Posts tagged financial freedom
17 Questions With The Origami Life Couple: About Us and Our Future Plans

General Questions

About The Origami Couple and Blog


1. Who are we?

Us - drinking G&B Coffee at Grand Central Market.

We’re Jennie and Ivan, a 29 year old married couple who met in Kyoto, Japan nine years ago, did six years of long distance, then decided to sell our worldly possessions by September 2018 to travel the world. We’re both Type A personalities, which means we’re goal-oriented and try to make conscious decisions in all areas of our life including our relationship, travel and money.

Here are our Myers-Briggs personality results, which you can take here:

Screenshot (64).png
screenshotAtUploadCC_1534907677718 (1).png

Ivan: I’m very lopsided (INTJ-A).

Jennie: I’m a “Debater” personality (ENTP-A). 
 

2. What are Our strengths and weaknesses?

Jennie:

  • Ivan’s strengths: Ivan is probably one of the most intelligent individuals that I’ve met in my life (if he can let go his ego). His writing, published and unpublished, is actually really good. He has the ability to think both creatively and analytically, especially when he stays the course and doesn’t let small things distract him from his end goal.

  • Ivan’s flaws: Ivan is occasionally arrogant, uptight, and sometimes - his expectations aren’t rooted in reality. Whenever he is “right” about one or two things, he starts to get delusional. That’s why I try not to overreact when he does something really well. I already know I’m going to regret saying such nice things (Ivan: Wait, she thinks I'm a genius, right? Cause that's what I heard). I gotta keep his ego in check for the sake of our financial interests. And when I say he’s uptight, I mean he could stand to loosen up - like, a lot. Sometimes, he gets so wound up in what he’s doing or “the next thing” that he misses moments that could’ve been really meaningful.

Ivan:

  • Jennie’s strengths: Jennie has a way with people and can out-hustle anyone. Not only can she understand and empathize with people, she can tailor her message to get them to do what she wants. Despite this, people like and trust her almost instantly. When we first started dating, I thought this was a fluke. I know better now. Honestly, the ability to “get your hands dirty” and knowing what makes people tick is probably the most valuable skill-set you can have - and it’s chronically underrated by specialist-types who don’t know any better (i.e. people like me).

  • Jennie’s flaws: Jennie’s waaay too process driven for things that don’t need to be mapped out by the second. Sometimes, the answer isn't to create a spreadsheet or a decision tree. Some ideas need time to marinate in your head. She also enjoys barking orders and bossing people (i.e. me) around. So even when we have the same goals, we fight over “the best way” to get there.
     

3. What’s this blog about?

Jennie: I see this blog as a way to both keep ourselves accountable and share some reflections on life, marriage and our journey with anyone who can relate.

Ivan: The Origami Life is a minimalist travel blog with some personal finance and relationship posts thrown in. It’s also a place where we experiment with different ideas. Sometimes, we write posts just to see if we actually believe in it.
 

4. Where are we headed?

Jennie & Ivan: Anywhere in the world where we see opportunities for growth - whether that’s creative, financial, or personal. Over the next 3-5 years, we’re moving away from comfort and stability and towards challenge and risk (while doing it responsibly).  
 


II. Travel Questions for The Origami Life Couple and Blog


asphalt-backpack-bag-842963 (1).jpg

5. What’s our travel style?

Jennie: I’m a type A planner who just so happens to enjoy travel. I love the idea of nailing down logistics, formalizing schedules, and putting together spreadsheets. I know that some of our readers can relate because several of you have shared some amazingly detailed and useful itineraries with us over the last year (🙌 thank you!). It brings me joy to have complete control over knowing when and where I’m going. This means that I’ve researched everything thoroughly and get to do everything I want - so I won’t leave with any regrets.

