May 2017 Money Diary: Autopilot
May spending was $3,073 including a $55 Costco membership and a $670 tribute to U.S. Immigration Services to extend my green card (filed under: Education & Investments). I’m expecting a response sometime this century.
This means our actual living expenses was $2,348. This might seem frugal to some, but the truth is we rarely deny ourselves anything. Yes, we do tend to push large purchases (i.e. electronics) to the last quarter of every year, but on a day to day level, we live without restrictions. We “dine out” for breakfast every morning. We try to go on dates once or twice a week to discover something new. We’re less obsessed with micro-budgeting than we were a few years ago.
It helps that we’re both cheap dates. It’s hard to justify spending the equivalent of a family’s weekly grocery budget on a boojy fusion meal with "artisanal" ingredients, where the server has to stop by every five seconds to ask how everything’s going.
After the Gold Rush
These days, our morning conversations always comes back to luck and privilege. We’re a little stunned by where we find ourselves today. Four years ago, I was living in a basement apartment on the outskirts of Toronto. Jennie was a sales rep for Club Monaco in Boston, paying $450 a month for a room the size of a closet.
Since then our income has nearly quadrupled. We’re halfway to our $40,000 travel goal. Barring a major financial catastrophe, we should hit our number well ahead of schedule. What had seemed like a major challenge a year ago is no longer that. It’s just something that’s going to happen - automatically.
So now what? What do we do with ourselves after financial autopilot?
Rich isn’t about how much money you make. There are people who make five times as much who I’d consider poor, because their wants and needs always exceed their ability to afford it. These are the people we should feel sorry for - because “more” is its own kind of slavery.
I think the true meaning of rich is when there’s nothing more to want and everything that sustains your life sorta works on autopilot.
By our own definition, we’re a lot richer today than we have any right to be.
I mean, we’re 28 years old.
What value have we brought to the world? What exactly have we contributed?
It’s hard not to think of our paychecks as nothing more than an inheritance. We were born into the right circumstances and into a modern economy that rewards self-promotion and mental gymnastics over physical labor.
Does that make us better than the people who serve and clean up after us every day? Or those who build things with their hands? I’m not so sure. I can think of a lot more ways in which we’re worse.
Life After Autopilot
But since guilt and pity are both unproductive emotions, the question remains: what kind of life should we be working towards after achieving autopilot? What happens when there’s nothing left to optimize?
One thing’s for sure, we’re done stressing out over every dollar saved or spent.
The next step is about finding and adding value to things that matter.
We’ll let you know when we figure it out.