First of all, what is the dictionary definition of the rat race? I found several definitions on the web: “a mad scramble or intense competitive struggle, such as in the business world”; “an exhausting routine that leaves no time for relaxation”; “a Rat Race is a term used for an endless, self-defeating or pointless pursuit. It conjures up the image of the futile efforts of a lab rat trying to escape whilst running around a maze or in a wheel”...that race does not end, unless the rat jumps off the wheel.
Who is in the rat race? The vast majority of us.
Most of us are rats in our own unique maze, timing the run from the shower to the bus or train station; learning the timetables and the best position on the platform or indeed the best bus stop to speed up the transfer between different destinations; saving up for a mortgage to jump onto the property ladder or perhaps for a car; then saving up for an even bigger place because we have outgrown our present property; going to work to pay bills and so the list continues. Basically, if you are not in a position to quit your job right now and live off your investments until you die...you are in the rat race.
My main aim in life since I started working is to jump out of the rat race and to become financially free. I have a strong / volcanic / burning desire not to be in the rat race.
This does not mean I will quit working the moment I am in a position to live off my investments, however, because I actually enjoy my job and working in general. The very thought that I could leave would give me insurmountable pleasure. I enjoy life and always make sure I treat myself when I can afford to but I save all the rest and invest it in whatever seems sensible so that at some point soon (I hope) I can gain financial freedom. A position very few manage to reach.
In my favour is that although I like to be comfortable and have the finer things in life – like most of us do – I am not extravagant and I don’t care about impressing the masses – most people love to show-off either with their “rims” or expensive designer clothing or crystal and lavish restaurants but it is these unnecessary pursuits that keep them in the rat race. People that take this approach or shall I say, attitude, are going to be running and they are probably going to be running for a long time, leaving in their wake, a host of regrets. One of my favourite quotes is “If your outgoings exceed your income, your upkeep will be your downfall”.
God-willing, I will achieve my goal of financial freedom. What advice can I give to my friends and peers? We will cover that next week. For this week I just want you to meditate upon what it would feel like to be “financially free”, what it would feel like to go to work simply because you wanted to not because you need the money – the very thought is incredible, isn’t it?
“It's a rare moment when we take a break from the tribulations of the daily rat race to reflect on assumptions and values that we casually accept as gospel.” Graydon Carter
For inspirational quotes follow @Getting2Wealthy on twitter.
For 2 years until early 2014 I wrote a weekly personal finance and business column for Malawi's leading media house, The Times Group. The target is middle-class, working African women.
This is a reproduction of the articles that appeared in the weekend edition of Malawi News.