Ivan: Compared to Jennie, I’m less of a hard-core planner when it comes to travel. I like ironing out the big ticket items like accommodations and airfare, so I can be more carefree with my day-to-day decisions. When I’m traveling, I like to have one goal per day. If I achieve that goal, I’m happy. You could say I’m the more “laid-back” of the two, but unfortunately, this only applies to travel. I can be a pain in the ass in other areas.  
 

6. What do we hope to get out of our RTW trip experience?

Jennie: Although I’m treating my RTW trip as a building block for the next 3-5 years of my life, I just want to enjoy myself and experience things intensely. I’ve spent the bulk of my life focusing on “the next thing” or doing things for the sake of my family. It sounds funny but I’ve been caught up and stressed with work, family, and money for the last decade and I’ve forgotten to just be myself. For my RTW trip, I want to just enjoy whatever happens and comes my way. I want to meet people and forge genuine connections.

Ivan: In my twenties, I think I’ve undervalued personal relationships and social interactions. That’s because as an introvert, I don’t need much company outside of Jennie. Even when I do put myself out there and make connections, I can be pretty lazy in the maintenance department. People often don’t know where they stand with me. This is something I’d like to get better at: maximize the number of genuine connections I have on the RTW trip and the number of “uncomfortable” social situations I put myself in. Then I’ll pick a small handful of those people and try to be more forthcoming with what I think/feel to build more meaningful relationships. (Geez, I sound like a robot trying to be human).
 

7. What countries are We most looking forward to visiting and why?

Jennie: I haven’t put much thought into it because I still can’t believe our trip is finally going to happen. Top of mind: riding the Trans-Siberian Railway partway through China, Russia, and Mongolia. I really like train travel and loved our Amtrak trip across the U.S. we did last November.

Ivan: Rural India because of the history and because I think it’ll be an interesting challenge. I’m also attracted to sleepy backwater countries like Sri Lanka and Laos.
 

8. Are We nervous about leaving our family and our home?

Jennie: Absolutely. I’m worried about all the worst-case scenarios that could happen with my family while I’m away. And that will always be the case because I’m just that type of person. But the thing is, if I was truly scared about leaving, I would’ve never left New Mexico in the first place.

Ivan: This one’s easy. I’ve never viewed North America as home. I have no family here outside of Jennie. Most of my upbringing was in Taipei and I was educated in two languages (my parents are teachers). When I’m here, I think in English. When I’m home, I think in Chinese. Not having any roots is liberating because it often gives me a different perspective on things.


III. Money Questions for The Origami Life Couple and Blog


apple-brainstorming-business-908288 (1).jpg

9. How can we afford to travel long term?

Jennie: Outside of an aggressive savings plan, Ivan keeps an iron fist on our spending / expenses each month. Every month for the last two or three years we’ve saved more than 50% of our monthly income/salary and accumulated a RTW travel fund of $40,000, a reserve of airline points - while taking care of retirement and other future obligations.

Ivan: Like I said earlier, I can be a pain in the ass in other areas.
 

10. How do we feel about reaching our $40k travel goal?

Jennie: (Deep sigh) I won’t lie, when we hit that $40,000 marker in May...I felt underwhelmed. I literally thought, “wow, so that’s it, huh?” And I think that’s because of the timing. When we hit our financial goal, we were still MONTHS away from leaving for our trip. It felt unreal and almost anticlimactic. Because the savings was always automated and I never look at our bank statements and accounts. It was never a significant part of my daily life. I was doing what I needed to do which was focusing on crushing it at work and building our business.

Ivan: This might sound like a privileged thing to say, but the money is not nearly as important as the habits you build along the way. And the realization that whatever your circumstances, there are usually ways to take back control of your life.
 

11. How has our attitude / relationship with money changed?

Jennie: I’m a lot more conscious about how I spend money now. I’m more aware that if I spend x amount on something for this month, it means that I miss out on other things that I really want to experience, have or enjoy later. But it also means that I buy or spend on things that I really want or that I love now. Having a more conscious understanding of how I spend my money has actually made me much more “fiscally literate” and it’s been a positive effect on my life. I feel like the lessons I’ve learned about money - how and when to use it and how to plan long-term actually makes me a more strategic thinker.

