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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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?
Category: A Nordic Perspective, Financial independence, Philosophy Tags: basic income, dreams, giving back, Goals, health, inspiration, learning, life, mending, money, resources, social security, tending, universal basic income, value, wealth, work
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