Money should earn freedom, not steal freedom

“I’d rather live in a one bedroom apartment than take orders from some bitch”

So would I. Would you? Because for me, my freedom is far more important than being rich, but of course I’d rather have both.

My “plan A” was always to get very, very rich. I thought two million in the bank by thirty would about do it, which I could invest in a base of index funds from Vanguard 500 and have an increasingly self-managed portfolio from there to live off of. I read the biography of one of the richest men in the world, Warren Buffet, before I was eighteen years old. Loft style apartment in Manhattan, brand new silver jaguar in the garage and the finest suits in my closet. These were the things I dreamed of and coveted. When I watched Suits or Mad Men on TV, I’d fantasise that I was a main character. That I’d made it. And I would make it. I know more and have read more about investing and business creation and marketing than almost everyone my age I’ve ever met. Only a year after graduating from an expensive university, I had already become Marketing Manager of a small tech company. I was well on my way, and my boss knew his company was a mere stepping stone. I aspired to be even bigger than Steve Jobs, so when people spoke of the next big Marketer in the tech industry, they referred to them as being “the next me”. My plan was refined. I knew about climbing the corporate ladder. I wasn’t left with naivety about the kind of ruthlessness it takes.

And then i read a book called the “four hour work week” and God laughed at my plan. My plan wasn’t bad, but there was a much, MUCH better option out there. And it was much, much easier to implement than ten years of long hours and gruelling work and burdensome sacrifices. It was also significantly cooler too. Would make people more envious of me and put me in an exclusive club of people who actually live a free lifestyle. It also put me in an interesting situation of having to consider what my hobbies were and where I’d like to travel around the world because I’d have the greater freedom to do so. The plan was to maximise the satisfaction I got out of life through a more shrewd relationship with money.

A problem which debates on the importance of money has, is that they’re super two-dimensional. You have the poor, dumb, hippie who says money isn’t important at all, and material possessions are irrelevant. Than you have the aspiringly rich businessman who claims money is all-important, that you deal with your problems by getting rich, and that people who say money doesn’t buy happiness don’t have any of it or don’t know where to shop or whatever. I’m not some dumb hippie. Money is important, of course it is. But there’s certainly a view inbetween these two points that’s worth exploring. The satisfied man has a satisfying relationship with money, not one burdened by guilt and stress and sacrifice. Here’s some of my favourite quotes about money, many of which were in the “four hour work week” and the books I read proceeding it, which you might find very relevant to your own situation and give you pause.

“People say they have riches like they say they have fevers… when really, the fever has them” – Seneca

I’ve met and talked to a lot of rich people because I wanted to learn how they did it. Their lives are not easy. One such man I befriended, during the course of our friendship/mentor relationship, shut down the hedge fund which he’d been struggling to grow for the past five years. The day he shut it I made sure to have a lot of drinks with him, even though I wasn’t really in the mood, because he desperately needed a release and I wanted to help him. Later on when he told me he was looking for work, and I asked why he would even bother, since he had $5,000,000 AUD banked. He explained that… That’s really not enough money to support the lifestyle his family had grown accustomed to. He explained the cost of his house along the beach and the cost of private school tuition and spelled out just how much money he needed to make each year just to break even (it was a ridiculous amount but it added up). He said that when he married his wife, she was the most financially astute person he knew. But all this went the fuck out the door as soon as the kids came around… And then she had to have the most expensive of everything for the kids. My friend is very rich, but I don’t want to live his life.

“I was part of that strange race of people aptly described as spending their lives doing things they detest to make money they don’t want to buy things they don’t need to impress people they dislike” – Emile Henry Gauvreay

I like feeling superior to people too, we all do. But at what cost should you incur this privilege of doing it through superfluous wealth? How much do you really care about the opinions of these other people you’re competing with to have the biggest dick? Should you live your life in service to them, or to to you? Do you want a newer car because YOU want a newer car, or just so you can impress people you don’t give half a fuck about? If you do, then sure, but if you don’t… Reconsider. After trying out the ideas in “the four hour work week” I started experimenting with different living conditions. As it turns out, I really don’t actually gain much satisfaction from expensive stuff. It’s useful to know this, as knowing how much money you should be making and not sacrificing more of your freedom than you need is critical. Turns out that motorbikes are cooler than cars anyway and they’re much cheaper.

“no one was rich who could not support an army out of his substance” Crassus – Ancient Rome

Just how rich is rich enough? Do you need to conquer the whole fucking world with your money? And if it’s a really round number like “one million” or “one hundred thousand” why is it such a neat number? How much thought went into coming up with that figure? Perhaps it should be more, perhaps less, perhaps it would pay to consider the cost of the lifestyle you want and base the number on that. “Four hour work week” helps you to calculate specifically how much your dream lifestyle would cost per month so you don’t have to guess. It’s quite likely that if you’re living in a developed economy and aren’t in poverty that you’re actually in the top 1% or 2% richest people in the world anyway so if your objective is to be wealthy, the rest of the world would say you already achieved it. Get some perspective.

“Spending of the best part of one’s life earning money in order to enjoy questionable liberty during the least valuable part of it” – Henry David Thoreau

What age will you retire at? Did you always dream to be free and happy and… Old? I mean if working ridiculously hard to achieve happiness after you retire is what it takes, than fair enough, what is one to do. But if there was a better way, where you could enjoy your life now as well as later, wouldn’t you be interested in that? Because it is totally possible, but not with the typical conventional thinking which most of the sheep are using.

“money is like oxygen, you’ll miss it if you don’t have it, but there’s not much point in having more than you need”

So how much do you need to live the life a satisfying life? Poverty isn’t satisfying… But working an extra twenty hours a week so you can afford a golden toilet seat isn’t satisfying either. If you actually derive immense satisfaction from having expensive “toys” like jet-skis and the like, and it’s worth the effort you expend to pay for it, then go for it, but if not, then don’t and use that time to engage in a hobbie.

Money should earn freedom, not steal freedom. You don’t need to become a monk to improve your relationship with money, just need to employ some clever thinking to maximise your relative income and minimise the pain you expend to get it. Reading the “four hour work week” with an open and questioning mind can help you do all this. Perhaps you’ll find a better plan or at least be more secure that the plan you have is the right one. If you want to learn more about the book, google it.

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