Ivan: I’ve always viewed money as a major inconvenience. It’s a concession I’ve had to make to society in order to keep me and the people I care about alive. The only reason I’m a “minimalist” is because I don’t like conceding much of anything. Money is only as useful as the independence it buys - to ensure that no one can ever influence how I run my life. 
 

12. What are We planning to do to make money?

Jennie: Ivan and I actually started a business earlier this year. We essentially create marketing content for cyber security startups. Due to my experience in the industry and network, we’ve got a roster of clients and plan to continue working with a multitude of security tech / SaaS startups.

Ivan: I passed all three levels of the CFA exam and am a self-taught investor. I work with clients in the VC/private equity space to do financial modeling, projections and writing investment pitches. I’m also using this RTW trip as an opportunity to interview entrepreneurs on the ground in emerging economies.
 

13. What are our next financial goals?

Jennie: I’ve been hustling for the last six years and I feel like I haven’t put much thought into my next financial goals. There’s been one thing that I’ve had on my mind - increasing our net worth / saving for long-term retirement. We’re not one of those “FIRE” (Financial Independence, Retire Early) people though. Although it’s a nice concept, I can’t imagine retiring early and if the last couple of weeks without a job is any indication of what it would be like - I’d be bored as fuck if I retired early. However, Ivan and I have a very specific number in mind for us to live comfortably and completely on our own terms; my next big financial goals is to get us there early while building up my career and potentially having a  family.

Ivan: Over the long term, the risks you take equals your reward (financial or otherwise) - provided you take calculated risks that allow you to survive the short and medium term. So, our next financial goal is to take more calculated risks and being humble in the face of uncertainty.


IV. Love / Relationship Questions for The Origami Life Couple and Blog


Us at a wedding a few years back.

Us at a wedding a few years back.

14. Describe our marriage.

Jennie: We’re still the same couple that started nearly a decade ago. If you knew us from our early days, you’d see that not much has changed in terms of heated discussions and arguments - because it’s fun for us. The only thing that’s really changes is that we’ve become much better partners, communicate better, and know each other better than anyone else in this world.

Ivan: What she said. I do think as we grow into our new roles as business partners that we should draw a clear line between business and personal. This means carving out time that’s just for the two of us.
 

15. What’s changed about our marriage over the past Few years?

Jennie: At the beginning of our time in Los Angeles, it was a pretty tense time for us due to a big move and stressful immigration processes. But once we decided to be more intentional and conscious with our time - we started planning and spending more time together at our favorite donut / coffee shop. Ivan and still very much love each other, but I’d say that in the midst of the hustle and constant goal-setting (and goal-crushing), it’s one of our more neglected aspects of our lives. We’ve spent a lot of time at coffee shops chatting about big goals, funny stories, and strategizing on work, but we haven’t spent as much time just...being together. My hope is that this RTW trip will help us slow down a bit and continue to grow our relationship.

Ivan: I agree.
 

16. What do we argue/fight the most often about?

Jennie: Most of the time, we argue about really menial things - it’s never about the big picture. It always seems to be arguments related to our behavioral / personality preferences. For example, if I ask Ivan to do something (e.g. take out the trash, do the dishes, or put the laundry in the dryer), I mean I’d like him to do it that moment because I’m compulsive about that kind of thing.

Ivan: I don’t like being interrupted when I’m working or reading, so that’s where most of our arguments stem from. To be clear, I don’t mind noise - so long as that noise doesn’t require a response from me. I’ve gotten better over the years of not lashing out, but some snark is always going to be there.


V. Plans for the Future for The Origami Life Couple and Blog


17. What’s next for Us individually and for this blog?

Jennie: We started this blog as a means for us to communicate our lives and be accountable to our life goals. However, based on emails and we’ve received from our kind readers - it feels like it actually helps add value in some small way. That meaningful / value-add contribution has been one of the more fulfilling things that I’ve experienced over the past two years. My big goal for this blog is to continue creating content that is useful for any reader that comes across this blog. 

