“Those who surrender freedom for security will not have, nor do they deserve, either one.”
~ Benjamin Franklin
This is a subject I have somewhat neglected until now: how I earn my money, how I use it and how I invest it. The same with my time, as these days, time is money. However, ethical decisions need to be made at all levels if we want to be true to our values…
When I moved to Canada, I decided to learn about personal financial planning, something I haven’t done before but that suddenly seemed very important: we were by ourselves in a different country, with two sons and no financial stability. I set to learn about retirement (RRSPs, OAS, CPP), children’s studies (RESPs), mortgages and taxes. For a while, I became a fan of all these cool tools that would allow us to be “safe”…
As many others, I followed the book: started RRSPs as soon as I started working, contributed to my children’s RESPs and learned to do my family taxes online. I became an “expert” in taxes and financial planning. Not that it worked so well…
Then, in December 2011 I started to peek and learn into what I know now: that the “economy” is not safe at all, it is indeed built over a very vulnerable house of cards: it won’t bounce back forever: it is not sustainable and can’t “grow” perpetually as most economists, financial advisors and politicians would like us to believe.
“I sincerely believe that banking establishments are more dangerous than standing armies, and that the principle of spending money to be paid by posterity, under the name of funding, is but swindling futurity on a large scale.” ~ Thomas Jefferson
Many books and articles have been written about this topic, so I won’t repeat their words here. It is a trap and we are all slaves: most of us bought the idea of a stable job, a 30-year mortgage that builds “equity”, saving for our children’s education, lifestyles sustained thanks to access to credit cards and loans and the need for saving for retirement.
The reality is that jobs are no longer stable, mortgages are a never-ending curse that we will probably pass onto our children, RESPs will never be enough to pay for our children’s education and they will go broke as we currently are, credit cards and loans are a hole in our pockets and savings (if we are able to make it) may be lost or won’t cover enough…
This is, at least, the reality for most immigrants who came to a new country with nothing but their dreams and skills. And it is also the reality for many Canadians who would never be able to “retire” or send their children to the university. People wouldn’t live the life they currently live if it wasn’t for the credit cards and other loans to buy cars pay for studies, etc.
A few months ago, I decided to explore this “dark” side of life further… (dark because it is taboo, most people wouldn’t openly talk or even acknowledge that they are in debt, concerned about their future and that of their children). And I decided to see the ethical part of it and take the covering veil that says our safety and security as individuals, families and communities rests only on having stuff and money.
And this is what I found:
“A country of free men is not free if they are owned by somebody else.”
~ Joseph P. Sekula
So, how do you make sound and ethical choices to be “safe” and “secure” for your future and make sure your children (and all the other people’s children) have some peace of mind for their present and future?
Here is what I have started doing (some) and plan to do (most):
“…. most people come to know only one corner of their room, one spot near the window, one narrow strip on which they keep walking back and forth.”
~ Rainer Maria Rilke, Letters to a Young Poet
“make a radical change in your lifestyle and begin to boldly do things which you may previously never have thought of doing, or been too hesitant to attempt. So many people live within unhappy circumstances and yet will not take the initiative to change their situation because they are conditioned to a life of security, conformity, and conservation, all of which may appear to give one peace of mind, but in reality nothing is more damaging to the adventurous spirit within a man than a secure future. The very basic core of a man’s living spirit is his passion for adventure. The joy of life comes from our encounters with new experiences, and hence there is no greater joy than to have an endlessly changing horizon, for each day to have a new and different sun. If you want to get more out of life, you must lose your inclination for monotonous security and adopt a helter-skelter style of life that will at first appear to you to be crazy. But once you become accustomed to such a life you will see its full meaning and its incredible beauty.”
~ Jon Krakauer, Into the Wild
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