Basic Income – or what to do if money is no object

What would you do if money was no object?

I think, at its core, that is the question being asked in a lot of financial independence spheres. If you could do anything in the world or if it was impossible to fail, what would you do?

As the world becomes more automated and machines are able to do more and more jobs, what will humans do? I, for one, hope that we will eventually see a rise of universal basic income. I hope, but I dare not hope at the same time. Politicians at large are not exactly known to be a very progressive breed. 

The wealth gap

If machines do all the work, but there is no basic income, what will happen? I think the wealth gap will increase exponentially. Those who own the machines will grow wealthy beyond measure, while those who don’t get left behind.

That is not the kind of world I wish for anyone.

Taking matters into your own hands

To me, trying to build financial independence is like building my own, personal basic income. I see a lot of the same arguments in the personal finance blogosphere as I see from the pro-basic income people.

Freedom to pursue your interests. To build a business without fearing whether or your family will eat or not. To pursue creative or practical hobbies you’re really passionate about.

After all, what is it the early retirees of the personal blogosphere discover time and time again?

That most of them continue to work, in some form or another, even after their official retirement.

Of course, it is speculated that those who pursue financial independence are a very self-selective group. A kind of group that enjoys sidehustles or working hard and who always has several irons in the kiln at a time so to speak. They’re simply predisposed to pursue various projects that give them joy and provide value.

Social security

In my life I’ve come to know a small handful of people who rely on social security to make ends meet. They have tried to work, been told by the system to try to work, and after x number of trials and fighting the system for 10+ years, they finally got the financial stability of the “unable to work” stamp and a monthly stipend to cover basic living expenses.

Social stigma and scrutiny aside. Although these people are sick and deserve every penny, in a thought experiment you might argue that these people are, in some ways, being provided basic income. They had to fight to the bone for it, but they did.

Do these people just lounge around on their couch all day, eating chips and chocolate?

The ones I’ve met, no.

Giving back

Everyone I’ve met who relies on social security in my circle of friends wants to give back. In between doctors appointments, physical therapists and just plain having a bad day where they can’t go outside, they help friends and society in what capacity they are able.

They volunteer for the Red Cross, they teach people to sew, they share their knowledge, and they help others in times of need and struggle, be it with a cup of tea and a chat or providing a safe space.

Other people I’ve met spend their time visiting elderly family. Taking care of them and helping them in ways that, if you were purely looking at money, helps save the government quite a bit in care-giving expenses.

Providing value

This is not a “end the stigma on social security receivers” post, although I do wish that would come to an end too. On the contrary, in my view, it is an uplifting and encouraging story of finding value, no matter the circumstances.

While these people are not able to work in the traditional sense of a 9-5 in an office or production hall somewhere, they are still able to provide value to society. If you redefine work from “being employed” to “providing value”, then these people most certainly are working!

And it is the same for the financially independent hustlers and hard workers I’ve seen. Sometimes they charge for their services, sometimes they’re free. But no matter which, they are still providing value, be it to their closest circle of friends and family, or to society at large and those who choose to listen.

As anyone who’s ever seen Downton Abbey might have noticed in (I think) the very first episode: The concept of work, especially on specific days at specific times, is not so very old. Historically, people lived and worked without much division between the two all through the day.

You still see it in certain fields and other places in the world, like farming. A farmer always has 100 projects they mean to finish, but never get around to do because there are so many other things to do as well. They go out in the morning, come in for lunch, a chat and maybe a cup of coffee or tea, and then head out again. They weld, harrow fields, tend to their livestock, tile roofs, mend fences and generally go about doing any odds and ends necessary to keep their farm going.

Many entrepreneurs are the same in the beginning, although often with an intent to get a better work-life balance once their brainchild is off and running.

Does it sound strange that that is the sort of life I wish for? I can do away with all the large machinery and massive barns and what have you, but that general tending and mending attitude where you go out and tend to small odds and ends to keep your home and life ticking over. I don’t want a rushed life, but I do want one that feels meaningful. And I don’t believe I am in any way rare or exceptional in this.