Ivan: I’d like to experiment with travel videos. I think understanding how to combine image and sound over time can make me a better storyteller and writer. I’ve watched a lot of “travel vlogs” on Youtube and have been pretty dissatisfied with the results. I’d like to do something different. The best way I can describe it is I’d like to have the “feeling” of the Before Sunrise trilogy in online video form. The exotic destinations should be secondary to the relationship and the conversation in the frame. Hopefully, we can make this happen over the coming months.
 



“Where are you from?” Freedom and the Immigrant Experience
That’s all we have, finally, the words, and they had better be the right ones.
— Raymond Carver

Ivan here.

I’m back in Los Angeles after spending the last few months in Taiwan.

On my way back to the States, I was detained in San Francisco for traveling on an expired green card. 

Let me explain.

architecture-art-clouds-290386 (2) (1).jpg

In 2015, I arrived in the U.S. on a spousal visa. I was issued a conditional green card, valid for two years, where I had a 90 day window before expiration to "lift the conditions" on my card by submitting another application. Which I did, promptly, on the first day I was eligible. I'd had first hand knowledge of how slow and incompetent the U.S. immigration system could be, and I didn’t want to leave anything to chance.

Unfortunately, my application happened to coincide with a certain election and mass confusion around a certain travel ban. So here I am, thirteen months later, and last I checked, the immigration office in Los Angeles hadn’t even gotten around to my case. They were still processing applications submitted in the panic of 2016.

Before I left for Taiwan a few months ago, I called the immigration office and asked for some advice. The lady at the call center told me I could get a passport stamp at the border that would allow me to travel on my green card for another year. This turned out to be the wrong information. I don’t know why she told me this, but I guess considering my previous experiences with immigration, I shouldn’t have been surprised. 

So that’s how I ended up being detained coming back into the country. I was ushered into a backroom and was questioned for 45 minutes while they verified my details.

The border patrol officer who interviewed me turned out to be a real grunt. This isn’t a comment on his appearance, but his general attitude and the way he treated people. He talked slowly, in that condescending tone some people like to use on minorities with foreign-sounding names. He used that tone long after it’d become clear that the people he was talking to (at) spoke perfect English. That’s the problem with grunts: working in grunt-like conditions does a number on their personalities. Even after I’d been cleared by the system, I had to sit there and wait for him to send me off with a lecture - like I was his son.

If I could boil down his Catch-22 argument:

Just because you followed the rules, doesn’t give you the right to disobey the law.

“Didn’t you know that traveling on an expired green card was against the law? No, I don’t want to hear excuses. It’s the law. We wouldn’t be a country without laws. You should’ve stayed put (in LA). But you’re lucky, because I’m letting you off this time.”

He was letting me off.

I recount this story to explain something that an immigrant or minority understands intuitively upon setting foot in this country:

It’s possible to go through your entire life obeying all the rules, until that moment arrives when it doesn’t matter anymore.

My Seventeen Month Nightmare:

The Immigration Process That Almost Cost Me My Marriage


Resentment is like taking poison and hoping the other person dies.”

I wish I were the type of person who could just let things go. I really do. My tendency to hold grudges is not an admirable or attractive quality. I often make it a point to remember when someone (deliberately) gets in my way. You know, for down the road. Because whether they know it or not, I'll owe them one.

weddings-3225110_1280 (1).jpg

Anyway, this is a part of my personality I’m trying to fix.

What I’ve learned since arriving in North America is that I can’t let my guard down here. At least, not in the same way that I could in Taipei. America, to me, is just another opportunity, and I have to accept all the positives and negatives that come with it.

But it’s hard to forget how I was made to pay for it. January 2014 to June 2015 - seventeen months trapped in immigration limbo. Seventeen months of my life. My time. Stuck between a job I hated in Canada and an immigration process with no end in sight. At one point, they lost our paperwork, but forgot to mention this little detail until we reached out to them nearly 14 months into the process.

