We like to think of our personal lives a solely our own, an area where instead of taking orders we give them, where we don’t have to consult the “team” or play nice, where we can do as we damn well please. It’s a nice idea, but this notion has more in common with Tyler Durden than reality, in that it is an idea we entertain out of a psychological need to feel a level of personal worth. It is part of the façade we build around ourselves to keep us from running our car into the nearest tree.
Who’s the Boss? Not You. Tony Danza? Maybe.
Hyperbole aside, nobody is boss of their personal life. In saying this, I am not referring to your significant other or your children, you parents and friends, or your pets. I am not referring to the cops, or social norms, and I am certainly not referring to some existential notion of age. All those things can be shunned should you wish to do so. You can cheat on your significant other, ignore your children, parents and friends, and not train your animals. You can become an outlaw, die your hair pink and cross dress, act half your age…whatever soaks your sponge. The point is that if you choose to piss in other people’s faces in social matters, you can elect to not care about the repercussions. Not so with the financial. Piss in your bankers face, and you will be homeless.
This all relates to the hierarchy of needs, as laid out by Abraham Maslow. In it, the “base” level needs are shelter and food, health, sexin’ and excretion (or, in combination, German porn). Above them is safety, then comes love and belonging, after which is self-esteem, and finally “self-actualization” which is morality, creativity and those things we like to call our human aspects. Within this framework, Maslow is referring to a “base level” of each need being met before being able to focus on fulfilling the next. So we need “base” shelter, food and health before we can focus on safety and “base” safety before we can pursue love, and so on. We get to define our higher level needs on our own terms, how we love, how we derive our self-esteem and the type of “self-actualization” we seek. Our base needs tend to be those most tied to our finances, in that if our boss, bank or lender constricts or cuts off the flow of cash to our lives (through such actions as eliminating our job, more fees, or a higher interest rate, for example) they render meeting the “base level” of the lower needs harder.
In Charge of Your Destiny
So back to the façade we build around ourselves. We do this to meet the requirements of our higher needs, self-esteem and actualization. It is a façade because the house we use as shelter, the car we use as transport, the credit card many use for food purchases all create “financial bosses” in our lives; people or entities that can take away things from us if we don’t meet their requirements. Of course, this isn’t necessarily so. Some are financially independent (or near enough). Most are not. Most, should they lose their job may default not long after on peripheral financial obligations, triggering a chain reaction where most everything is taken away from them. This was quite common in 2008. Could you truly say these people are in charge of their own destinies; that they can do as they damn well please?
The solution is financial independence, which many financial writers treat as preachers do salvation. The common prescriptions are intense savings rates, avoiding debt, frugality and hard work. This minimizes the number of “financial bosses” in our lives, but ignores the fact that our job, which pays down our debt, funds our savings and is the most common recipient of our hard work, is also our greatest liability because there we have our actual bosses. Even with substantial savings, they can put the kabash on our plans. Anyone with a basic understanding of compounding interest knows that a single bad year can put off financial independence for several. The common path to financial independence, the conservative, stash it away in a safe place route hinges on a certain level of good fortune in our jobs and with those in charge of them: our actual bosses.
This is obviously a much larger topic than can properly fit into a single post. Like a T-Bone, there is a lot to chew on and swallow here. I will hash it out in following posts. I wanted to broach the topic like a pick up artist would a threesome: by planting multiple, related ideas in your head for later extraction. Take a minute today to think: how many bosses do I really have? Are they “partners” or “bosses”, meaning are they part of an investment designed to help me reach financial independence, or a liability? The goal here is to heighten your financial and capitalistic awareness, not make you frustrated or depressed. So instead of crying into your pillow like a little nancy, ask you self this one final question: am I okay with having a boss all my life?
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 This is what I mean in saying that in terms of social matters, we can choose how we handle the repercussions of our actions by viewing them within the confines of the social dynamic we have built for ourselves. We do not, on the other hand, get to choose how our body reacts to starvation.