I celebrated two milestones recently, one of which my sister (pictured) came into town for.
I turned 35 years old almost two weeks ago, which was a little surreal.
The thing about turning 35, you can’t say you’re in your “early 30s” any longer. The same thing happened when I turned 25. I felt like I lost something important when I realized I wasn’t in my early 20s any more. You’re in your mid-30s one second, in your late 30s the next. I’m closer to 40 than I am 30.
But that’s life. We grow older. Without old age, you can’t have youth. And so I embrace aging as much as I can. Age has provided me plenty of experience, which is what this article is largely about.
My 35th birthday also happened to coincide with my 3rd anniversary of retiring from the auto industry. The day after my 32nd birthday, in May 2014, I said sayonara to the luxury car dealership I was employed by at the time. And I’ve been essentially “job-free” ever since, focusing on writing, reading, investing, and many other pursuits that add value to my life and the world around me.
So here we are, three years later. It’s year three A.D. (after dealership).
And I felt like this would be a great time to reflect on what the last three years has taught me. There aren’t many people who have the opportunity to spend three years during the peak of their life without the burden of a job.
This article is my chance to share three major lessons about life and money I’ve learned while living without a traditional job over the past three years.
Working And Having A Job Are Very Different
Working and having a job are very different. I used to think they were one and the same. But that was before I experienced both.
Now, the following text (and opinion, which is based on personal experience) is not meant to disparage the idea of having a job. Rather, I’m only providing a viewpoint that expresses how two concepts that are almost universally thought of as synonymous, could actually be a dichotomy.
Having a job is, in my view, just a platform to exchange time for money. All jobs, in aggregate, could be thought of as a gigantic market where everyone goes to exchange money for their time. People literally sell away units of their life for money. That’s pretty much it.
None of that is necessarily a bad thing. Money is needed in order to pay bills. But exchanging one’s time for the express purpose of getting one’s hands on said money is about the worst way possible to go about acquiring money.
Work, on the other hand, is a platform to find purpose and, generally as a result, make the world better. Work is meaningful to the worker – and likely thus to the world. Works makes us better versions of ourselves. Work is interesting. Work is challenging. Work is fun. Work is passionate. Work is frustrating. Work is amazing. Work adds value to our lives.
Work can involve getting paid for one’s time, effort, expertise, and passion. In fact, work can pay far more than a job can. However, work sometimes involves no money at all.
Work is, all in all, a far better way to acquire money, because it’s natural and fun. However, we don’t always (or even usually) get to do what we love – let alone get paid to do what we love.
And so that’s where building up a substantial source of passive income comes into play, which is exactly what I did. Passive income can allow you to forgo jobs, instead focusing only on meaningful work. Passive income takes the pressure off of oneself, eliminating that constant need to produce income. Work then becomes less about the money, more about purposeful value.
I now spend most of my time doing what I love. I work these days. I spend, perhaps, more time being productive now than when I had a job. But it’s production that’s more or less on my schedule. It’s production I truly love. It’s production that is purposeful. It’s production that adds value to my life and others’ lives. Working is very different than jobbing.
I love writing articles, like the very one you’re now reading. I enjoy working with Daily Trade Alert, collaborating on all kinds of neat ideas that are designed to help, inspire, and motivate people by providing actionable ideas. I have a great time checking out financial statements. Coaching is a huge passion of mine. I even have plans to follow up my best-selling book on reaching financial independence, but writing that would be work, not a job. And I’m even pursuing my certification in personal training, which is another path toward adding value to the world by helping others become better (physical) versions of themselves.
Learning the difference between work and a job allowed me to actually realize that I should be seeking out the former instead of the latter. And the consequence of that is that I’m a far happier person than I ever was before.
The Best Luxuries Aren’t Things
Growing up, I had this idea hammered into my brain: the best luxuries in life are shiny things you go out and purchase for lots of money.
Sports cars. Big boats. Mansions. Gold watches. Custom suits.
It took some serious rewiring on my part to figure out that the best luxuries aren’t things at all.
The best luxuries are actually non-things.
I could go out and buy a sports car, or a gold watch, or a custom suit.
But you know what I really cherish? You know what luxury I can no longer live without?
Waking up without an alarm clock.
Waking and going to sleep when I want, setting my own schedule, and working when I’m most productive and inspired, is an incredible luxury that is worth, practically, an unlimited amount of money to me. I honestly don’t know how someone could prefer a mansion over that, unless, of course, you can easily afford both (although I’d probably never personally, as a minimalist, desire a mansion, no matter how much wealth I eventually go on to accumulate).
