During Chinese water torture, victims would be strapped down so they couldn’t move, and water would then be dripped slowly and repeatedly onto a small area of their body—usually the forehead.
Drip…Drip…Drip…with enough repetition, the victim would eventually be driven insane.
Yet even this death by a thousand drops is said by critics of The Escape Artist to be less repetitive than the long-running series Now That’s What I call Financial Independence!
Yes, The Escape Artist is back once again in the guise of a music critic from the NME…armed with earnest prose, tortuous metaphors and psycho-babble to review more classic songs about financial independence.
You Can’t Hurry Love (Phil Collins)
If you want to get rich, understand the incredible power of compounding. If you save just £15,000 between age 18-25 and your money grows at 10% per year in the stockmarket, you end up with over £1,000,000 in your pension at age 65. Yes, I can prove that.
So what’s stopping everyone?
Well, for one thing, the first 6 or 7 years are b-o-r-i-n-g. Those early years feel like watching grass grow. There’s no way around this early stage: the flat bit before the slope of the J curve kicks up. It just has to be lived through. Remember, the time is gonna pass regardless…so you might as well be invested in the stockmarket whilst you get on with other stuff.
Impatient rookie investors (remember Frankie?) try to speed things up – they daytrade, they churn and switch funds, check their portfolio values obsessively, trade on margin and look for get rich quick schemes like Bitcoin etc.
But a watched pot doesn’t boil any faster. If you want to get to FI quicker, focus on saving more instead.
Love is like compound interest…both are beautiful things…but you can’t hurry either one.
Its A Sin (Pet Shop Boys)
After my article on the difference between frugal and cheap, there were some online objections to my implication that it was ok to go the pub.
I’m all for avoiding ridiculous spending, natch, but extreme frugalistas can sometimes sound a bit…well…preachy. Yes, you can save ££££££s by staying at home or get beer cheaper from Aldi or brew it yourself. And, yes, tap water is free.
But the aim of this blog is to live the good life without worrying about money. And sometimes I like to go crazy and buy a beer….sometimes more than one…even in a pub…even in London. I know, I’m bonkers me.
There’s a strong ethical case for not buying Hummers, SUVs or yachts, not building shopping centres on green fields, not going to drive thru MacDonuts and generally not buying unnecessary shit that fucks up the environment. That’s one reason why spending on experiences > spending on stuff.
But there’ll be no quasi-religious vow of poverty, no monks robes and no hessian under-garments for me, thank you very much.
It’s not a sin to buy some beers along The Path to FI.
Lush Life (Zara Larson)
In an abundance mindset, you live free from fear because you know that your needs are modest and your skills, confidence and capital mean that you will always be able to get what you need.
This is the opposite of a scarcity mindset in which people are driven by fear. If you spend too much time on spreadsheets and obsessively reading studies about the Safe Withdrawal Rate, you may forget to enjoy life and live in the moment. And that would be a shame.
We humans spent far too much time worrying…either living in the past (when what’s done is done) or in the future which by definition isn’t here yet.
Now is the moment of power. Now is the only time that we can change with our actions. As a Buddhist monk might say: if we take care of the present moment, then we automatically take care of the future. Or as Zara puts it:
I live my day as if it was the last
Live my day as if there was no past
By saving now, we give our future selves abundance. Having put in the work upfront, Zara is now collecting royalties, living the dream and doing it the way she wanna.
Survivor (Destiny’s Child)
This song is all about stoicism for winners.
To access the wisdom of stoicism, you could read Meditations by Marcus Aurelius or you could listen to this song. Neither art form is inherently superior to the other. What matters is which most inspires you to change your thoughts and your actions.
So don’t just hum along, check out the lyrics…they contain inspiration and great wisdom for tough times.
Remember, what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger.
Fighter (Christina Aguilera)
Continuing with the “what doesn’t kill you, makes you stronger” theme we have “Fighter” from Christina Aguilera.
One of my favourite case studies on the blog was Can You Become a Millionaire on a Firemans Salary?
And one of my favourite bits was this:
A fireman has the awesome legal power in an emergency to do “anything they consider necessary”. We have to think ‘outside the box’, e.g. speeding, driving on the wrong side of the road, forcing entry into peoples private property without their permission. I think the same lateral thinking also helps you get to FI. You have to do whatever it takes.
Think like a FIRE fighter.
So Emotional (Whitney Houston)
Why do people find it hard to save money…even when they know that the buzz from new stuff wears off quickly?
The answer is that we humans are predictably irrational and predictably emotional. We are not like animals, we are animals. Even your Auntie with the nice tea set, the doilies and the scones…she’s an animal. Auntie’s brain is really 3 brains stacked on top of each other. She has an ancient lizard hindbrain, a monkey brain and a uniquely human pre-frontal cortex.
The lizard and the monkey brains work on emotion. At times of fear, stress, uncertainty or information overload, the lizard and monkey brains tend to override the rational human brain.
The monkey brain wants more stuff. Monkeys like bananas, sticks, car-tyre swings and other shit and they want it now because, like, YOLO.
Neither lizards nor monkeys are big savers. This explains much of what you need to know about human behaviour.
Feels (Calvin Harris)
Don’t get me wrong, The Escape Artist is not suggesting that all emotions are bad. The goal is not to be a robot.
I think that some people (geeks, men over 40 etc) make the opposite mistake of “shutting down” their emotions. Perhaps trying to repress the rollercoaster of the natural ups and downs of life? I wonder whether older people who’ve experienced some big setbacks in life (e.g. divorce, illness, career stagnation, redundancy) sometimes do that as a coping mechanism?
Anyway, the bottom line is: don’t be afraid to have feels. Emotions are natural and healthy…but they come and go like clouds in the sky. Feels are natural…but you should learn to master them or they will master you.
Got my Mind Set on You (George Harrison)
Warning: what sounds at first like a fun little pop ditty actually reveals some assumptions that The Escape Artist finds problematic.
George seems rather fixated (I got my mind set on you x4) and puts the subject of the song up on a pedestal. His assumption seems to be that she is The Prize and he is the supplicant. That’s a loser’s mentality, albeit one often adopted by Nice Guys.
For someone that seems to think of himself as a romantic, George has some strange assumptions about what’s its gonna take to win over his Princess. I’m not saying that Harrison treats women as objects to be bought, but he does seem overly focused on the financial aspects of courtship:
It’s gonna take money
A whole lot of spending money
It’s gonna take plenty of money
I’m sorry to say that George is now in Walking Wallet territory. Genuine desire can not be bought nor negotiated.
If guys want to try to buy time with a woman, then whatever…good luck with that…just don’t expect it to end well.
Me Too (Meghan Trainor)
In this modern classic, Meghan riffs on the theme of envy.
As I explained in Get Rich…Without Envy, envy is one of the sillier and more childish of emotions. Envy encourages people to spend to “keep up with The Joneses”. Envy is for losers…it’s a sign of weakness…financially yes, but also emotionally and spiritually.
The trouble with Fakebook and Instaglam is that we only get staged glimpses of the lives of other people. The reality is that celebrities often pay a high price for the attention they receive.
You shouldn’t feel envious of anyone unless you’d swap places with them 100%. In other words, if you’d take their problems as well as their advantages. Take Whitney Houston: you might have envied her fame, her riches, her voice. The drug addiction, not so much.
Date for your diary! FI meet up Friday 19 October from 5.30pm onwards in The Old Bank of England pub, Fleet Street, London EC4A 4HT. All welcome. Hope to see you there 🙂