For a non-trivial percentage of my life, America forced me to choose between my marriage and my mental health, and I resented having to make that choice. In my eyes, the system had held me hostage, then turned around and expected me to feel grateful for it. It damaged the relationship I had with Jennie to the point where it almost cost us our marriage.

At the same time, I recognize my privilege. I know there are people today who have it much worse. I think about the men, women and children still waiting in Syrian refugee camps and it makes me sick. Because I understand it’s not just about the deplorable conditions in which they live and the indifference or hostility they’re met with. It’s the waiting that kills you. Waiting without limit or hope. It’s a fate that’s worse than death, because at least death has certainty. Death has an end date.

Waiting is what eats you up from the inside.  

*

When it was all over, Jennie met me at the arrivals terminal at Boston Logan Airport on June 1st, 2015. One of the first things she asked me was, “aren’t you happy that we’re finally together?

Happy. Happy? I didn’t say anything because her question had pissed me off, and I knew an argument was brewing.

And argue we did, over and over again in the ensuing months, about the same issue. After all, didn’t we both have to wait for our lives to begin? Why was it that she could learn to let things go, while I had to make such a big deal out of it? Looking back, she was probably right. My wife is usually the more sensible one. Sure, things had been bad, but maybe I was being too dramatic. But I could only go by what I felt during those seventeen months, and that feeling, overwhelmingly, was anger.

“I love you,” I said at the arrivals terminal. “But I’m still trying to decide whether this has been worth it.”


Race and Freedom in America:

“The World is Going One Way, People Another”


Let me be brutally honest: whether or not America is made great again is of no consequence to me. Greatness, after all, is relative. America was “great” in the 1950s because most parts of the world were only a few years removed from being smoldering piles of rubble.

The world is different now. Better get used to it.

Of course, I’m rooting for this country. I’ve grown fond of the people I’ve met here. They have an optimism that I envy and they’re not handicapped by their failures. They have this idea that they can still make their own way in the world. These are ideas that I admire and still believe in.

But I’ve also seen their treatment of immigrants and minorities when the chips were down. What’s happening today with the Dreamers. Muslims. The Black American experience. I’ve walked through the Japanese internment camps at Manzanar. These are things that transcend both politics and administrations. And as bad as things are today, we’re currently nine years into an economic recovery. The U.S. unemployment rate is at 4%. 

I wonder who the scapegoats will be in the next recession?


My Definition Of Freedom Is Choice


man-1209957_1280 (1) (1).jpg

I’m not from here.

If America is one giant melting pot, I’ve got no desire or intention of melting into anything. I can only look at things as they are, unglazed by patriotism, tradition, or social mores. No subject or speech is taboo or sacred to me. These things are my business simply because I see them as my business. And if I’m interested, I’ll stay. If not, I’ll leave. But one thing’s for certain: from here on out, I’ll be coming and going as I please.

I refuse to be someone's collateral damage. Why should minorities have to continually pay for other people’s ignorance or indifference? When do we get to pay them back? In that sense, I was American before ever setting foot in this country. There will be no taxation without representation.

So give me liberty, or give me death.
 



From Poverty To Middle Class & Forgetting My Roots
startup-photos-2.jpg

In short, I’m starting to lose perspective.

I’ve developed a middle class attitude towards the poor. This worries me because I realize that I’m only a few steps removed from having an upper class attitude towards the middle class.

Jennie here.

I’m the first member of my family to graduate from college, study abroad, and land a salaried position. I’m at a point now where I make four times as much as both of my parents combined. No matter how I slice it, I’ve “made it” in the world, with more choices than I ever could have imagined growing up.

The downside to my rise in the world is that recently, I’ve noticed that I’m starting to lose my ability to understand or empathize with my family’s financial situation. From my perspective, every member of my family seems almost hellbent on making the worst possible financial choices, even when the right ones are available and staring them in the face.  

