When I first started my business as a speaker I was settling in for a long haul. Instability of income was something I had been navigating for a few years as a personal trainer and I understood that this would probably continue as a feature of becoming a well paid communicator. Anyone pursuing self-employment should expect that it takes time to build a financially sustainable business. How much time is dependent upon many factors but it’s reasonable to assume that keeping ones expenses low and predictable is a good strategy along the way.
That said, I have had to look at where I place my time, energy, and resources, with a hefty level of logical reasoning. Sometimes this leads to decisions that are pretty standard and other times I look like a rebel. Of course, for the purposes of this series of posts, the rebel is the one who resists the religious dogma of the day. I’m going to pick on three religions in this post: Home Ownership, Health Insurance, and Higher Education. In no way I’m I completely against any of them. It would be nice to have all of them some day (I still daydream of going back to college). The question is, is it reasonable to engage in any of these things given what a person’s goals are?
Back in 2016 I was looking for a new place to live with a roommate who was also trying to build his own business. Someone suggested that we buy a house. I rejected the idea immediately and probably offended the person who gave the suggestion. Two people struggling to pay relatively small bills as renters are now going to take on the task of a home mortgage? Also, home care and maintenance while working part-time jobs and trying to build businesses? This didn’t seem like a reasonable next step. This is something that I think is often underestimated with home ownership; the sheer energy to keep the place up. Let alone the money involved.
As a someone who is self-employed, I sometimes worry whether I have poured my time and energy into an ultimately fruitless endeavor. Battling that worry takes energy. I can’t imagine adding ‘home ownership’ on top of that. Again, this seems logical to me, but other people see home ownership as an automatic step. It’s a must and it’s indicative of someone being mature. Behind that home comes material goods to fill it up and perhaps a family. Again, often seen as a sign of maturity. However, it would seem to me that maturity in this case is marked by being aware of your financial, mental, and emotional capacities and working within those boundaries to gradually push them out. Meaning that, regardless of age and depending on what you are trying to do in life, your capacities may or may not allow for a a home mortgage, or a family, or any number of things that people casually take on because it’s the norm. And somehow doing the norm represents maturity. How is this logical or even reasonable?
The last employer sponsored healthcare that I had was so expensive that I chose not to participate. I currently don’t have healthcare insurance of any sort and it’s been that way about 90% of the time since I left the US Army in 2012. My thinking has always been that if I can’t afford private insurance then I need to do everything within my power to stay healthy. Also, trying to maintain some cash on hand in order to pay for the unexpected visit to the doctor has also been a major part of my strategy. As I’ve argued here many times, this vigilance about exercise, eating, and stress management/elimination seems to pay huge dividends for my personal health.
Meanwhile, I watch people who do have health insurance and I’m not seeing a direct causal relationship between having health insurance and being generally healthy and vibrant. What I see often is a commitment to full time employment in roles that are fine, but don’t offer the individual much in terms of personal fulfillment. Again, this is fine. I have a job that pays my bills but isn’t personally fulfilling. But, it’s a part-time job which means I have lots of time to do what is fulfilling. Whereas, that full time person maybe has a little time outside of work to do things they find enjoyable. Everyone has to decide what’s important to them. Maybe the sense of security that comes with full time employment and health insurance is worth it. If I had kids, I would no question be more hesitant about not having insurance. But, I’ve also heard astronomical numbers associated with employer sponsored health insurance for people with families. Would it be worth it to just foster healthy habits at home versus $1,500/month for health insurance? Again, people have to decide what’s important to them. What problem/risk are you willing to deal with?
I’ve done no studies on this but, anecdotally, it seems that lots of people give themselves to processes that certainly provide for them but don’t give much in the way of meaning. People get into a cycle of pouring themselves into things (houses/cars) and situations (jobs/families) that provide a measure of material stability (paying bills) and social normalcy (normal patterns in a society) but may not provide much in the way of deep satisfaction with life. Let me say this, I would prefer to have health insurance but the trade offs I would have to make in my life at this point just don’t seem worth it. Ironically, having a full-time job complete with healthcare benefits means less time for exercise, martial arts, cooking, and my writing/speaking. Having the insurance means doing less of the things that prevent me from having to use it? That’s if the employer offers health insurance at all.
I don’t see it as totally unreasonable to go without healthcare insurance. It’s a risk but the commitment to having it doesn’t seem like an automatically beneficial behavior. The logic doesn’t seem to bare that out.
The idea that everyone should go to college has to be one of the worst logical fallacies in our society. Ever increasing in expense. Ever more competitive to get into. Ever more flooded with extreme left ideas of ‘wokeness’. This experience, or the lack thereof, has become synonymous with life long financial hardship if one doesn’t pursue it. Never mind if you joined the police department or fire department in your mid 20’s and saved 25-50% of your income for ten years. You’d probably be pretty financially comfortable by the time you hit your mid 30’s and still have time for a whole new career. And, you would have been a public servant, you’d potentially have gained some perspective on people living in poverty/struggling with drug abuse (empathy), and you would have done a job that advocates for it’s employees to be physically fit. No 4 year degree required. Not to mention trades, real estate, professional certifications, or just learning how to be frugal on $12-14/hour.
Instead, we are committed to the idea that kids who are 18 y.o. should make one of the most financially important decisions of their life with no guarantee on the return on investment. In the last 25 years alone, people have graduated into economies marked by the dotcom bubble in 2000, 9/11 in 2001, the housing/financial crisis in 2008, and now the global pandemic in 2020. I’m sorry but, WTF?!
When you are 18 y.o. your primary goals should be broadening perspective on the world so that you appreciate how awesome America is, not getting pregnant because you’re a baby yourself, and staying out of significant debt because it’s crazy to leverage your future when you don’t have an understanding of who you are as a person. You’re 18! Stay out of trouble and go experiment. If you can do college right after high school for little to no debt then fine (I mean like $10,000 or less). If not, don’t. My two cents.
Your Future for a Slice of Pizza
When I went to college between 2000-2005 there were often credit card representatives giving out free t-shirts or pizza, in exchange for kids filling out credit card applications. This took place at the University Center in the heart of campus. How this was legal is completely beyond me. Of course, I believe we should be asking how it’s legal to allow kids to take on massive loads of debt that promises no guarantee of financial reward or even life satisfaction. However, if our posture as a society towards Home Ownership and Healthcare Insurance is any indicator, I guess it’s no surprise that our ability to be logical falters in our recommendations to young people. After all, if I jump off a cliff, I feel more confident in my choice if other people do it with me… at least I don’t die alone.