“Act as if You will be Fired Tomorrow” – the Impact of Capitalism on Family, Career, Society, and Trust

In the last few months I have been really busy. A lot of my work is mainly stakeholder management and project management. It can be very stressful but at the same time it can be rewarding because you produce something very tangible at the end.

The routine of work sometimes depresses me because it feels meaningless. The financial year is over, so I will need to prepare my tax return soon. This has its upsides because I get to see how much passive income I have received. Last year I made about A$20k in passive income, which works out to around A$1666 per month (US$1200 per month). (According to most digital nomads, passive income of US$1000 per month is enough to retire in Chiang Mai.) However, I don’t feel that US$1k per month is enough. Now that I have reached this milestone, I feel more secure in my job because, if I were fired the next day, I could simply fly to Chiang Mai and retire. Approximately two years into my job, there was a large restructure of the organisation. I saw colleagues being fired and legally abused. This experience taught me at an early age that the job you have (even a government job) is precarious and not secure. It was devastating seeing colleagues with family responsibilities and large mortgages being fired. In my opinion, this experience, coupled with witnessing the divorce of my parents, have shaped me greatly. These were hard moments but I got through these moments stronger, and thankfully none of these incidents affected me. They affected others, but because I witnessed these incidents, I was able to learn from them. The key lesson is the importance of acting as if you will be fired the next day. Whenever I walk into the office, I act as if I will be fired. I do not take my job for granted. I structure my life as if I will be fired and live accordingly. If I am not fired and make money, that’s a bonus. 

Marriage and career are similar in that, if you don’t handle them correctly, you will be in a position of dependency. My mother is a traditional woman. She cooked and cleaned and tended to the household. She was loyal. However, my father cheated on her. Many people ask me what I think about the incident and what I will do, almost expecting me to disown or become angry at my father. But I was too numb to really do anything. When I really think about, even though my father cheated with another woman, I begin to realise that my mother shares some blame because she made herself dependent on my father. She thought she was doing the right thing. Traditionalism seems like a good idea. Most people, when they are unsure of what to do, do what has always been done, which is the allure of conservatism. It provides an easy default answer. The problem is that what has been done in the past does not always work, especially when the world today is very different to the world centuries ago. Today we live in a highly capitalist individualistic society. As Margeret Thatcher said, “There is no such thing as society: there are individual men and women, and there are families.”

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However, Ms Thatcher was wrong. The quote should be: “There is no such thing as society or family: there are individual men and women.” Society is just an aggregation of individuals, and so is a family. A family is simply a mini-society. Thatcher was a political conservative and as such felt compelled to accept capitalist ideology without understanding that capitalism and traditional family values are incompatible. Under a capitalist system, it is each man for himself, and family is an expense and liability. This explains why, as countries become more and more economically developed, family structure changes from extended family to nuclear family and now the nuclear family is breaking up into pure individualism. Under pure communism, the community, country, or people is the family. The nation is the family. However, as market capitalism is introduced, this family breaks down gradually. The next phase of capitalism will be technocapitalism, which will make the world far more individualistic. Whenever I see families, the children are on their smartphones, disengaged. In fact, often the parents are on their smartphones as well. Everyone has separate lives. Everyone is an individual, and this individualism is enhanced by technology.

So while family was important in the past, those days are over, and we must adapt to the changing times. The same applies to career. In the past, it was normal to have a job for life, but such an idea goes against free market capitalism because businesses should have the freedom to hire talent that benefits them, and so under pure capitalism you should only be hired insofar as you are profitable and if you grow older and your productivity deteriorates, the ideology of capitalism would state that you should be fired unless your experience and wisdom compensates sufficiently. More rights for businesses to fire workers as well as more private sector and contestability principles being applied to government jobs has made jobs more precarious over time. The idea of an employer being almost like a family is starting to diminish under the weight of individualism.

As such, the best approach is not to be suckered by the delusion of the sacredness of collectivist fantasies such as family, nation, or organisation. You are just an individual. You are expendable. You may be divorced, fired, or betrayed at any moment. You must expect that and you must prepare for it.

The solution is as follows:

  1. live a minimalist lifestyle in opposition to consumerism
  2. minimise all obligations, not just financial obligation (e.g. debt) but also non-financial obligation (e.g. social norms, obligations to family and friends, etc)
  3. diversify your investment portfolio
  4. live off passive income.

