The Money Hamster Wheel, Part 2: Multiple Solutions, Not Just More Money

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In Part 1: Identifying the Problem, I shared Lawrence Yeo’s unique take on money and the hamster wheel metaphor, where we just keep spinning and can’t get off. Since then, I have thought more about how best to slow things down by instead attacking each step of the cycle. To be honest, I don’t know if I can properly explain Yeo’s concepts, so I came up with my own version of the hamster wheel. Here it is, rather hastily-drawn:

A common criticism of seeking financial freedom is that it’s all about money. Make more money. Spend less money. However, if you take a step back, money is just part of the flow between how you spend the time in your life. How are you making that money? Why do you want more money? Why are you spending the money?

Accordingly, here various ways that someone could lessen the impact of each part of the cycle.

  • Find better-paying work that is equally fulfilling and stimulating. Try to save the excess. Don’t make yourself more unsatisfied for more money.
  • Find more fulfilling and stimulating work, even if it pays less. Be happier, and thus need to spend less to replace that happiness.
  • Engage in non-work activities that provide meaning and stimulation. If you need a better job, work on a new skill. If you need more stimulation, start a side business and keep your current job. Or just find a new hobby/sport/language. Taking action is the key, as the right activities will energize you.
  • Reduce your intake of low-quality media. Stop consuming things that make you feel worse about yourself. The wrong activities will drain you, which encourages more spending.
  • Exercise more (try outdoors or with other people) and eat better food. This gives you more energy all day long.
  • Spend less money on the things that don’t matter, so you need less money. Cut out the mindless and unhelpful spending.
  • Spend more money on the things that truly matter to you. Now that you cut the mindless, you can spend more on improving interpersonal relationships, or energizing activities (see above).
  • The more you learn to control this cycle, the more you can use the concept of “Enough” to widen the gap between money in and money out. Decouple earning and spending. Invest in enough productive assets so that your required income is less and less.

Addressing the problem from one angle, helps free you up to attack it from another angle later. For example, if you eat and exercise better, you might have enough energy to take corrective action, and not just fantasize about that side business when you really just turn on the TV after a long day at work.

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  1. Other Ideas: What about completely getting off the hamster wheel from time to time for big chunks of time and tune into the big things of life?

    I.e. Organize sabbaticals where you drive your family around in a van around Chile, organize your self-employed life so you get two months off a year to do a spiritual retreat or something else important to you.

  2. Excellent article! I don’t think I’ve ever seen it broken down like that before. Looking at all those pieces of advice can seem overwhelming, but less intimidating if you break it down into small chunks. It’s difficult to make giant life changes, but if I can focus on one small thing at a time it seems realistic. Age old advice, but easy to forget.

    Also one of the hardest balances is finding something that you enjoy to do, that pays well and gives you a good work life balance. If you have the trifecta then I think you are lucky. For me I think I lean more toward getting paid well + work life balance and sacrifice some of the job enjoyment part. That’s just me. Thanks again for the article. Good stuff.

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