Life hacks are great. These can almost be thought of as “cheat codes” in life.
A life hack is a strategy that allows you to manage your life more efficiently. One life hack can be very powerful. Multiple life hacks, used simultaneously, can be positively life altering.
I’ve implemented a number of life hacks over the years. And what have they done for me?
How about achieving financial independence and retiring early – otherwise known as FIRE – at only 33 years old?
How about getting in incredible physical shape? Or how about just living a happier, freer life in general?
Like I said, life altering stuff. Now, I’m not recommending any specific person to follow any of these specific life hacks. It’s your life. It’s up to you to live it your way.
Instead, I hope that sharing these insights into my own life gives you some food for thought and inspires you.
Today, I want to tell you about five life hacks I’ve personally used to greatly improve my wealth and my health. Ready? Let’s dig in.
The first life hack I want to tell you about is geographic arbitrage.
Geographic arbitrage comes first because it’s arguably the most impactful life hack of all.
I’ve talked about this before. In fact, we’ve put together full videos focusing solely on this concept, which you can check out. Geographic arbitrage is basically taking an untethered income and spending it in a physical location that allows for that money to go much further.
This can be done domestically. Let’s say you’re a remote worker. And let’s also say you’re based out of California and can live anywhere. Well, you could continue to live in California and pay sky-high prices and taxes. Or you could simply move to pretty much any other state in the country and see your purchasing power explode higher from a lower local cost of living, as well as a reduced drag on your income through lower state income taxes.
I took advantage of geographic arbitrage by moving from the US to Thailand in 2017.
That’s right. I took the concept a step further by moving out of the country altogether. See, I live off of dividend income. And dividends get paid to you no matter where you’re located. It’s the ultimate “remote income”. I take those dollars, convert them into Thai baht, and then see my local purchasing power get amplified by a factor of three.
That’s because the cost of living here is about 1/3 that of the States on an apples-to-apples lifestyle basis. So if you earn, say, $15,000/year in dividend income, that’s analogous to approximately $45,000/year in Thailand. And because the purchasing power has been effectively tripled, so has the underlying wealth that produces that income. Moving abroad can turn you into an instant millionaire, even if you leave the US with only a few hundred thousand dollars.
So geographic arbitrage might seem like an obvious wealth improvement, but what about health?
Wealth is easier to quantify. The health impact is more qualitative in nature. Regarding this, it’s largely been addition through subtraction. By moving abroad, I was able to unpack a lot of stress. And stress is a key risk factor for many of the biggest killers out there, such as heart disease and stroke.
Just knowing that one’s financial situation is almost bulletproof is a huge stress reliever in and of itself. Even if you have a decent amount of wealth, there’s this constant background anxiety that exists while living in the US, just because everyday life can be expensive. It’s this undercurrent lurking in the shadows.
Knowing that there’s almost no situation that could really harm me financially is a huge relief. Then there’s the absence of stuff like the extreme political divisiveness in the States. And that’s nice. There’s also the fact that Thai food, for instance, which I eat every day, tends to be served in smaller portions, and it’s otherwise lower in calories than a lot of food back in the States.
There’s also the friendlier, non-confrontational Thai culture based on ideas like what they call sanook – or “joy in everyday life”. All of it adds up as the stress gets subtracted. Geographic arbitrage, by the way, isn’t limited to any one particular location. You could move from anywhere to anywhere. It could be that one goes from, say, the UK to, say, Portugal. I’m only using my personal situation as an illustration of what’s possible.
The second life hack I want to share with you is abstaining from health insurance.
That’s right. I’ve had no health insurance for most of my adult life.
Now, let me be very, very clear here. I’m not recommending for you to go out and cancel your health insurance. I’m only sharing what I’ve done. With that out of the way, going without health insurance has easily been one of the best moves I’ve made in terms of my finances and health. And it’s funny. Because we’re talking about health insurance. But does it ensure health – and I mean e-n-s-u-r-e? I’m not so sure about that.
I’m invested in a number of insurance companies. And you know what I’ve learned?
The insurance business model is ingenious. And very profitable. They take the premiums paid upfront, build what’s called the “float”, invest that capital, earn a return on other people’s money, and “maybe” pay out on claims later. It’s fantastic. So I looked at that and thought – why not build my own insurance company by insuring myself?
