Working for a living

I’ve been thinking a bit about why I hadn’t figured out much earlier that there’s a better way to live than through working.

Don’t get me wrong – I happen to think that work is essential for our health as human beings, in the sense of having a purpose in life. And I actually do quite enjoy working – it gives me something to do with my time, and I’m fortunate to have good colleagues in my current workplace, so it makes for most days being pleasant. But it’s occurred to me lately to consider how my parents’ attitudes towards work have had a significant effect on how I’ve viewed working for a living.

My parents are baby boomers, both born during WWII so they were young children during the Depression. As far as I know, their households were not wealthy, but also not dirt poor either – maybe at the bottom end of middle-class? In any case, both my mother and father were typical of their generation in that they believed that if they worked hard, bought a home to live in, and saved their money, they’d live reasonably comfortably in retirement. I inherited a similar mindset, with the addition of having superannuation to live off in retirement.

Of course, so much has changed since then. The policy landscape changes over time as governments come and go and, perhaps more to the point, as governments giveth and taketh away. And I’ve certainly found that with increased wages comes lifestyle creep, although I’ve mostly got that under control now thanks to my ‘retail-free year’ a few years back.

The main thing I’ve realised when I look back over the years is that I’ve been in either ‘feast’ or ‘famine’ mode. I’ve had periods when I was earning enough that I had money to play with, then had other periods when what I was earning was pretty much (my) ‘survival level’ – i.e. enough to pay the bills, but if anything went pear-shaped I’d be relying on credit or, if it was serious enough, I’d be screwed. I wasn’t really paying attention to my money management. Interestingly, when I did finally get promoted to a role where I’m earning enough that I can save a reasonable amount, it took a while for me to emotionally decompress from that famine mode that I’d been in for so long. I’m incredibly grateful that I had already discovered an easy approach to financial management by then, because if I hadn’t I suspect I’d still be wasting the extra money in some way.

So, at the moment I’m trying to work out what kind of FIRE I’m aiming for. The other blogs I’ve been reading talk about ‘lean’ FIRE (the frugal approach), ‘regular’ FIRE (comfortable), and HI (high income) FIRE. It would certainly be nice to reach HI FIRE, but I’ll have to see how that goes!

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