A dramatic shift in priorities

June 21, 2010


As I come to the end of my three years here in Hawaii, I realize how much my priorities have shifted from even a few years ago.  Inspired by the such blogs as Early Retirement Extreme, Almost Fearless, and The Art of Nonconformity; the books of Henry David Thoreau (Walden) and Rolf Potts (Vagabonding); and movies such as Into the Wild, my goals have shifted singularly to the following:

1) To live as simply as possible

2) To achieve financial independence as early as possible

3) To retire from full time work as early as possible and get started on my dream of long term world travel

I list them in that order because each one necessitates the other.  For example, one cannot achieve financial independence early, short of being born into a rich family or winning the lottery, without living simply.  We live in a consumerist culture in which we are always conditioned to buy more and more without a second thought as to what we actually need.

Housing is the biggest expense that most people have.  I have come to the conclusion that I will never purchase a house.  I grew up in a pretty large house in the suburbs of Maryland.  The more I think about it, the more I cannot understand the need to purchase a house for hundreds of thousands of dollars when you only really need a fraction of the space.  Let’s forget about housing as an investment for a second.  I’m talking about being tied down to one location in a 30-year fixed rate mortgage for a house that you don’t even need.  The more space you have, the more energy you expend cleaning and maintaining it.  A more economical solution, especially for a single person like myself (or even a couple), is to live in the cheapest, furnished studio that I can find.  I say furnished because I also never want to purchase another piece of furniture ever again.  As I get ready to move to Japan from my apartment, the move will be extremely painless.  That is because I do not own 95% of the belongings in my apartment.  No need to worry about moving furniture to my new location of getting rid of it at a fraction of what I paid for it only to begin the cycle of wasted money once again.  I can fit all my possessions into a small bedroom.  In fact, I own so few belongings that I can tell you from memory just about every item that I own.

I also never plan on never having any children.  I always get weird looks from people every time I tell them this.  I guess having children is so ingrained in our DNA and culture that many people cannot fathom being childless.  To me, the concept is simple.  Children once served a purpose long ago in ancient and agrarian societies when kings needed an heir to the throne or families needed children to work on the farm.  In today’s modern society, where all our needs are provided for, children serve no purpose other than an emotional one.  The only reason you should have a child is if you truly desire to raise another life and take on all the sacrifices that come along with that.  I hear all the time that people want children so that they have someone to take care of them when they are old.  That line of reasoning is unbelievably asinine.  There is absolutely no guarantee that your children will take care of you when you are old, and if that is your only reason, you need to re-examine your priorities.  In addition to sacrifices to your time and freedom, be prepared for the monetary sacrifice as well, with estimates for raising one child in the ballpark of $200,000.  When parents decide to have lots of children, it’s no wonder that they struggle financially.

Doing the following will help me achieve financial independence well before the official retirement age of 65.  The idea of retiring at 65 absolutely appalls me.  While people can still live active and meaningful lives at that point, you are also closer to the end game than you are to the beginning.  Health concerns will also start to play a role as well.  The only reason why people have to retire at 65 or later is because their savings strategies are horrible and because they believe they are entitled to all the nice things in life.  In reality, if people started living below their means and made smart decisions with their money, such as saving much more than the suggested 10% of their income (aim for 50% or more) and starting this earlier in life (2o’s instead of 50’s), they could achieve financial independence decades earlier.

I do not, by any means, do this perfectly and still have a lot to learn, but in the long run I know it will be worth it.

3 Comments on “A dramatic shift in priorities”

  1. Zelda Says:

    Its simple to move beyond with little things…food, shelter and entertainment !!!



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