Friday, September 14, 2012

The Minimalism or Riches Dichotomy

The life of minimalism is great.

I wake up every day around 10-11AM.  I run or work out.  Have my cup of coffee at the local pub (maybe something stronger).  Have breakfast at home.  Do a little typity-type here on teh interwebz.  Work on various hobbies or projects I have.  Play some video games.  Then go out at night with my friends and simply repeat the process till I'm dead.

I pay little, if anything, in taxes because I make so little.  I also contribute nothing to a retirement program.  While this means no asset accumulations, that also means I have no assets I have to worry about being confiscated or seized.  Plus, with little income and no assets, we have the added bonus of all those caring, compassionate Minnesota liberals that have voted in a plethora of tax breaks and benefits to people like me who are deemed "poor" (most of which I have yet to inquire about because I just haven't had the time to see if I qualify for "food stamps" or whatever other socialist malarkey they've voted in).  

It is a life of maximum freedom I'm still getting used to and still have yet to fully comprehend, but in the few feet I've burrowed down this rabbit hole further I have come up with an interesting realization.

Despite your best efforts to be a minimalist and make as little as possible, you're arguably the most likely candidate to be filthy rich.

Allow me to explain why.

Nobody really makes it "rich" by "working hard" and "being loyal" to their employer.  ALL employers have the goal of profit maximization which aligns their interests completely against yours.  They are looking to not just keep your salary low, but eliminate you if at all possible.  This leads to not only wage stagnation, but job insecurity.  This would seem a bad deal that nobody would participate in, however if you saddle yourself with liabilities like a house, children and a spouse, then you really have no choice.  You must abide by the terms of "traditional" employment, pursue it, play their games, suffer the politics, constantly be "leanring new skills" to keep up with CPE, in the hopes they don't lay you off in the next round of lay offs.  You never invent anything.  You never create anything.  You MUST obey your employer.  Check your individuality and ideas at the door, you're our newest valuable member to "Team Corporate Bitch."

In short, you are the furthest thing from an entreprenuer.  You are a corporate slave.  You need to play the game and endure the pettiness of corporate politics because you have liabilities and responsibilities to pay for, namely a wife, children and a mortgage.  You never get to pursue what YOU want as you are too busy doing what other people tell you.

Contrast that now to your "loser" minimalist counterpart living in the basement of a buddy's, sleeping on a couch.  This individual only has to work enough to support him/herself.  A true minimalist will realize this only takes about maybe 10 hours of work per week, especially if they keep their expenses low.  But (and here's the kicker) what does that person do with the other 30 hours per week of leisure while all their married-with-children-counterparts are busy at work, unable to play?

Well, if you're like any regular guy, you're inevitably going to be driven insane loafing around with nobody to talk to and inevitably you're going to start getting creative.  Something, ANYTHING to occupy your mind.  And that's when you'll start becoming really innovative.

And innovation is the most direct route to riches.

It may not be a book.  It may not be a new piece of code.  It may not be a new and revolutionary idea.  But it will be SOMETHING that the loafing minimalists will come up with that their fully-engaged-and-enslaved corporate bitch counterparts never have the time to come up with themselves.  In other words, the minimalist and the corporate slave may have the same intellectual capacity for creation and innovation.  It's just that the minimalist actually has the time to actually pursue and implement these ideas. 

A perfect example is the gal who wrote the Harry Potter books.

Shoot, you pay me a government check for being a single mom and I'll write books. 

But what of her otherwise employed mom counterpart?  The one who works all those extra hours at the local law office or social services department.  When that counterpart is done with her 8-10 hour day with an extra 1-2 hour commute, and another hour of picking up her children form the Child-Outsource-Department...err...I mean..."daycare."  Do you think she has the intellectual and creative energy to start writing fantasy books at the end of the day?

Of course not.  Which brings about the dichotomy.

Though you, I and others may be minimalists, realize one of (if not "the") biggest advantages we have is that we have the option of working "smarter."  We get to create and innovate.  And not just create and innovate, but pursue. AND that is without some aging, old fart yutz dismissing our ideas and getting in our way. And though we may make peanuts now compared to our counterparts, if we ever pursue an idea and any one of those ideas actually take off, it is we who will be the genuine self-made millionaires vs the "$400,000 McMansion senior project manager with a $450,000 mortgage, SUV, and no time for ourselves" type people. 

ie- there is only an upshot for being a minimalist. 

