Saturday 6 February 2016


In my travels I regularly come across 2 types of people.  The first are those that will set themselves a stiff challenge and then go for it.  The second are those that won’t because it’s not possible for some reason or another.  This second group I call the VICTIMS and I have little time for them.  Note here I am not talking about people who look at a goal, look at what it will take to achieve it and decide it’s not for them.  That is a conscious decision and admirable.

This week I saw the victim card being played on a couple of forums as a reason why the Save Hard, Invest Wisely and Retire Early strategy that we follow here wasn't possible:
“Forgive me if I am wrong, but isn't your entire savings strategy based on earning a top 1% income? Not possible for the other 99%.”
“Retirement Investing Today is probably the one to read if you're a captain of industry, he's very 'on' when it comes to reducing tax, expenses and coping in a high cost of living area. That said, he does have a fairly chunky salary from memory (£90k?) which makes everything flow a bit more smoothly.”

These comments frustrated me a little so what follows is a bit of rant.  If you’re not into rants I’d encourage you to move on to your next piece of regular Saturday reader.

So somebody believes that ‘my entire savings strategy is based on earning a top 1% income’.  The implication then being that because 99% don’t, the strategy can’t work for them, so they’re not going to try it.  A victim if ever I saw one.  Let’s clear this one up shall we.  The top level objective that I set myself way back in 2007 was simply that I wanted to Save Hard which would be achieved by both Earning More and Spending Less.  In the interests of full disclosure if I look back at my earnings when I started this journey and compare to some national statistics I can see that I was in the top 7% of earners in the country.  I therefore freely admit that I wasn't poorly rewarded but I was also a long long way from being in the top 1% of earners as I am today.  My strategy has allowed me to become an earnings 1%’er rather than my strategy becoming possible because I am a 1%’er.  A significant difference.

The table hyperlinked to above stops at 2012/13 but to further demonstrate the point let’s assume that it’s current today.  Let’s then assume that somebody who is a 50%’er, so is earning about £21,000, rolls up and checks out what we are up to here.  They also set themselves a similar objective and are able to increase their earnings to £30,000.  For the sake of argument let’s now assume they hold spending constant rather than reduce it as per my strategy.  Are they going to be able to build wealth at a faster rate than they were?  Absolutely, it’s just simple maths.  Retiring earlier (or whatever target they want the wealth for) than was going to be possible is not dependent on being above a certain earnings level it’s dependent on simply earning more than you were previously.

Picking up on the second comment made.  To follow the strategy I discuss here apparently you need to be a ‘captain of industry’ as you need to be one of those to earn a big salary.  Firstly, as I've said above it’s simply about earning more not earning above a certain amount but secondly let me confirm that I am no captain of industry.  In fact I'm quite the opposite.  I would suggest that if you walked into my company and looked around you would not even notice me.

So if I'm not a captain of industry what am I?  I am mobile and prepared to travel.  I have lived in or spent significant time in some pretty unglamorous and inhospitable places.  Looking back on my career thus far and that is at least 7 countries.  I make aggressive promises and then deliver to them.  That means long work hours.  Every single day I am one of the first to arrive and one of the last to leave.  While at work it’s also not appearance time but I am going for it.  Managers want timely and rapid delivery of promises.  I acknowledge that whether we like it or not work is a competition.  In every company I've worked at it hasn't been that difficult to be a ‘star’.  Just getting to timely and rapid delivery probably puts you in the top 10% before you do much else.  I have no company allegiance.  I’ll develop my skills, take on more responsibility, deliver consistently and then ask for the salary increase.  If it’s not forthcoming I'm more than prepared to walk.  Some of my biggest pay rises have come from advising my manager that I am considering resigning as I have been offered a job that will better reward my contribution.  Is a manager really going to let somebody that consistently delivers what they promise with a high cadence going to walk?  I make them look good.  I am very ethical.  It’s a competition but I do play fair.

Can just about anyone do the above to increase earnings?  I’d like to hear your comments on this but I believe they can.  Of course it’s admirable to decide consciously that you are not prepared to do some of these things for a valid reason.  For example, you might decide that it’s more important to you or your family to live less than 5 miles from Aunt Vera.  That’s admirable but then at the same time you have to accept that you might earn less than somebody who doesn't value that.  That is then a conscious decision not just a victim play that I can’t earn any more because I ‘have to be’ within 5 miles of Aunt Vera.

So if that’s what I am what am I not? I am not the person in the company with the ‘birth gift’ of high intelligence.  Ok so I'm not unintelligent but there are also a lot of people around me who earn far less than me but are scarily intelligent.  I'm also not from a privileged background.  Nothing that I've achieved so far has come from knowing or being introduced to the right contacts.  It also hasn't come from support that allowed me to get the right ‘internship’ to get me started.  On the day I finished University I was broke.  The day after my last exam, which was well before I graduated, was the day I started full time work.