What would you do if money was no object?

I know what I would do, I’ve already sketched it out in the sand. If money was no object, however, I would probably add a building or three to the dream and the large property I envision. An animal shelter, perhaps? A pottery workshop? Adopt a child? Garden, preserve and teach on to others? I would hope to read more, for sure. And make sure my home is resilient and can provide a safe space in times of need.

The possibilities seem endless, but it is not something I have the mental capacity to pursue actively while we are still in the saving and investing phase. I do hope there will be some passive income in there as well, but all the same.

But that’s just me. Other people have different dreams. So what would you do?

money no object

16 Comments on “Basic Income – or what to do if money is no object

  1. That was a really interesting post!
    I read once that many years ago, the head of General Moters had an early prototype robot. He invited the president of the auto workers’ union to see it. He said to the him something along the line of ha ha, my robots will never go on strike! The union president said, “Yes, but how many cars will your robots buy?”.
    I think we will end with some form of basic income, not for any idealistic reasons, but because the one percent will realize that, without, there will be no one left to buy their products.

    • Thanks! That is an interesting way to look at it too. In one way I hope you are right, though the idealist in me wants more equality and less 1% super wealthy people. One can hope, but it is good to be pragmatic about these things, I think.

  2. I really like this. I have a big problem with many people in the personal finance sphere – especially the more hardcore it gets – saying directly or indirectly that people who haven’t achieved FI just aren’t working/saving enough. In many cases, yes. But in many more cases, it’s not so.

    I love reading your posts – so much more balanced/realistic as compared to many ‘well you’re just not trying hard enough’ STEM, white-guy blogs.

    • Thank you Polly, I appreciate your comment. I’ve been wondering if I should add more math to the blog, just because I feel it is just me rambling along!

      And I agree. It is not all about trying harder. Plus, if you’re struggling you don’t really need people to tell you how wrong/bad you are either. Odds are, you feel like that already!

  3. If money were no object, I think I’d be traveling with my family (which is our BHAG!). We’d not live in the same place we do now, and we’d have the freedom to contient hop on a regular basis. I think endless funds give us more freedom, but we also might have decision paralysis and not end up changing much at all. It’s hard to really wrap my mind around.

    • That sounds like a really exciting BHAG! I’d love to see more of the world, but I am also a real homebody. A balance would be nice, but I agree it’s a difficult thing to wrap one’s mind around!

  4. “As anyone who’s ever seen Downton Abbey might have noticed in (I think) the very first episode: The concept of work, especially on specific days at specific times, is not so very old.”

    Are we thinking of the same moment – when the Dowager Countess asks “what is a ‘weekend’?”

    On a good day, I have ten plans for things I want to spend my time doing – riding, gardening, rescuing animals, spending time with my family and traveling a few times a year. On a less good day, I suspect that I’ll be spending more time resting or working on my stamina than taking on ambitious plans. But on any given day, the better choice is any of the above rather than being sofa-bound, working!

    • Yup, that’s the one!

      And we all have good days and bad days. A day spent lounging on the couch doesn’t have to be bad, it could be very necessary recharging! On the other hand, I find there are few things as rewarding and provides as good a night’s sleep as a day well spent, especially being outside doing manual things. 🙂

  5. The hardest part about social security / basic income is that it isn’t enough (at least in HCOL areas) to cover a reasonable existence. There are way too many elderly people living in poverty – some due to their own choices, some to things outside of their control. It’s a hard balance to strike.

    • Yeah, there is no cure-all to an issue as complex as this. I’d still be happy if it helps the majority of the population though. Then maybe you could look at who the system isn’t covering, and see if you could tweak it a bit.

  6. Interesting thought here. In a day and age when all of us seem to be money obsessed or money driven, it’s good to ask ourselves occasionally, what if money was not a concern?

    When I ask this to myself, I think travel and volunteer work would form the two key elements.

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