Written by Trent Hamm, The Simple Dollar is a popular personal finance blog that chronicle's one man's road back from overwhelming debt to financial security. Hamm declared the contents of the blog to be in the Public Domain in 2008 and available for sharing when attributed properly. We will share a couple of posts a week.
I want to tell you about a guy I know that I’ll call Jeff.
Jeff is in his middle years. He’s one of those guys who just naturally makes people feel comfortable around him, with a bit of slight deprecation and a great smile always at the ready. He tries really hard to remember your name even if you’ve only met him once.
Jeff is always clean and presentable, but he’s usually underdressed for every occasion. He’s the guy who’s wearing the most casual clothing in the room. He’ll show up for a wedding in older jeans and either a decent t-shirt or the one button-up shirt he has in his closet.
Everyone likes Jeff, though a lot of people had just assumed that he was relatively poor. He lives alone in a pretty small house and, although he owns a car, it was about ten years old and no one could remember him ever driving it, since he usually rides around on his bicycle even in the coldest months.
Jeff is just a comfortable person to be around. You don’t feel self-conscious around him in either a positive or a negative way.
A while back, I was talking to Jeff about what he did for a living because, frankly, I didn’t know.
“I mostly rebuild bicycles these days,” he told me.
I was surprised there was money in that. He said there wasn’t, really, but that he did it because he liked doing it. He liked taking rusty old bicycles, fixing them up into working order, and selling them at a low rate to college students in the area. He mostly did it via word of mouth and Craigslist.
Honestly, it seems like a fun business to be in, particularly if you enjoy bicycling and like fixing things, which Jeff really seems to.
A few days later, I was talking about this to a mutual friend who just smiled and said, “Jeff didn’t always repair bicycles.”
It turns out that Jeff used to work in a very stressful position in upper management at a local company. He was the guy who would get called in when there was a major reorganization to be done or a disaster to fix. Just by doing his job, he’d spend all day in tense discussions with people who were stressed out about Jeff potentially firing them.
One day, apparently, he walked in and fired himself.
Of course, Jeff had done this the smart way. For almost the entire time he’d worked there, he’d saved half of his take-home pay. That sits in the bank for security, because Jeff now lives off of his bicycle money. His little house is paid for. His car is paid for. He has a bunch of money in the bank.
The best part? You only have to spend a few minutes around Jeff to realize that he’s pretty much at peace with the world.
So, what’s the gospel of Jeff? Money is just a tool. Are you going to be the person using that tool, saving up so that you can life your life the way you want? Or are you going to be the person used by it, manipulated by stress and bills and supervisors?
The difference is just a bunch of stuff.