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The Hypocrisy of Favoring Financial Freedom

I had a conversation with a friend over my favorite chat application Telegram 2 days ago. (in case you are still stuck at Whatsapp you should check it out, search for @kyith and drop me a message)

He was sharing with me that his recent Facebook post is likely to get slammed by many in the financial education industry because it debunks a particular kind of overselling.

The overselling that he refers to is to increase the gap from where a person is to where they are now to increase the oomph factor.

One example is to say that Kyith grows up in a very impoverish background where the family constantly struggled to put food on the table. Eventually through astute investing, he becomes a millionaire and buys a condo each for his parents.

Now I honestly don’t see any friends in the industry going with that narrative, but I do see the Sponsored ads on Facebook feed with that narrative.

I think we all can identify with a rags to riches story due to how we find it relatable to our very own situation. However, I am not in the mood to comment on this practice today. What I do feel like expressing my point of view is on a question my friend Lionel over at Cheerful Egg put out to his readers.

Is Work a Necessary Evil?

Lionel was asking why do we care about reaching financial freedom so much. The financial blogging community, and slowly the mainstream media seems to make the narrative that reaching financial freedom is such a good goal to reach for.

To the point that it seems, work is really a vulgar thing.

Work is something that we wish to get out of, and to get out of fast. This is so that we can jumped to the next stage of our lives.

A blogger that I really like a lot APenQuotes, also chips in on the topic and shares his feelings.

And I have to say he and I share a lot of the same influences in materials read, so don’t be surprise I end up agreeing to his points a lot.

Not all Work is Bad. Show some Gratitude for having Work!

To me, I have good work days and bad work days.

However, at the end of the day when I review my budget, I am rather glad of what the things that working allows me to achieve.

I think back to the time when I was a student. I stopped taking pocket money from my parents since enlistment to army because Dad was out of work in the 2000-2003 construction bust.

My $200/mth part time job needs to last me for 1 month. It is a fucking struggle.

When I got my first paycheck of $2000-$2500, it affords me tremendously more flexibility!

I always say your budget is a communication to everyone where you place your values. In this case, my budget show me the rich life that I could live.

And I was able to live such a life due to work.

Related: The Complete Personal Budgeting Guide

And if one of the values that I placed dearly is having optionality in life, and to obtain that I need to save, then my job is what allows me to obtained this optionality and to obtain it fast.

To get to financial freedom, most people need work. And they require a great job.

So why beat on your job if your job gets you to financial freedom?

We Grossly Overemphasize when we are Selling a Viable Alternate Reality

One of the new podcast I came across was this podcast called ChooseFI.

It is a podcast that niche down on the topic of reaching financial independence. And overall the content and guest is really good and applicable (perhaps not to the Singapore context)

As someone who have no idea about this niche personal finance / retirement topic, you would definitely find good takeaways that you can value add to your life.

However, in the midst of explaining why this alternate reality world is much better than your current reality, I do find that they beat down the job too much.

You can hear little tidbits of the hosts commenting that you should find a job that allows you to be independent faster than normal, that a 9 to 5 job is so much inferior.

This blog talks about the tools and tactics for retirement, financial security and financial independence as well. And one of the problem we faced is to control the narrative when we are explaining the core concepts of how to better achieve these goals to present it as a strong option.

This is a strong option because I felt that the satisfaction and usefulness you could get from knowing about financial independence or security outweighs not knowing about it for a large part of your life.

And at times we tend to oversell it and make it seem work is something that we should get away from.

This goes back to my first argument that, hey, show some gratitude to your job, but also question the notion is your job really that bad?

So you gain Financial Freedom….. and then you don’t work?

The idea about financial independence is that you have accumulate adequate wealth that cover the total annual expense today such that you do not have to work anymore. (This article gives you a formula how much you require not just for financial independence, but financial security or retirement)

Financial independence is a better concept then retirement. This is because retirement has the notion that during your retirement period, you elect not to work.

This is to say if you are 55 and you declare that you are retired, then based on that notion, you do not work. Financial independence is that if you elect not to work, that is very possible, but you could also choose to work.

Thus there is a notion of greater options in that definition.

However, do you really not do work in retirement? I don’t think so.

Work requires putting in effort. And for some tasks, as you get older it is not so simple!

Here are some examples:

  1. Taking care of the grand kids (or your own kids)
  2. Teaching your grand kids (or your own kids)
  3. Going to the market for groceries
  4. Planning and executing charity fund raising events
  5. Visiting less privilege people and help them out in little ways
  6. Managing your investment portfolio
  7. Apprenticing in electrical repair or web design

These activities either requires physical work or mental work or both.

Why you are agreeable (or perhaps do not agree to carry them out) is that you are not paid for this work. This changes your commitment a fair bit. To be fair, the quality of the work you deliver also differs because you are not paid for it.

And be careful, you might not enjoy some of the work in financial freedom.

