A message that will definitely go into my next book on Personal Finance is to list out the price to pay for financial independence. It gives the young reader an idea of what sacrifice must be made to become financial independent in their 30s, it also explains why many people in their 40s struggle so hard to pay bills and yet a minority will just cruise comfortably in their forties with hardly a gripe.
Let's start with something simple first :
a) Can you forgo consumption in your fabulous twenties.
To me this is the cheapest price to pay. Your twenties is the time you can take the most punishment from the corporate world with almost no dependents. You can take on 16 hour management consulting or investment banking jobs to accumulate your wealth. There is also little need to consume - gadgets get better with time anyway.
Most investment books just talk about about point (a). If it's that simple, there would be a lot more millionaires in Singapore today.
I think my book will go further than that :
b) Are you willing to be disagreeable and have people hate your guts for it ?
This is something many people are unwilling to do. An agreeable person can cruise along in life with little strife. Type B folks live longer and lower incidences of heart disease.
A disagreeable person, on the other hand, can tell a close relative to fuck off when they try to sell them a whole life insurance plan or their childhood friend to fuck themselves when they into MLM. A disagreeable person can bulldoze their way through work and get the lazy social loafers to complete their projects in time. Overtime, disagreeable executives do better in the corporate world and earn more throughout their lifetime.
c) Are you willing to delay major milestones like marriage and children and risk it never happening ?
Your wealth needs to compound early to make a difference to your quality of life in your forties, an early marriage is a huge financial burden in your twenties and children make it worse. This effect is even worse for women, who have a strong financial incentive to stay single as it increases their income even more.
As I still believe in family, but this is a heavy price to pay if you, like most people, do want to settle down eventually. Even as a man, you may find yourself unable to pro-create when you finally get financial independent if you insist on this limitation too much.
d) Can you cope with an existential vacuum in your forties ?
I am beginning to really understand that price to pay as I near my forties. One side-effect of reaching financial independence early and going through the practice is that it turns me into an ascetic that's not excited about many things.
Car don't really excite me as much as watching a sunset, and I only need a few gadgets to keep in touch with the financial markets. I read some books on marketing to men to see if I can spend my money on more things but all it does is turn me off consumption even more.
The only thing which makes me happy theses days are experiences and my relationships but I can't travel much with a toddler around the house. I can't eat well because it will ruin my blood sugar control.
This ironically makes retirement a very scary idea because I need to figure out how to maintain the "flow" I get in my current public service job.
Maybe one day, I will devote more time to philosophy and become a social entrepreneur. That time will come after I make my contribution to Government service and round up my career in Singapore.
Financial Independence is a battle for your very soul
Financial independence can be a nasty battle for your soul. A decision to get ahead at work may cause you to reframe your colleagues as rivals. Accumulation of more assets can cause you to delay building many meaningful relationships in life. And one day, after you have it all, you need to fight to make your life more meaningful before that inevitable exit.
I knew the price I paid, question is which decision will you take ?