Time is the biggest help and the biggest threat to financial independence. In my previous blog entry (An’ live off the fatta the lan’), we discussed that gathering this much wealth is a huge undertaking and can (and probably will) take decades. During this time your resolve will be tested and you will have to make many decisions about your priorities.
They say the best time to invest is 20 years ago. This quote is steeped in the knowledge of compound interest and the history of returns of the stock market. If you subscribe to this, the only real thing you can do is minimise expenses, invest the rest and wait a long time. The solution is so simple, but so few make it all the way.
The passing of long periods of time has always been difficult for us to accept as a species. People get old and are subsequently replaced by the new. The universe is in constant change and the things that happen to us are nearly impossible to predict with any degree of accuracy.
The universe is change; our life is what our thoughts make it.Marcus Aurelius, Meditations
Although time itself is predictable, we struggle to really comprehend its passage fully. However, we do understand that sometimes a fresh start is needed, or there needs to be a change of perspective in order to see things more clearly. This is why the turning of a new year comes with resolutions and good intentions abound.
A New Year
In the 1976 film “Rudolph’s Shiny New Year”, Santa receives a message from Father time, who warns him that the New Year is in danger and asks for help. The baby New Year is missing and in fear of the current year repeating ad infinitum, Santa dispatches Rudolph to find the baby New Year and save the day.
Chronos is one of the primordial deities in Greek mythology and is the personification of time. He is often pictured as a ‘Father Time’ figure, but perhaps due to confusion his name became synonymous with the Titan Chronus, god of the harvest. He was also often pictured with a scythe, which Chronus used to dispose of his father Uranus.
The idea of the new replacing the old has been told literally as long as time itself. The Titan Cronus was father of the Olympians and had swallowed them all to prevent a pre-destined event where his son would kill him, just as he had done to his own father. He swallowed every one of his children except for Zeus, whom Rhea had replaced with a stone.
Zeus eventually grew up to overthrow Cronus, and this story of Father Time being replaced by the Younger Year (in this case the Baby New Year) was born into folklore. So “Rudolph’s Shiny New Year” turns out to be really a story of Rudolph helping Zeus overthrow Cronus for rule over Olympus.
As we roll over into a new year, remember that this is a new time and whatever you did in the last year is gone. Perhaps now is the time to invest more towards your financial goals. It might be about time that you stopped focussing on Financial Independence so much and start reading something different, learning a new hobby or spend more time with your family.
Time to Change?
I have a number of concerns about the upcoming year. I have grown out of my current job role and need to change to something that fits more with my strengths. This means a time of potential uncertainty and uprooting. To me this seems to now be crystallising into an inescapable fact. The exchange of security for a foray into the wide open job market seems ludicrous given the security I have, but is it really? I’ve survived career changes before and I’ll do it again.
It seems easy on the face of it to stay in the same job and regularly plough money into investments, but the reality is that life is complicated and this should be expected. I imagine that most people aiming for FI are unhappy in their jobs and so they reach for a lofty goal of escaping this stress from their lives entirely. The problem and the hard reality is the very act of working is what gets you there.
So work is inevitable, yes, but please do not link it to your happiness. It is merely a means to an end. There are plenty of jobs out there that earn enough for you to continue on your savings quest. Your happiness on the other hand is more complicated, more amorphous and more subjective. It is linked to your character, your love of life and what you make of it. It is linked to how fulfilled you are, and you have the ability to change that.
The ancient Roman festival of Saturnalia was held on 17th December, in honour of the god Saturn, who amongst other things was a god of wealth and plenty. Interestingly, he also over time became conflated with the Greek God Cronus, meaning that he has ever since also been known as the Roman god of time.
Here’s to a New Year, a new framing of your ideas and problems, and a new commitment to reflect and reassess what is truly important in your life.