What are we working for?

What most people see every day

What most people see every day – Photo credit to Flickr user archie4oz

I feel like this may be a broad question but it’s been on my mind like crazy lately.  There are some obvious answers: we work for the weekend and so the bill collector doesn’t come knocking.  But, without getting to existential here, what are we really doing?  I mean, you’ve got weddings, kids, school tuition, electricity, funerals, vacations and a whole host of other things that you really want.  But, again, what is your or my goal?

I’ve been thinking a lot about this lately.  During my annual review, I posited a similar question towards my boss: “What am I working towards here?  What can I really grow in to?”  I’ve been with this company for three years and in general, I’m doing well.  But, my upward mobility is pretty limited.  I already report to the CFO, who is a pretty young guy in his own right.  I could work there for fifteen years and the entire time it would be “Well, Brian reports to the CFO.”  Sure, the title might change and I might gain responsibilities but overall, nothing would really change.  But even then, we get back to the other question: What am I working for?  What am I working towards?

If we go by what we see around us or by what our parents had, have, or will have, then it’s simple really.  Nice house in a decent neighborhood, enough money to go on vacation and put the kids through school.  All admirable things to want.  But the house, the vacations, the school tuition, all of this comes at a cost.  So many people have mortgages and credit card debts that they can’t afford.  If you try to force some of the finer things in life too soon, you end up like the $30k millionaires we spoke about a few days ago.  So is there a right way to get these things without killing ourselves working 50, 60, 100 hours a week?

In a way, there is a lack of structure and focus in the corporate world.  It leaves most people feeling empty after a day’s work.  Now, I don’t mean to say that companies themselves lack structure or focus.  They know exactly what they want: profits.  And they know how to get there.  What I mean is that companies rarely know how to give their employees focus for their own lives.  Their idea of focus is that if you work for 45 years, you’ll retire and live a few years doing nothing.  But that’s not focus, that’s not a goal.  There is a whole lot of in between that not many people are paying attention to.  We grow up in a school system that has set goals and benchmarks.  You always know where you stand.  In athletics, there are goals. You have championships and personal bests to conquer.  In the professional world?  Well, you’re trying to make rent next month.  You’d like to eat dinner tonight.  If you have room on your credit card you’d really like to take that trip to Alaska you always hear about, you know the one.

The point I’ve been getting at is that, after a lot of think and soul searching, working for a retirement years and years down the road doesn’t really suit me.  Neither does the thought of buying an overpriced monstrosity of a house with a mortgage that is 75% of the value.  I’ve already established earlier in the year that I hate my car loan and, well, debt in general.  I think it’s time to add a new goal to my 2013 and beyond: I’m working towards Financial Independence.  It’s a crazy goal, I know.  And I’m way, way far off.  But there is more to my thinking so hear me out.

In general, I’m not a huge fan of the corporate world.  While I like where I work, I can’t say that I enjoy it every day.  It’s not as satisfying as I’d ultimately want it to be.  That in mind, it makes sense that I should strive for Financial Independence.  If I could work for another ten to twelve years in Finance and save up enough to buy a home with no mortgage, plus some income producing assets (bonds, dividend stocks, a rental property), then maybe I could do something.  I could start consulting or do some freelance stuff without having to worry too much about the bills.  I could coach track, something I already know I love to do (and know doesn’t pay anything at all).  The point is, if this is my goal, if this is what I’m working towards then in my late 30’s, I could start doing something that makes me truly happy and isn’t a huge burden on my life or my health.  Instead of working behind a desk for fifty years, I get to be outside and influence young people for thirty or forty.

I think most people want to attain some measure of financial independence.  Saving up some serious Eff You money can make life decisions significantly easier.  You’re not going to stand there and take BS from someone when you know you can leave and not miss a beat.  So I guess this really will come down to if this is a rational idea or a crazy one.  If it’s attainable or a pipe dream.  Who else out there is trying to get to Financial independence?  What are you doing to get there?  Let’s see what people really think when it comes to this.

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