Sunday, May 03, 2015

Is financial freedom a competition?

Recently, I saw this article that resonates deeply with me. It's about how we shouldn't be jumping from the corporate rat race to another unlikely race - that of financial freedom.

It's interesting to think of financial freedom as a competitive sports. Not too long ago, there's this massive spontaneous competition, likely sparked by the Sunday Straits times section, where 'competitors' take part to see if they can hit 100k by age 30. Why 100k? Why age 30? Asking these questions is like asking why we have to do a 100 m sprint, or why certain sports have an artificial demarcations of people above and below 60 kg. It's just arbitrary.

I think the most important essence of financial freedom is the freedom from thinking about money. And since the pursuit of money takes up a majority of our lives, freedom from money also gives us the freedom of time. Deconstructing financial freedom is important, because ultimately, after chipping away all the pieces that are not David, we end up with a splendid Michaelangeloestic piece of sculpture.

Thus, to understand what is financial freedom, we have to know what is not financial freedom. It's not to see who saves the most. It's not to see who gets the most passive income. It's not to see who can survive the longest with the least resources. It's not about living a frugal life of extremes and forgoing the things you really want because others are also not doing it. If we remove all these things that are not financial freedom, what do we get? We get a life where we're not concerned with the pursuit of money anymore. We also get a life where we stop the incessant comparison with others.

Now, I get it that you need benchmarks to pace yourself and know when you're slacking off. But the benchmark should be motivational. Motivation is a good emotion. Jealousy and envy isn't. If you can benchmark other people's achievements without the negative emotions, then I think you already have the financial freedom mindset. If you see someone having a much higher passive income than you, or having a higher savings ratio than you, and you start tearing down his achievements by looking at how his parents helped him or how he is born with a silver spoon, then you're still trying to win in a competition that you had subconsciously taken part.

If in the pursuit of financial freedom, you're still bounded by the rules of the rat race, then what had changed? You're still a competitor, even though you're taking part in another event.


Singapore Man of Leisure said...


Soul, culture, philosophy.

Oh! I almost forget!

We can't buy class too ;)

People who reeks of "bronze smell" (铜臭) don't exactly make the most pleasant company...

I'll choose those with music in their hearts anytime!

la papillion said...


Haha :)

I'll be waiting to see if in the next cycle of bear/bull, will this fad of financial freedom fade away like all fads do eventually? Will it be like the bubble tea or the donuts or the hellokitty phase we Singaporeans have?

Each of us plays a different music in our hearts!

Singapore Man of Leisure said...


It will ;)

The mushroom of "financial bloggers" and appearance of new nicks at forums recently is not exactly a good contrarian indicator...

All things move in circles or cycles. That will be the day when bell-bottoms come back in vogue!


la papillion said...


This reminds me of something. Sometimes my wife will comment to me that I should keep up with the fashion - like keeping my hair styled in a certain way, changing my specs and so on. But I always tell her that if I keep the way that I always do, one fine day I'll be at the forefront of fashion! ;)

Circles circles and circles lol

Sillyinvestor said...


Not sure why but the thought of FF now leave a bad taste.

Maybe like u say, the element of competition is still subconsciously in my mind.

Although I would say the negative emotions are much lesser. Thanks for the reminder. I really need it now. LOL

FF as a competition is not FF, then according to SMOL FF as a escape is not FF.

According to what u and me agree, FF is a mindset + money.

Some have money no mindset, some have mindset no money. Some have none.

Not sure what I have? LOL

la papillion said...

Hi SI,

Hmm, I'll say it's reaching financial freedom need not be an aim in life. If you're happy with how things are going on in your life, and have a realistic expectations on what it's going to be like in the future, then who are pple to tell you that you have to be financially free?

I didn't aim for financial freedom too. It's just something that I know I'll reach judging from the way things are going in my life right now. I'll just enjoy the journey right now. Nothing for me to escape from and I'll probably do the things that I still do now with a little tweaks here and there LOL

First to go - students who are vampires who suck my both energy and time! bwahaha!

