There’s a lot of talk in the financial independence community about feeling the need to be productive. Productivity in life. In retirement. In employment. Also in *unemployment*. If you’re Mustachian, then consuming is the anti-good and producing is good. I’m sure you’re all shocked to hear that I think this is yet another false dichotomy perpetuated on the internet. Production and consumption are on two sides of the spectrum. I have no interest in being on either extreme.
To Me, Productivity Is Personal.
Is a stay-a home spouse not a productive person ?
What about the retired person who splits his time between listening to music and hanging out with his or her loved ones?
Producing for society is just not something that I have ever particularly placed a lot of value on. If you’re a tech guru, maybe you can develop an app that helps people solve a problem. If you’re a scientist, maybe you can research the cure to some disease. The reality is that you don’t have to solve some big scary societal problem in order to live a fulfilling life. I’d rather create loving connections, live with integrity and be able to look in the mirror with pride.
I certainly think that being a functioning member of society is a badge of honor that we all should strive to wear, but I don’t understand why so much value is placed on production in terms of “gainful employment” and why consumption has such a negative stigma. In my view, consumption is absolutely a social good. When I go to a restaurant, I’m helping to feed the server’s family, the cook’s family, the manager’s family and the restaurant owner’s family. How can helping a local small business stay in business be the definition of the anti-good?
Consumption isn’t the problem. The problem, if you even want to call it a “problem”, is mindless consumption. But mindless production is just as bad, riht?
Is Financial Independence Selfish?
The question is another one of those needlessly binary thoughts. Some people who pursue FI are probably very selfish. Some people who pursue FI are extremely selfless. Most are probably somewhere in between. Maybe the stereotype about financial independence being a selfish “live for yourself” notion, says more about the people naysaying the possibility of financial independence than the people who actually are working towards it?
Developing human connections is obviously not an inherently selfish act. Neither is creating art or music. Volunteering your time for some cause that can utilize your skills might have personal fulfillment, but it doesn’t sound like the opposite of selfish. Those are some of things that could be part of my “year off”. Those are things that many people talk about doing in their own FIRE journeys.
We as a society place way too much value on work. I don’t have a particularly stressful career. Working for family has it’s own dynamics which can lead to stress, but I’m not losing sleep at night because of my job. But even I need a break from the grind. Most people never take a break. Our society doesn’t promote it.
I won’t be working for a good portion of 2017, but I definitely don’t plan to spend the year “living solely for myself”. That’s not what it’s about. But I also don’t expect to be too productive. And that’s totally okay.
I’m very much increasing my appreciation for Benjamin Franklin‘s idea of becoming a “man of leisure.” That obviously does not mean sitting by the pool doing nothing, but opening yourself up to life pursuits that are independent of financial gain. The secret is…you don’t need to achieve full financial independence in order to pursue that life of leisure. You just need a good enough nest egg. Do you know how many people would adios their job if they “only” had $10,000 saved up? But I see multi-millionaires with five figure annual expenses posting on the Bogleheads Forum having great fear that they don’t have enough to retire. We don’t need to trade all our money for time and w don’t need to trade all our time for money. Again, it’s a spectrum.
When I tell people about the “mini retirement”, I often get one of two responses.
1.) I could never take an entire year off work.
2.) I wish I could take a year off work.
I’m never sure how to react to these responses. The people who say they could never do that, how many of them have really taken a close look at their finances and evaluated potential spending cuts? And the wishers? I wonder how many of those think this is some sort of non-stop holiday where I sip umbrella drinks by the pool all day.
Something I wonder about as the road trip gets closer is how I’ll describe the “mini retirement” experience when I’m on the road. It’s already kind of weird to talk about with people in person. “How are you taking a year off?” “Um…lots of good fortune and I have saved a lot for a long time kthxnexttopicplz”Am I taking a sabbatical? A career break? Fully funded unemployment? Do I call myself retired? Does any of that even matter? I will have to come up with something, but I honestly haven’t a clue.