Don't Be A Slave To Your Finances
Updated: May 5, 2019
This was originally published (with a few tweaks from my editor) in The National, which is a big newspaper in the UAE. Click here for that version.
Did you know you're a slave? Don't believe me? Go and google "Debt Slave", you'll get over 25 MILLION hits. If you like YouTube, do the same search and you will hit a never ending torrent of titles telling you how you are in service to your financial masters! Apparently, you have no choice in the matter, and your situation now is akin to being shackled and shipped across the Atlantic to be whipped and forcibly worked to death in a sugar cane field. If you follow that line of thinking, you are doomed, trapped in an economic system whose only goal is to crush you into unthinking servitude so you can never achieve your dreams.
After all, the cost of college and housing is rising precipitously. The United States is the worst aggressor here, with college costs ballooning 129% over the last 30 years, even after accounting for inflation, according to CNBC. While rents seem to be coming down in many neighborhoods in Dubai, around the world, the opposite is the case, including in the US where the price of housing is rising twice the speed of inflation. It's no surprise that household debt has shot through the stratosphere, now over $13 TRILLION USD in the US alone!
And wages, don't even get me started on wages! In most of the developed world, wages have stagnated, even as unemployment has dropped. The gig economy seems to be taking steady work with benefits and replacing it with apps that make you an independent contractor with no health care or retirement.
What's left but despair and slavery? After all, it's apparently normal to spend far more than you earn, so why do anything else? It's normal to buy the most expensive house the bank will give you a mortgage for, so why wouldn't you? BMW Finance will get you into that new 3 series for a great low monthly payment, don't you deserve the best? Nobody retires any more, anyway, so why change your behavior?
But I'm here to let you in on a big secret. That narrative, where the world is conspiring against you, and you're powerless against it, is a lie. And even worse, it's a lie most people want to hear.
People want to hear that they're the victim of insurmountable forces beyond their control because that means they don't have to change their behaviors, because change is hard, and in this case, it might make you give up things you think you need or want. If you're the victim, you're automatically morally righteous. We like lies that confirm we were right all along, and that we are good people (see Donald Trump's presidency for countless examples). But this lie creates a feeling of despondency because of that very powerlessness that makes us morally righteous victims.
The Financial Independence (FI) movement is here to quite literally save us from despondency in life. Real life people give true examples from their own lives for how they've eliminated their debt on average salaries and started to save money. Average folks raise their incomes significant amounts through hard work and education, often with side hustles that can blossom into dream careers. Regular men and women learn simple principles of investing that accrue them the benefits of compound interest that works for them, making them rich over time.
I know, because I'm one of them. I'm just your average teacher, who loves his side hustles of being a musician, photographer, and personal finance blogger. I used to have student debt and a significantly negative net worth. I've worked jobs I've hated and made stupid financial mistakes. But I was lucky, I stumbled on a career of international teaching that makes me excited to get out of bed every morning and pays well enough that I can travel, eat out regularly, and save a large chunk of my salary for my future. I am nobody's slave, and if I get into a bad situation at work, I know I have the resources to live comfortably for quite some time without a job. I learned from great teachers and writers who came before me; beacons of resourcefulness, frugality, and hustle who couldn't be kept down and didn't want to play by the rules of society around them. They reached their goals, and so can you.
There are people in the FI community from every race, religion, and nation. There are people that make just above the poverty line and people who make a million dollars a year and everything in between. Many of them have gotten themselves out of mountains of debt in in creative ways that they're happy to teach you for free. Most of them aren't trying to sell you anything, because they don't need your money, and they respect the value of it.
If you read any of the thousands of articles that come out every year about how saving is impossible in today's economy, realize that they're trying to sell you something. They're selling you the idea that you are powerless, that you can't change your life to be Financially Independent, that you shouldn't even try, because it's pointless. Don't believe them, the chains they're selling were never real to begin with.