Circular lines . . . Part Two . . .
You’ll have to forgive me for seemingly delving into politics last blog. I hope I did it in a way that concentrated on ideas that unite and uplift people. I didn’t do it on accident, even though the subject of politics is not something I intend to discuss on this blog. I did it because I have recently been thinking about a parallelism between the linear scale of the political/socio-economic left and right, which we revealed to be better thought of as a circle, and a microcosm of that scale-one’s attitudes and practice in personal finance. In my view, the later can also be thought of as a circle upon which moving to the extremes in either direction from an idealized point will lead to the same, unfortunate destination.
What destination is that? Financial slavery. I don’t like to use that term because slavery is a very real thing, even in our day. By sheer numbers, there is actually more slavery in the world today then at the time of the American civil war. I do not want to diminish the fact that there is actual slavery in the world so, maybe we can agree to use the term bondage for our metaphorical purposes. Okay, financial bondage. Financial and psychological bondage is the destination directly opposite of the idealized point on our “circular line” scale.
So what attitudes and actions about personal finance can be seen as opposites but yet still lead to the same place if taken to extremes? Well, on the one hand, a positive “have faith” attitude can be taken to the extreme and become an attitude of nonchalance. It is a good thing to have faith and to think, say and act as if everything is going to be alright and that things will work out. It is an attitude that staves off worry and can help empower one unto great things. The problem comes when we use that attitude to slough off responsibility. Have you ever been around someone who repeatedly says things like “don’t worry, those things just work themselves out,” while the people whom they love scurry around, working things out for them . . . and they themselves are none the wiser? Guilty as charged. I’ll admit, I’ve been on both sides of that little drama. Sometimes we rail against worry and faithlessness just because we don’t want to do, or even think about, the hard work it takes to be faithful ourselves. The longer we continue down that road, the fewer people stick around to clean up our messes and the more we become indebted to people and financial institutions. Indebtedness, of any kind, is bondage. A nonchalant attitude about the details of life can start with the good intentions of concentrating only on the important things in life but often ends with the bondage of no longer having the space, opportunity and ability in your schedule and finances to do the important things at all.
On the other hand, an attitude of healthy self-reliance can be taken to the extreme of selfish acquisition of assets and responsibilities that end up having you instead of you having them. It is good to have as a goal in your life to be able to take care of you and your own. The problem comes on this side when you lose sight of healthy margins. The person heading down this road toward the extreme can often be heard saying, “if I can just do this one more thing, then I’ll be set . . .” but it is never enough and healthy margins-sufficient to care for one’s self, one’s loved ones and people in genuine need in the surrounding community-are devoured by the financial debt and responsibilities of a scaled up business and life that is too much for one person to handle while still having space, opportunity and ability to concentrate on the important things in life. This is the very same bondage, arrived at on a different road.
I think the balance necessary for financial freedom is best summed up by an ancient saying . . .
. . . owe nothing to anyone except the debt of love . . .