Empowering Wisdom to Free You From Debt Slavery
It was apparent that materialism was in complete control of the economic structure, the final objective of which was for the individual to become part of a system providing an economic security at the expense of the human soul, mind and body. — Manly P. Hall
WE ARE BORN into this world with the most amazing tool to shape our life: an open mind, a brain without connections. We spend the first five or so years navigating the outside world without any preconceived notions. We learn using our senses and we see reality as it is, not “how it should be.” Imagination, at this point, has no limit.
At around the age of five, we enter the school system, where a one size fits all philosophy dominates. For the next thirteen years, we learn how to read, write and do math. It’s during this period that the atrophy of the spirit begins. While learning these logical, left-brained, and in today’s world, useless aptitudes, the holistic, idea-generating right brain begins to die. We instead become logical and robotic. Imagination ceases to exist.
After these thirteen years, we come off the assembly line, ready to diversify into our chosen field of study. We borrow tens, if not hundreds of thousands of dollars to prepare for a career that, according to a 2013 and 2014 Gallup poll, will have us working on average 47 hours per week, not including commute time. This, along with the stress-related health effects that come with it, will be our reality until the retirement age of 67. If we stay on the workforce this long, we collect 100% of social security benefits.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s National Center for Health Statistics, the life expectancy in the U.S. is 78.7 years, as of 2012. Taking all of this into account, the anatomy of our life becomes clear. It consists of 62 years of training for, and working through a career sandwiched between five years of open-mindedness at the beginning of life and eleven years of declining health at the other end, known as retirement.
I practice medicine for a living and in this age group of 67 and older, the typical medical history includes high blood pressure, high cholesterol, diabetes, gastric reflux, depression and anxiety. These are all branches of a tree of diseases rooted in stress.
The first step in the process of change is discontent, and these facts should anger you. The ray of hope in these clouds of despair, however, is that we have the power to change this reality. It was only when I fell flat on my face financially, that I adopted the low-consumption lifestyle that I now follow. In the process, I have become spiritually affluent.
Money should be thought of in terms of time and energy, and whether we like it or not, when we have money working for us through investments, we have more time for ourselves.
The following timeless sayings have the power to guide us away from a life of debt slavery and toward a life full of creativity, control and free will. These three sayings symbolize the problem and the price we pay to indulge in this game of debt-slavery. The solution to break free from this insanity is investing.
Advertising has us chasing cars and clothes, working jobs we hate so we can buy shit we don’t need. — Tyler Durden, Fight Club
America’s vision of wealth conjures up visions of expensive cars and big houses in gated communities. Realize this: every time you see these physical manifestations of wealth, they are illusory. In reality, they are most likely manifestations of debt. The average owner of these accoutrements, in terms of net worth, could not afford to pay for the tires on the car, or the roof on the house without digging the hole of debt deeper.
Instead of focusing on the accumulation of symbols of wealth, we should focus on actually acquiring wealth. In doing so, we acquire freedom. By extension, we live our lives not governed by fear, but instead by excitement and adventure. We have the time to indulge in our truest calling and our deepest passions. We cease to be controlled, but instead, we control. Wealth equals time. The picture of life painted by the advertising industry is the grandest of illusions.
A man in debt is so far a slave. — Ralph Waldo Emerson
Two measurements to gauge household debt are commonly employed: percentage of household debt relative to the size of the economy (GDP), and percentage compared to disposable income. In 1980, the former was 50% and the latter, 70%. In 2010, these numbers are 85% and 115% respectively, a significant reversal.
The above numbers are bad for those of us who wish to use our lives for more creative and noble purposes. When saddled with debt, worry and anxiety colors our existence. These negative thoughts crowd out the positive, productive thoughts. We are no longer free to think.
To take our freedom back, spend no more than one-quarter of your monthly take-home household income on housing, whether it’s rent or mortgage payments. For everything else, pay cash. Mine and my wife’s two cars, combined, are worth $8000. I personally have no desire to borrow thirty-thousand dollars, which over a five-year term at an interest rate of 4.46% (the average interest rate for a new car) will have me paying back $33,524 for something that, according to Carfax will lose 60% of its value during that five-year term. After that five year period, the thirty-thousand-dollar car would now be worth twelve thousand. As long as you have debt, you are an obligated worker.
Compound interest is the eighth wonder of the world. He who understands it, earns it… he who doesn’t… pays it. — Albert Einstein
Realizing that advertisements are an illusion, and that debt and loss of freedom is the price to pay for this illusion, the solution is to turn the interest equation in your favor.
According to Bankrate.com, investing $5000 per year at 10% interest, which is the average interest earned by the S&P since its inception, will, at 30 years, have you at $904,717. I’ve personally read several years-worth of books on the subject of personal finance. I’ve also tried the “get rich quick” schemes, such as real estate investing. I’ve been through short-sales and foreclosures as a result, and these were some of the lowest points of my life. What I can distill from all of this experience can be summed up in a few sentences.
There are four enemies of wealth: debt, taxes, inflation and time. Besides inflation, we can control the other three to an extent. First off, take on as little debt as possible. Forget the Mercedes and forget the big house, or embrace them at the expense of your freedom. Instead, buy assets, not liabilities, through tax-friendly investments such as through a 401K or Roth IRA and start this process as early as possible. Remember that investing doesn’t need to be complicated, although the “experts” would have you believe so.
Two simple books to read on this subject that I recommend are Total Money Makeover, by Dave Ramsey, and The Little Book of Common Sense Investing, by John C. Bogle. Keep it simple and remember that investing is a game, not of inches, but of tenths of inches projected over a long period of time. Reject the seminars that promise to make you an overnight millionaire, as they’re run by charlatans.
If we are to become self-directing, self-governing and truly free-willed individuals, we need to first shed our illusory notion of wealth. Instead, wealth should be thought of in spiritual terms.
Let’s ask ourselves, not how to live, but how to die. Have we left our kids, grandkids and the community at large, better off? Is society wiser because of us? When we pass on, did our ideas and potential pass on with us, or did we release them outward to the universe to improve humanity?
The most expensive of materials will crumble with time, but the most expansive of ideas, if released, will live on for eternity. Nietzsche, the Buddha and Socrates didn’t spend their lives pre-occupied with materialistic wealth. It’s time to give a middle-finger to the high-consumption, phony lifestyle that’s espoused by the advertisers. In doing so, we prevent the atrophy of our spirit.
* * *