How Much Is Enough

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Adopting the capitalist mindset naturally bends our thinking towards wanting to earn money, because literally the opposite can kill us. Without money, the system disables us from obtaining basic needs like food, water, health care, etc.

Financial Independence ≠ Freedom

Either we don’t talk about money or we do so openly, which can be strange, as there’s almost no middle ground between the two. The former often vilifies the subject of earning money, and also the people hell-bent on building wealth at any cost. The latter, more often than not, litters financial independence blogs and forums for tips and tricks.

We should be living the Revolution now, planting seeds of radical ideas when- and wherever we can. At the same time, we must realize that its fruits will be for future generations. In the meantime, who shall start the discussion of how much is enough when we talk about personal property?

Clearly, it sucks to be below the poverty line. Everybody, including the state, actively works against your odds if you’re poor. It doesn’t help when you’re constantly labeled as lazy or unwilling or hard-headed, in spite of the mounting evidence that it isn’t your fault for being poor.

Does this mean that we should start obsessing over hoarding money, and try to deepen our pockets so it opens more opportunities?

Retire Early?

One thing I like about the seasoned “veterans” of the FI/RE movement (“Financial Independence / Retire Early”) is that many of them encourage you to have a target number in mind, it being the amount of money you can live on without having to work (in the traditional sense) again. This number is the amount of money you need to retire completely from the so-called rat race, and, as a rough estimate, is supposed to be somewhere between 15 to 30 times your annual expense, depending a number of factors like lifestyle choices (or changes), income, luck, etc.

In order to determine your annual expense, start tracking your expenses first! Do it for a month to build the habit. When you have a month’s worth of expenses, multiply it by 12, and you now have a rough estimate of your annual expense. Of course, the longer you track your expenses, the cleaner the data, the more accurate your number will be.

This retirement number is supposed to be a limit to save us from either grinding ourselves to death, or from obtaining obscene amounts of wealth that we wouldn’t know how to spend it. This also serves as a reminder of what we really need to exist for the remainder of the retirement years. Billionaires and billionaire-wannabes don’t get this: having more than you need literally endangers other people’s lives, not to mention maintaining a life of excess requires the destruction of environment. Having that much amount of money creates imbalances everywhere. Or perhaps they do know it, it’s just that they couldn’t be bothered to care less.

So… must you invest in the stock market?

Money is important under capitalism, and our society still relies on this utilitarian aspect of it.

Compared to trading, investing in stock market strikes a nice balance between asset growth (or really, preservation) and passivity.

Some Good Reasons you might not want to Invest

Now let’s list (some, not all of) the arguments against investing (and even trading), all of which are valid, and pose real threat to people and environment.

You don’t like Corporations

There are stocks, effectively companies, that you don’t want to support. Some companies (e.g. Jollibee, SM, San Miguel Corp.) are involved in questionable labor practices. Some actively destroy the environment (e.g. Petron, Semirara, Philex).

If you’re into mutual funds, well, they contain a basket of stocks and/or bonds of different entities, whether corporation or government, already involved in aforementioned malpractices.

You don’t like the harmful effects of cryptocurrency

Major cryptocurrencies (“crypto” from this point), like Bitcoin and Ethereum require large amounts of energy, due to computations needed for mining and maintaining the blockchain. It gets worse when that energy is obtained from burning coal.

The intensive energy requirement takes a toll on the equipment, or the mining rigs, significantly shortening their life span. These equipment, when no longer fit for the job, will likely be added to the already kilotons of e-waste.

People wanting to ride on this bandwagon drives the demand for more computing equipment, like graphical processing units (GPUs), creating a global semiconductor shortage.

Chip fabrication is a very expensive operation. Such facility would require very precise conditions to be met—temperature, humidity, cleanliness, highly-skilled professionals, etc. More importantly, the upkeep also taxes the environment: since chip fabrication is also energy-intensive, it’s heavily subsidized by fossil fuel; or rather, chip fabrication is brought to you by cheap fossil fuel which in turn is subsidized by governments all over the world.

And to top it all off, hackers, scammers, and other bad actors hover around cryptos looking to make easy money, and/or to influence disrupt something to make more easy money.

You find existing services to be bad

You cannot expect the UI/UX of any online brokers (assuming that’s what you’d be using) to be any good. They can be ugly at best, confusing at worst.

Don’t assume that anywhere in the tech stack of their platform runs a free and open source software. It might be because the software engineers running them are either understaffed, overworked, underpaid, or some combination of all three.

Going through all of the above, it’s only fair to ask yourself whether you want to fund any of them.

The investing path isn’t foolproof. But in the meantime, one can learn a few useful skills here and there that can actually be of help should the society as we know it begin to collapse.

“I’m a Millenial, (un)fortunately, and my retirement plan is Societal Collapse.”

– an internet meme

Whatever the outcome is—whether Capitalism is abolished and money is rendered useless, or Capitalism flourishes for 2,000 more years—the chances of getting by are a bit higher when I take the investing route.

Our efforts shall not be muddied, though. We must still seek to abolish Capitalism, if that’s not clear enough; and make the changes now, no matter the perceived significance, so long as it’s toward our goals. TNU