12 Years a Slave
Not too long ago I went to see the movie “12 years a slave.” The story takes place in the 1800s when Solomon, a free black man who lived in New York, was kidnapped and taken to the South as a slave until he was rescued 12 years later.
During the movie I noticed that most slaves worked full time and then went to their hut to eat and to sleep, and then the next day they would get up and do the same all over again. They did work that the didn’t like for the rest of their lives.
21st Century Slavery
Today during the 21st century, many of us work full time in jobs that we don’t like for the rest of our lives. In some ways, we are worse off that the slaves of the 1800s. At that time the slaves didn’t have to worry about having a place to sleep or food to eat. Many of us cannot take food and shelter for granted.
Paycheck to Paycheck
Most North Americans live from paycheck to paycheck. No matter what their income level is, if they miss one week of work for whatever reason, they can get into serious financial difficulty.
Debtors and Marketers are our Slave Drivers
We have two major slave drivers: debt and marketing. Marketing encourages us to buy things that are beyond our means and creditors give us the money which later becomes our shackles. Millions of North Americans are enslaved by student debt and credit card debt and as soon as they are getting out of debt, some clever marketer tells them that they need to buy a bigger house, a newer car, a new brand of jeans and another gadget.
Government was supposed to serve us
But that’s not all. There’s another important slave driver. The government. The government takes more than 50% of your labor in the form of taxes. Federal taxes, provincial taxes, municipal taxes, gas taxes, cigarette taxes, alcohol taxes and so on. All this so that we can go to another war, create more wasteful spending and so on. Government was supposed to serve us, but in reality it is exploiting us.
Are you a productive slave?
And the story continues. If you have a regular job, you know that for each dollar that you get paid, you have to produce more than one dollar in profit, so that the fruit of your labor can satisfy the shareholder who created that wonderful job for you.
Now, whatever money is left over, must go towards paying rent or mortgage. You also need to pay your student loan, your health insurance, your transportation to your job, your clothing, etc.
Let’s self medicate
This is beginning to sound very depressing, so we need to medicate ourselves with junk food, alcohol, illegal and legal drugs. Also, since many of us don’t like our job, we take medication to help us sleep and to fight our ulcer problems.
We are slaving other countries
Now, think for a moment that we in North America have won the geographical lottery in which we are almost guaranteed a higher standard of living than in many other countries. If you consider this, you will realize that there are deeper levels of slavery. In many countries, kids are working in factories, producing plastic toys for our North American kids. In Cote d’Ivoire there is child labor so that we can have delicious Swiss chocolate.
Don’t flirt with coworkers
But there’s more. I just mentioned the economic conditions. Now let’s look at the behavior that we’re supposed to have. Many workplaces have a dress code. If you work at the bank, you can’t go in a t-shirt and sandals. In many places you aren’t supposed to flirt with your coworkers. When Cheryl used to work at another dance school, she was forbidden to build friendships with her students.
But there’s hope. Today, you have the opportunity to break free from your shackles. All you need is a plan and you need to execute it well.
Freedom for sale
In the old days, someone could buy your freedom. Solomon, the main character of the movie was a free man because his father was given his freedom . Today, we all have the possibility to buy our own freedom.
Let’s start with two assumptions: You can get average return on investments of 5% and that you can live on $50,000 per year or less. With these two assumptions, your price of freedom is about one million dollars.
I did several calculations and this is my result. If you save $100 per week from age 18 you can have one million dollars by age 65. Or if you can live on $25,000 per year, you can retire by age 53.
There are many combinations to achieve your freedom. You can start a business, you can earn more, you can spend less. At the end, the most important thing is to have the desire to be free and to start taking steps towards your freedom. If you are complacent with your slave status, then you will always be a slave. Freedom is within your reach, but you have to fight for it.