It can be difficult to remain positive in the midst of high inflation and constant news that many Americans are living paycheck to paycheck. That is, if they aren’t deeply in debt.
You would assume that this country and its people are living in despair with the drone of the media promoting doom and gloom. Unless you randomly come across encouraging stories, purposefully seek them out, or make a point to discuss them, finding the good news takes a little more effort than the bad.
Today, I’m going to share with you some of my favorite accounts of those who built a life living below their means. Through strategic planning and smart money moves, they’ve created a safety net for their future.
John Urschel: Former NFL Player
Before retiring from the NFL at age 26, Baltimore Ravens’ offensive lineman John Urschel earned $1.8 million over three seasons. He lived off of $25,000 per year and continued to drive his used 2013 Nissan Versa.
Urschel retired in 2017 to pursue a Ph.D. in Mathematics. He graduated from MIT in 2021. He claims that he simply chooses to spend his money on what truly makes him happy. His economical nature is unintentional and is instead a result of enjoying inexpensive hobbies.
Steve and Courtney: Life Off-Grid
This couple squirreled away 70% of their IT salaries after they got married. They retired in their mid-30s, bought an off-grid home near Tucson, Arizona, and have increased their net worth to over $1 million.
Steve and Courtney decided that they wanted to pursue early retirement and its freedom more than material things. Before retiring, they opted to max out all retirement accounts, funded savings accounts, as well as taxable brokerage accounts. The couple has zero debt and currently lives off of savings, earnings from brokerage accounts, and occasional side hustles.
Elena Haskins: $50K Salary in NYC
New York City can be an expensive place to live, especially when you’re in your 20s. However, Brooklyn resident Elena Haskins has managed to fund a comfortable lifestyle on a $50,000 salary.
She automates her savings and sets aside nearly $900 every single month. This automation helps her frame the rest of her budget. She is resourceful in her spending and capitalizes on low-cost or free events, low-maintenance self-care, and more relaxed social activities.
Jose and Tatiana: Intentional Adjustments
With a combined salary of over $200,000, along with rental property income, Jose and Tatiana began to wonder if there was a way they could live on less and retire early. They challenged themselves to save a considerable amount of their take-home pay by making intentional adjustments. Where others saw sacrifice, they saw a minor change for a bigger payout in the future.
Jose and Tatiana both came from humble beginnings and found that they valued travel and experiences over material possessions. They discovered that they could save 70% of their salary as they concentrated on downsizing their lifestyles, which included living in a smaller home and driving a 2007 Toyota Camry, among other things. They worked to accumulate over $1 million in 5 years.
Dr. Lakisha L. Simmons: Divorcee & Self-Taught Investor
Faced with raising two young boys on a single income, Dr. Simmons knew she didn’t want to risk living paycheck to paycheck. She buckled down and reassessed her budget to formulate a plan to ensure financial stability.
She cut out all non-essentials, downsized from her family home, and taught herself how to maximize her investments. After maxing out her 401(k) and other tax-advantaged accounts, Dr. Simmons invested extra cash in the S&P 500 index fund. She has earned nearly $1 million and continues to be vigilant with her budget. She retired at age 41.
Living below one’s means can be an effective way to increase savings and accumulate assets. It’s all based on the kinds of decisions that are being made. We all have choices we can make to either save a little or spend a little.
I love stories like the ones I’ve shared with you today. It’s encouraging to see that wealth-building isn’t limited to high incomes, lottery winners, or inheritances. Rather, one could build wealth (and even retire early!) by simply making decisions that serve them. It’s not even necessary for these decisions to be made with financial freedom in mind, like in John Urschel’s case in which he honestly preferred a low-cost lifestyle.
One point that has been made clear in most of my reading is that those who decide to pursue living below their means are not interested in depriving themselves. It’s not about living a miserable existence, but rather thriving in a life you’ve created for yourself.
So, let’s toss out the media narrative of paycheck-to-paycheck and doom and gloom. Let’s take back control of our money, our future, and our lives.
I live below my means because I crave a life of stability and quiet simplicity.
Do you live below your means? Why or why not?