Other luxuries I truly enjoy?
Exercising and walking my dog without being in a rush (because I’m not either coming home from or going to a job). Giving away money to organizations that matter to me. Lounging at the beach, waiting for sunset on a beautiful afternoon. Going for long walks. Spending hours per day reading, thinking, and conceptualizing. Taking real time to foster ideas.
These luxuries aren’t things. And they don’t cost money.
Yet they simultaneously cost everything, because I was never able to live like this before, when I didn’t have the passive income and meaningful work necessary to spend my time like this.
So the best luxuries can still be expensive. But I’ve found that they’re usually not things at all.
Without Love And Health, Wealth Means Nothing At All
The age-old debate: does money buy happiness?
It does and it doesn’t.
It does because, up to a certain point, money directly and positively impacts happiness. Going from homeless to living in a home, for instance, has a tremendous impact on one’s happiness and overall well-being. But the correlation drops off once the basics are acquired, with happiness then being positively impacted by other aspects of one’s life, like esteem, creativity, and love.
However, most of society fails to see the disconnect in the 1:1 correlation between money and happiness past a certain point, and so they continue to just load up on the initial basics that provided that initial boost by buying more and/or nicer basics.
Where money fails to buy happiness is right there. Right at the disconnect in the 1:1 correlation.
And that’s right where love and relationships enter the picture.
Money is a funny thing when the focus moves from basics like shelter and food to aspects like love and relationships. While money is extremely useful when it comes to putting a roof over one’s head, money isn’t terribly effective at finding true love. In fact, money can sometimes be detrimental to this process, as money clouds one’s ability to determine whether or not the intentions of others are true.
I’ve learned that unlimited wealth can buy unlimited basics. But it cannot buy unlimited love and health. Yet while shelter and transportation can be acquired relatively easily in modern-day America with all of its abundance, love and health can be far more difficult to attain and keep. And so it’s just when you need money that it ceases to be relevant.
I’ve never been reminded of this more than I have been over the last few months, as my long-term relationship with my significant other, Claudia, is, sadly and unfortunately, coming to an end. Our significant differences in age, interests, passions, and general direction have led us down paths that diverge further apart every single day. While we’ve been able to reconcile that for a long time, it was finally time to openly and honestly admit certain truths.
We’re still the best of friends, and she’ll remain (as long as she wants to) in a very tight circle of people I love and trust. She’s an amazing woman. I’ll never say a bad word about her. But thinking the world of someone (and them thinking the world of you) doesn’t mean you’re a good match.
And so here’s a lesson: money is fungible, but love is not.
Losing someone that you love… it feels like a punch to the gut that’s far worse than any financial loss. Yet while money is easy to make back, love is not.
You can be fairly poor and in love, and you’ll probably be okay. Or you can be fabulously rich and hopelessly alone, and you’ll probably be pretty miserable.
Likewise, all the wealth in the world matters not if you lack health. And health is also not something you can go down to the store and purchase. (But wouldn’t it be nice if you could?)
This is something I’m very cognizant of.
Fortunately, I’ve never felt or been as healthy as I am right now. A great deal of luck goes into that, although I spend a substantial chunk of time working on my physical self so that I can be healthy enough to enjoy all that life is offering me right now. So it looks like it’s just that whole love thing I need to work on a bit more.
These are just a few lessons I’ve learned along the way.
It’s been an amazing three-year stretch. Back when I was a poor kid in Detroit, I never in my wildest dreams would have thought I’d be sitting here, at the peak of my youth, enjoying a life that’s been customized for and by me.
Yet all the saving and investing only allowed for the setup. It’s actually all of these little nuances that come to you along the way that add up to a profound gesture. It’s these granular investigations into life that has led me to where I am now. And I’m eternally grateful for all of it.
Perhaps that’s the greatest lesson of all.
I’m grateful for all of the opportunities I’ve been given, as well as the opportunities that have not yet come to pass. I’m grateful for spending the last eight years of my life with a really wonderful woman and partner. I’m grateful for the job that allowed me to eventually find work and purpose after I was freed of certain expectations and worries. I’m grateful for all the beauty in this world. I’m grateful for my health. I’m grateful for being able to set my own schedule, which is the greatest luxury I’ve ever had the pleasure of indulging in. I’m grateful for all of the wonderful relationships in my life, all of which add up to more money than I’ll ever have. I’m grateful for love.
What about you? Any great lessons on life and money you’ve learned over the last few years?
Thanks for reading.