The sky is blue. Why? Put on your shoes. Why? Go to the potty before we get in the car. Why? BECAUSE I SAID SO!
What to Do?
There are no real positives that come out of getting no sleep. Parents are groggy, grumpy and short-tempered, and the kid feels the stress. It becomes a vicious cycle. The sooner everyone can get on a normal sleep schedule, the better.
Diapers are a massive expense, are horrible for the environment, stink up your home and are simply gross. The sooner you can be done with them, the better.
But the “Why?” phase. This is something a little different.
BECAUSE I SAID SO! This is a phrase that goes through my head at least 50 times every day in response to that one word question. But rarely do I let it come out of my mouth. On one hand, hearing that single word over and over and over drives me insane. On the other, it is the word that most excites me about being a parent.
The coolest thing about having a kid is observing their love of learning and experiencing new things. Everything is new and exciting. Every day is an adventure. Wanting to know why is just an extension of that. The thing that I want most for my child, even as much as good health, is to never lose that love of learning, growing and seeking new experiences, adventures and information.
The Power of ‘Why’
As we write about our journey to financial independence and early retirement at a young age, there are many factors that have played a big role. However, if I had to give one reason why we are where we are, it is because we continue to ask the most simple question. Why?
‘Why’ Got Us Where We Are
Like most college students who have to put themselves through college, Mrs. EE received the offer of loans to pay for her tuition, books and even living expenses. Luckily she asked why. Why would someone want to give her all of this money in unsecured loans? Because they’re making a ton of money off of the interest and you can never walk away from the loan. In return, you get to learn to live above your means while just starting out. No Thanks!
Like most people starting out, we watched most of our friends buy the nicest and most expensive cars they could “afford” as soon they got out of school, and almost all bought with financing. Luckily we stepped back and asked why. Would a fancy car make our lives better or just drain our resources? We decided to just drive our old beaters!
Most people allow their lifestyles to inflate as fast as their incomes. Fortunately, we asked why. We were already pretty happy with our lives. Now we had two professional salaries. Why not just bank one and save it for a rainy day? Why start spending money on designer clothes and fancy cars we could care less about just because we could now “afford it”. It’s a strategy that has worked tremendously well to build assets and put us in the position we find ourselves in today.
Not Asking Why Also Got Us Where We Are
Our biggest financial mistakes have all come from failing to ask why. We are a society that places great value on fitting in. There is little value placed on independent thinking. Unfortunately, we are not immune to these thoughts and pressures from time to time.
“Investing is very complicated and you should hire a professional to manage your money.” Unfortunately we never asked why. If we did, we would have learned that investing is a skill that can be learned just like any other. It is a skill that can make you as much or more than any other you will learn. If we simply asked why, we would have learned that most “professional advisors” available to low net worth individuals are merely trained salesmen.
“You should choose an advisor by getting a referral from someone you trust.” We never bothered to ask why. Most people, even those that know how to make a large amount of money, don’t know how to manage and invest it. Not asking why has cost us hundreds of thousands of dollars in the long term.
“A house is a great investment.” Unfortunately, we never asked why. We just followed conventional wisdom and since have seen our time drained caring for a house far too big for our needs while we also wasted money paying for upkeep, utilities, taxes, etc.
What Makes Us Ask Why Now?
As we approach financial independence and early retirement, we continue ask why. Here is some conventional wisdom we are currently questioning.
It is very risky to quit my job because medical insurance is very expensive. Why? Will buying our own health insurance in our early retirement be any different from what millions of entrepreneurs are and have been doing? Do people who say this bother to investigate what the ACA is and how it works? A recent post from GoCurryCracker looks at this issue in-depth. While planning for health insurance is complicated and very important, if planned for properly the new laws can be very favorable to early retirees.
We can’t split our time between different parts of the country while raising a young child. Why? Most people can’t because their lives are centered around their jobs and the need to make money. We are carefully positioning ourselves to be location independent and financially independent. While most people live their lives around work and fit in things like family and passions, we are building our lives to focus on family and passions with the ability to fit in work as we want to bolster our financial position.
You can’t quit working while raising a young child. It is simply too expensive. Why? Don’t people who make far less money than us manage to raise children every single day? Do we have to spend massive amounts on our child just because we can? Could it possibly be more valuable to create more time to spend with our child than to spend our time making money to spend on toys, designer clothes, and other material things?
You should accumulate assets of at least 25X your expenses to be financially independent. For an early retiree even this may not be enough. Why? I think this rule may be far too conservative for us. The 4% rule assumes that you will never make another penny of income. I have been strongly influenced by the writing of many other early retirees including Jacob Lund Fisker, Todd Tresidder, Darrow Kirkpatrick, Mr. Money Mustache and GoCurryCracker. They all are continuing to make substantial income in their “retirements”. The “Mad Fientist” talks in this recent podcast about still not pulling the trigger on his early retirement because he makes such good money and has created working conditions so favorable to him that he feels like quitting his job would be like throwing away a winning lottery ticket. With our youth, skills, interests and desire to contribute to the world, it is far more likely that we will make too much money in retirement and find we have over-saved before we will ever run out of money.
Why Ask Why?
The simple act of asking ‘why’ more often than not has put us in a great position to achieve financial independence by the time we’re 40 years old, after working for 15 years. Failing to ask why in a couple of key situations has been very costly and is the reason we are not already financially independent. Continuing to ask why is allowing us to shape the lives that we want instead of living the way society says we’re “supposed” to. It’s that simple. That’s why you should be asking why too!
Are you asking why enough or do you spend most of your time simply following the crowd? What things make you ask ‘Why’? Share your thoughts below.