Hoarding Money Didn’t Do It For Me, So What Am I Missing?
Most of us hoard something – travel experiences, clothes, shoes, repertoire of automobiles, sporting goods, dining experiences, retirement savings, furniture, kitchen appliances, books or relationships.
A part of our minds is perpetually preoccupied with obtaining whatever it is we would like more of. There is a ‘seeking’ behavior, followed by a short-term satiation, then life’s insipid moments start to bore us, we fall back down to hoarding, we start looking & searching, excitement goes up, anxiety builds up, we gain/find what we want and the cycle starts all over again.
According to modern psychology happiness isn’t experienced because you have just the right things around you, things we believe are making us happy. Instead it has to do with us having satisfied the craving of wanting. Therefore, when you no longer want something you can also find happiness. If instead of wanting a nice house you shifted to wanting just a roof over your head you could be happy living in a shack.
I thought of writing this post because that’s exactly where I’m finding myself. I’ve hoarded a bunch of money so that I can retire and now that I’m financially independent I no longer am feeling that sense of accomplishment. There is that drive to look for the next thing, to hoard more money or to satisfy that need to conquer another challenge.
For a while I thought that I had accomplished something great because I no longer was pursuing cars, fancy clothes, fancy meals, interesting travel experiences, a mini-mansion or new gadgets. All I really did is take my focus away from that above and lasered in on financial independence through hoarding savings.
In my defense that’s how financial independence, therefore retirement, is achieved by almost every American. It’s through saving enough money or vesting in some sort of income stream to be able to live off of it indefinitely.
I wrote a post or made a comment somewhere a while back that my next goal would be to find something which I’m so passionate about that I wouldn’t want to retire from it. This isn’t an original idea, I’ve heard it mentioned in numerous books and by several intelligent speakers – probably those who became financially independent and asked themselves, now what?
The path I took, trying to get myself less dependent or in need of tangible goods & luxury experiences, was the right one for me. This now allows me to do work I really enjoy without having to worry about how much money it’s going to make me. Do the ends justify the means?
I didn’t know what the outcome was going to be, it just felt like a worthwhile pursuit to downsize my life and save. After getting all Buddha and wandering the streets with my loin cloth I felt liberated, much less dependent on an income, allowing me to break away from a job which I was no longer enjoying.
That’s good not just for me but for the everyone else. If a school teacher hates what he does and is just looking at the kids as a means to an end then he’s likely not going to be great at what he does. After a while the kids might even become nothing but an obstacle, objectified down to that his impulse to take advantage of a student, in whatever ways you can imagine, may supersede his desire to mold this child’s brain.
I’m thinking that perhaps instead of trying to find the next job/career that will challenge me or make me a ton of money or make me feel accomplished I should pursue an endeavor which meshes with me.
It might sound easy but in fact I have no idea what the fuck I’m talking about, it just sounds right. I wasn’t brought up to pursue work in line with my inner self. Growing up it was about getting a respectable job, which pays well, will allow for job security and has some prestige. What, am I too old to blame my parents?
So how does one go after work which is internally gratifying? Probably by first figuring out what internal gratification looks like; it definitely wasn’t the fancy shit I owned or the expensive vacations I took. Yet financial resources are needed in order to support oneself in society to live a satisfying life. But if income starts being a high motivating factor then inevitably we would be making a biased decision towards $. Can income be completely ignored? Not for most of us.
One option is to continue doing the work one is already in and decouple more and more from the need to spend, the need to own and the need to experience new things. This really isn’t that hard, the toughest part is getting started in it, the rest comes naturally.
While working at one’s current job it would be important then to start dabbling in a bunch of different pursuits. Perhaps making art is what will sing to your soul, or maybe it’s taking care of orphans or helping animals. It could be growing a garden or becoming a financial adviser. Maybe wine collecting is where your love is at or helping build structures such as in a construction job or doing building renovations. You might want to teach or you might want to write. There is interior design, landscaping, professional athlete, life-coaching or working with the underprivileged.
Next it’s important to fine-tune what we’re doing. In 2012 I owned an auto-mechanic shop and I loved the work, truly loved it. It inspired me and my customers were ecstatic to have my services and my uber-excellent mechanic/partner working on their cars. I loved preparing for and competing in auto races, there was a sense of accomplishment, there was excitement, there was some income and there was camaraderie.
Something was missing though, I couldn’t tell you what. Maybe the reliance on gasoline or the terrible chemicals we had to use on the cars or the fact that I wasn’t really doing much for humanity as a whole. It felt right to stop it and sell the business, which I don’t regret even today.
There are a few things on my mind which I need to try next. My biggest window of opportunity is right now. It’s not about wanting to be financially independent or retired, it’s about wanting to do work which is intrinsically good work with little reliance on the income it would produce.
There were 2 times in my life I felt a sense of purpose & passion. The first few years as an attending and the first couple of years of owning my auto-mechanic shop. So at least that feeling is familiar to me, I’ve experienced it first-hand. The hardest part will be to overcome my biases and get myself slightly outside of my comfort zone.
Should I not have saved the way I did? I’m not saying that. The important thing I did which worked for me is that I became less dependent on my income. As for the savings I saved as much as I could and I made as much as I could – that wasn’t a good strategy.
No doubt that the extra work and the aggressive saving led to a little bit of stress and perhaps to those feelings of being burnt out. Instead I could have focused on paying off my debt, minimizing future debt and saved a percentage of whatever income I generated.
I was a bit too focused on maximizing everything – gluttony, not smart and not attractive. I could have instead dropped down to part-time once I had a little savings built up and all debt abolished. Then I could have started using my free time to work on something on the side, perhaps work which was more in line with my inner motivations.
It’s still important to have clearly written out goals, that shapes the direction you gonna go in. Fighting the urge to get there much sooner than necessary is what will make a bigger difference in the quality of life you will enjoy along the way.