Perspection Distortion

A while back, a few of us were sat around a table, sinking a few drinks, playing a board game after a smashing some home made slow-cooked stew and chatting away.  I was being particularly charming and hilarious as I remember it.  Hindsight is 20/20.

Conversation turned to people that we knew, and whether we thought of them as a Woman/Girl or a Man/Boy.  Essential an Adult or a Kid.  There was no criteria set, just gut feel, answer as quickly as you can.

The decision always had a clear majority, the person in question was clearly an Adult or a Kid.  Unconsciously we had all formed a similar opinion on each person driven by, I suspect, society norms.

We got to talking about what these people had in common and what was droving the decisions.

DIY skills
This was a powerful differentiator.  If you could do any kind of building work, carpentry or any work on a vehicle you were generally considered an Adult.  If you were good in the garden, could paint a wall or whip up something in the kitchen that was also viewed favourably.

The skills of self-sufficiency.

These skills were all considered very grown up, and rightfully so.  They are all awesome skills to master, that save you money in the long run and leave to both a healthier and happier life.

If there were ‘best practices of Financial Independence’, a fucking horrible thought, they would include the skills above.  Why pay someone else to do something you can do yourself, learn a new skill at the same time and generally become a little bit more free.

Bizarrely, the other primary driver behind how people were making a decision was on what the person owned or how they spent money.

Pretty much a straight-up 180 degree turn from the first.  Whaaaaaaaaaaaaaaat!?

Got a 6 bed house, detached, in the country that requires both of you to drive separate cars on a 40 minute each way commute?  Tick.  Adult.

Walk to work with a backpack on.  Cross.  Kid.

Both you and your partner own an Audi each.  Good stuff.  Adult.

Ride a bike to work?  Cross.  Kid.

Outsource your cooking, cleaning, car washing, garden maintenance.  Yep, that’ll do it.  Adult.

Wash your car, do your own hoovering or ironing (*swoons*).  Tut-tut.  Kid.

Wear chinos, a dress shirt and cufflinks whilst eating out three times a week.  Tick.  Adult.

Cook at home, wearing monster feet slippers and wearing shorts.  Uh-oh!  Kid.

Talk with endless pride about your job in a narcisstic way, hours worked and the size of numbers you work with.  Another tick!  Adult.

Talk about your hobbies, surfing, music, board games, etc.  Ahhhh gawd! Kid.

I could go on.  And I might be exaggerating a bit.

At what point did we get this so wrong?
Since when did making the more expensive choice, become the one that society views as the adult choice?  How has spending become the smoke screen, a thinly veiled disguise designed to distort our perception of what truly makes us happy and successful?  And how in the holy shit is it not only working, but rampant everywhere?  How has it become so desirable, such a powerful distortion of reality, that mindless zombies will actually borrow just to spend?

I suspect that you, my dear readers, would agree that attaining DIY skills is a very grown up thing to do.  Good good.

But you, like me, would disagree with the more general view that moving to a country manor, purchasing a brand new car and using it to commute an hour to work is a grown up decision.  It’s certainly not an adult financial decision if it commits you to 30 years of work.

It’s not grown up.  It’s financially foetal.  Just because it’s being made by an adult with a well paid job doesn’t make it any less so.  It’s a choice being driven by the inner child, and not the cool one that imagines 70 foot tall talking bees, but the selfish needy one that throws the toys out the pram and says – “I want everything and I want it now and I don’t want to work for it, unless it’s in the future of course, sure, yeah, that works.”

Yet society seems to view this behaviour as very grown up, whilst we scold our children for wanting without thinking about the consequences we are at it ourselves and being applauded for it, not supluxed..  Look at that chap, he’s doing well, he’s now up at 5am every day to miss the traffic and his mortgage payments are out of this world.  Well played, he’s winning at life.  

Yet if someone read a few PF Blogs, sold their car and started walking 45 minutes to work, making the financially adult decision…  Poor lass, must be hitting some tough times financially, she’s no longer driving into the centre, paying to leave her car on a piece of asphalt and then dragging her atrophied body to her desk.  She told me The Zombie made here do it.  Shame.  I even saw her eating a packed lunch.  Probably picked it out a wheelie bin on her walk in.    

I ain’t no Kid, sucker
I took a turn under the spotlight and was unanimously voted as a Kid, as we all were.  Perhaps apt given we were playing a board game on a Saturday evening and not tearing the town up.  And perhaps many of you would be thought of as a Kid as well?

And this is a huge part of the struggle in attaining financial independence, going against the grain a little.  We’re not talking about walking around in bare feet with your pants on your head every day, but it still can be difficult and raise some eyebrows.

Sure…you need to save a significant portion of your income, keep this up over a number of years, you need to constantly suplex consumer impulses until they are a dull memory and cultivate positive financial habits.

But, right at the start, you need to take a step away from social norms that have been built into us from a young age, reject the notion that having a fancy car or job title is the only thing that makes us successful.  We need to do a little bit of magic to undo these norms and regain our perception a little.

