When I was young, I didn’t ask much questions concerning work life. The average Belgian guy goes to school, learns a profession or goes to university and starts his career. At the age of 60-something, you retire and enjoy life. Along the way, most people start a family, buy a house and do some travelling or other entertainment. It’s what we are indoctrinated at home and learn at school. There’s just no other way to live.
Concerning me, coming from a normal middle-class family, I never thought it could be any different. Study well, get a nice degree with a decent income and save for a house. Tralalala, boring. Working for 45 years, enjoy your last “good” years and then become a needy, old grandpa. Would you sign up for this kind of life?
That was until I got to know the concept of FIRE. At the first glance, I was amazed about the possibilities of early retirement. The power of compounding interest, especially at an early age, is endless. I didn’t need much persuasion, I was immediately a strong supporter of the DGI strategy. I added a bit of value investing myself (based on Graham, Buffett), to prevent me from overpaying and only pay a price that I am happy to pay. The strategy became real.
But now, why do we work? For the money, at least the majority of the people. We sell our skills and time, and in return we ask money. The money is used to cover our cost of living, going from the bare need expenses to outrageous luxury. Over the years, our standards have become higher, we always want more. If we don’t, we don’t consider ourselves happy. It’s not only about security, safety or survival anymore. Spending becomes some kind of social status, a competition we don’t like losing.
Money has never been the ultimate goal to me, although it is the currency used to reach the ultimate goal: freedom and fulfillment. The freedom to choose what paths you walk in life, the freedom of not having to work a boring job to cover your yearly expenses, the freedom of choice. It’s something I heavily lack right now. My life is tight scheduled and doesn’t have much room for own input. This should better in 1-1,5 years, but that’s another subject.
Fullfillment on the other hand, is something that continues on the path of freedom according to me. Once we have freedom, we can start working at our inner fullfillment. To me, fullfillment comes from accomplishing your personal goals, the things that really interest you. Whether they are work or non-work related, doesn’t matter. By selling your time on a daily basis to your employer, we accept the opportunity cost of not being able to invest the time in something that really matters to us. Don’t get me wrong, I don’t say people should hate work. Ideally, our job is our hobby.
Unfortunately, this isn’t the case for most people. I would for instance love to have my own investment vehicle and own a couple of businesses, but this is not the case. A) I don’t have enough money and B) I lack knowledge.
I would also love to learn spanish, travel the world, shake the hand of Buffett himself, visit companies all over the world, obtain a helicopter pilot certificate… which isn’t possible right now due to lack in time and money.
When I chose the way I would go, I admit money was a big factor. It has given me financial success, reaching €100k at age 21. It has also given me frustration, lack of me-time, opportunity cost of learning other things, social compromises… Eventually, everybody has his own ups and downs in the job, as long as the end-balance is positive, we shouldn’t regret anything. I chose to give up a couple of years of my life living a life other people don’t want, in order to live the rest of my life as other people can’t.
This whole money thing seems pretty obvious, although I don’t like the psychological factor of it. Being an employee, we only make the business owners wealthier or better long-term. I have always preferred ‘owning’ things, and this isn’t different with businesses. Ideally, other people work for you. Many people choose the life as employee out of fear, the fear of not succeeding themselves or the fear of not having an income. I’d rather take the shot, blame myself for failure and keep trying. I prefer the fast lane as ERE formulates it.
Then why did I decide to go with the army? While money was a factor, there was another big one too. Personal development & leaderskills. The formation I follow, prepares me to be a platoon commander. Child language: I am supposed to manage 30-50 people. This managing task isn’t only in good circumstances, but also in more risky situations (some life threatening even, if we take it into the extreme). Having the opportunity to manage that amount of people at my age, is a gift. In my view, if one can manage people in shitty situations, good situations should be a walk in the park. Robert Kiyosaki, author of Rich dad poor dad, joined the army for the exact same reason. I only figured out this one lately. Did you know that Alex Gorsky (CEO of Johnson&Johnson) graduated from the U.S. Military Academy at West Point? (This is an Officer formation). He spent six years in the United States Army, finishing his career with the rank of captain and earning the Ranger tab and Airborne wings. He served in Europe, the United States, and Panama. (source: wikipedia) Point is, even though life sucks sometimes (ok, pretty often), I should come out a better version of myself. These skills taught are hard to find through other instances/companies… and I am sure they will prove usefull in later life. I want to keep on learning and investing in myself.
Have you ever made similar decisions? Did you ever choose to walk down a path which can only bare fruits in the long-term?