I recently read a blog post that inspired this one: True independence – Does it exist? The author poses a good question which I applied to my own long held opinion that freedom rings a bit hollow if you’re saddled with a mountain of debt. I’m not bagging on capitalism by any means. A free market system is an absolute requirement for any hope at freedom anywhere, and there is no better role model to the world, or place to live, than the United States. I’m simply asking how free can one be if we are working like a dog night and day just to pay the bills each month?
My major was business economics so my perspective on freedom tends to come from a financial viewpoint, which I believe drives most of the major decisions we make in life. At the age of 18 I made my first credit card payment for a motorcycle that I couldn’t afford? What in the world was I thinking? Why didn’t I know better? Why didn’t someone stop me? Oh yeah, I didn’t know better and I was free to make that dumb decision.
That was then and I’ve since recovered from youth, learning along the way, observing our nation’s debt pile up and incomes stagnate. Not only is our national debt growing out of control, each citizen owes an estimated $56,660 (1) thanks to our free spending representatives, but families too have racked up so much personal debt that a dual income home is now a requirement just to eek by. Whew, what a downer and I haven’t even gotten to the student loans!
Speaking of student loans, WHAT THE!!!!? The ave household owes $32,264 (2) in student loans and this figure is growing out of control. So, question: Should we as a nation be encouraging this much debt for our kids, many of whom haven’t even settled on what the want to do? Our government makes it so easy to take out enormous student loans, over $1 Trillion (3), more and more to acquire low level or unmarketable degrees. Are we asking any tough questions here?
I’m not knocking education, or even questioning the value of getting your degree, but I am questioning the cost/benefit equation and why we make it so simple for kids to borrow and sometimes party their way through their college years only to end up with a near worthless degree, a mountain of debt, and a low paying job to facilitate the monthly payments? Where is our government? Where is our education system? Parents? Why is society encouraging this behavior? Shouldn’t we be teaching some basics on finances, interest rates, predatory lending, late payment fees, etc? Shouldn’t we be teaching economics 101 to our kids in high school and demand that they graduate with some basic understanding of the way money works, how credit works, and how they stand the best chance to maintain financial control of their lives?
But here we are. The hole has been dug and we find ourselves or our kids or both of us in it. We must stop digging. We must stop borrowing. We must stop buying crap that we don’t need. No matter how deep we find ourselves into that hole of debt, realize that we are all free to stop digging. We are free to make decisions that will one day free us from the the bonds of debt.
Never before has there been so much opportunity to create, to grow, to learn, to change, to improve. Technology has completely changed the old paradigms of capitalism and given each of us the ability to create value from our time, from our skills, from our assets, and from our minds. Conversely, we have the ability to buy only that which we need; a ride to the store, a neighbors help assembling an Ikea desk, or even an RV camping trip. It’s time that we look for ways out of the race.
A new ‘Shared Economy‘ is evolving and developing right before our eyes and it may very well hold the answer to how we all truly regain our financial freedom. RVPlusYou is but one of many possible exit plans, Uber is another. You can even make extra income doing some side work or by renting your stuff. A great way to explore options is at Peers.
I believe that we have to start educating our kids and ourselves about money and how it works. We must talk about what credit is for and how we can use it responsibly to better our lives, not enslave ourselves to it. We must demand that our government do a better job asking questions about how a student loan will be used in terms of cost/benefit, not borrow/benefit I deserve it now.
We recently had a new customer named Jason sign up and list his brand new 30 foot Coachman Freelander for rent in Sonoma Valley and Bodega Bay campgrounds. Jason is a young professional, in the tech industry, has a wife and two kids. He and his wife decided that camping was the family activity for them, but they didn’t just run out and buy this $60,000 rig without thinking it through. Jason worked out a business plan that included renting this new family activity. He researched his options, looked at insurance requirements, and foretasted revenues and expenses before he pulled the trigger.
Jason did it right and now has a tax write off against his income producing asset. He runs a legitimate RV rental business and enjoys the outdoors with his family when his schedule allows.
I say, way to go Jason, and to you I say go explore…. find the exit!