Monday, December 04, 2017

Can you be financially independent and be a loser at the time ?

Personal Finance is to Finance the same way English Literature is to the English Language. While financial problems may be resolved by mathematical formulas or a backtesting exercise, there are many ways to interpret problems in Personal Finance. Some might be right and some might be wrong but most are somewhere in between. 

I always find value in interpreting someone’s situation in a novel or unexpected way, because let’s face it, looking at it from many points of view is probably better than just looking at it from one. In English Literature, I’d like to give a D7 answer in Secondary School ( although it might well give me an expulsion or A+ answer at the Univerisity level. ) Needless to say, I try to avoid the Humanities when studying for anything after secondary school.

Recently, someone shared a story of a financially independent single male in his 40s and I kicked the hornet’s nest by declaring that he is weak. Some folks supported my thesis but quite a few disagreed with me. I thought I would pen some thoughts on financial independence and argue that it is completely possible to be a big fat ass loser in spite of your financial independence.

A) Honesty and Deceit

I think this is a genuine problem FI folks face. This FI dude has to lie about his status because people either do not understand him or might take advantage of him. I think honesty is not the best solution as well because very few people may understand how the process works and some folks do come from families where there are relatives who are always out to take advantage of you.

There are some answers that are not completely honest that does not involve deceit. 

Calling yourself a private investor is one. Another is saying that you are on a sabbatical but do not know when you can recover from mid-life crisis or burnout. 

My solution is to go to law school, which eliminates not just this problem but the other two which I will explain below. 

B) Loneliness

This section deserves a philosophical lesson of its own. 

Some things have ameliorative value - they meet crucial needs in society. An engineering, finance or law degree has amerliorative value, it earns you a living and performs a crucial service to others. Society just needs legal advice even though I expect a lot of executives to hate dealing with lawyers in
the workplace ( I know, because I studied law because I want to give myself legal advice and stop being led on a wild-goose chase at work ).  Some things have existential value - they do not meet crucial needs but may provide meaning to a person’s life. A degree in the Arts, Philosophy or Literature or some personal hobbies have immense existential value. 

Your financial know-how and discipline are skills with ameliorative value, but they not contain very much existential value. You can derive existential value from Hobbies, Great literature and Art but getting into the right cryptocurrency at the right time will not make your life meaningful or deal with your intense loneliness.

To deal with loneliness, you need to hang out with other people. But more importantly, you need to be interesting enough for others to want to hang out with you, which comes back to appreciating things with existential value. 

And in my portfolio of existential assets, a large part of it is invested in Dungeons and Dragons. I should add that fantasy role-playing is on a huge bull run all thanks to Stranger Things and live-streaming. 

C) Lack of structure in your life

I think this problem does not plague those who FI-ed by personal exertion because you need to lead a pretty structured life to attain your independence at a reasonable age. It is a serious problem for those who inherited their money because they simply do not understand what it means to accumulate wealth on their own so they drift endlessly from moving into one silly and pointless project to another.

It is this point that hits FI losers the hardest. 

You have already won a battle that perhaps 95% of the population would lose in Singapore, and yet you have no structure in your life, might even have problems engaging with other people, and boring as fuck.

But unlike 95% of the population, you can’t blame it on lack of wealth, networking contacts or family support.

The problem lies genuinely with you.

Anyway, I just want to impress upon the FIRE community in Singapore that in light of our successes in Personal Finance, we can still become losers so a does of humility will be helpful when we deal with those who have yet to complete the FI journey. 

Perhaps, with our newfound financial resources we can double up and put in more effort into promoting our hobbies. And achieve the next step in our personal evolution - Existential Independence. 









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