At MINIMUM you have the majority of your time and life to yourself.  You're not slaving away, you're not working for somebody else.  You're not suffering the psychological torture of mismanaged and dysfunctional employers.  You get to live your life.

However, at the same time, in getting to live your life, you are in a supremely better position to actually make riches as it is ideas and creations that make money, not "getting an MBA and putting in those extra hours after 4 billion hours of additional CPE certifications and kissing Bob's ass in the HR department."

So don't just think outside the box ladies and gentlemen.  Actually get outside the box and make things happen....except for those of you with children, spouses, mortgages, SUV's, credit card bills and other things you can't afford.  You need to stay in the box and be a team player. ;)

Enjoy the decline!


Anonymous said...

So are you actually doing any of those things?

Theophilus said...

Very true. Some of us naturally gravitate to that state of being, having been genuinely repulsed by corporate slavery all our adult lives. Result: not much stuff, but many experiences, a lot of time, and the luxury problem of picking just one interesting project to tinker with.

DC Al Fine said...

What are you doing for employment that you make enough to live on 10 hrs/week?

I haven't been able to get below 20hrs/week. Granted, I'm saving a bit (emergency fund,not retirement), but still.

Captain Capitalism said...

Anon 316, Yes, working on several projects. But the "additional" irony is that the payoff of the projects don't have to be huge. Just profitable.

CD AL - the trick is not how much you make, but how little you spend. I only need about $1,000 month to live. You only contorl how much you make about 30%. 50% if you're willing to kiss ass. You DO however, control 100% of what you make.

DC Al Fine said...

@ Cappy.

I live off of $1200/mth + I save a bit in a small city in Canada. I did some digging and figured out that the difference is taxes.

Take a look at these numbers:
Gross: $24k
Net: $19.5k
Average Tax Rate: 18.75%
Marginal Tax Rate: ~25%
Sales Tax: 15%

Got to get me down to a part of America without income tax.

Tim said...

A most interesting post.

My compliments on your profile picture.

Koop said...

A single guy can easily downsize his economic footprint.

Your living space cam be as affordable as a van or a trailer. Work for the wages you desire, eat the food you require, and a gym membership will give you a place to shower. A laptop computer will do everything your entertainment center can, and then some.

Women hate the very concept.

Anonymous said...

You are a very wise man. If I find myself in your city, I'll offer to buy you lunch.

Jack Dublin said...

This seems to go nicely with your Hustle/Capitalism theory. Some people have Hustle, but all their time and energy is spent 'keeping up with the Jones'. Others have Capitalized their free time and energy and leverage it towards better living.

Anonymous said...

Yes Captain, but how do pay off a $188,307.22 student debt by just working hours per week?
Link is to an article in Katie, a 25 year old bemoaning this massive debt above, together with some choice quotes:
"My pursuit in excellent education is rooted in a value system that promotes progressive thought for the betterment of the individual as well as society.", and,
"I will gladly repay my debts within the comfortable reason of affordability." and,
"I am owed answers since I have the right to pursue happiness."

(Here in Australia, the word 'rooted' has an alternate meaning of 'fu*ked', which Katie's future certainly seems to be.)

Andrew said...

Theophilus: You said it. Going through the same problem myself.

CappyCap: I've been saying it for years. There's a wealth oriented mindset about money, then there's a poverty oriented mindset.

"Middle Class" is just marketing speak for poor people with nice shit.

Adam said...

"Slave"? Seriously? You're applying that liberal word torture?

Anonymous said...

You need 100 bucks a month for food maybe, 150 for housing (rent and basic necessities) if you have gamed up 3 women like a real player, 100 for taxes if you know how to hide income the right way, 50 for your travel medical plan (you do medical stuff in overseas trips), carpooling and education/entertainment are free, clothes nearly so as well, and you're on the Smith and Wesson retirement plan (since you're not yet cool enough yet to hoard gold). Let's say you have 100 a month for random expenses, mostly booze. And, we haven't even started talking about the welfare benefits yet!

1000 a month is rich living, son. The 500 I just put down is real minimalism. People with fancy $10/hour jobs might as well be millionaires.

Izanpo said...

