Why a Monthly Salary Has Become Society’s Worst Addiction
Have we lost sight of what money actually achieves?
They say don’t hold onto regret, yet, there are many things I wish I had done differently in my life. Not spending enough time with my Grandad, going to college, and even a few relationships that probably weren’t worth holding onto for so long.
But there has been one decision I’m extremely proud of. That is, since graduating college five years ago, I’ve not worked a single day in the office or at any 9–5 job.
I’ve remained focused on what makes sense to me — an overarching goal for my life and career — financial freedom.
Recently, I’ve read and re-read a few lifestyle genre books as it pertains to our working careers. Millionaire Fast-Lane and The 4-Hour Work Week are beyond popular in this landscape.
What I noticed is they both have a common theme: Losing sight of your career goals while in pursuit of them.
Have we lost touch with what financial freedom actually means?
Financial freedom is a trending topic here on Medium and in the greater online universe. Millions of Millennials have begun their own quest toward financial satisfaction and the opportunity to leave their career behind early.
We see the 40-year working career as old news. Or, at least, some of us do. It’s a liberating movement in itself.
When I first heard about the F.I.R.E. movement and started reading stories of people who managed to call it quits on their career in their late-20’s and early-30’s, I couldn’t wait to start my own journey.
Yet, still, it seems most have lost touch with what financial freedom actually is; freedom, mobility, and liberation. Most of all, choice.
They’ve been working so hard to reach the mountain peak, they don’t realize when they’ve reached it.
When faced with the choice to stop working — or even slow down — they can’t. Their addiction to more money has worsened. They’ve become a slave to their monthly salary like its new-age heroin.
And, technically, the choice is theirs. That’s the point of financial independence. If you love your job, then, by all means, keep at it. Sadly, though, that’s not what this piece is about.
Our relationship with earning money needs a re-examination
I’m not going to sit here and act like I have it all figured out. The cycle of earning money is extremely dangerous, still, to me. When faced with the decision to choose life or more money, I usually side with money.
I can’t help it, I’m still in the pursuit. I haven’t reached my mountain peak yet. Who am I to say everyone is doing it wrong when I don’t even know, yet, if I’ll have the gumption to call it quits when the time comes?
However, one thing I’ve learned from reading the books mentioned previously is we must re-examine our relationship with money. We act like we’re married to it. Worse: we are married to it.
We’ve forgotten what money actually is. It isn’t a means to an end, it’s a means to our time. It’s a means to claiming back our life. To freedom.
But people seem to be afraid of that truth. We don’t take our freedom seriously. Instead, we feel safer adding to this illusion of future freedom. We pile on enough money and then keep going for the sake of fear to leave.
Leaving behind the conventional work life isn’t easy.
Many people will question you or — worse — judge you. It’s part of the process. Dare I say it, they’re only envious. Perhaps, they didn’t have the same opportunities you had leading to this point in their life, but a lot of them did.
They chose the route they’re on. They chose the traditional career. Their choices have left them stranded. However, your choices have led you somewhere else; to the ultimate fork in the road.
Soon, or maybe already, you will have to decide. What does financial freedom mean to you?
Some will choose to play it safe. Others (hopefully me) will choose to reclaim their time and mobility.
How to accept your end
You’ve made it to financial freedom. So, what can you do to make sure you remain liberated? Here are a few ideas I’ve had:
1. Have an exit strategy
Likely, if you’ve already reached your mountain peak, you’ve contemplated your exit strategy before. For those that haven’t, though, what is an exit strategy?
An exit strategy is a plan for leaving the conventional. How will you take the path less traveled when you get to that fork in the road?
All good exit strategies have a few things in common: The capacity to build one’s peace of mind and stability/ growth.
These two are really one and the same and there is a good way to kill two birds with one stone, so-to-speak.
You’ve probably already built an aggressive investing strategy and have a lot of your capital staked into investments — especially if you were able to reach financial freedom this early. So, how does one’s strategy change once they’ve reached their financial independence milestone?
You have to be a little more conservative. Or, at least, in theory, you should. After all, without any more income, you have to consider bear markets and crashes.
You have to diversify. Don’t put all your eggs in the same basket.
Most importantly, you have to be ready to sacrifice early on. Don’t go hog wild and burn through too much of your nest egg too quickly. Understand your limits, accept sacrifices. That’s it.
2. Have a side hustle or hobby you love
While hobbies are great for passing time and keeping your mind out of the office, and side hustles are great for peace of mind, you have to be careful.
Pursuing a side hustle is a big reason why people never really liberate themselves from their working lives. Side hustles often run hand-in-hand with skills we already possess; skills from our working career.
If we didn’t love our working career — if we were merely using our monthly salary as a means to an end — starting a side hustle based around the same industry sort of means we are still glued to it. It doesn’t matter if you can say, ‘I’m my own boss’ if you don’t like the work you’re doing. It’s all the same.
Trust me, as someone who has sort of carved a side hustle out of writing, I understand it can get delusional.
On one hand, I love writing. I can do it every day and never get bored. However, writing as a profession — or as a side hustle — is misleading. In order to make any money at all, you generally have to write about things that aren’t fun for you.
After all, you’re doing someone else’s dirty work. That’s how a lot of side hustles go. It’s all about finding a balance you’re happy with.
I’ve put a lot of thought into my soon-to-be exit from the traditional working world. Often, I wonder if I’ll be able to stick to my guns and put it all aside. At least for a while.
Our addiction to growth and a monthly salary has become a pain on society. We are losing our time to companies, ethics, and goals that don’t align with our own. Unless you truly love what you do, it might be time to start fine-tuning what your perspective on money is.
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** This article was originally published at www.adamcheshier.com **