Thinking Outside Steady Income, Savings and RetirementPosted: July 31, 2012
The current generation above 60 years of age have plenty of reason to feel betrayed and let down. Having brought up their kids into a new India where jobs pay better, opportunities are so much more – the parents are now left to fend off a significant jump in the cost of living, healthcare and isolation. Social structures are constantly changing, change that has brought both difficulty and an opportunity.
This excellent piece of journalism by India Ink (NY Times in India) points out that the problem is indeed both deep and wide. I don’t know how many seniors out there face this problem, but I don’t have to look too far to understand how this can upset the elderly.
“The three most harmful addictions are heroin, carbohydrates, and a monthly salary.” – Nassim Taleb
— Santosh Dawara (@santoshdawara) October 25, 2010
I tweeted that and endorsed an extreme position some time ago. Since then, I’ve had plenty of time and experience to think through both sides of having a steady income. I’ve looked at it from the perspective of growing up, having a steady job and later as an entrepreneur by self-choice. I’ve lived both avatars, the locomotive kid* and the 25-yr old who’s plugging away on his venture from his parent’s basement (they’re my Angel Investors!). A steady income has significant upsides. It will help you save regularly, smoothen out sudden spikes in expenses, qualify you for borrowing from institutions and get you ready for your retirement.
On the other hand, the total absence of the ups and downs that is life encourages complacency, over-reliance and self-indulgence. Who can tell? Perhaps the nest-egg we’ve put away today still won’t make the cut tomorrow. In the words of Nassim Taleb who author of the Black Swan, the total absence, or insulation from even the minor shocks leaves your earning potential vulnerable to the bigger and more infrequent shocks.
In any case those who are unfortunately disenfranchised from mainstream jobs include recent Mothers who chose to stay longer hours at home, and as in this case Senior citizens. They all need better awareness of opportunities for work and encouragement. While retirement planning helps – it helps better to nurture the ability to locate opportunities, deliver and get paid at any age or stage. Not having a steady income begs a more evolved survival mindset. The confidence that comes from going out there and learning to make a dollar is worth so much more. As you can imagine, I never want to have to think that I’ve retired. I’d prefer to be working away and creating happiness throughout my journey. In a nutshell, I want the notion of ikigai – “the reason for which we wake up in the morning” or, “the reason for being” to pervade my entire life.
Tony Hsieh’s childhood mail order business comes to mind. He describes it vividly in his book Delivering Happiness. In fact, Tony handed it down to his younger siblings before he left home for college so that they might continue to run it and reap the benefits. A wonderful gift! The opportunity to drive a business that transforms effort into a cheque can spark confidence in the inner-knowedge that the future is yours to create. Now armed with this confidence, will you need great effort in securing your future?
Of late, I’m working on making it a habit to ask myself – how do I want all of my efforts to take shape? This thinking comes with commitments to absorbing effectual reasoning and an attitude of ‘always produce‘. For instance, this blog has always been a work of passion for as far back as I can remember. If I could keep the essence of it, and yet to be able to realize the value it creates. I think that’d be a step in the right direction. Now when I write, I consciously link via an Amazon affiliate link which pays if someone were to buy. I wish to think up more ideas like this. Simple actions and commitments, even if they don’t yield significant or immediate results can directly address any financial pressure and encourage clear thinking that something can be done.
Don’t get me wrong, I’m not railing against a steady income – that’d be truly hypocritical at this point. The comfort that you’ll know from pro-actively creating a better financial future with your single income is a blessing. If you think too seriously about supplementing that income, you risk stress and losing the happiness and freedom that comes with it. On the other hand, if you want to think entrepreneurially – then ask yourself why stop there? The whole point of realization of wealth should be the same as say committing to life-long learning, or instinctively listening to an audio book while you wait in traffic for the light to turn green. Find meaningful investments.
I’d look to learn as much as I can from blogs such as getrichslowly.org and by observing other entrepreneurs with the midas touch about both aspects of wealth – how it is realized, as well as making it work for you. If you want to stop having to think about money, ignoring it is the worst policy. Work at it diligently and it’ll take it’s place at the back of your mind on it’s own.
*Locomotive Kids – First read of it in the New Yorker, “They are the locomotive kids, pulling their whole family behind them” when referring to some of those with Stanford fellowships.