"...the trick is not how much you make, but how little you spend."

I learned that lesson 20 years ago from a barber in Waterloo. He framed it slightly differently. His sage advice was: "It doesn't matter how much money you make - what matters is how much you get to keep."

Anonymous said...

"So are you actually doing any of those things?"

Can't you see the links to his books on the sidebar?

Anonymous said...

I think you should apply for every government handout you can get. LOL

Phil Galt said...

Hello Cappy:
I like to think of my current employment situation as something of a stealth vacation (with apologies to Scott Adams).
I suppose I could tell you all the really boring stuff; how I hit it really hard early on in my career, and created wealth for the company. That innovation was driven mostly by a lust for technology, a young, hungry, and naïve team, and plenty of low-hanging fruit for us to snatch. How I took pride as I helped our small department grow in profitability. How I watched helplessly as more and more parasites joined our group, as our new profitability put it on the company radar (why exactly to we need three quality administrators and a marketing group?). How I saw the first writing on the wall, as our group was deemed “non-value added” (no kidding….our supervisor actually called us that at a team meeting). I suppose you can see where this is going. The only difference between my story and the others you get, is that I was too stupid to keep my mouth shut, which would eventually cumulate in being escorted from the premises.
I was lucky in that my skill set meant I was able to find work again inside of six months. Understand there are no late-nights and weekend work sessions anymore. I am taking a different approach now, in that I am doing the bare minimum I need to do to keep us afloat and using the rest of my company time to pursue…other ideas. I can’t say it’s in my own interests, as that would be stealing from the company, and I’m not ready to follow that road. For example; to get out of a resume-staining project involving Pascal programming, I began to learn a new language used in lab automation. To give my smokescreen a greater degree of legitimacy, I recruited a few people to work with me on it. The Boss was pleased and even supportive, as I managed to land a few gigs using our newly developed skills. While it’s not completely profitable yet, it tickles me that I did it all for two reasons: (1) Get out of doing something unpleasant and (2) Learn something that would be fun to play with and that might look good on a resume. (Please note that I am not completely stupid. I know that anything new that I learn in this field will be obsolete within two weeks of having implemented it. That is just the nature of this beast.)
I’m not killing myself, at least not nearly as much as I used to. No, I am not making as much as I used to, but I figure it balances out. But best of all, I’m actually having a little fun at this place.

maxx said...

What's the point of being a capitalist without capital?

As Kris Kristofferson put it: 'Freedom's just another word for nothin' left to lose, And nothin' ain't worth nothin' but it's free'. Minimalism and frugality should not be euphemisms for grinding poverty but tools used to accumulate capital. Sure corporate America has its faults but corporations don't force you to buy overpriced houses or marry feminists or produce children, those are the individual's choices. Free youself from these constraints, earn your corporate salary, live frugally for a year a two and there is your seed capital.

Practise guerilla capitalism, leverage the underground economy, read books like 'How I Found Freedom in an Unfree World' and act accordingly. The best way to enjoy the decline is to reject it. Don't worry about anyone else, immunize yourself from the leftist agenda, they want you poor, nothing annoys them more than success.

More stories like Phil Galt's comment would be good, he is a man who has learned how to use the system to his advantage. A capitalist blog should feature capitalist success stories.

Anonymous said...

I'd like to know where the other anonymous gets housing for $150 per month.

van Rooinek said...

It is necessary to be slightly underemployed if you are to achieve something significant.

James D.Watson, Nobel Prizewinner

sth_txs said...

Anonymous said...

What do you do that affords you this freedom? can you be specific?

Phil Galt said...

Dear Cappy:

Please keep us informed as to how your new minimalism lifestyle progresses. I’d almost liken it to “Going Galt”, save that I don’t think you are trying to stir up a revolution (at least in the traditional sense). I’d like to see more people examine this possibility, but then again I’d like to see Atlas shrug it all off too. I don’t see it happening, but I can still fantasize.

It would be nice if there was an easy metric we could use to measure how satisfied you were with your choices. IN my old life, I kept track of how much money I had (I was a chump then, and probably still am).

My irrational fear, is that enough people doing this will hasten the rise of socialism in our society. There are plenty of people who would look at your choices, and wonder how you could be so selfish as to not work up to your full potential as a tax-provider. (from each according to their ability, right?)