Derek has studied business administration, psychology, and economics. He writes about personal finance.
The Society We Live in Drives Us to Consume
We live in a consumer-driven society. What does that mean? It means that it is our job to consume. Consume food, clothing, shelter, cars, insurance, jewelry, etc. We buy things, and our purchasing gives businesses profit and government taxes. It would only make sense that businesses and the government would encourage us to continue to consume so they can continue to make money.
Try keeping a tally one day of how many ads you see and hear. Marketing is truly everywhere and everyone wants us to buy things. Even our friends and family can encourage us to buy and buy and buy. But what happens when we get trapped in a cycle of buying even when we really don't want the product? We spend money just to spend money. Money loses its emotional value, the product loses its emotional value, and we become zombies of consumerism. We learn to never be happy and to always want more. The new model car or the new phone or the new housing trend.
But wait, if this is the meaning of life, then why do celebrities, politicians, and business leaders seem to always get caught in broken marriages, drugs, and mental health issues? These people are supposed to be what we all dream to be right? Money, fame, and power. . .what more is there?
We are taught from birth that we are supposed to go to a good college, get a good job, and make lots of money. Chase the "American Dream", they say. Buy a house with a white picket fence and get a Golden Retriever. Get married and have a couple kids. Own new cars and expensive clothes. Well, in my opinion, the American Dream is simply a dream. It's a utopian idea that is too perfect to ever actually become reality. Just like celebrities with photoshop, the American Dream is an impossible standard that we spend our entire lives chasing only to realize we forgot to actually live our lives in the process.
Is There a Better Way To Live?
You ever see those people that seem to have their head in the clouds? The ones that are singing to themselves while siting in the park or dancing down the street? The ones that we like to look down on and judge. "Shouldn't they be working?" we ask ourselves. Maybe we could learn a thing or two from them. What about minimalists? They live on so little but experience so much joy in life. What could they possibly be thinking? They don't want a big house with a big yard and a new car and a tailored wardrobe? Believe it or not, some people learn to be happy with less. I think this is the part of the FIRE (Financial Independence, Retire Early) community that really speaks to me.
I was someone that wanted everything. I graduated high school wanting to get a job on Wall Street pulling in huge paychecks so I could have all the things that people wanted. It took me a few years to realize that I didn't want that lifestyle because I intrinsically wanted it—I wanted that life because other people wanted it. Because we are taught to want it. I never got that million dollar city job and I think it's one of the best things that happened to me. It gave me a chance to slow down and assess my life and learn about myself. It took off the pressure of achievement and let me simply live for a while.
My current situation is not ideal; however, I feel much better about what I'm building towards now than what I would've been building towards down the other path. I've learned to enjoy the simple things in life. I've learned that I don't need the Ferrari to feel good about myself. Who am I trying to impress? People that only notice me because of the icon on the car I'm driving?
What Does Financial Independence Mean?
I still have so much more to learn about who I am and what I want from life, but that is where FIRE (Financial Independence, Retire Early) comes in. You see, I think there is a misconception in the finance community of what financial independence really means. It's not about sitting on top of millions of dollars, it's about separating yourself from a system that's designed to keep you blind. A system where all you see is the carrot on the stick in front of you and no matter how hard you chase it, it keeps moving forward. The system of "more".
Now, everyone is different. If you decide that the FIRE life speaks to you, then you will develop your own goals. Maybe you want to see all the wonders of the world, or maybe you want to become involved in your community. Financial independence is about understanding the lifestyle you want to live and creating a system that allows you to live it. That's why there is such a focus on passive income, multiple income streams, and investing. The idea is to free up your time while still having the resources to do what you want.
I think one of the most depressing things I've ever heard people say is when they ask the question "If I didn't have to go to work, what would I do with myself?" FIRE is about never having to ask that question. FIRE is about your hobbies and interests and goals—it's about living life to the fullest, even if that means spending your days with a cup of tea and a good book.
What Does Your Freedom Look Like?
It's different for everyone, but think about what you'd do if you didn't have anything to do. Would you travel? Volunteer? Play video games? Understand the vision you are working towards, because that is the motivation behind living a smarter financial life. We chose this life because we believe in something greater than what society has taught us. We believe in more than staying at a job we hate just to survive paycheck to paycheck. It can be a struggle and a sacrifice. You may not be able to live it up as much as your friends on Instagram, but thinking about a better future ensures you will have one.
I'm very passionate about this topic and I could go on for a while, but I hope this post provided some food for thought. I hope it may spark some curiosity in you to explore what financial independence is and the FIRE community. And lastly, I hope you can discover what makes you happy, because we all deserve some happiness in our lives.
© 2019 Derek
Umesh Chandra Bhatt from Kharghar, Navi Mumbai, India on February 11, 2019:
Financial independence is essential to take ones financial decisions. It does not empower us to spend more. Spending is as per the choice of the individual. It gives us opportunity to take our decisions.
You have covered many aspects there. It was a good reading.
Vince on February 11, 2019:
Very well said, Derek. This blog is great! What motivates me is working with the underserved community and enhancing their lives through financial literacy and education. The philosophy of a credit union, "people helping people", makes me love what I do. I could easily go to a large commercial bank and make more money but at what cost? Selling people things they don't need and instead of enhancing their lives, I potentially do them a disservice so that a large conglomerate can make money? I don't think so! Money isn't everything. At the end of the day I have to be happy with who I am and what I’ve become. Thank you for creating this blog. I hope it helps a lot of people, particularly with the financial concepts, such as a secured credit card, that you've shared. Kudos to you, Derek!