In conclusion I believe that just about anybody can follow the strategy and earn more than they are today but of course they may have to trade off something else to make it happen.  Even as an earnings 1%’er I can still see opportunity to earn more in the coming years but I'm now reaching the point where I am starting to think that I have now made enough tradeoffs in the pursuit of cash.  From here until FIRE I think I may just have reached self induced peak earnings but time will tell and I'm still on the fence.  The difference is that I am not playing the victim card that it’s not possible to earn but rather making a very conscious decision.


  1. Hi RIT,
    well said - a theme close to my heart! My experience is one of enduring untold mocking and ridicule for some of my life choices (driving a 10 yr old car, having cheap staycation holidays in Wales instead of some exotic overseas location etc) ... what is particularly irksome is that now that after a decade or so, I am starting to reap some of the financial rewards from having a high savings rate compound for a long time; the same people accuse me of "well, you are so lucky, you have savings ... ". Lucky? It can really be infuriating ... zero acknowledgement of the fact that perhaps just a small part was down to deliberate choices, long term thinking, self-discipline and impulse control.
    I think in the end, it is just a way for people to manage their cognitive dissonance: adopting the "victim" mind set lets you either blame everyone else (evil corporations, the government, the "rich", the immigrants ... ) or construct some other narrative for why you of all people have a very unique set of constraints that means you could never ever hope to do anything to improve your own lot. Anyone holding up a mirror that contradicts this, must then by implication somehow have been extremely "lucky", "privileged" or have some other unfair advantage ...
    My life changed significantly the moment I fully and earnestly accepted personal responsibility for my own life - nobody owes you or me or anyone a living!

    1. Hi Anon
      Even though I am 'not normal' I really do pass under the radar in the real life. So while I see plenty of victim mode in action none of it is directed to me. TBH if it was I wouldn't actually care. We all make our choices and have to live with the consequences. It does however sadden me a little seeing people waste opportunities that they could have if only they wouldn't do it.

  2. You may take it way too personally in my view.
    Who cares what they write on the Internet, they simply envy you and lacking any self awareness to blame themselves.

    1. Apologies if it came across that way but I actually am not worried about it at all.

  3. Way to say it, RIT. People just see a snapshot now, without any consideration for all the time, effort and sacrifice that has gone in historically.

    Even if subconsciously they know what they need to do, they've already convinced themselves that it is impossible. For them. Excuses are used, instead of admitting "Damn, there's a guy that works hard. He is making more money that me, but he is, and has, worked his ass off for it"

    I've retrained and worked my way up fairly quickly, with a similar(ish) approach to yourself. Keep it up, "haters gonaa hate" as they say in the States

    Mr Z

    1. This is a good point Mr Z. The behind the scenes work that has gone into making the present person is never considered when the 'you're so lucky' line is trotted out. Personally I don't covet the lives that other people live. Instead I'm 100% focused on carving out my own life.

  4. I must apologise RIT, for I flagged your website on that forum because someone was looking for a good early retirement blog along the lines of MMM - I'd forgotten about all the 'Negative Nancies' on there!

    I recall when I first came across your blog a couple of years ago - the difference between my own salary and work situation was a vast GULF from yours but that didn't stop me taking on some of your ideas and making my own FI investment plans and your blog continues to inspire me.

    This was your first post of yours that I read -, it must have come up on Google when I was researching FIRE and I still have it saved as a Favourite!

    1. Please no apologies weenie and please do continue to put us UK PF bloggers out there whenever possible. I am not worried about the 'negative nancies' one little bit. I actually think the other way. For every victim there could be someone who is genuinely looking for something new and who is prepared to take responsibility for their own actions. It's those that we want to find the very different message than that commonly available in the MSM. We don't have the big budgets to advertise directly so socially is about the only way it's going to happen.

      ...and many thanks for the hat-tip. It really does it make it all worthwhile.

  5. Rants without mathematical underpinnings are unlikely to persuade anyone who isn't already a convert

    Sure they will win plaudits from those with the same views, if that is want you want

    You would be better to stick to your consistent mathematical approach if you want to persuade anybody using ONS average wage/spending examples, early application of spending discipline that is maintained and then moderate periodic increase of income over a 20 year (say) period and sensible compound interest assumptions to show what is possible

  6. I agree with you RIT, but with the following additional comments:

    It's impossible not to be slightly envious of higher salaries. And of course, given the same outgoings, it's easier to save more as income rises.

    For example, as a single PAYE employee, a very large proportion of salary is spent on rent, unless one is willing to share a house.

    As a basic rate tax PAYE myself, I've run the gamut of living arrangements from spending over 1/3 of my take-home on rent when I first started, to only 10% when I shared a house with a friend for a while.