Whilst your peers might be out rolling over into another new car loan or going batshit mental at a Black Friday sale you’ll be whipping up a mean batch of chilli for the week, heading out on your bike so sample the country side (and some coffee and cake), doing some relaxing excel projections or hanging out with some mates around a board game.

Unfortunately they got it wrong when they voted me as a Kid.  I don’t have an Audi, but I am powering along the road towards Financial Independence and a better life.  And that seems pretty fucking adult from where I’m standing.

Have a good Friday.

Spend Less, Save More & Escape the Horde!

Mr Z

18 thoughts on “Perspection Distortion

  1. Broadbandylegs

    Hit the nail on the head – it's basically down to society's norms and a natural desire to 'fit in' – going against these is quite difficult for most folk. The 'system' or 'establishment' has a vested interest in maintaining the status quo.

  2. Anonymous

    its not child->adult, its child->adult->zen warrior

    i'll leave it up to your discretion to figure out where you have got to

  3. Emma PwF

    This has a lot to do with internal/external perspectives:

    Can't afford anything and everything paid for by parents/carers = Kid
    Being able to afford a car; bling, 6 bed, cleaning service = Adult
    – Although you can't see who can afford it, you only see who has it

    Doing what you want rather than what you should = Kid
    Structuring your life so that you can do more of what you like while meeting all your obligations = Zen warrior
    – But from the outside they can look pretty similar

    Being oblivious to bad stuff, looked after by carers and being joyful and optimistic = Kid
    Being aware of bad stuff but designing a life to maximise the good stuff and being joyful about that = Zen warrior

    I wouldn't be down about being called a kid; they have more fun than most adults I know. As long as you get to do all the fun adult stuff; why worry about anything else?

  4. Mr Zombie


    Fantastic name 🙂

    Exactly. And this makes taking that first step pretty hard in areas like this. Then once it's done it's hard to look back at things the same way. Or even see how it was 'a thing'.


  5. Mr Zombie

    Haha, I like the zen warrior. Does sound like a bit of a confused guy though.

    If we are looking at Ermine over at simple living in suffolk, or MMM, or the guys at Monevator, as the Zen warriors…then I'm somewhere just above a child 🙂


  6. Mr Zombie

    Hi Emma,

    Thanks for the thoughtful comment. Different perspectives is exactly it, things can look might similar sometimes. Great way of putting it.

    I should have pointed out we all thought of ourselves as kids, haha. (Will tweak the wording 🙂 All pretty sensible with money and playing a board game after some home cooked food. Was interesting how we all thought the same though.

    (Child like) Zen warrior here we come.


  7. weenie

    Which boardgames were you playing?

    There was a time when I really wanted to be seen as an 'adult' so I spent money (and got into debt) to try to achieve that. Fortunately, I snapped out of it!

    Nowadays, I don't care how I'm perceived – I see myself as a kid and I'm not ashamed. My poor mother though always looks at me as if to ask when will I eventually grow up…oops! Sorry, maybe never!

    Buy hey I can be a responsible kid – like you, save and invest my way to FI, I'm looking forward to not having to work full-time and spending more time enjoying life as a 'kid'!

    Hope you have a great weekend!

  8. Anonymous

    Surely the ability to withhold the temptation of self gratification – adult.
    Must have, must have now, must not think of future, i want's it now … wahhhh .. – (immature) child.

  9. Kurt

    I think I might perceive the different sorts of lifestyle choices you use as examples not as 'adult' and 'kid' but rather as 'silly adult' and 'savvy adult', with the latter being your 'kid.' What could be more adult than opting for a sane lifestyle?

  10. Mr Zombie

    Hi Weenie,

    Couldn't agree more, if being more free with my time following a few years of dedicated work and saving is childish, bring it on!


    PS – I think it was Puerto Rico

  11. Mr Zombie

    Hi Kurt,

    Couldn't agree more, settling into a few positive habits will pay dividends in the years to come, literally. Setting yourself up for 45 years of work just to find a stressful lifestyle seems like insanity to me!


  12. Kalie

    Love this! Comparing to a kids' life is the ultimate in lifestyle inflation check, though the analogy breaks down somewhere. Point taken, though. We over-complicate and therefore over-spend, all at the mercy of marketing.

  13. DP @ Someday Extraordinary

    It's what's wrong with our society. We judge people by how much they own or what they can afford as opposed to what they choose to do with their time, what worthwhile goals they accomplish, what they value, or what good deeds they partake in. What do kids do? They like other kids who have the same interests or are nice to them or treat them right. They like kids who will play basketball with them – and they don't care what that kids house looks like. Maybe we should all strive to be more like kids!


  14. Mr Zombie

    Hi DP,

    So many people want to look successful or 'rich' without actually achieving it first. Like you say, kids generally couldn't give a dam, as long as they both play pokemon who cares 🙂

    Have a good (frugal 🙂 weekend



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