Are you free because you are a citizen of the United States? That’s what we’re taught. We all stand at sporting events to sing that we live in the “land of the free,” or at least most of us still stand. So, here’s a simple question for you: What is freedom? How would you explain it to a child?
Maybe it boils down to this: You choose.
Not the government.
Not a corporation.
By that definition, most of us are not free; most of us are slaves.
“I’m not a slave!” you shout. “Slaves were the imported Africans American citizens owned until December 6, 1865, when the 13th amendment abolished slavery in the United States.” I agree, you are not an imported African in 1864. So, here’s another simple question for you: What is a slave?
Maybe it boils down to this: You don’t choose.
The government chooses.
Or a corporation.
As I type, the explanation of American freedom to a child would have to be, “Well, everyone votes, then we all have to obey whoever has the most money.” SuckerSaysWhat? What? The American Dream now stays just a dream for increasing numbers of people. If you weren’t born rich, you were born to spend your life serving the wealthy, usually in exchange for only a small fraction if the value your work provides. Well, unless you can figure out how to buy your freedom. More on that in a bit.
The United States is one of the greatest countries on this planet, and still by far the most powerful. Citizens of this country have more opportunity for peace, health and prosperity than most other countries. True story. But don’t look down to feel up. Meaning, don’t feel good about your place just because someone has it worse than you. Ask yourself if you can have the life you want, not only the life you were given. The United States, great as it is, turned into a plutocracy, government by the wealthy, and you don’t have to accept a lifetime of servitude to plutocrats.
American government is controlled by wealthy people, both domestic and international, that largely influence government decisions through corporate lobbying. Money has always influenced supposedly representative government, but rarely to the degree it does today. Even a quick internet search yields long lists of detailed reporting on the increase of corporate influence in politics at both the federal and state/local levels, not to mention exceptional influence from certain large corporations like Goldman Sachs.
Only The Rich Are Free; You Are Probably Not Rich
Most dictionaries show the first definition of a slave as someone who is owned by another person and forced to serve them. The second definition is someone controlled by another person. In practice, in your modern American day to day life, those two definitions start seeming pretty similar. Your quality of life would likely be much worse in the first definition of slavery than the second, but either definition makes you a slave.
In the first definition, someone has a piece of paper that says, “I own your butt. Literally. That fleshy set of buns. Mine. You have to do what I say while I can decide to kiss you or kill you or both.” In the second definition, someone has a piece of paper that says, “I own your choice. Literally. The way you spend most hours. Mine. You have to do what I say, or I’ll take your stuff or put you in jail or both.”
Historically, the first type of slavery, the owning type, was about rich guys getting richer by getting cheap labor. And the second type, well…isn’t it also about rich guys getting richer while you stay relatively poor?
Most of us in the United State are slaves, not all of us. Like some cases of freed African slaves in the 1800s, money still buys freedom in the 2000s. If freedom simply means, “you choose,” then with enough money, you choose what you do and you have enough money to be healthy and comfortable while you do it. You can pay for hospital and doctor bills if you or your family have major medical issues, you can eat and drink what you need, you can have kids and pay for their college, or not. You can work, or not, but you never need to work for someone else to pay for your life.
Are you rich enough to be free? If you are reading this, probably not. If you are in the top 1% to 5% of income earners in the United States, you might be, but only if you’ve stuck to your freedom plan for a long time. By the way, to be in the top 5%, your household income by the end of 2015 would need to be more than $214,000 according to the U.S. Census Bureau. On the other end of the spectrum, here is the Bureau’s 2015 definition of poverty – if you make less than the numbers below, you are officially poor:
Per the poverty thresholds above, a household of 4 making less than $24k is poor. As of 2015, 20% of households in the U.S. made less than $22,800 and 40% made less than $43,507 (for the curious, 60% make less than $72k, 80% less than $117k and 95% less than $214k).
Oh, and I reviewed poverty census reports going back more than ten years. Would it surprise you to hear that they’ve changed the way they measure poverty and which people they include in the census? For instance, the “poverty universe” (yes, they really call it that) may or may not include people in prisons, long term hospital care, nursing homes, students in dorms, and some military personal who don’t have a civilian living in their household…that’s millions of people. Oh, and they definitely exclude homeless people. They’ve also changed the sample sizes for the survey. Bottom line here is the poverty numbers are significantly WORSE than reported. If you’d like the data equivalent of slowly tearing off your fingernails, check it out for yourself: 2000-2010, 2006-2010, 2015.
To give you a feel for poverty distribution, I show graphs below from 2010 and 2013 – darker is poorer (hey, not my graph people…):
The top 0.1% live in a different world where rainbow farting unicorns fly free and were likely born free. The 0.1% know we slaves will likely never be free. In fact, they make money off us by owning the companies we work for, the banks that own the houses we live in, and the many other forms of our debt slavery. They make money from our effort to be more like them, which, of course, is why advertisements constantly tell us we need, no, we deserve, to be like the 0.1%…so buy now! Get an easy loan, quick! And wear these debt handcuffs for the rest of your life while the wealthy collect interest from your sweat.
Of course, this doesn’t mean the 0.1% are bad people – it just means that through birth or a combination of hard work and luck, you pay and they collect.
Are You Doomed or Can You Buy Your Freedom?
Yes, you can buy your freedom. That said, the price of freedom varies by person because we’re all different – different obligations, health profiles, insurance options, ages, cost of living by location etc., but a few things apply to anyone who wants to break free while still enjoying life:
1. Unless you are unicorn lucky, buying your freedom is hard, getting harder, and it takes a long time.
2. Without creating & sticking to a plan to escape, you’ll never be free.
3. Live NOW. Build joy and good relationships into your life every day during your escape from slavery. Otherwise, you’ll emerge financially free, but also lonely and bitter (lame).
4. The freedom formula isn’t magic. Here it is:
o make more money
o spend less money
o invest intelligently per your plan
o be patient
All four elements of the freedom formula are difficult and the deck is stacked against you. To buy your way out, you must be willing to work for it on top of performing your job and other obligations. That means less T.V. and less shopping. It means shifting your thinking from “I want that thing!” to “I want my time back!” It also means having the courage and discipline to make a 10, 15, or 20 year plan to buy your life and stick to that plan. That doesn’t mean the plan can’t change; of course it will. Life happens, so adjust the plan as needed, but stay focused on the goal. It doesn’t mean you can’t have fun and do a job you like. Have fun every day and make every effort to find jobs you like until you don’t need one.
To invest intelligently, get educated. Your investment education never ends and it takes time, but don’t be intimidated by the complicated & conflicting information on financial management and investing. Start small, talk to people who successfully bought back their time and talk to independent financial advisors if you can (advisors who aren’t paid to sell you certain types of investments).
“Why is buying my freedom hard and getting harder?” you ask. Well, join me in taking a look around the world we live in. I’ll start by describing some of the top freedom killers, and they may not be the first that pop into your head. Next: Freedom Killer #1…