Lately, I’ve been thinking a great deal about sacrifice. It’s a word that I’ve become familiar with, but also one that I keep coming back to when I read or listen to the words of people who inspire me. Sacrifice is often a hard concept for me to grasp, mainly because it’s one that I cannot escape. Looking back on my childhood, sacrifice meant giving up the innocent years of being a kid to protect and care for my siblings. For my parents, sacrifice meant giving up their kids because drugs and alcohol were the only things they seemingly would not give up. A painful sting I still resist to this day. In any case, more often than not, I come back to stories of sacrifice and how people gave up something now for something later. For me, in this current moment, I inspect sacrifice in financial terms, and how I must make sacrifices with my money now so that I can live the life I want to live later.
It all starts with poverty for me. I’ve documented countless times just how brutal my childhood was. My family and I did not grow up with money. Paying bills, putting groceries on the table, and other basic needs were consistently unmet. There were times when we had to stretch portions of rice and beans for dinner. There were times when we faced eviction, being put out of our house forcing us to face homelessness. The depths of despair we encountered in poverty were dark. Ultimately, I knew that when I grew up, I wanted to break this cycle.
With this in mind, I’ve set out on a journey to become a first-generation millionaire. While a lofty goal, it’s one I find attainable. I’ve already become a first-generation college graduate, obtaining the highest level of education of anyone in my immediate family. I figured I could keep going. More importantly than trying to prove a point was my determination to break a generational cycle. Becoming wealthy is not only self-serving, it’s a way to change the narrative in my life.
This is why I’ve set out to study how exactly people who amassed wealth did it. I threw myself into understanding what these people did to get to where they are not. As I read and watched countless hours of material, I began to realize some common trends. Hard work, skill-building, and sacrifice pop up time and again in these stories. The last one, however, is the one that interests me the most. Not because I can relate to it the most, but because it’s one that I believe differentiates the people I studied from others.
So, what does sacrifice mean? As defined by Merriam-Webster, sacrifice means “to suffer loss of, give up, renounce, injure, or destroy especially for an ideal, belief, or end.” Put another way, sacrifice is the act of giving up something now for the possibility of gaining something later. As I studied the words and lives of these millionaires, I noticed that many of them did not start with a lot. In fact, in their early days, many of them forced themselves to live on less than they earned so they could invest their money for years and live comfortably later on down the road. That was the painful sacrifice they made so they could live the life they wanted later on.
What I came to understand was that most wealthy people (excluding those who inherited their way to wealth), made sacrifices early on. This thread is something I’ve been pulling on lately being a young person with a lot of opportunities to make a difference in my life later on.
Do I want to give up being able to spend my salary frivolously now for financial security later on down the road? Do I want to sit out a night or two of going out with friends so that I can put that money away in my retirement account? As I contemplate sacrifice in this respect, I keep coming back to this one truth: sacrifices come with trade-offs. What I choose not to give up now could haunt me later. Sure, I could live a happy and prosperous life now, but what will my future self think of my lack of sacrifice? What if I were to sacrifice what I want in this moment for a better life down the road? Will it be worth it? I don’t know, but that’s another thing about sacrifice: sometimes we don’t know how big the reward can be on the other side.