I can collect my own premium, build my own float, invest that capital for myself, and do all I can to avoid paying out on claims later. That’s exactly what I’ve done. And the financial ramifications are massive. A $500/month premium paid to an insurance company is gone forever once paid. That same $500/month paid to yourself and invested at a 10% annual rate of return for 30 years turns into more than $1 million dollars. This one life hack alone is a seven-figure one.
Having no health insurance also forces me to live a thoughtful life that mitigates health risks.
It’s not just a seven-figure financial life hack. It’s also a life hack that has helped me to be more intentional in the way I live. See, I’m the underwriter and the client. And the underwriter side of me tells the client side of me to live in a way that limits healthcare costs.
The last thing I want to do is file a claim, because I’m then filing a claim against myself. I don’t smoke, rarely drink alcohol, look three times before crossing the road, and live my entire life in an otherwise careful way that accomplishes two circular, interrelated things. First, it limits my chances of paying money for a health issue.
Second, it improves my health because I have no outside backstop. I’m forced to live a life that’s healthier than average. And if some kind of major health issue does occur, that’s what the float is for. Of course, that circles back around to the power of geographic arbitrage.
Self-insuring is not necessarily the risk it might seem like – Thailand’s healthcare costs, for example, are up to 90% less than in the States. All that said, I’ve never had a major health issue, I think, in part, because I am so intentional in the way I live.
And that brings me right into my third life hack.
I haven’t owned a car for the better part of a decade.
Now, this is might not apply to everyone out there. It’s tough to live without a car in a rural setting. And if you have a big family, that’s also super challenging. So I get it. But if it’s at all possible to live without a car, consider doing it. This is an incredible life hack in terms of the financial and health benefit.
I can’t overstate how much of a financial burden car ownership is.
I say that as a guy who worked in the auto industry for eight years. My career, before I retired in my early 30s, was as a service advisor. I worked as a liaison between customers and technicians. I wrote repair orders for a living, so I have firsthand knowledge of how often cars break down and how expensive that can be – in both money and time terms.
And that firsthand experience motivated me to live without a car. I used to show up to my car dealership day job by bus, which is petty ironic. And this was in Sarasota, Florida. Not exactly a dream city for public transit, but I made it work. According to AAA, the average cost of new car ownership is $9,282/year. Compounding that money over 30 years at a 10% annual rate of return turns into more than $1.6 million. Another seven-figure life hack here. Sure, you can buy a used car. And I certainly would go after a used car – if I had to buy a car. However, used cars have shot way up in price and are often competing with new cars in terms of price. Plus, the older the car, the more it’ll cost to maintain it. No matter how you slice it, it’s going to average out to thousands of dollars per year.
Is living without a car also healthier? I think so.
Think about it. How do you get around when you’re not driving everywhere? Well, you’re using your body. Unless you’re going somewhere far away, which then gets into public transportation. But I walk almost everywhere these days. It’s enjoyable.
I feel like I’m better able to interact with my surroundings when I’m not whizzing by everything at high speed. I don’t track my steps any longer. But when I did, it was over 10,000 steps per day. Often up in the 15,000 steps per day range. And that adds up.
We’re talking about a lot of calories expended. And then there’s that addition through subtraction again. Driving is stressful. We’ve all heard of road rage. But have you ever heard of walking rage? My point exactly. Not driving greatly reduces stress.
This leads right into my fourth life hack, which is extremely regular exercise.
I exercise intensely almost every single day.
Again, this isn’t a recommendation. Consult a healthcare professional before engaging in any kind of physical activity. With that out of the way, let’s get into it. Now, maybe you don’t think exercise is a life hack. It’s too obvious. I disagree. According to the CDC, nearly half of all American adults are obese, Soit must not be so obvious after all. I go to plenty of full restaurants. Never been to a full gym. This relates back to the lack of health insurance on my part.
Would it be easier to let the health go if I knew a health insurance company was financially backstopping me? Probably. But my underwriter reminds me daily that I have no such backstop. So I get my butt to the gym and get in highly intense sessions six days per week, which is why you see me in my gym garb in every video. That’s on top of walking almost everywhere.
The financial and health benefits to regular exercise are immense.
I’m not going to start citing the health benefits. The research has been done to death and it’s very clear. When I Google “health benefits to regular exercise”, I get more than 6 billion results. So, yeah… it’s a great health choice.
