Now that’s what I call Financial Independence! 18

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Some on the internet say that The Escape Artist is running out of fresh material.

What nonsense!

If I was running out of fresh material, then how could I be coming up with original gems such as Now That’s What I Call Financial Independence! 18??

Answer me that.

Yes, The Escape Artist is back once again in the guise of a music critic from the NME…armed with increasingly tenuous metaphors, earnest prose and psycho-babble to review more classic songs about financial independence.

Rock The Boat (Hues Corporation)

The Overton Window is the range of ideas currently considered acceptable for public discussion. The Overton Window is subjective and shifts over time and between places.

Throughout history, much of the conventional wisdom has been wrong. Just a few generations ago people considered equal rights for women, homosexuals and ethnic minorities unthinkable. And consider the current state of Saudi Arabia or Iran where women are still second class citizens (cue deafening silence from most western feminists).

Money is perhaps the last taboo. There’s an unwritten rule that stuff about money has to be so blandly written that none of the children in the sandpit can take offence. So writers, journalists and bloggers self-censor. But what if we lose the the most powerful truths in the process?

I believe in free speech and sometimes that means rocking the boat.

Erase & Rewind (The Cardigans)

If you write a blog about financial independence, you’re inviting people to think differently (and not just about money).

To throw off consumerism, you must unlearn what you have learned. Yet most people read newspapers / blogs etc that confirm their existing biases beliefs. Its rare for people to seek out material that challenges their pre-conceived ideas.

They say that progress in academia occurs one funeral at a time and maybe that’s true in personal finance as well? People often give up close their minds as they get older.

Better to stay open-minded. As Keynes once said:

When the facts change, I change my mind. What do you do?

Warrior (Hannah Kerr)

It’s no accident that I chose a military theme for this website.

When you are fighting a war, the stakes are too high for political correctness, waffle and wishful thinking. So there’s a directness about the military that I’ve always admired.

But there’s much more to it than that. The military mindset combines discipline and planning with creativity and the ability to flex and change as the circumstances require. The military teaches strategic thinking, resilience and stoicism.

There are 2 ways to feel rich. One is to get more. The other is to expect less. This means letting go of consumerism and being less of an entitled little prince / princess. You need some combination of both elements.

The Enlightened Warrior provides a mental model for this, combining offense (risk-taking, controlled aggression and taking action) with defence (caution, economy and the ability to live simply on limited rations).

Wipe Out (The Surfaris)

According to Warren Buffett, rule number of investing 1 is don’t lose money. Rule number 2 is don’t forget rule number 1.

It took me a while to figure out what Warren meant by this. He didn’t mean don’t invest in the stock market…nor that your investments should never go down in price. Price volatility is just numbers going up and down on a screen and, most of the time, that doesn’t mean anything.

No, real risk is the permanent loss of capital…its where something goes down and it ain’t going back up again. Like The Titanic or shares in Enron.

So investors should not fear the volatility of shares. Nor should they reach for yield with investments such as P2P lending, high yield bonds or emerging market debt which combine limited upside with a hidden risk of wipe out.

Freak (Re-con & Klubfiller)

One of the old chestnuts of articles on FIRE is the question: is “it” possible for normal people?

As goals go, being normal is over-rated. It’s become normal to be in debt, unhealthily over-weight and to buy loads of shit that you don’t need. So FI is not for normal people who are not prepared to make changes.

The Escape Artist does not claim to be normal. But the case for FI is much bigger than any one person. Having met hundreds of people in the FI community in the real world, I know its possible for a wide range of people with street smarts, grit, a bit of luck and a lot of frugality. But it’s never easy for anyone.

As I may have mentioned before, if you are gonna get to financial independence you are going to be doing things differently from the crowd.

Move on up (Curtis Mayfield)

Having been to a state comprehensive school in the middle of nowhere, The Escape Artist is interested in social mobility. It may be unfair to describe my school as one step up from a young offenders institution…but only maybe.

There are different approaches to encouraging social mobility.

One approach favoured by many middle class hypocrites commentators is to bang on about inequality and privilege, loudly virtue signalling (HEY EVERYONE, LOOK HOW COMPASSIONATE I AM!) whilst doing absolutely nothing useful.

This website takes a different approach : putting up how to get better with money on the internet where anyone can read it for free and take action to improve their finances…and their life.

Small Town Boy (Bronski Beat)

Journalists often talk about social mobility as if it were a problem for government alone to solve…and as if there were nothing that individuals could do to improve their own situation.

But one of the best things that you can do to improve your life is to move. Its not physically difficult to move from an area of unemployment to an area with better employment prospects. But it takes get up and go to get up and go.