Sillyinvestor said...

arh huh...

The confidence of knowing it is within grasp.

It will always be a tingling sour grape feel if we do not have that.

If one day, I become just an ordinary teacher, I think I will be happier, since I know I can and have done my tour as a middle management.

But If I know the opposite, the monetary FF is a distance dream, no matter how strong the mindset is, the sour grape thought will linger.

I am not sure if FF at 70 is still FF?? LOL, quite sure I will get that.


la papillion said...

Hi SI,

Good question. If we reached ff at 70, would it still count? I guess it'll still count but it wouldn't matter anymore to you, lol! It'll matter more for the pple you left behind :)

Sillyinvestor said...


your FF at 70 no longer matters, remind me of a story, which touches me.

A rich old man is wake and dying. His children are at his side. Taking turns to look after him, talking to him, buying breakfast for each other.

One fine weekend morning, all his children were around. He told his eldest son:" 我想起来了。”

the whole pack of children went into a frenzy. The second child came into room, shouting he brought everyone favourite Breakfast. He was immediately asked to shut up as his father "想起来了”

He rushed to his bedside too, the elder son ask, what did he 想起来, dun worry, think his time and recall what other fortunes are not included in his will. His dad tears shriek down his cheeks, and they thought he has difficulty speaking, and ask him to take his time

When the old man's wife came and ask what happened. They told her. "aiyo, what are you thinking, the old man mean he wished to get up"

la papillion said...

Hi SI,

Why is this story touching for you? Care to share? This story sounds like a joke leh, don't know why you find it touching

Sillyinvestor said...

I find it sad.

It perhaps has to be read in Chinese to feel it.

The false sense of warmth, te real motive of money.

Sillyinvestor said...

I should mean it "affect" me rather than touches me

Matt said...

FF should not be an end point. If it is, what is there to look forward to? I always stress that you should enjoy the journey and not just rush to the end alone. If you already have an apartment, aim to pay off the mortgage first. If you have children, enjoy their childhood and watch them grow and maybe reach the potential you never had a chance to go for, otherwise, why have children in the first place?

FF is not the be all and end all of our lives. Many people prepare for retirement but forget to live and enjoy their lives in the present. The most important question we should ask ourselves is, what are you going to do once you reach FF?

la papillion said...

Hi SI,

Ah.. Affects you. I guess it does to me too.

There remains lessons to be learn from this story. Things had to be settled before your deathbed. Shouldn't have lots of surprises for others. They should more or less kno your intentions in your will. If I'm him, I would have made it clear they will have nothing significant left for them. But I will still give them a parting gift years down the road when they don't need it.

A lot of science and thinking behind the simple act of will. Not easy at all.

Rolf Suey said...

Hi LP,

I tend to agree with you that many people takes financial freedom as a competition or as a target as much as they strive for promotion, fame and money.

Chasing for FF, u were taught, save, frugal, re-invest...A lot of these characters r not the person's true character, it is purely influenced by others since these are already like benchmark strategy to chasing FF.

It is no different from those who do not know investment, and focus 100% in work. They strive to climb corp ladder, the benchmark strategy is work hard, long hours, relationship or even politics etc ....

So for both kind of people, they r the same although FF chaser, often despise those chasing for work success who spend on luxurious car, shirts etc.

It is only when u truly understand urself, what u want, can u really be Freed...Just my opinion. I can be wrong, but I still like to inject my opinion. Haha

la papillion said...

Hi Rolf,

Thanks for weighing in the issues with your views :) You really lived up to your namesake you know...just being yourself and knowing yourself!

FF chaser and corporate rats are just pple chasing different things. And you're so right that if you don't know yourself, how can you align your actions with your desire? If not, how can you reach the peace that comes from being really free?

Know yourself ;)

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