I’m back after taking an extra day off. What was I supposed to do, not play the awesome trivia games over at sporcle? Warning, you’ll lose the next 2 hours of your life if you click that link. Those games are addictive.
There was an interesting post by Krystal over at the excellent Give Me Back My Five Bucks, all about what financial independence means to people. She needs to quit writing such good stuff, because I’m really getting tired of typing out her gigantically long blog title. Why didn’t she just call it supercalifragilisticexpialidocious just to really annoy me?
Yeah, Mary Poppins jokes. And you used to think I was cool.
The gist of the post was that financial independence means different things to different people. For some it means paying off the mortgage. For others it means being able to retire, even if they have to depend on government or employer pensions to do so. For me, the magic number has always been that one million dollar net worth. I’ve updated that with one small caveat- that I need that net worth debt free. You’re not really independent if you’re still making payments to the bank.
While linking back to the post in question, I noticed this comment from a chap named James, who has some car insurance website in the UK. Take it away James:
I agree with you Krystal, there is no end to it, it is a vicious cycle, and after a stage the hunger for Millions increases, so ultimately he (that’s me) will be running after money only, losing his peace of mind. I would say financial independence means asking yourself where are you at on your quest for financial freedom? And what have you done to get there?
I haven’t even met James. And I can guarantee you he’s never going to be wealthy.
We’ve all heard the argument, usually from our friends who have $94 bucks to last them until payday. They don’t want to get rich, you see, because it’ll turn them into greedy bastards. Nobody likes greedy bastards, not even their moms. (It’s true. My Mom hates me. She’s just biding her time until she poisons my dinner.) Rich people obviously had to do something underhanded to get rich.
These financial losers keep feeding themselves these lines, swallowing load after load of tripe instead of facing reality. And reality is, as soon as you quit trying, you’re pretty much done. Financial independence doesn’t have an endpoint. There’s no finish line. No music will play once you pass the level, like in a video game. It’s up to you to figure out when you’re done. And as soon as I see someone like James (nicely) calling me a greedy bastard, I know they’re a financial loser.
The people who golf understand exactly what I’m talking about. Golf is so appealing because it’s the never ending quest to perfection. No matter how well you golf or how many good shots you hit, there’s always a shot or two that could have been better. I feel the same sort of attraction to poker, but instead of playing yourself you play opponents. That quest for perfection is still the same. The cards are random, the skill that the top players have isn’t. They play for the challenge of the game, for the thrill of beating their competition.
I search for wealth for a similar reason. Making wealth is like a game, one with many different solutions. The job of each person is to figure out what tools they bring to the game and devise a plan based on their skills and weaknesses. Some people are really good at making money. Others are good at stretching the value of a dollar. Others will use a balanced approach. You get the idea.
I’m driven to increase my net worth because I’m driven to win the game. I’m using the best of my abilities- ambition, intelligence, tenacity to name a few- to accomplish something that’ll make my life and the life of my family easier. I’m relentlessly trying to win the game. That’s what motivates me. Screw the dollar amounts, they’re just numbers. The prize at the end of the game is financial freedom, and I’m gunning for it.
Once I make it, then what?
One thing I’ve realized from talking to my Dad is that his ambition pretty much went away once he hit 55. He used to be out doing little jobs to all of his rentals on Saturdays. Now he just throws up his hands and hires a guy to do it. As you get older, ambition slowly goes away and is replaced by something else- let’s call it complacency. You realize you’re over the hill and that your future is pretty much set, whether that’s good or bad.
That’s why I don’t worry too much about being a financial zombie, lusting after that almighty dollar for the rest of my life. Stuff will happen that’ll be more important than money, and that’ll slowly eat up more of my time and energy. In the meantime though, I sure am having fun playing the game. I buy individual stocks because when I get one right, the sense of accomplishment just cannot be beat. Every time I look at one of my rental properties I feel the pride of ownership. Each asset I buy isn’t just an asset, it’s a representation of all the hard work I’ve put into getting to the position I’m in today. If that’s greed, I’m ready to admit I’m the greediest guy in the whole stinkin’ world.