And, you know, I want to live as long as possible. I didn’t work so hard to build up wealth and achieve FIRE so that I can then go and die at 60. I want to live to at least 100. It’d be great to see humanity do incredible things like, say, land on Mars.
Life is short enough. Why make it shorter by avoiding an easy outlet to greatly improve your health and longevity? I look and feel much, much better than the average American guy in his late 30s. And because a picture is worth a thousand words, here’s a picture of what six days/week at the gym (along with no health insurance and living without a car) does for me. While I’m in my late 30s, I feel just like I did in my early 20s. In fact, my jeans have a smaller waist size now than they did in high school. That’s the truth.
So that’s health. What about wealth?
Well, it’s part of an entire lifestyle. If that hasn’t been made clear by now, let me come right out and say it. These life hacks are complementary. They’re great individually, but they’re supercharged when used in unison. By spending time at the gym, I’m not spending time doing things that I shouldn’t be doing. By engaging in good habits, I’m, by extension, not engaging in bad habits.
And, sure, the gym costs $30/month. But you can exercise for free, which increases the already-high ROI. Even at $30/month, though, I’m saving so much more than that. How much wealth am I building up through the reduction in expensive negative health outcomes that could very well come about if I didn’t exercise intensely almost every day? What about the stress alleviation? How much does stress cost? There are a lot of hidden costs to everyday life that you probably don’t even think of. These life hacks involve second-order thinking to design an entire lifestyle from a high level.
Last but not least, my fifth life hack I want to share with you is intermittent fasting.
I only eat two meals per day.
Before I begin, let me start with a quick disclaimer. I’m not a licensed dietician. I’m not recommending any specific diets to any specific people. Again, I’m only sharing what I’ve done. But I can say, unequivocally, that there have been two periods in my life.
The period before I began intermittent fasting. And the period after. The latter period has been far, far better in terms of how I look and how I feel. My alertness and energy has been off the charts. No lethargy from constantly digesting food. I eat a very light lunch at noon. And then I eat dinner around 7:30 p.m. That’s it. No more food until noon the next day. So it’s a 16/8 split.
The financial benefits to intermittent fasting are pretty clear.
I mean, food is expensive. With inflation suddenly taking off, food has become even more expensive. I don’t eat breakfast. And let’s say you average just $3/day on breakfast. That’s factoring in cheaper meals during the week, like oatmeal or cereal, along with some occasional breakfasts at restaurants, or more elaborate home breakfasts, like omelettes, on the weekends. That $3/day adds up to $1,095 per year. Compounding that at 10% annually for 30 years adds up to nearly $200,000. Is breakfast worth $200 grand? For me, that’s a big no. I don’t like waking up early. And breakfast never drove me wild anyway. Skipping it, along with the money and time it costs to prepare it, is a no-brainer.
That’s just the wealth side. The health side of intermittent fasting could be far more important.
It’s not only a reduction in daily caloric intake, which is fairly obvious. This is about living longer, not just better. One of the world’s most renowned longevity experts, Dr. David Sinclair, has stated this: “It’s clear, based on thousands of years of human existence, that eating less – if it’s not starvation or malnutrition – is good for you.” Why is fasting good for you? His answer: “What’s happening is, when I’m not eating, or if you choose not to eat for a meal or two, you’re turning on the body’s defenses against aging.” (source).
He’s done a ton of research into this, written books, been on countless podcasts, done a TED talk, etc. So I won’t harp on this. But if you’re looking to delve into how much your health and longevity could be impacted through intermittent fasting, the information is out there. The average American is certainly not intermittently fasting. Likewise, as I pointed out earlier, obesity among Americans is rife.
And that’s really the bottom line here. If you want a different outcome from everyone else, you have to think and act differently.
If you keep doing what you’ve always done, you’ll keep getting what you’ve always gotten. Output depends on input. Look around you. How many people are financially independent, retired early, happy, living with little stress, free, and looking and feeling better than they did when they were 16? You already know the answer.
These are five of my favorite life hacks. They’ve led to tremendous benefits in my life. They’re not for everyone. And I’m not recommending anyone to do any of them. Instead, I hope these concepts help to inspire you to take a look at your life and think about how you could improve it. Life is tough and short. Let’s strive to make it a little bit better and a little bit longer.
— Jason Fieber
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