Ultimately, it comes down to trust or lack of trust in others. These recommendations address the risk of trusting in others. If you live a minimalist lifestyle, your distrust is in business whom you believe will try to profit off your impulsive desires. If you minimise debt, you do not trust that your the source of income to pay the debt will continue forever. If you keep people at arms distance, you do so because because you recognise that anyone can betray you at any moment for their personal gain. You diversify your investments because you cannot trust any one investment to perform well. You live off passive income because you cannot trust your job to provide for you, and you cannot trust your body to always be young and agile enough to provide value to an employer.

In an individualistic world, the only person you can trust is yourself, so you structure your life so that you never need to trust anyone.

Advice for Women: Never Get Married #WhiteRibbonDay

Yesterday was White Ribbon Day. A girl was walking around selling white ribbons that are meant to raise awareness about domestic violence against women. My manager and I both bought these ribbons and wore them. Many other people around work wore these ribbons as well.

I felt a bit weird wearing these ribbons because I really felt like I was showing off to others. The ribbons did raise awareness because I read a few articles online about violence against women, and supposedly “financial abuse” is a real thing that occurs.

According to the media, because women are encouraged to have children, they get pregnant and end up with the responsibility of looking after the children. They then leave the workforce and then become financially dependent on the husband who then has economic power over her. This makes her less likely to want to leave him and may mean that she accepts abuse because she needs him to pay for necessities like food and shelter.

When I thought about this more, I realized that women really need to stop looking to men. I agree that men should not be violent towards women, but women need to be careful as well. Women are partially to blame and need to take responsibility for their lives. In fact, I would even go as far as saying that women should not marry and should not have children. If a woman has a child, she has to get out of work and look after it. That is not good. She will lose money and be reliant on the man. Women love to think that men are caring beings who will save them, but this is a Hollywood fantasy. How can she be sure if the man she marries will always have this attitude? Humans are not robots. Humans are emotional, and emotions change over time.

My mother made the same mistake. She thought my dad was a caring and honest man. Turns out he was cheating on her in secret. He had a separate family with another woman and kept this secret. Sure it was the man who is at fault, but it doesn’t matter who is at fault.

It’s similar to crossing the road. Even if the traffic lights tell you that you should cross the road, you should always look left and right. If you cross the road without looking left and right expecting cars and trucks to follow the laws, you may be disappointed. Even if you cross the road legally, it makes no difference if a truck runs you over. It doesn’t matter if you’re right if you end up dead.

Likewise, even if it is discovered that the man is cheating with another woman, and it turns out that the man is ethically wrong, at the end of the day, he will be happily living with his new family and younger wife while the older wife is alone and likely broke due because she is out of the workforce because of pregnancy and responsibilities to look after children. She is also unable to remarry because she is old, and being old does not help with job hunting either. Even if she is ethically right, it makes no difference. 

Women are lucky in that when they are young they are physically attractive, so they can use this to make money whereas men simply cannot do this. I have heard of many young girls making a lot of money online selling sexual services using their webcams. There are also plenty of jobs out there for women that do not include sex work. Many people are very willing to hire young girls simply because they look good, and young girls in customer service roles are more likely to boost business because customers like to deal with beautiful women. Women then have it easy when they are young and pretty, but they should not waste their time and blow their good looks on marriage because marriage doesn’t really provide anything. If they marry a rich man, they might get ahead, but it’s risky because a rich man is like to have a very strong prenup, and rich men will almost certainly cheat. In fact, even if women marry, they will get old, and when they get old, there is a good chance that any man will cheat on her or try to divorce her because old age makes women unattractive. This is not nice, I am aware, but it has to be said. This is the reason why marriage exists, in my opinion. Women know that when they get old they will become unattractive, so marriage exists in order to bind the man to the woman so that he will not stray and seek a younger female. 

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Women should focus on their careers and focus on saving up money for themselves because money in investments will look after her better than any man would. Money will feed and clothe her. Investments will never abuse or rape her. Investments like shares and ETFs will pay her dividends. Men may pay their women an allowance, but they may abuse their women as well.

I’ve got some female friends and they are always telling me about the fights they get into with their boyfriends. I just tell them not to bother with relationships, but they never listen. If they break up or have a fight with a boyfriend, they’re usually back with him or they get another guy within days, and many women say they need men because men provide security.

Girls need to focus on being financially independent rather than look for a man to provide for them because men are not reliable investments. Girls need to invest for themselves. Shares will pay dividends silently and reliably, and shares in good companies will grow these dividends over time. With men, you never know what will happen. Men react differently to how pretty girls are. If women are young and pretty, the man will splash cash on them, but when she is not, he will close up his wallet. He might cheat, he might divorce, or he might be abusive. All in all, for a woman (and even for a man), marriage fails the cost-benefit analysis and risk-benefit analysis. It’s a bad investment. Women need to go their own way.