The post that tries to tenuously link going to a pantomime with financial independence
I took a trip down memory lane this Christmas and went to see a pantomime. Aladdin, at the Hackney Empire to be precise. I had planned to go to the big production with Dawn French and Julian Clary at the Palladium but it was £110 a ticket! I don’t follow the super frugal path of other FI bloggers but I draw the line at that indulgence.
It was fun in a nostalgic way, although I was disappointed that there weren’t plastic tiaras and swords available for purchase. Was that just something they used to do at the local theatre where I grew up or is it that Hackney is too “woke” to sell that commercial tat?
In a fairly awkward segue from that recent life experience to this blog post, I have been thinking about the get-rich-quick message of Aladdin.
Aladdin’s goal in life was to find his fortune. Not find a job that he could work hard at so he could save money; he just waited around for riches to fall into his lap. Or rather, he waited for a creepy old man to moot the idea of instant riches and then blindly followed said creepy old man into danger.
I remember reading the original Aladdin story in the Arabian Nights and thinking he was a right little turd. He treated his mother horribly and was lazy and selfish. At least Disney’s Aladdin had some charm (and could hardly be blamed for thinking sinister old Jafar was his only shot at wealth given he was a homeless orphan). However, whichever Aladdin we’re talking about: Disney, original or pantomime, they all were seduced by the promise of lots of money.
But aren’t we all guilty of that sometimes? Every time the Euromillions goes over £100m I buy a ticket (because anything less would be an insult, you see). And whenever it does go up that high, it inevitably leads to long conversations with friends, relatives and co-workers about what you’d do with the money.
When people hear about the FIRE movement, many people get very pompous about the fact that these poor souls who are so desperate to retire just haven’t found a job they enjoy. But ask people what they’d do if they won the lottery and very few say they would continue in their exact same job. Some say they’d never do anything even vaguely like work again, whilst others say they’d do a “job” in the loosest sense but it would be something they enjoy and would do for free. And yet, the FIRE movement is based on exactly the same principles. Granted your FI goals aren’t going to be lottery-winning levels (unless you’re Suze Orman) but when you have enough, you only do the work you want to do.
There is something perverse about being swept away by the prospect of never having to work again because you won a competition with ludicrous odds, but sneering at the prospect of never having to work again because you’ve worked and saved hard for that to happen. It’s Get Rich Quick versus Get Rich Slowly (to borrow a term from J.D. Roth). I think people’s attitude can be put down to two things (and neither of these are deep psychological insights on my part, they’re pretty obvious):
- Winning the lottery and having obscene amounts of money you’ll never be able to spend is easy to understand. Accumulating wealth , principally using the stock market, over time and then being able to live off of, say, £600k forever requires a lot of thought about investments, savings and spending habits. I just don’t think it occurs to people that you could live on £600k forever – it certainly wouldn’t have occurred to me before I started reading about FI.
- Winning the lottery requires very little effort and means an instant luxury retirement. On the contrary, reaching FI through saving takes a long time; at least a couple of decades for most people, and you may need to cut back on certain things in the meantime. That sounds distinctly less fun. Now don’t get me wrong, I don’t see any shame in winning the lottery and being one of the lucky few who got their wealth through no talent, skill or hard work of their own; god knows I’d be giddy with glee if I won. But whilst winning the lottery in all probability won’t happen, reaching financial independence with a bit of work probably will happen.
Don’t get stuck in the “I’ll be working until I’m 70 unless I win the lottery” mentality. I’m certainly not going to tell everyone that they can retire in their 40s. I’m less about belligerently telling people that they can retire early and more about encouraging people to believe they can retire earlier.
Winning the lottery is a daydream. Financial independence is a day…thought? Yes, daythought; that’ll work.