≡ Menu

Are You A Lucky Optimist?


Are you lucky? I don’t mean lucky in the completely random way like winning the lotto, but living a happy life kind of lucky. Do you know that 70% of lottery winners will use up all their winnings in 7 years? A lot of people can’t hold on to their good fortune. The really lucky ones are the people that can leverage random opportunities and make a better life for themselves and their families.

Lucky Guy

I’m a really lucky guy. My situation is almost ideal at the moment. For the new readers, I quit my stressful engineering job last year and became a stay at home dad/blogger. I’m able to spend a lot of time with our kid and earn a little money online without having to answer to anyone (except maybe Mrs. RB40). It’s not perfect because I’m still trying to figure out how to get back 2-3 hours/day for myself, but we’re working on it.

Anyway, this is much better than 2 years ago when I was stuck in a job I didn’t like. I was making pretty good money, but I wasn’t happy. Work was stressful and it was messing me up physically and mentally. You know what? Even when I was mildly depressed, I still felt lucky. Life in the US is very comfortable compare to the many other parts of the world. My parents and grandparents struggled a lot more than I ever did.

Lucky History

My parents came to the US in ’84 with $300 in their pockets. They managed to send 3 kids to college and they are living a comfortable lifestyle back in Thailand now. This is pretty amazing considering my dad went through quite a lot of obstacles when he was growing up. He was orphaned at 8 and went to live with his uncle. They wanted him to quit school and work in their business, but somehow he was able to complete high school and went on to college. I know my dad went through a lot more iffy situations than I ever did and compared to him, I’ve had it easy.

My maternal grandparents immigrated to Thailand with nothing in their early 20’s. Things were pretty bleak in China back then because there wasn’t enough to eat. They had to work and purchase one ticket at a time for their parents and siblings to join them in Thailand. My grandpa started a fabric business and was able to put 9 kids through college. He made some mistakes and lost his business when he was older, but I think he was still very lucky compared to a lot of his contemporaries. Some of his family members didn’t make it out of China and went through WW2 and the whole Cultural Revolution mess.

Life for us is much better than for the previous generations, so that’s why I can’t complain (much) even when things didn’t look rosy.

Optimists Are Luckier

Luck is mostly about being in the right place at the right time. There are great opportunities passing us by every day and optimists put themselves in position to take advantage of them.

My dad was working night shifts at a gas station when my mom found a listing for a tiny Thai restaurant in the paper. She dragged him to look at the place even when he didn’t want to go because he was sleepy. He walked in, took one look, and decided to go for it. The previous owner wanted to concentrate on his other restaurants and was willing to work with an installment plan. The stars aligned and my parents were able to improve our lives immensely by becoming business owners again. (My dad had always been a business owner before immigrating to the US.) If he had been a pessimist, he probably would have just said it’s not worth the 45-minute drive and gone to bed.

My life is a happy song right now, but I did put in a lot of extra work to get here. We saved and invest for many years to build up our net worth. I blogged for 2 years while holding down a full time engineering job. Throw a baby in there and life was pretty hectic for a while there. Luckily, I started blogging when I did or else I’d probably still be stuck in my old job. Life is good one year into retirement.

Optimists believe they are in control of their destiny and they will work to improve their lives. Even when things are bleak, we know there will be better days ahead. We just need to be willing to work hard, take some chances, and make some radical changes if needed.

Did you know that optimists tend to outperform pessimists in all aspects? They are also healthier and luckier. Optimism is a learned trait, so why not choose it over pessimism? Are you a Lucky Optimist?

Here is a book that can help you become more optimistic – Learned Optimism: How to Change Your Mind and Your Life

The following two tabs change content below.
Joe started Retire by 40 in 2010 to figure out how to retire early. He spent 16 years working in computer design and enjoyed the technical work immensely. However, he hated the corporate BS. He left his engineering career behind to become a stay-at-home dad/blogger at 38. At Retire by 40, Joe focuses on financial independence, early retirement, investing, saving, and passive income.

For 2018, Joe plans to diversify his passive income by investing in US heartland real estate through RealtyShares. He has 3 rental units in Portland and he believes the local market is getting overpriced.

Joe highly recommends Personal Capital for DIY investors. He logs on to Personal Capital almost daily to check his cash flow and net worth. They have many useful tools that will help every investor analyze their portfolio and plan for retirement.
Get update via email:
Sign up to receive new articles via email
We hate spam just as much as you
{ 33 comments… add one }
  • Frugal Sage November 8, 2013, 2:29 am

    I am fairly optimistic and i’d say i’m lucky. But I am a lazy person, who is fairly blasé about most things. I do not make too many mid to long term plans (beyond finance) and just take it a day at a time.

    I know what my final goals are and I know what I have to save and do, to get there. I leave the rest up to fate, and things just seem to always fall into place for me.

    This is a tough one. I think its very much a chicken and the egg sort of situation.

    For those who are financially savvy and save for a rainy day, small annoyances like a refrigerator blowing up or the car breaking down are just a mild inconvenience that you can take in your stride.