    Whilst it is possible to adapt to any level of income, I have never found it easier than currently (on my highest ever salary, although still not into the 40% tax bracket), when I live with my fiancee and spend 18% of my take-home on rent. We have everything we could want (I even drive a 2-seater 3.5 litre V6 sports car, albeit a 2004 model) and still save 33% of my net income / 26% gross. For me, this is the perfect compromise between living for NOW and living for the future.

    Everyone chooses their own path, but I agree that those who simply say they can't or won't do something, or compare themselves to others and admit defeat are also people I would not choose to associate with.

    1. Oh, and another thought - I came across a rule of (net) savings rates that depends on income and should work well for most people:

      <£20k = 15%
      £20 -> £30k = 20%
      £30k -> £100k = 25%
      £100k -> £200k = 30%
      £200k -> £300k = 35%
      £300k+ = 40%

      As you can see, these are fairly modest savings rates in comparison to the FIRE crowd, but I like them because they are realistic goals for most people.

      Sadly, I reckon most people are doing well to achieve HALF of these rates...

  7. RIT: would it be terribly unfair to summarise your plan as "I hate work so much that I'm going to devote my waking hours to it for decades, so that I can stop early"? Isn't an alternative "I'm going to find work I enjoy, that pays well enough, and that gives me the time to do other things that I might enjoy"?

    1. Where do you get the impression that he hates his work and doesn't enjoy it? True, he puts in some 'monstrous' hours but it's his choice to do so. In maximising his earnings (and then saving/investing), he will achieve his goal of FI very soon.

    2. It is implicit in the RIT story that he doesn't like his work or he wouldn't want to jack it in at such a young age to sit on a rock in the middle of the med. I like the RIT story, its really entertaining as it is so extreme in terms of the effort he's putting in and the massive sums he's earning. Do I think its wise; a well from which happiness is likely to flow? - hell no, theres no balance to it, its unsustainable, totally boom and bust. I think this is why it generates interesting positive and negative debate in the comments. I think hes mad but at the same time I have a huge respect that he can hack it and I'm hooked to see whats going to happen next..

    3. I don't think it is unsustainable, since he is nearly at the point at which work becomes optional. Think of the freedom that gives. He *can* go sit on a rock in the med, or he can choose to become a primary school teacher, or he can choose to retrain to a architect, and so on.

      I'm very envious of the discipline and effort he has that has allowed him to reach this situation. I myself enjoy parts of my job enough that if I was financially independent I'd offer to work three days a week for lower pay and be more choosy about the projects I worked on.

      Then in my later years I'd have a house in the West Country of the UK and own a camper van in which I'd spend large parts of the year in Europe. That's pretty much my dream at the moment.

    4. For sure his discipline is immense, and discipline is a very useful quality to possess.

      I don't struggle to think of the freedom as I am FI myself.

      From my perspective it is the cold-turkey transition that I would not recommend. But this is unavoidable due to his current work load (which is unsustainable in as much as he doesn't intend to sustain it)

      My two-pence would be to wind the current work down whilst winding up the replacement hobbies/projects/new-work/pastimes/social-scene etc. Not just hand in resignation. Its an approach which may well prove harder than it needs to be.

      Its important not to underestimate how jarring such a transition can be if not actively managed.

      My advice to you would be not to wait for FI prior to switching to a 3 day work week or buying a camper. Life is too short.

  8. I have probably read every post of this blog, so i guess I like it

    However I do remember that that RIT has posted before that is lucky in that there is a skill shortage in his field due to people retiring which enables him to ask for raises

    This isn't necessarily true for all occupations in all places

  9. People know that it is utterly pointless for them to ALL work very hard because they know that it will merely devalue the worth of a unit of work.
    So, if “everybody” was to follow RIT’s example of a path to FIRE then it would necessarily devalue that path to the point where it would no longer be significantly effective as a methodology.
    Thus, RIT actually NEEDS all those people with a Victim attitude for his method to work at all.
    And, thus, RIT should be duly thankful to all those people with a Victim attitude.
    A much more reliable methodology is the monetary purchase of preference; this is why RIT’s superiors ARE his superiors even though they are of a lesser intellect and of lesser “work-ethic”.
    Purchase of preference is a more reliable methodology because it is self-sustaining across the generations – his superiors know that they bought their position through the investment of their parent’s money in themselves to provide them with like-minded “contacts” and see that they need to invest in their own children in order to perpetuate the same privilege for their successors.
    To some degree, this contributes to why a Victim attitude exists at all; those outside the self-perpetuating bought-privilege circle KNOW that they (or, at least, the great majority of them) cannot win against it.
    Taking this a step further, it could be that one of the reasons why the children of immigrants to our country tend to do well is that they have not yet learned that they “cannot win” in our culture and thus try harder than those who already know this. It would be interesting to analyse whether, as the subsequent immigrant-originated generations become imbued with our culture, they will regress to the mean ratio of Victimhood to non-Victimhood.
    There is an interesting splash on this issue on page 24 of the Economist of the 24th Feb.