George Soros, the very rich hedge fund manager, was commenting to a reporter that he love great wine. The reporter then asked him “Oh, why aren’t you a wine collector? Why don’t you have a wine library like most rich people with thousands of bottles of old wines””

His answer was great.

He says “Because then I would have to remember all those bottles, or like think about that I own all these bottles.”

Some of the work that creeps into your life, you might not want it.

As APenQuotes puts it, citing one of the three main points of Mr Money Mustache in his presentation, the reason work in financial independence is much better is because you do not depend on it! (Watch the video it is not bad!)

Working without being tied to money breeds what Mr Money Mustache refers to as authenticity. You have no boss to answer to (not sure if you will agree with taking care of your kids cause they are always your boss! ) and your output is as neutral as possible.

Can Never Deny that Our Job is a Large Part of our Identity

Work is not always unfulfilling.

Even if that is the case, you might not realize the hidden elements of work that becomes part of your identity.

Douglas Segan is an accomplished doctor and lawyer (I take my hat off to people who have the brainpower and the grit to complete 2 tough discipline) and he tried to retire but failed.

Some of the nuances of work that Douglas brought up are fascinating to me because you would only realize it when you experience a period of retirement.

Some examples:

  1. Missed the structure of having a calendar
  2. Missed being part of a team
  3. No work stress to gripe about during conversations
  4. Lost of impetus to be efficient because now you have more time
  5. Sanity and Esteem is invariable linked to the team
  6. No more novelty in rewards such as a nice meal for a job well done. You didn’t earn it

I thought about this myself. I do work in a team and no matter how independent I am, I worked in teams for the past 13 years. I think I could adjust to things  differently and my aim is not to retire so I shouldn’t run into this problem.

Financial Freedom or Independent does give you the license to work unlike retirement, so if you are working, don’t beat down the life of working too much!

Get Better at Work. You might not want to Stop it.

You have to firstly get past the problem of being adequately compensated.

Money is not the most important thing, but being underpaid usually hits your esteem chronically.

Once you settled that, or that you REALLY think money is not as important as the greater goal, find a job that you can build competency in.

The best way to learn to like your work is get better with it. This means learning, doing and then iterating through many hours.

I don’t quite believe in finding some work that is purposeful. Or that you are passionate about.

I mean, there are some work that will be a hard sell that you are making a difference.

However, you don’t have to develop happiness at work to continue with it. You just need to feel satisfied very often.

And to do that is to get better.

You feel frustrated when you can’t get things done. But as you get better it becomes easier. We also learn to enjoy if we achieve growth in our capability.

If you are enjoying the work, and have part of your identity tied to the work, disassociating from work will seem like the wrong choice to make.

Identifying the Hidden Work Scope that Creates Fulfillment in your Work

In Douglas Segan’s account, he brought up some points that you didn’t realize is what cause you to like the job.

Sometimes we failed to realize that we like the job not for the title that we signed up for.

For example, your job could be a Pre-Sales Representative. You realize that you are competent and also agreeable to a few general scope in the job description:

  1. you like to research up and forming a dossier on your clients
  2. you like to find novel angles to solve some problems with fixed parameters
  3. you like to debunk people’s skepticism about things

They are very general scope and if you deconstruct that these are the scope that you would always like to continue doing, you do not have to carry on this line of work but sought the job in different domain or different field that gives you some of these general scope.

A Journey of Finding out What is Important to Your Family and Yourself

Whether it is

  1. saving furiously at the expense of a rich life
  2. putting money away for financial independence or financial freedom
  3. prioritizing financial security

What we are selling is a timeline more like the following:

How you will go about achieving financial independence and retire early

We treat the cut off as a sacred chapter of our life.

That was how a lot of us started off, but slowly as we mature, we tend to taper off and look at things not so clear cut.

The motto becomes more of

  1. wealth being an enabler
  2. if you conservatively plan how much you put away to build wealth and do it in a fundamentally well you should eventually achieve where you want to be
  3. asking your family and yourself what is the good life to live

In the theoretical sense, there is no retirement. Work is something sacred to be pursue. If its not satisfying you, you move on to something else. You devote well to family or endeavors outside of work. You live sensibly by being intentional with your money so that you have enough to buffer for rainy days.

How do we achieve this Utopian idea? Perhaps we should ask this question about how to live a good life and what is a good life so that we can hope to achieve this before our money gives us financial freedom.

RelatedWe should be Experiencing Financial Freedom before the Wealth Security at the End. Yet Wealth Security is still a worth while Milestone

Financial Security is what We all Seek and an Absolutely Worthwhile Endeavor

With all this said, does that mean we should not pursue Financial Freedom?

It depends.

Stages of financial indepdence

I felt that financial freedom is a worthwhile target if you are putting a target in front of you to aim for.

If you are starting a business with your friend, and the company brings in $300,000 in revenue, you could set a target like that.