    But if those same things were to happen to someone who is struggling to make ends meet and is living from one paycheck to another. These small annoyances would quickly become a catastrophe. I can easily see how someone who goes from one disaster to another would think the world is out to get them and would become a pessimist.

    • retirebyforty November 8, 2013, 1:54 pm

      Yeah, having a little reserve is good for everyone. I can see your point too. Life is good in the western world and if you just adhere to some good rules, you won’t go wrong.

  • Maverick November 8, 2013, 3:11 am

    Would like to hear more of your family background / immigration. My manager grew up in Vietnam who’s dad was a wealthy businessman running furniture, movie houses, and motorcycle sales. When the communists took over they were told what to show in the theaters, skimmed off money from all private businesses and changed currency which practically wiped them out. My manager, the son, boarded a small oar boat in the night with his wife and small child and left communist rule. He started over in the US with just a few dollars in his pocket.

    • retirebyforty November 8, 2013, 1:56 pm

      That’s a good story. I know some Vietnamese family like that too. It’s tough to start over, but many of them are doing well now. Luckily we never had to deal with wars. That’s really tough.

  • Well Heeled Blog November 8, 2013, 5:29 am

    One of the best pieces of advice I’ve gotten is this: “To be successful you have to get lucky, but luck is not randomly distributed.” Which to me, means we need to 1. have the humility to acknowledge the role of luck in our successes and 2. be prepared for when we get lucky so we can take advantage of the opportunity. Another way I’ve heard it put is “luck = preparation meets opportunity.”

    • retirebyforty November 8, 2013, 1:58 pm

      That’s an interesting comment. I don’t think luck is randomly (or fairly) distributed either. Seems like rich people has a lot more luck, but poor people has some too.

  • Justin @ RootofGood November 8, 2013, 6:07 am

    Life is pretty amazing. And your luck is incredible when you think back on it.

    My wife’s family escaped (literally running through the jungle) from Cambodia into Thailand and eventually made their way to the US. She was seven when she arrived here speaking no English. That didn’t stop her from pursuing a doctorate and landing a solid job. And she’s about to join me in early retirement!

    Life in America has problems. But overall, it is a rather easy life. Everything is inexpensive compared to salaries here. Cars, houses (in most places), food, gas, technology. The fact that I can retire at 33 speaks testaments to how lucky we are in the US.

    • retirebyforty November 8, 2013, 2:02 pm

      I think I’m incredibly lucky. 🙂
      Your wife’s family had a rough time. Luckily, we never had to deal with the refugee situation either.
      That’s another part that I didn’t talk much about. Not having bad things happen is incredibly lucky too.

  • Greg November 8, 2013, 6:39 am

    During my working life, as I would lead sales meetings, I would ask for a Pony Story. Basically the crux is this – Scientist were studying optimist and pessimism so they grabbed a kid that was always pessimistic and one that was always optimistic. They put the pessimist in a room with toys and candy. When they check on him he was crying. They asked him why and he said he was sick from all the candy and he had to read all the instructions for the toys and they all broke easily. Meanwhile, the scientist put the eternal optimist in a room full of horse manure. When they checked on him, he was laughing and dancing and flinging manure all around. Why are you so happy? The boy responded – with all this shit there has to be a pony in here somewhere.
    Attitude invites luck.

    • retirebyforty November 8, 2013, 2:02 pm

      Heh heh, I heard that one a while back too. I don’t think I’m that optimistic. 🙂

  • Jane Savers @ Solving The Money Puzzle November 8, 2013, 7:40 am

    I am a glass half full type of person and I consider myself extremely lucky because my sons and myself are healthy and live in a good safe country (Canada).

    I would like to change a lot of things about my financial situation but I own my own home, my belly is full and the lack of retirement savings will work itself out eventually.

    Some people see the bad side of everything and I choose to distance myself from them. They will never change.

    • retirebyforty November 8, 2013, 2:05 pm

      I agree. Our lives are so much better than others, but sometime we lose sight of it. Our day to day problems are nothing compare to people in 3rd world countries.

  • Done by Forty November 8, 2013, 7:42 am

    Hi Joe. Thank you so much for sharing your family history and your perspective on attitude. (My mother’s side of the family has some similarities to yours.)

    I do feel incredibly lucky with my life. I have a loving wife and a good job, two dogs and caring friends, with some wealth to boot. It’s unfair how good it is, but I am not going to give any of it up just because I don’t deserve it. 🙂

    • retirebyforty November 8, 2013, 2:06 pm

      Sure, I’m glad to share. It’s fun to hear these history. I’ll tell them to our kid to make them grounded. I’m lucky with my family too. 🙂

  • davidmichael November 8, 2013, 9:13 am

    Joe, another great column. Fun U-Tube video.