I’ve developed a middle class attitude towards the poor. This worries me because I realize that I’m only a few steps removed from having an upper class attitude towards the middle class.

In short, I’m starting to lose perspective.
 

Growing Up Poor Changes You


I’ve forgotten how tough it was to deal with the daily stress of thinking about money and how it can quickly take over your life; being poor prevents you from thinking rationally, setting realistic goals, and makes it harder to accomplish even the most simple tasks.

This got me thinking back to my childhood.
 

Things Only Poor Kids Understand
 

  • You spend the majority of your life playing catch up. 
    Investing in the future was a foreign concept. For example, my parents wanted to save for my education, but couldn’t. So I never learned the value of long-term savings until much later on. When you’re poor, planning for the future just wasn’t feasible. I’ve spent the last few years shifting my mentality and learning the value of planning beyond the next month or next year.

  • You develop a paycheck-to-paycheck mentality.
    This was my entire life growing up. Because my parents were only high school educated, they didn’t have many options. I remember when I first moved out to Boston on my own with no job prospects, I had to borrow $2,500 from Ivan; I knew this money would only help me survive for a month or two at the longest. For the first six months in Boston, I worked several temp and retail jobs and lived paycheck to paycheck; most days felt overwhelming and stressful.

  • You’re a sucker for discounted, generic goods.
    My mom bought everything from food to clothes at discounted stores, sale prices, and often from generic brands. I used to see my mom buy clothes and when she got home -- she was excited because she had bought it at 80% or 90% off the original price. It didn’t matter whether or not she needed it. A sale was a sale.

  • Every day you’re reminded of how much it costs just to stay alive.
    My parents often had their routine, hushed conversations about money and how expensive it was to raise my siblings and I. The worst period was always around back-to-school season, when we would bring home the school supply lists. My parents would add up the costs knowing that it would come at the expense of next month’s groceries.

  • Financial ruin was always just around the corner.
    My family was one of the many families that benefited from Medicaid and WIC programs. I never had a consistent doctor throughout my entire childhood; we’d often go to clinics and see rotating doctors and nurses instead. I knew that breaking a bone or getting seriously sick could financially ruin my family. We simply couldn’t afford it.
     

Trying To Get Back To The Basics
 

Perspective Lens

More than anything, I just want to make my choices count.

When you’re stuck in the vicious cycle of poverty, all you feel is the constant burden of stress which leads to bad decisions and compounds other problems. This is the worst part growing up poor -- the feeling and perception that you have no control over your own life.

Since moving to Boston and getting my first salaried job, I’ve made the slow transition from being poor to being a middle-class citizen. I now have control over my life, my money, and my choices. This would have been unfathomable five years ago.

Here’s what I’ve learned from looking back:

  1. I don’t want to lose sight of who I was and how I got here.
    At the end of the day, my success was simply an amalgamation of my hard work, motivation from my parents and their expectations, my desperate need to end my life of poverty, and the right circumstances falling into place.

  2. Not falling into the trap of chasing “more” versus having enough.
    Growing up, I had aspirations to be rich just to get out of a bad situation -- poverty. But I realize now that what I was really vying for was to have choices. Moving forward, I don’t want to get caught up in chasing the “next” thing when it comes to financial and material possessions.

    More than anything, I just want to make my choices count.

I've talked about my experience with money and family in the past, if you're interested in reading more, check out these blogs:



The Story of My First Paycheck
Price is what you pay, value is what you get
— Warren Buffett

Ivan here. Let me tell you the story of my first paycheck. 

I remember it like it was yesterday. The year was 2012 on a midsummer’s afternoon in downtown Toronto. Friday. Despite the muggy weather, I was in a full suit enroute to a networking event in the financial district. 

I was 23, a newly minted management consultant fresh from training week (in Baltimore of all places), where I learned important consulting concepts like thought leadership (Googling things and making Powerpoints) and client relationship management (stepping over the lowest bar).  

