Wednesday, October 8, 2014

Can They Really Afford The High Life?

On my commute to work and back, I can't help but notice many white collar hamsters swiping and jabbing at the screens of their smartphones and tablets. Seldom do you come across one using a device that is 3 to 4 generations behind.

These are the very same people you see spending hours in line for the new iPhone 6.

In the workplace (a.k.a rat cage), I often notice colleagues taking overseas vacations 3-4 times a year. Let's just say we have roughly equal paychecks. 

These are the very same people you see in line, paying $10-15 for a bowl of salad for lunch.

In the cab one day, the grumpy driver was complaining about how he's been driving for the past 15 years, after retiring from a cushy, well-paying government job at 50 years old. The 65-year-old spoke with indignation about the government not providing enough for its citizens. 

These are the very same people you see queueing up for the latest iPhone and a bowl of expensive salad, 40 years ago.


Piecing these events together, I wonder if most financial problems really exist out of circumstance or are they merely self-inflicted wounds.

Since the revelation I had last December, I've been swimming against the norms, making lifestyle adjustments and allowing the Joneses to overtake me. While the herd is moving in one direction, I'm walking against it, towards something bigger - freedom.

Sometimes, when you see most people, your peers, relatives and friends living the high life, spending generously on life's excesses, you can't help but wonder if you're the crazy one - crazy enough to be working on a freedom fund at the age of 24.

But it reminds me of a parable I once read:

"There was a wise king who lived in a castle with his wife, overlooking a village that he rules. The king is revered and respected greatly for his wisdom and fairness. 
These villagers get their water from the same source, a well. One day, that well was contaminated with poison and anyone who drank from it became completely insane. 
Almost all the villagers became insane. 
The king and his wife, however, do not share the same water source as the villagers and are therefore spared from the insanity. Knowing the situation in the village, the King went to the village to restore order but the villagers no longer listened to him. They agreed that he was different and "has gone crazy". 
Fearing that he will lose his throne, the King and his wife decided to drink the contaminated water from the well - to be the same as them. True enough, the villagers were relieved that their King "was back". 
Harmony was then restored."

Most would think that I'm crazy to pursue white collar freedom. Perhaps, they need to drink the water I'm drinking.

However, the truth is that we can't tell a person's financial situation (their net worth & debts) from the outside. We'll also never know if they can truly afford the high life.

Or are they merely magicians, performing an illusion.

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