Financial freedom for everyone
Financial independence is not just for people that hate their jobs. It is for everyone. Creating freedom in your life may seem more urgent when you feel trapped by a job you hate, but it is still a noble goal for those deeply satisfied with their work.
Predictions are hard, especially about the future.
The future is unknowable. We project present trends into the future and assume they will continue. This is why so many people get things wrong. The financial markets are a good example of this (and consequently why most of us should not be active investors). Remember when oil and gold were going to infinity and stocks to zero? What about the days when there was no way the earth could feed more than a billion people? Remember when bell bottoms were never going to go out of style (yes, I realize I just lost every millennial reading this with that last one).
The world changes.
We think that what we like and value now are what we will like and value in the future. One thing I have learned to be 100% true in my life is that I can’t predict what I will want in the future.
Now don’t get me wrong, I’m pretty sure 10 years from now I will still want tasty food, a warm bed to sleep in every night and have friends and family that make me happy. I will still likely crave meaningful work and purpose in my life.
But I don’t know WHICH types of food I will crave. I’m not entirely sure if a Tempurpedic or Sleep Number bed will be optimal for me. Who will my best friends be? Have I even met them yet? Will I be more of a cat person or a dog person?
What will be meaningful to me and give me a reason to jump out of bed in the morning?
If you asked me 10 years ago I would have told you I expected to do radiology forever. If you told me I would be working part time at the tail end of my career in my early 40’s and blogging about freedom and happiness I would have referred you to a psychiatrist. I don’t know what will excite me in another 10 years.
Our future desires are not completely knowable, and the further out we try and predict, the less accurate our predictions become.
I did guess some things correctly. Many of my friendships, my marriage and my core values have endured, but the details are not what I imagined. I’m a different person than I thought I would be, and I changed most in ways I did not see coming.
Financial independence creates the freedom to not care about the details
When money is taken out of the equation it’s amazing how many of the details don’t really matter anymore. There are a lot more interesting side paths which open up in your life.
Ask yourself these questions:
- If your job disappeared tomorrow what would you do?
- Would you be stressed out?
- Would you have to move, find new friends and uproot your kids from school?
- How much would you drink that night?
- What would the conversation with your spouse be like?
Some of you probably felt a little sick by this exercise. Let me tell you how I would react.
I would shrug my shoulders, turn on my computer and probably write a blog post on it. Then I would go about my day, maybe a nice meditative run, or a bike ride and have a drink with my friends after (their) work. Eventually I would decide if wanted to go get another job (probably not) or just retire and go do something else.
Maybe I would go work at a guitar shop or running store just for fun and donate my salary to a local charity. Perhaps I would keep the money if I wanted a bit more luxury in my life. Maybe I would go help build running trails in my community or get involved in planning for building a new pike path. Man, I just got happier typing this paragraph. Maybe I’ll quit my job and go do that tomorrow…
Financial freedom gives me a choice
But let’s pretend I love my job. Maybe you do love your job. I doubt you love it enough to do it for free, but I’ve met a few people like this. The problem is if I wanted a job like the one I have now I would have to either move, or commute a long way. This would make me unhappy. Even if I loved my job there is no way I would drive two or three hours a day for the privilege. It would be difficult for me to find a new job with the flexibility I have created . Things that are not in my control could turn a great job into a nightmare overnight.
Financial independence solves all these problems
My point is that life is not static. Everything is changing all of the time, including you and me. Your thoughts, opinions, what makes you happy and even your core beliefs are all changing constantly. They change very slow most of the time. You likely don’t even notice, but you are evolving. At the same time the world is rapidly changing around you.
Don’t believe me?
Go mentally revisit the version of yourself from a decade ago. What did that person believe? What made them happy? For many of you this will be an eye opening exercise. That person may be a complete stranger to you.
There are a lot of people that seek financial independence and early retirement because they hate their work. I get it; burnout is what sent me down this path. Often we get eye rolls from the “I love my job” crowd who lament that we should just “find work we never want to retire from”. This is often easier said than done, but nonetheless they are absolutely right, it IS the ideal solution.
The problem with this logic though, is that our definition of ideal work may change, and may be impossible within the constraints of their abilities, talents and training. Sometimes what we think our ideal job will be is quite different once we get there. More commonly, in the future, I think our jobs will become obsolete faster than ever. The job you love may not exist 10 years from now.
Financial independence gives you the ability to constantly change your mind
It creates flexibility in a changing world. If you try something and it doesn’t work, you can simply move on to the next idea. Changing jobs or careers is much less fun when your ability to eat depends on it. Financial freedom is the spring board for freedom everywhere in your life.
The ideal job is one you don’t really need in the first place, but want to do anyways.
I’m happy for the people that have found their niche in life, but I think they are a little blinded by their own success at times. They assume this state exists for everyone, in spite of the fact that this is unknowable as we are all unique. They assume their path should work for everyone.
I can’t really imagine a job that involves reading radiology studies all day making me happier than simply not doing it. This does not mean I hate my job; there are some things about it that I quite enjoy, but overall I would be happier having more freedom.
This produces a little cognitive dissonance in the surgeon who works 80 hours a week and wishes he could figure out a way to sleep less so he could operate more. He is going to think that there is just something wrong with me (in the same way I would think there is something wrong with him).
Financial independence means that it doesn’t matter who is right or wrong.
Financial independence is insurance against everything.
It is insurance against you, the system, the government, entropy.
I read this anonymous essay written by a physician who told her story of burn out and substance abuse. The financial details of her situation are unknown, but financial independence would not make her situation worse. I don’t know what she is going to do, but having a big pile of fuck you money opens many doors.
Work is better when you don’t need the money
Just accept this as truth. I can’t even think of an exception to this rule. If you can, please don’t tell me; it will just shatter my belief system. When you don’t really need money you can filter out all the nonsense. All the noise just gets turned way down. You can just work. It’s beautiful and I recommend everyone reach for it.
Now I know not everyone will be able to achieve complete financial independence for socioeconomic reasons, or due to health problems, disability, simple bad luck, etc. This is a minority of us though. For most people, their lifestyle choices are what prohibit them from achieving freedom.
Some freedom is better than no freedom
Even if you can not achieve complete financial independence the vast majority of us can achieve some degree of financial freedom. Getting out of debt, having a few months of liquid emergency savings, having a small passive stream of income; these are all degrees of freedom.
In case you have not read this brilliant article by J.D. Roth, go learn about the stages of financial freedom. Figure out what stage you are and start climbing. The good news is you can start living free before you are financially free.
Freedom and happiness are intertwined in complex ways. You don’t need to hate your work to seek freedom from it. Become free to choose. Freedom is its own reward.