I have a friend who never worries about money. Ever. Whereas my wife and I are always scrambling to pay our student loans or praying for a raise at work, my friend and his wife are equally as calm and relaxed.
More and more over the years I began to notice his worry-free attitude towards money. Which again, stood in stark contrast to my own gripping financial fears.
When I would complain about my pay or my concerns over how to meet all of my many financial obligations each month, he would laugh. He works a 9-5 job just like me, so one time I reminded him that all of us are just one late friday conversation with a boss away from having no job at all.
He said he was not overly concerned. That he could survive an extended layoff. He said it simply and without ego.
I was curious, so I dug deeper. As my friend is as stoic as they come, getting to the root of what he meant was a chore.
"Are you independently wealthy and you just failed to tell me this before? Are you a trust fund baby or something? How can you not be worried about money?
"Yeah right." He laughed. "Although I do have some decent savings set aside."
"So what's the deal, you just don't care? Everyone worries about money, after all."
"No he said. I care a great deal about money. I just never worry about it."
I was now getting a little upset by his cavalier attitude. "Then what!" I said, almost shouting. His answer was brief, befitting the man, and it was said without the slightest sense of irony or conceit.
"If I want money, I'll go get it."
I laughed. "What are you a pirate?" I joked. I parroted the phrase in an incredulous tone. "If I want money, I'll go get it....you're a riot."
But my friend was dead serious. He responded and clarified his previous statement.
"If I want money I will go EARN some."
When he later explained what he meant by that statement, it shook me to my core. It made me feel like a domesticated dog, in awe of his cunning and free fox cousin. Here I was, firmly entrenched working "for the man." My friend was too but he had other things going on. He was a Financial Renaissance Man.
What Is a Financial Renaissance Man? (Or Woman)
My friend explained that he had over the years, developed a lot of skills, none of which were hard to learn. "In fact" he said, "most of them are skills just about everyone already possess." He explained further that some of the skills he was already putting into practice and others he could call upon if the need arose. He provided some examples.
"I go on craig's list and see if anyone wants to get rid of things for free. Then on Saturdays I will go with my truck and haul them out. I then turnaround and sell these items for scrap metal to make an extra buck. I do the same thing with firewood. I put up signs which say: "Firewood for sale... I will deliver." Most people can't find anyone to actually deliver firewood to them. That means I can mark the firewood up 50-100%. "If you make people's lives a little easier, they will pay you for it." He said, almost amazed at how lazy the average person is.
Go on, I said. What else do you do? He laughed. "Lot's of things."
"Elaborate," I said. "You know I run a personal finance blog and I talk about money all the time!" "I don't like talking about money." He said. "I just like making it." It was a slight dig, but I pushed on. "What else do you do to turn an extra buck?"
"Well, he said. I just think of things people don't feel like doing themselves, and then I offer to do them. Like the other day, one of my friend's was complaining bout a twenty foot tree in his backyard, so I offered to cut it down for him. He said that if I would do that he would give me a few hundred bucks." My friend was now getting more talkative.
"Another thing, I buy cars and fix them up to resell them. That's more like a hobby but sometimes I can sell even old car parts for a good deal of money."
The list went on and on. He admitted to not being above dumpster diving. He recycled cans. He never threw anything away that could turn a profit.
Who Has Time to Be a Financial Renaissance Man (or Woman)?
"Is it worth all the time you put into these things?" I asked.
"I just do these things on Sunday afternoons when everyone else is lounging around. I like waking up early, so I don't miss out on anything if I go out and make a few bucks while everyone else is sleeping." He confessed that a constant thought on his mind, in almost any situation was if the possibility to make some money existed.
"It's like a compulsion," he said, now that I got him talking he was letting it all out like I was Bryant Gumbel or something. "If I'm not doing something productive-- if I'm not trading my time for money in some way, then it starts to stress me out."
What Can We Learn From The "Financial Renaissance Man"
For one thing, his attitude of always being on the lookout to earn money is refreshing. For too many of us our default setting is consume, not create.
Also, he proves that you don't have to really be an expert at anything; you just need to let people know that you are out there and willing to work and that you are a hustler. My friend doesn't talk much and yet he has developed a wide network of people, all of whom consider him the first person to call if they have an odd job.
Whereas you or I might see a hubcap lying on the ground in the street as trash, my buddy sees it as cash.
While many of my friend's odd jobs are the furthest thing from the ideal passive income we all dream about, I think he enjoys performing the tasks and getting to use his myriad of skills. For me, I know that it inspired me to focus on offering my services as a personal finance freelancer, a business which I just started. Although I am not handy like my friend, I have a different cross-section of skills and interests. As do we all. There is no reason why we can't use those skills to make money outside of our normal 9-5 jobs.
Finally, it should be stated that when it comes to money, my buddy rarely asks for it upfront or even expects it. For instance, when his elderly neighbor complained about the way her landscaper was cutting her grass, my buddy just volunteered for the job. He said he would do it for free, but of course impressed by his work and his generosity, she now pays him a decent $25.00 each week in the summer to cut her yard.
That is less then she was paying the landscaper but my buddy doesn't mind.
He's just happy to keep busy and to keep earning money.
He's a Financial Renaissance Man. We should all be so lucky.
DebtPayer.com focuses on one families struggle to pay off nearly half a million dollars in student loan and mortgage debt. CT recently sold his previous personal finance website to start debtpayer.com and to focus on his freelance business: FreelancePF.
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