There Are No Shortcuts to Financial Independence (or Beautiful Gardens)

My mom and dad moved into their retirement home in 2004. It’s a strong, brick rambler with plenty of space for two and a grand fireplace on the main floor.

Turning Dirt Pits Into Gardens

But the real jewel to my dad was the yard. Or at least the yard’s potential. The home had a nice backyard area lined with apple, apricot, cherry, peach, and plum trees. However, just beyond the second row of fruit trees was a stone wall, and on the other side of that stone wall was a quarter acre of “blah": weeds, dust, rock-filled ground, and infested with grasshoppers.

As soon as dad moved in, he set out to creating his dream garden. Sod and dead plants were removed, new ones planted, and that lifeless quarter acre was rejuvenated.

It was long, tedious work, spanning a period of years with constant maintenance thereafter, not just for a few summers. Here’s a picture of the yard in Summer 2016.

It’s hard to tell from the image, but the original fruit trees are toward the front, the rock wall is gone and the quarter acre is now replete with shrubs, trees, pathways, vegetable plants, boulders, and a flowing a stream.

No Shortcuts to Financial Independence

A few years ago my dad was honored to have his garden included as a visiting spot for a group of traveling gardeners looking for local inspiration. Dad was proud as a peacock. One of the visitors asked him how he was able to do such an effective job at keeping his weeds under control. I imagine she was expecting to hear of some weed killing concoction he had discovered.

How did he reply? Dad simply held up his two hands. Those were the “weed controllers.”

Some people look for shortcuts to a beautiful garden. They see a few pictures in Home & Garden magazine and don’t consider the sweat and toil that’s involved.

Likewise, some families want a shortcut to financial independence. Shortcut messages are everywhere, usually involving an “easy way” to “make a lot of money” very quickly:

  • Flipping homes in a hot real estate market in your spare time
  • Investing your life savings in a hot stock before anyone else knows about it
  • Starting an easy online business on nights and weekends

Steady, Consistent Toil

Just as there are no shortcuts to creating a beautiful garden, there are no shortcuts to creating financial independence. It’s steady, consistent toil, but even then you’ll reach the end of some weeks, months, or years and scarcely feel like you’ve made any progress:

  • You work steadily at a good paying job, but that promotion keeps eluding you

  • You consistently contribute each month to your IRA, but the stock market hasn’t done much for a couple of years
  • You save $200 a month towards a future home down payment, meanwhile your friend is putting zero down and getting his dream home (and a nightmare mortgage payment)

If the financial freedom is worth it to you, then you have to ignore the shortcut messages and keep at the steady, consistent toil of building something meaningful. Keep contributing, keep saving, keep working. Hold on to the vision of what that life looks like and remember that each dollar saved or invested is helping you grow your “dream garden.”