If you’re reading this post, the odds are pretty good you’re looking to escape from the consumer rat-race, like I did.
Maybe at one point in life you really liked working. You were good at your job, but somewhere along the line things changed. The job ceased to be fun.
It probably happened somewhere between the endless commutes, office politics, and those ever-torturous “performance reviews”.
Maybe you realized that job wasn’t going to fulfill all your dreams.
A lot of these so-called ‘dreams’ are often about excessive consumption anyway — keeping you drowning in debt, and working until the day you die. Nobody dreams about that.
Did you dream of a big house, or maybe a penthouse apartment? How about fancy cars, long luxury vacations, and endless meals-out at restaurants?
When did you realize all those things wouldn’t make you happy?
Did you wake-up one morning and realize that fancy car would only be carrying you to work in the same commute traffic as everyone else?
How about that big house? It just keeps you chained to a stressful job, paying down that giant mortgage.
Maybe you finally realized those luxury vacations were never going to be longer than 2 weeks a year…because that’s the longest vacation your manager would ever approve.
How about the endless meals out? Eventually all the high-calorie meals will make you incredibly fat and unhealthy. It’s not a sustainable lifestyle.
This difference between consumer-dreams and consumer-reality can be frustrating. For most, that frustration won’t stop the cycle of “earn, spend, and repeat” in the search for a happy life.
Invert, Always Invert
You could take the opposite extreme in life — completely end consumption by detaching from the modern world.
Yes, you could just head into the woods and forget modern society. You could live a life based not on consumption, but entirely on what you produce with your own hands, or gather from nature.
This kind of life isn’t as abnormal as you might think — people have been doing this for years under the fancy the brand-name of “homesteading“.
While I have no personal experience homesteading, I’ve known a few people over the years that tried it. They gave-up lucrative careers to become simple homesteaders. Some of these individuals were quite wealthy, but consumer society didn’t fulfill them.
Instead, they chose the opposite end of the consumption spectrum to find a fulfilling life.
My personal observation is that it’s a good life, but one filled with a lot of physical hardship. Living off the land isn’t easy, and it’s very hard physical work. Are you ready to be physically active all-day every day?
Because of this, homesteaders become extremely physically-fit individuals, in contrast to the relative flab of consumer society.
It’s not an easy life, but it is a life filled with freedom, self-reliance, and personal accomplishment.
But is it a happier life?
For those that adopt the lifestyle, yes — they do appear to be happier. Homesteaders enjoy living-life on their own terms, and producing with their own hands. It’s not a terribly social life however.
Homesteading typically means living far away from the urban centers of consumer society. Homesteaders typically spend most of their time in a natural environment, producing food and maintaining an active homestead.
The Happy Middle?
Those are the two extremes — one life dependent on spending money, and another life that eschews spending in favor of self-reliance.
Fortunately, life gives us plenty of other options. We don’t have to choose just the extreme ends of the spectrum, there is a happy middle-ground to be found.
For most people, I think the happiest possible life is going to be somewhere in the middle of the two extremes ….
A life partially unplugged from consumer society, but still able to enjoy its benefits. A middle-ground where negative elements are removed (jobs, commuting, stress, high prices, etc) and many of the positives are added (freedom, self-reliance, personal accomplishment, and low monetary requirements).
You don’t have to be a hermit in the woods to build a happy life! (thank goodness for that)
Financial independence is just another word for finding that middle-ground — Having enough money to live the kind of life you choose, but absent from all the chains of a consumer lifestyle.
The Tako Middle-Ground
Today, I like to think the Tako family sits somewhere in the middle of the two extremes. We still use a considerable amount of money, but our core expenses are typically less than $20k per year.
We earn enough dividend income, that our modest consumption level is sustainable indefinitely without jobs or debt.
It’s a free life, and we’re pretty happy with it. Instead of buying new all the time, we simply live with used things.
Yes, that means I tend to do a little more DIY-repair than average, but I don’t mind.
It does take a little extra work to live this way, but we enjoy it. That’s our equation for a happy life, and it works for us.
Financial independence allowed us to maximize the positives in our life, and remove as many of the negatives as possible.
So I implore you — try it for yourself! Reach financial independence, and start finding your own “happy middle-ground” today.
What kind of lifestyle brings you the maximum amount of happiness? Please share in the comments!