However, as illustrated in the infographic above, other milestones are just as worthwhile to reach for. They act as the sign post to tell you that you are going the right direction.

If you are persuaded by my previous section a purposeful satisfactory life is one that gives us more happiness and more sound, then what should you do for your finances?

  1. You should reach Financial Solvency. If you have debts, make sure you pay the interest and principal on your own
  2. You should have Financial Stability. Save up an emergency fund for unexpected events or act as buffer for poor planning
  3. You should aim for Debt Freedom. Clearing high interest debt and not be dependent on them
  4. You should work towards Financial Security. Work out your annual survival expense for your family. While living life, build up your wealth such that it can produce cash flow to fund your annual survival expense (the financial independence, security or retirement formula here)

Achieving 1 to 4 gives you adequate flexibility. Not just that, they are closer for you to achieve.

I know many that can do 1 to 3. They are always building on number 4 and that is OK. If there is one hack for number 4 it is, instead of looking at it from a cash flow distribution perspective, work out how many years of annual survival expense you can build up.

Suppose your family annual survival expense is $18,000/yr. To provide for that with a 5% dividend stock, you will need capital of 18,000/0.05 = $360,000.

To give you flexibility, look at Financial Security in another way: If you built up $180,000 in wealth, you have a 10 year make or break period for life experimentation. Be it trying to build up another career from ground zero, you can use your wealth to build a better life.

In this way, saving money is absolutely useful. It makes it worthwhile to put away 50% of your take home income if you have no good use for it.


If I were to articulate this article in short, in the midst of this grand marketing of a concept so obscure to mainstream people, we inadvertently oversold that work sucks.

Work do not always suck. In a lot of instances, it sucks because we have a boss to report to and we have to interact with people we grow to dislike.

However, work got to where we are today, and the hypocrisy is, when we reach financial freedom we replace paid work with other work you are agreeable with. It is still work!

While you might not be a very experienced retiree, or reach financial freedom, you probably have experience working.

I want to hear does your job really suck? In the midst of a job that suck, are there scope of work that you are glad to do?

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Saturday 10th of June 2017

Thank you for sharing your perspective on work. It's something that I've been struggling with. I've only started working for over 3 years, and have hated work since I started. While I'm thankful that this led me to discover the concept of FIRE (targeting to semi-retire in my early 30s), many of the FIRE themes are premised on work being hateful, an insidious idea which I've unfortunately adopted. Since adopting such a "work is hateful" mindset, I've deliberately chosen to not care about work and not take any initiative, apart from doing the minimum assigned.

I'm struggling to let go of the idea that work is something hateful as it is a drag going to work everyday with that mindset. I'm trying to adopt the mindset that if I'm going to have to work for at least the next couple of years, I should be trying to find some joy in work instead of choosing to hate it everyday. I suppose it is not cognitive dissonance to find joy in work yet still want to quickly escape *mandatory* work?


Monday 12th of June 2017

Hi Snowybear, my advice is, try to find something you can find satisfaction in. Treat it as a personal challenge to accomplish something you are not good at or good at. Treat these as sharpening and honing your personal character in a role playing game. It doesn't help to treat everyone or every organization as an enemy. If you don't like this work, then what do you like?


Monday 5th of June 2017

You're confusing FI with RE. FI is just having FU money​. It's the ability to quit and work on what u want.


Tuesday 6th of June 2017

Hi Mike, I don't think I am confused about it. I am rather against the over marketing that jobs is such a hateful thing when it is the main thing that got you the money to be secure, independent or free in the first place.


Sunday 4th of June 2017

When people say they hate their job, what they usually mean is they hate their boss/colleagues/management/subordinates/customers/some humans they have to interact with...

As the common saying goes ... People leave their bosses, not their jobs.

Many studies & surveys (both academic & mass casual) shows bad managers is the number 1 reason for resignations.

That's why since the GFC, more & more grads with 1st class or 2nd uppers (especially local grads) are gravitating to civil service rather than fancy name banks & big 3 consulting/accounting firms. They've figured out that S'pore's civil service pays well and comes with structured environment that minimizes slave-driver bosses & erratic hiring/firing policies, while allowing one to rise fast & fat pay/bonuses if one so inclines.


Tuesday 6th of June 2017

Hi Sinkie, is that the case that many go to civil service? I thought they will still aspire to be in the big banks to earn that fat check.


Sunday 4th of June 2017

Glad you like my blog post. This is a great post. :)


Tuesday 6th of June 2017

Hi T, thanks for coming over.

Jasmin LIM

Sunday 4th of June 2017

For many, work or job gives income so that we can build up our savings as to whether one likes his job, I think it is a mindset issue I wont say I love my job because I will not sacrifice much time nor health on it, but I will continue working for as long as I love my paycheck


Tuesday 6th of June 2017

whoa, that sounds like you still need the paycheck but given the choice you would chose not to.

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