There are places of deprivation and low aspirations where people are sabotaging themselves and the people around them. You are the average of the 5 people around you. Its a difficult truth that if you are surrounded by the wrong people, you move or you get pulled down.

Moving to a city is a smart move economically but there’s more to it than that. Its easier in cities to find diversity (of sexuality, race, religion etc) and different ways of living.

Ain’t nothing going on but the rent (Gwen Guthrie)

Housing costs are the biggest expense in most people’s life.  In Living Low Cost in a High Cost City we talked about property guardianship as one solution to the problem of high rents.

But Gwen is unwilling to make lifestyle compromises and has another solution in mind. She’s looking for a mug someone to subsidise her. Gwen is remarkably open about her thought process:

Bill collectors at my door…what can you do for me?

I’m looking for a man to put some money in my hand

I don’t blame Gwen for trying it on…I just don’t think she’s quite the catch she thinks she is.

Good Life (Inner City)

Pursuing financial independence should be about living the good life and not all about sacrifice and deprivation. Giving up consumerism should make you happier almost immediately (as with any drug, there may be a withdrawal period).

Lasting happiness comes from achieving things. The discomfort during a marathon is an essential part of The Process. The pain fades after you finish the marathon but the quiet satisfaction lasts forever.

Think about the things in your life that you are most proud of. Are they the easy things (like switching TV channel) or are they the hard things (like raising a child)? To ask the question is to answer it.

Here’s what’s in it for you: the immediate benefits of pursuing financial independence are about getting a better life right now.


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7 comments

  1. Dude, you’re definitely not running out of ideas! Now I’ve heard Erase and Rewind many times but it never occurred to me that the song can mean something related to financial Independence. Indeed, there is lots of unlearning that needs to be done for progress to take place, be it financial or not. Thanks for making finance a fun topic!

  2. Ha. This Gwen doesn’t want/need someone else to pay her rent etc but I don’t want to pay someone else’s either. So once you reach FI how do you (male or female) keep the “opportunists”/gold-diggers/dead-beats away?

    Good to meet you at the FI meet-up in Brewdog Edinburgh BTW. Do come again!

    1. Yes, Edinburgh was brilliant…it was great to meet you all. Thanks!

  3. “Only the guy who isn’t rowing, has time to rock the boat.”

    Sartre (and his half-brother, The Escape Artist) are on to something (s?) here:

    (i). the need to rock the boat, if the rowers are going the wrong way; (TEA); and

    (ii). the need to row bloody hard and not be a back-biter, if we truly intend to live counter-culturally (Sartre).

    Blimey: existentialist musings on a Wednesday morning. But since it’s all about what it means to be human, to create meaning and values, I’ve always thought that FIRE’s philosophical underpinnings are more than just stoicism.

    Off to make toast and be banal (in a hugely “woke” kinda way).

  4. Small Town Boy (Bronski Beat)
    My era ! Resonated that you are the average of 5 people that around you – so move – you say physically move but it could be moving jobs or seeking out new groups of people eg FIRE networking events ! I am minimising my time around glass
    Half full people and seeking out like minds.

    Freak (Re-con & Klubfiller)
    What makes someone buck the trend, go against expectations, do things differently – A friend and I were discussing this just the other day as she is from a more conservative traditional Italian family where heterosexual marriage and children are the norm. And she had not gone down that path.

    You have to be able to see a vision of a different future and be able to relate it to yourself – a role model / someone that has done it before you ? maybe get a bit of a helping hand – useful online resources and blogs ? A bit of luck – a chance meeting with a like minded person, historic low mortgage interest rates…?

    But there is also something about personal resilience – how do you build this? We can all do it but so much easier if you are brought up with privilege.

    I have come to FIRE later than many but have realised how privileged I have been – not financially but health, family, education etc – and found myself in a good position later in life through some good decisions and much
    luck and the lack of some bad luck. So the path is easier to see.

    This is why I am so impressed with people who have the FIRE vision when they are working to get out of debt, they are on low income, shitty things have happened to them – and they have to be able to see and relate the vision to themselves –
    it requires such confidence and resilience – good on them.

    Take aways
    -encourage others / share experiences and challenge myself to do more
    – acknowledge the role of luck
    – Lever luck by making the most of your opportunities

  5. The first thing that popped into my head when I read your piece on smaltown boy was Norman Tebbitt and his “get on yer bike” speech. This made me wonder if Jimmy Sommerville will be giving you the Johnny Marr treatment.

    https://www.theguardian.com/politics/2010/dec/03/johnny-marr-david-cameron-twitter

    as I doubt he had supporting far right politics in mind when he wrote that song. I also far from convinced that moving to a city is, in fact, a smart move economically for most people.

  6. According to Warren Buffet, rule 3 is TWO Ts.

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