Idle Kings

As I approach financial independence my mind is shifting from solving the problem of how to secure up my finances to what to do with my time. I think people who are into achieving financial independence at an early age are problem-solvers, planners and strategists. There is a joy in figuring out how to manipulate your finances just to squeeze out an extra few dollars here. – Or how to save a few extra dollars there. I could spend entire afternoons and evenings pacing and planning my finances 10 years out and be in complete bliss. – Perhaps approaching the Aristotelian eudaimonia of contemplation for the sake of itself.

So what to do once the money problem is solved? Some people are passionate about a cause, a hobby, or they want to be free to pursue long-term entrepreneurial endeavors. Some people are working towards early retirement because they have something else in mind that they want to be free to do.

But others, myself included, am not so much motivated by what I hope to do with financial independence, but rather, I’m simply motivated by my desire for security, independence and my distaste for regular work and all the alarm clocks, compromises and politics that come along with it. So now that I am very close to financial independence, I am looking anew for the next problem that needs to be solved, planned-for and strategized over.

I have written about how I look forward to afternoons of reading great American novels, attempting to grow a majority of my own food, doing some long distance hiking/biking and boat trips. And I do look forward to those things. But I just wonder if there’s some great problem out there I could be as passionate about as I have been with seeking FI.

Now if no great problem does catch my interest and all I have to look forward to is a life of idly doing whatever I wish, believe me, I’ll happily manage. I just wonder what the best way to go about things is. Perhaps a monastic existence focused on the life of the mind is in order. Or do I have a duty to charitably help lift up my fellow man? Should I devote myself to fighting injustice? Or should I just keep trying to multiply my wealth in order to be philanthropic with it in the future?

The typical responses to such an inquiry are, “Go make more money if it’s so easy and become super-rich,” or, “Travel!” or, “Volunteer!”

Of course this problem of ethics is as old as humanity. Kings and Patricians have dealt with it for centuries. But it is something that isn’t talked about much in modern America because most people don’t have much choice in the matter. They have to devote the majority of their lives to making a living. Or I should say, they thoughtlessly take actions that require them to devote the majority of their lives to making a living. Because of this we have magazines and newspaper columns every week devoted to how best to make a living for yourself, or manage those things that come along with making a living like careers, modes of commuting and mortgages. But the financially independent, on the other hand, aren’t constantly surrounded with periodicals on how to live the best life, authors opining on what the right amount of volunteer hours per week is, debates about how to get the most out of your entrepreneurial garage-tinkering that you think might turn a profit in a decade or so, or thoughts on the intrinsic value of working towards interesting academic degree programs for the sake of themselves. So we are left to fend for ourselves.

The problem of what to do with oneself is by no means exclusive to the financially independent. But having all day, everyday free to do with whatever you wish does make the issue more pronounced.

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