    Today is payday at Amazon Fulfilment Center in Fernley, Nevada. The sun is out and I am still vertical and breathing after five weeks on the job. I loaded 18,000 bins last week so Santa can get a head start on Christmas. No aches and pains to report so far. Meeting lots of fascinating people who are workerbees just like me (ages 50-80’s) from all over the country. My wife and I, with new friends, celebrated last night at the Pioneer Casino with brerakfast at 7 P.M., a Bourbon and seven, and five minutes at the slot machines. Yeah! Life is good.

    • retirebyforty November 8, 2013, 2:06 pm

      I love payday. 🙂
      Your attitude is great. We have to enjoy life while we can. Do you have any plan for after the assignments are over?

  • insourcelife November 8, 2013, 9:45 am

    I believe you make your own luck and your family story, including your own, is a great example of that. Your chances of becoming lucky are absolutely increased if you are an optimist! I consider myself an optimist and I can’t complain where I am now. While some may attribute it to luck, I know most of it came from being optimistic thus taking chances on opportunities. Those opportunities present themselves to everyone, but you need to be an optimist to act. Most people are too busy worrying about everything to even notice and then complain about “luck”.

    • retirebyforty November 8, 2013, 2:10 pm

      I think we make our own luck AND sometime we just get lucky too. 🙂 If you make your own luck, then you’ll get lucky more often than just waiting for a random chance.

  • SavvyFinancialLatina November 8, 2013, 11:46 am

    We’re young but accomplishing a lot. I’m very thankful for my hubby, family, and friends. We’re about to buy our first house, and it’s both scary and exciting!

    • retirebyforty November 8, 2013, 2:09 pm

      Congratulation! I still think a house is a great first step to build wealth.

  • This Life On Purpose November 8, 2013, 11:50 am

    I’d say I’m a fairly optimistic person. Love hearing about your family’s challenges and successes! Very inspirational.

  • Micro November 8, 2013, 2:45 pm

    I feel I’m a lucky person in general. I think the best phrase I ever heard was luck favors the prepared. I really think that holds true because those that prepare know how to capitalize on a situation when it presents itself. Someone else could have not felt they were ready to handle running a restaurant. The preparation of being previous business owners let you parents feel comfortable jumping right in.

    • retirebyforty November 9, 2013, 1:36 pm

      That’s a fitting description. Luck favors the bold too. Sometime you just have to take a chance.

    • Paul @ The Frugal Toad November 10, 2013, 10:42 am

      Louis Pasteur – Chance favors the prepared mind One of my favorite quotes!

  • Dividend Mantra November 8, 2013, 6:15 pm


    Nice post.

    I think luck is important, and it’s unfortunate that we don’t all get our fair share. I think I’m incredibly lucky just to be born in the U.S. during one of the most prosperous times in human history. I mean to keep perspective here: living a life of at the expense level of the U.S. poverty line likely offers you a better lifestyle than the mightiest rulers of centuries past. For instance, I’d rather work at McDonald’s and make $9/hour and have electricity, the internet, modern transportation, access to world-class medicine, etc. than trade places with Julius Caesar.

    I look at my own situation and I’m on track to completely retire by 40 years old. You place me in a working class spot 300 years ago and I can assure you that would not be possible.

    Let’s hope our incredible luck just to be able to blog about financial success and building wealth continues! 🙂

    Best wishes.

    • retirebyforty November 9, 2013, 1:39 pm

      I think we are really lucky to live in the US too. There are so many opportunities here.
      We have our problems, but it’s mostly surmountable.
      Let’s hope our lucky streak continues. 🙂

    • insourcelife November 11, 2013, 6:53 am

      Don’t forget that 300 years ago you would probably be dead by 40. I bet a don’tdieby40.org would be more appropriate back then 🙂

      • retirebyforty November 11, 2013, 5:23 pm

        That’s true. We are living in a prosperous era. Hopefully, the world will continue to get better after we’re gone.

  • Bryce @ Save and Conquer November 9, 2013, 9:19 pm

    I had the incredible good luck to meet my wife. I have also been lucky in my upbringing, education, and social status. Like you said, life in the US is comfortable. I have also been very unlucky when it comes to health. I’m thankful for the lucky breaks I’ve had, and I try to not let the bad things get me down.

    • retirebyforty November 11, 2013, 5:35 am

      Sorry to hear about your health. I’m very thankful for my wife and education too.

  • Paul @ The Frugal Toad November 10, 2013, 10:40 am

    I’m an optimist at heart and have always believed that there is infinitely more good around you than bad, you just have to open your eyes because it is right in front of you. As far as luck I’m not a big believer in blind luck, I tend to believe you make your own luck! Hope you have a great weekend Joe!

  • Pauline @RFIndependence November 10, 2013, 6:20 pm

    I don’t know if I am an optimist but I am certainly not afraid of failure. Your parents weren’t either and decided to trade the safety of a paycheck for the great unknown, because they probably knew that if things didn’t work out it was no big deal, when you are hard working there is always a job for you somewhere.

    • retirebyforty November 11, 2013, 5:36 am

      When you’re making minimum wages, the only way is up. 🙂

Leave a Comment