Manage Your Finances

Pull Yourself Up Financially And Physically

Pull Yourself Up

Do you know what I think is the most perfect physical expression of financial independence? Mr Money Mustache would have you believe it is riding your bike, and that’s a strong case, but at best I’m a part time cyclist. I have a seven-mile ride to the train station and I will freely admit to picking and choosing my battles with the elements. I’m not short of opportunities in the day for overcoming adversity without adding cycling through the rain.

The First Wealth is Health

What do I think is the single perfect physical crystallization of financial independence? What is the purest personification of clawing your way to a life independent of paid work?


Pulling your body weight up through your own force. Shedding extra pounds to make your journey easier.

Do you get it? Pullups are the exercise equivalent of my journey to financial independence.


I’ve been doing pullups for seven years and I count it as perhaps my single biggest physical achievement. I have no history of sporting victories and throughout life I’ve measured my achievements in cerebral terms, so this is a big deal for me.

A few years ago after a house move I’d put on a few pounds, and entered that middle-age phase of career chasing, family demands and not enough time spent on my health and fitness. But I didn’t ease into exercise, instead I embarked on P90X, and without over-dramatizing, it changed my life.

I’m not endorsing this program in particular; it worked for me, but you need to find what works for you. For me it was about the variety of exercises and simplicity of instruction and Tony Horton’s corny jokes. This is where I tried yoga for the first time, and seven years later I am still yoga-ing and pullup-ing.

Why Pullups?

What’s so great about pullups? Any body weight exercise is very pure with no additional equipment required (although I do have a pullup bar). There is something gloriously self-sufficient about improving yourself with nothing other than… yourself. Just like financial independence it’s only you that can make a difference.

Like financial independence, pullups are a self-reinforcing feedback-loop. At the start it’s difficult to start, where even one pullup is impossible to achieve. But take baby-steps and build up to it. Then after weeks of practice, you lose a few pounds, gains some muscle and the reps snowball in the same way that savings compound with investment returns.

What’s my top tip by the way?

Do “negatives”. Negatives are pullup-lite, and they involve jumping up to the pullup bar and then gently lowering yourself with your muscles under tension. Do a couple of weeks of negatives and soon you will graduate to your first pullup – I guarantee! This method is far superior to spending money on support bands or using a chair.

And ladies can get there too. Check out this guide for ladies on starting pullups.

Pull Yourself Up!

There is nothing like acquiring a new skill that is initially so hard you can’t even start. But through perseverance, practice and just putting in the time, pullups are now part of my routine. I still get wonderment from completing a pullup workout and satisfaction from pulling up my entire body weight. How many can I do? I dunno, I don’t really go for quantity, I go for a variety of hand-holds and using additional weights. But if you want to crank them out, then go for it!

Like financial independence, pullups are a self-reinforcing loop. At the start it’s difficult, but take baby-steps & soon you'll be able to pull yourself up, physically and financially.

Chime In!
Do you have an exercise that encapsulates your journey to financial independence? Let me know and write a comment below, I would love to hear your stories.

Actuary on FIRE logoActuary on FIRE is not to be confused with actually on fire; but instead is an actuary with a family on the east coast. He’s revving up his game after a recent financially indolent interlude.

He is fascinated by the huge difference in philosophy and financial strategies between the FI community and the establishment of actuarial thought and institutional investing.

While you’re here, be sure to check out how to build a kickass FI spreadsheet and actuaries versus financial independence smackdown!

16 replies on “Pull Yourself Up Financially And Physically”

I love pullups, but for me, the exercise that encapsulates my journey to FI is the muscle up. Several years ago I bought a pair of gymnastic rings and set them up in the garage. It took me over two years, but I was finally able to crank out my first one. My personal best is 9 muscle ups in a row. I hope to get 10 by the end of the year. And the surprising thing is that I didn’t feel particularly elated after getting my first muscle up. I knew it was going to happen. I just kept working out and never got discouraged. The same thing happened with financial independence. I concentrated more on the process than the goal. As long as I kept “training,” saving money every month and honing my investing skills, FI would eventual arrive. Thanks for pointing out the connection between exercise and FI, AoF. Great post.

One of my favorite parallels between these two worlds is that there isn’t a single path to success, nor is there a single definition for success. Different strokes for different folks. And great work on the muscle ups!

I’ve got the Insanity DVDs sitting in my closet (they’re from the same people that did P90X). I’m just looking for the motivation to open up these discs and start the program.

For me it’s not one particular exercise, but working out in general. I started over 10 years ago because I wanted to look better. Little did I know that it would not only make me look and feel better, but would also teach me tons about discipline and commitment. And I would say that being disciplined and committed are key to following through on any financial plan or business endeavor.

Right on, Miguel. With fitness and finance, the secret of success is getting started. Whether or not your plan is perfect doesn’t matter because you can always adjust things later on as you learn more or change your goals. Ready. Fire! Aim.

Pull ups!? I’m still working on being able to do push ups!! 🙂 You are all better men than me. I do have a pull up bar that we bought the kids for Christmas. I use it to hang but I guess I could learn to do a pull up. I’ll report back. 😉

This is inspiring stuff! I just got down and did 30 after reading, no joke. 🙂 I agree with you Ty is that there is no definitive path to physical or financial fitness. Taking action is the only thing that really matters.

You’ve been doing pull-ups for seven years?! Without stopping?!?!?!

Haha for real though, it’s a great way to get stronger! And I love the comparison of being financially independent to being physically self-sufficient by using body-weight exercises. Interesting piece!

Loves me some pull ups, yo. We put a joist-mounted bar in our laundry room last Christmas and it’s made a world of difference. If only my shoulder and ab strains would heal, I’d be closer to 10+ again, rather than the measly six currently.

Oh man, I’ve been trying for YEARS to be able to do one single pullup (not continuously, mind you…more like in bursts here and there). Since I have the approximate arm strength of a toothpick regardless of how many upper-body exercises I do, this has been difficult. I haven’t given up, though! I will do a pullup one day.
If I did have to choose which exercise was most like my financial journey, I’d say running. I’m trying to push myself to do a 5k in under 30 minutes. I’ll run fine for weeks on end and then something will happen that knocks me back down a notch on the treadmill and I need to start back from a lower level than before. I haven’t progressed much past 5.3 MPH in the past six months. 🙁

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