Tuesday, December 30, 2014

Scary Time

We are scared of free time. When Keynes started to speak of progress leading to 3 hour work weeks, largely for those who felt like it, social psychologists started to panic about what people would do! See this article by the Economist on 'why is everyone so busy'. History has typically been about survival. Survival sharpens the mind and keeps you active, busy and alive. Survival keeps you alive, good one Trev.

We have a goal of retirement and we think, a little, about what to do in those golden years. There are dreams of fishing, or golf, or reading but typically most people never get to the point where they can comfortably retire. Sometimes this is a strong motivator that drives us to do work we would rather not be doing. My friend Megan has done some detailed work looking at retirement adequacy targets. I will need to find updated figures, but when I was working in the space in South Africa the figures were about 6% of people could afford to retire and about 1% of people could afford to retire and maintain their the standard of living. The figure thrown around is you need to be able to continue to generate around 75% of your pre-retirement income from your investments. Much of Meg's discussion is whether this figure actually needs to be higher. Most people never get there, and when they do they often have very little energy left or feel daunted.

My Father and his wife run 'Potential Unlimited' where they put together courses for people making the transition to retirement. They focus less on the financial side and more on the psychological journey. Retirement 'involves restructuring your time, changing your role, re-defining your social interactions and finding new goals, meaning and purpose in life. Many individuals approaching retirement experience increased anxiety about the nature of retirement and what to expect.'

I think their project is interesting. I also think that that type of thinking should maybe start when you are 6 rather than 60. Education is wrapped around how to generate an income. We don't actually spend much time at all on how to spend that income, and more importantly how to spend that time. Our answer has always been to spend our time surviving. A very small slither of the community has had to deal with the 'problem' of how to occupy themselves when at leisure. The irony discussed in the Economist article is that while 'work' used to be a dirty word for the financially free, many of the very wealthy are becoming more stressed. The job of Chief Executive Officer is usually rather unpleasant in many ways. A case of careful what you wish for.

We think very consciously about one side of the equation. How to generate income and how to generate a nest egg. My suspicion is that we need to give more thought to the other side of the equation, and perhaps escape from the direct financial terms. Instead of Income Replacement, perhaps we can think of time replacement and the perfect day. If your perfect day includes a good nights sleep, a walk in the park, visiting friends, a swim in the sea, an afternoon snooze, a little reading and a couple of hours doing something you love (dancing, painting, music) you may find you are a Cultural Billionaire. You may find getting better at using your time is an easier way to reduce the amount of money you need to do it. That is part of the aim of this blog. I have spent years focussing my attention on trying to understand money and how businesses work. Now I want to spend time thinking about time.

One way of spending time as a Cultural Billionaire
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