FI, social interdependence and the economics of pandemics

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I’ve long toyed with the concept of Financial Independence (FI) as a goal for myself, and some of my coolest friends and colleagues in the personal finance universe are FI/RE or are pursuing that as a goal.

I get it – having no safety net in the US is SCARY AF. I personally know and have lived this fear. One of the main goals of FI is, well, independence – often described as freedom! Usually expressed as “I can have a job I pick, not one I’m stuck with. I can leave bad situations. I can make decisions based on MY desire and goals…”

The goal, to be specific, is PERSONAL freedom and independence.

I think the thing that has held me back from being gung-ho FI/RE is the lived experience of knowing that no one survives alone, and my perceived sense that FI/RE tends to cultivate (or attract?) a misinformed and potentially toxic individualism (nb: “individualism” is a term that had to be invented in the early 1800s by the Frenchman Alexis de Toqueville when he visited the nascent US!).

As we are quickly seeing during this time of economic slowdown, no one makes money alone.

Perhaps other people’s valuations of your stocks makes you money. Perhaps your renters’ job stability pays your mortgage and gives you cash flow. Perhaps your customers own jobs make it possible for them to buy from you. Perhaps part of your clients’ clients’ invoices flow downstream to you for goods or services.

Money is needed as a function BECAUSE we’re interdependent.

If we weren’t already interconnected, we wouldn’t need money to do what it does: exchange, account, or valuate. 

We’re socially and economically interconnected. Therefore, individual solutions only go so far to cover our needs. Y’all: even though Little House on the Prairie grew their own food and Pa built the house but they still ordered calico and got shoes in town!!!!

Given that we’re in a health pandemic I am cleaning everything a LOT, and I think I failed to clean the sanitizing spray off my camera for this one… whoops!

There’s an incredible amount of shame and self-blame I see from people who think they “should be able to do ‘it’ on their own” as an individual or duo — this is so stressful and harmful and is so deeply rooted in white colonizer expectations and ways of being. 

There are so, so many other ways to be. The purpose of money is to help us survive and thrive, and there are so many ways to survive and thrive that don’t take money. The most resilient of these require other people – this is why Lone Survivor movies are so twisted and impossibe; with no one to help, things get bad, fast.

We’re in a time where help will need to be public AND private. Here’s a few things I think we can aim for:

  1. Universal public healthcare NOW, for everyone – private insurance is inefficient, resource wasteful, it’s proprietary systems break the best efforts to improve the system, and it’s not incentivized to heal.
  2. Community resilience teams, locally – support your local elders and immunocompromized folks by ensuring they have supplies and social interaction
  3. If you aren’t out of work or low on funds, think about how you can buy or hire (or get a gift card to buy/hire later) from small businesses and solo workers who are out of work and low on funds. Pay your dogwalker, your cleaner, your babysitter, your local gym, etc.

What do you think? Are you

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