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.
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!