In less than two months, Mrs. Groovy and I will say goodbye to the world of mandatory work. For the first time since I was six-years-old, no one will own a chunk of my time. There will be no homework assignments to complete, no time sheets to fill out. I will not have to sit in a certain room at a certain hour and listen to a certain teacher chortle about a certain subject for a certain number of minutes. Nor will I have to deliver a certain file to a certain client on a certain day by a certain time. My days of ever having to answer to a teacher or a boss will be mercifully over.
In one sense, financial independence will be exhilarating. I will own 100% of my time. If I want to sleep until noon, I can. If I want to drive up to Raleigh on Wednesday so I can play golf with my father and brother-in-law on Thursday morning, I can. If I want to grab Mrs. Groovy and check out a matinee when the bulk of my neighbors are stuck at work or school, I can.
But in another sense, financial independence will be worrisome. Will I completely succumb to self-interest—man’s most base instinct? In other words, will it be all about my happiness? Will I do anything to help my fellow man? Will I turn into a hedonistic fool?
I don’t think I will. But it does concern me. And it concerns me because the capacity of a financially independent human being to do good is incredible.
Consider the following quote from Upton Sinclair:
“It is difficult to get a man to understand something when his salary depends upon his not understanding it.”
Do you see the keen insight of that quote? Render money irrelevant, and a man can afford to be honorable. A man whose house is mortgage free, for instance, doesn’t have to slavishly champion the party line flapdoodle of his company. A man whose kid’s 529 balance is enough to pay for a Harvard education doesn’t have to hawk shoddy products to the unsuspecting public. A man whose emergency fund can simultaneously handle a new roof, furnace, and transmission doesn’t have to crap on the poor. Do you see the power of financial independence? When doing right doesn’t hurt you financially, you can treat others like you would want to be treated—you can treat others like family.
And that’s why financial independence concerns me. I have been granted a wonderful opportunity to do some good in this world, and I don’t want to blow it.
Where I’m Going with This
Up until now, I’ve been bandying about some very lofty concepts with some very eloquent prose. Heck, I even saw fit to use the word flapdoodle again.* And while you’re no doubt enjoying this post as much as any of my previous posts, you’re probably getting a little antsy. “Where is he going with this?” you’re asking yourself. “And what does he mean when he said, ‘the capacity of a financially independent human being to do good is incredible'”?
Fair enough. Let’s put some meat on those bones.
Imagine a financially independent person with a very valuable skill or knowledge. And further imagine that he wants to use that skill or knowledge for good. So he goes to work in his area of expertise—either part-time or full-time—and behaves like a saint. He doesn’t give a rat’s ass about money. All he cares about is doing right by the customer. Here are some examples.
The financially independent car salesperson: “No, young dude just out of high school and making little more than the minimum wage, you don’t need a new car and a 7-year car loan. Let’s check out the dependable used cars we have on the lot over there.”
The financially independent mechanic: “No, single mom with two squalling moppets, your rotors don’t need to be replaced. All I need to do is change the brake pads. And I’m not going to charge you for the labor. Just pay me for the pads.”
The financially independent surgeon: “No, former college football stud, your hip replacement isn’t going to bankrupt you. I’ll take whatever your insurance pays and call it even.”
The financially independent financial adviser: “No, young couple who just had their first kid, I’m not letting you buy a whole-life policy. It’s a crap product. We’re going to buy two term-life policies, and we’re going to use the money saved from not buying the whole-life policy to increase your Roth IRA contributions.”
The financially independent politician: “No, disgruntled parents and guardians of my district, your kids suck at school, not because the schools and the teachers suck, but because you and your kids suck. You can’t expect your kids to excel in education when your kids don’t apply themselves.”
Okay, now do you see where I’m going with this? Do you see how incredible a blessing financial independence can be in the hands of a noble soul?
A while back, I mentioned that I would use some of my free time in retirement to bake bread for the needy. That’s cool and everything, and I still plan on doing it. But for some reason it strikes me as rather lame. I mean, c’mon. Bake ten loaves once a week for a homeless shelter? Really? Is that all I got?
No, I want to be a righteous mofo in retirement. Baking ten loaves once a week for a homeless shelter isn’t going to cut it. I got to do something more. Exactly what, I can’t say. All I know is that it’s back to the drawing board. Damn, this financial independence stuff is hard!
Okay, groovy freedomists, that’s all I got. What say you? Do you have any plans to be a righteous mofo once you achieve financial independence? If so, please share. I’m looking to up my game, and I need some ideas.
* I promise, this is the last time I will use the word “flapdoodle” for a while—maybe ever. About thirty years ago the word garnered some brief cachet. I brought it back in honor of Penny’s one year blogiversary over at Shepicksuppennies. And for some reason, I like the word. But I know it’s time to give it a rest and return that word to rightful obscurity.