But I digress. Enroute to this senior executive’s meet and greet, I happened to glance at my bank account on my phone and was shocked by the non-zero balance of $1,800. A decent two week's pay when you factored in Canadian taxes and maxed out retirement contributions. 

A wave of relief washed over me. Coming out of school with no debt and some savings, I chose to delay my start date by eight months to travel and spend time with Jennie. This also meant that towards the end of those eight months, I was reduced to a diet of omelettes for breakfast and lunch and Shin Ramen with American processed cheese for dinner (don’t knock it until you try it).

My relief was soon replaced by a sense of uneasiness. It was a feeling that would stay with me for the next three years. 

Is This It? 

From 2012 to 2015, through a combination of performance bonuses, raises, and promotions, my paycheck went up 5%, 10%, then finally 50%. While I was grateful for the influx of cash into my life, I noticed that the higher my price tag rose, the more uneasy I became. 

I couldn’t put my finger on why. Being a cautious person, I responded by downsizing my apartment and living like an ascetic monk. As a result, my savings account swelled to levels I’d never seen before. 

Yet the extra savings didn’t provide me with any additional feeling of security. The uneasiness only intensified. 

Late one night on the subway, as a colleague and I were heading home from a long day of work, I found myself wondering out loud,  

“Haven’t you ever thought there was more than this? The paychecks, the promotions, the mortgages, the kids. Retirement. I mean, these are all good things, and I’m not complaining - but can this be it?” 

There was a long pause as he looked at me.

“I know what you mean,” he said finally. As the train pulled out of another station, we both lapsed into silence. 

That first $80 paycheck made me feel richer than all the money in my savings account ever did.

That same evening I went home and wrote a short story in one sitting. I titled it Hunger. It’s about an ordinary guy rising through the ranks of a corporation. He was always hungry no matter how much food he consumed.  

Writing that story made me feel better. Better than I’d felt in years. The uneasiness went away. So I wrote another. And another. Then at the end of 2015, I wrote an investment article and published it on Seeking Alpha. People read it and commented on it. Unexpectedly, the site paid me $80 for it. 

Let me tell you, that first $80 made me feel richer than all the money in my savings account. 

You’ll Never Make It If You Fake It

I’m a writer and a capitalist. A strange combination. It means a part of me wants to tell the truth and write about real things magically, but the other part is just a sociopath looking for human weakness. 

The capitalist in me understands that people are always going to get paid less than they’re worth. Because if any of us were paid more than we’re worth, we’d eventually be fired and replaced. That’s the free market. Supply and demand. It also explains why everyone from investment bankers to billionaire hedge fund managers feel like they never get the compensation they deserve. To quote the novelist Haruki Murakami, "we're only compensated for what we have to put up with."

Our salaries are our price tags. With few exceptions, jobs are always scarcer than people. Therefore, most of us will always be sold at a discount.

But there’s something beyond the price tag. What we get out of our work: value. The things in life we would do for free if money wasn’t an issue. 

I knew where I derived my value. Being able to sit in a room, alone, reading and writing everyday was all I ever wanted since I was a kid - but the capitalist in me wanted to keep pretending, to keep chasing an elusive sense of security. Had I stayed, I never would have been able to quiet that nagging feeling, that I was sleepwalking through a series of milestones, waiting for my life to begin. 

Two Steps toward Happiness

Happiness is straightforward and can be achieved in two steps. 

  1. The first part is hard: You try to find something that energizes you and makes you feel good to wake up every morning, one where you don’t stray too far from your true self. 
  2. The second part’s easier: All you have to do is try to keep doing that thing for as long as you can afford to keep the lights on. 

At the end of the day, that’s financial freedom. I’ve learned that’s all money is good for. 

If you’re willing to consume less and focus on building value, for yourself and others, it takes less than you think to get everything you could ever ask for. 

And after that? They can't ever buy you again.