I’m very intrigued by the idea of living below your means, building wealth and escaping the rat race decades before you’re “supposed to”. It seems like very few people my age grasp this idea or at a minimum, think it’s worth pursuing. Those who live differently and consume less, save a ridiculous amount of their income and decide to jump off of the work/spend/work/spend merry-go-round are few and far between. They are hardly noticeable in society and their strategy is thought by the majority of people to be impossible. Well, first of all, it’s possible. Not only that, but it’s attainable for most of us. The big question is, what if many or most of us young people caught on to this idea and started living this way? What would that do to our society?
Our Elders Would Think We’re Nuts
I believe that our elders would think we were nuts. Our parents and grandparents were brought up to work until they were 65. “Go out and get a job” was what they likely said. And when you earn money, you “go out and put a nice down payment on a house” and you buy a couple of Buick’s and then a college education for your kids and then fancy vacations and all kinds of other things. Don’t get me wrong, our parents and grandparents arguably spent money much more wisely than people of our generation do now. But it seems to me that their strategy was to work until you’re 65 and then retire on social security, a pension and perhaps a modest 401k.
But what if we went crazy in our twenties and thirties, stopped over consuming, focused our effort on saving, investing and building wealth so that by the time we hit our late 30s and early 40s, we could check out. If we did this, we could end up “retiring” before many of our parents do. I don’t think this would go over very well with them. They would likely tell us that we were nuts.
But it’s possible in many cases because in our twenties and thirties, we make enough to do it, but we just don’t save enough and invest enough. Sure, we would be retiring with modest means while our parents at 65 would be retiring with a much higher standard of living, but that’s the point, we would be used to living modestly.
It Would Cause Chaos Among Some Luxury (Consumer Goods) Businesses
Sorry retailers, but many of you will have to downsize or go out of business if our generation starts living below our means, saving insane percentages of our income and investing like mad. We would be buying our furniture on Craigslist, wearing second hand clothing and growing some of our own food. We would also be renting a lot more and buying smaller, less fancy homes. Sure, the older people would still keep many of these companies in business, but once those generations stopped consuming, many businesses would be in for a treat.
Now, I don’t think business in general or the capitalistic market will be too damaged. We would still spend money, but just not as much as we do now and we would be very particular about what we buy. Used retail would be a booming business to be in. Commercial gardening or farming would be a booming business to be in. Service businesses that help us achieve our goals more effectively and efficiently, like Brian Tracy (a personal favorite of mine), would be booming. Business would still be alive and well. It would just be the companies that sell high priced, luxury items to young people that would be at risk here. If we decided to escape the consumption lifestyle we live today, we would not be buying much of that. Sorry, Apple. I think you have a great product, but it just isn’t worth trading our future time, energy and goals for your latest iGadget.
Society Could Relax a Little
After ten or twenty years of our generation living well below our means, building up enough wealth to retire and respectfully saluting our hats to the traditional life where we go to work each day, collect a pay check every two weeks and spend everything we have, leaving us back for more, we could all relax a little. Not that we would retire like 75 year old’s do and sit in our houses all day, but so we could be free to do what we’re passionate about.
We could all relax a little in that we could sleep in if it was still dark out. We could enjoy a healthy breakfast in the morning instead of having to hurry out the door to sit in rush hour traffic. We could ride our bikes a lot more instead of driving everywhere. We could spend our days working toward goals that we have always wanted to achieve. And if our kid got sick at school, if we had a friend in need, if it was a nice day and we just felt like going outside and enjoying it, we could do it without blinking. What a life that would be.
Life Would Be Better for All of Us
Sure, if we all lived this way, there may not be a new iPad coming out every 6 months or a thinner TV every 3 months, but we would get by. I think we’d all gladly take back our old tube TVs, our old Sony Walkmans and our old landline telephones if we could work on what we’re passionate about every day instead of being at the mercy of others for our livelihood. I’m not bad mouthing employers at all here, I’m simply saying that many times, we wish we had the ability to not stay at our job for the rest of our lives. If we all lived on less and became financially independent, we all could be free to do what we wanted.
I don’t know about you, but owning the latest iPad or LED TV is becoming less and less attractive to me, knowing that it will cost me time in the future that I’ll never get back. What if we all lived on less, stopped over-consuming and set out on a mission to retire early, not to sit on the couch and eat potato chips, but to pursue our passions and our dreams? What would that be like?