When I was growing up I used to love computer games. My favourites were the strategy role playing games, where you had to make strategic decisions as a main character. Each decision lead you down a path to a new bunch of challenges. Some paths would lead to death, some to a dead end, and some to the next level.
Getting to that next level gave a real sense of accomplishment and was quite addictive. Now I see how these games drew parallels with life and finances. We can always be striving to get to the next level in the game of life. Sure, we should be grateful for what we already have, but there is always something we could be working on towards discovering new levels. We could be healthier, learn an instrument, or spending time with our children teaching them a new skill.
If we don’t feel challenged in the game of life we remain static. We get bored and feel unfulfilled. This is why so many retirees feel ‘lost’ when they leave their jobs. If work is our whole life or only passion, when you don’t have that we lose our sense our purpose. Not only that, but new research suggests that retirement may be bad for our health. This is because we go from being mentally active from work challenges, to not so mentally active and challenged. Work provided us with easy to find levels where we could reach the next level. In retirement, if we have been too focused on work our whole lives, the next levels can be extremely difficult to find. In fact, many of us go back to the beginning, level one.
This is why I am forever emphasising the importance of balance, happiness and a life full of personal challenges that you have decided on taking. Not dictated by someone else, but on your time. Then, when the day to retire does come you will be well prepared for the new challenges because you already have a well-rounded life full of varying passions.
Whenever I was really stuck on a level in my computer game I would look for ways to cheat. I would look around for cheat codes or answers on how to get to the next level. To be honest, I didn’t feel great about it. I felt like I hadn’t earned it. The difference with real life though is that shortcuts are great, and we should be seeking advice and looking for as many cheat codes and life hacks as we can, to keep moving forward.
Here are some of my favourite life philosophies and hacks that have helped me get ahead to the next levels with my wealth, health and happiness.
Retiring early or financial freedom is a distinct possibility for the average person. We don’t have to win lotto or be a high-income earner to achieve it. My average salary over the last 15 years has just been $55,000 (before tax). You can read my story on how I plan achieve financial freedom here. It is as simple as spending much less than you earn and investing the difference wisely.
Be deliberate in your choice of house. Where we decide to live is by far the biggest expense for most people. Our choice of house not only impacts the size of our mortgage or rent costs, but also the size of rates, insurance, maintenance, transport, furniture, and other living related costs. Cutting down on this single expense (housing) has had a significant impact on my ability to get ahead. To cut down on housing costs I have lived with roommates, been prepared to live further out of town, bought a small house (still big enough for our needs), and bought much less than I can afford. If you live in a less than desirable area, you won’t find yourself under so much pressure to have a nice car and furnishings just to fit in with the rest of the neighbourhood.
Like Fleetwood Mac say, you can go your own way. Growing up I used to want the best clothes, shoes, music, apartments, and best everything really. My mates were the same and we were all just trying to keep up with one another and fit in. This game of keeping up can get expensive, quick. Especially once we start getting into houses and cars. Of course, there are moments where we need to fit in. A lawyer wouldn’t show up to a job interview in jeans and a flannel shirt. Decide on the areas where you do have a choice to go your own way without affecting your quality of life. You will find significant cost savings.
Be grateful. I used to always have a craving for more. More is expensive. If we can be happy with what we already have our craving for more dissipates. Remind ourselves every day of how lucky we are to have family, health, love and relationships.
Be healthy. I have been hard on my body over the years. Plenty of exercise, but no stretching and a poor diet. I have paid the price for my neglect with a bad knee, shoulder and now severe back pain. My advice is to take special care of our bodies, because if we don’t have health we have no quality of life.
Compound interest is powerful stuff. I wish I realised how huge this was and I would have started saving and investing in my 20’s, instead of 30’s. This is a common regret of older people so learn from their mistakes and heed their advice.
Realise that money does buy happiness. Just not directly. Long-lasting happiness cannot be bought by spending your money on things though. Instead money spent on saving and investing is what will buy us time, freedom and flexibility, which will result in happiness. Time is our most precious asset.
Learn to be efficient. We only have limited hours in a day, so a great time saver and stress reliever is efficiency. Develop good habits and eliminate bad habits. Be good at what you do. Automate your budget, savings, and investments. The more we can automate, the more time we can spend focused on other things. Be more productive with your time. I often listen to educational podcasts on the commute to and from work. I am writing this whilst on a flight to Auckland. Productive time spent when I would have been doing nothing anyway. I have now saved myself an hour or so at a later time that I can now spend with my wife and daughter.
Have passions and hobbies outside of work. A good work/life balance is essential to quality of life. Balance will also help with the transition into retirement by having things to focus on. Many people late in their lives have the regret of working too much. Don’t be one of them.
Get comfortable with no. We need to say no sometimes. Life gets so busy that we can often have too much to do. Our quality of work, life and time suffers as a result. Pick what is most important to you and do that. Everything else can wait or be cast aside.
Wake up earlier. I never used to be a morning person, but I have become so much more productive getting up at 5am. There is less traffic and less disruptions. What used to take me 4 hours at a later time is now only taking me 2 hours at the earlier time. I have instantly doubled my productivity.
Challenge yourself. It is important to do things that make us uncomfortable every now and then. When we are challenged is when we do our most learning. Don’t be afraid to ask questions or receive negative feedback.
Set goals. Good goals set the direction for our lives. They have been instrumental in moving me forward in the right direction.
Don’t fear failure. This is easier said than done, but just like challenging ourselves, we learn and grow the most from positions of uncomfortability.
Learn from others. Find someone that is where you want to be in the future. Learn from them. Their mistakes, their failures, and regrets. Find out what they did and how they did it. By finding someone ahead of us in the game of life, we can save ourselves a lot of time and money, maybe even skipping some levels.
These all work for me and have helped immensely. I call them life hacks or cheats because not everyone knows about this stuff. The younger me didn’t either. If I could have known this as a 20-year-old I would be so many levels higher than I am now, with both my life and my finances.
You may have a completely different set of cheats that get you to the next level in life. Unlike computer games, life has more than one way to get to the next levels.
The important thing is not to remain stuck on the same level for extended periods of time. Otherwise your life will lack purpose and your motivation will wane. Your finances will probably suffer too. If you are stuck on a level, then seek advice and tips from other people. It is not cheating. The advice may be so good it feels like cheating, but you deserve it just for asking and wanting it badly enough.
The information contained on this site is the opinion of the individual author(s) based on their personal opinions, observation, research, and years of experience. The information offered by this website is general education only and is not meant to be taken as individualised financial advice, legal advice, tax advice, or any other kind of advice. You can read more of my disclaimer here
What life cheats do you use?