Frequently and Infrequently Asked Questions
Q: Up From Wage Slavery… why does that sounds similar to a book I may have read in high school or college?
A: You caught me, I stole the name from Booker T. Washington’s biography, Up From Slavery, which, as a minor theme, emphasized the need for financial education among freed slaves.
Q: Do you think that Booker T. Washington would approve of you using the name of his book as the basis for your blog?
A: Absolutely! I have great respect and admiration for Mr. Washington and believe he would appreciate this blog if he were alive to read it. Although he is most famously known for his vast influence in the education of blacks in the post Civil War South, Booker T. Washington was also a strong proponent of self-sufficiency, financial education, and the avoidance of needless debt. He thought spending money in order to impress others had serious and detrimental long term effects on people’s well being. In the late 1800s, Booker T. Washington observed the following, which motivated him to work to combat poverty:
- People were going into debt to purchase things that made them appear wealthy, although they didn’t have the wealth to justify the purchases..
- People were so poor they didn’t have dishes or utensils to eat with, but mortgaged their crops to buy a fancy clock.
- People’s taste for consumption grew, but their ability to earn money lagged behind.
- Some made good money but still were unable to free themselves from debt.
Does any of that sound familiar today? That’s what I thought too. Hence, Up From Wage Slavery.
Q: What is wage slavery?
A: Over one hundred years ago, wage slavery referred to people laboring long hours for little pay. Today it can refer to anyone who feels trapped in their job. It may be caused by a legitimate lack of decent paying opportunities, or as is more common in wealthy countries like the US, it refers to people whose lifestyles have inflated at a higher rate than their income. In most cases, it is not the cost of basic survival that keeps the wage slaves trapped but their own consumption habits.
Q: Does escaping from wage slavery mean retirement or early retirement?
A: Not necessarily. So many Americans (and other nationalities I assume) are unhappy with their work life but feel forced to remain at their job because of their many financial obligations. If you hate 40-60 hours of your life every week, your life is a depressing mess. Why on earth would you remain in a situation like that unless something or someone was forcing you? I differ from many in the FIRE (Financial Independence and Early Retirement) community in that I am not trying to retire as soon as possible to never work again. I believe work is an important part of the human experience that should not be seen as evil in itself. I am on a quest to escape from meaningless and uninspiring work in favor of fulfilling and value-filled work.
Q: Are you really just a lazy dude trying to rid your life of all work?
A: Surprisingly no, I am not trying to escape work. Work is integral for the healthy mind, body, and soul. I am on a journey to escape from low value, tedious, uninspiring, and meaningless work. You know, wage slavery. I actually welcome work that adds value to the world as long as it’s not pushing the more important parts out of my life. Work is an necessary part of life’s balance. I am a firm believer, however, that we as a society put way too much emphasis on work and not nearly enough on the rest of life.
Q: Why should I listen to you and your advice?
A: You definitely shouldn’t. If you want real financial advice, hire a professional. Anything I write should be considered useful for its entertainment value alone, if even that. If you are lucky, this whole endeavor will just be an incredibly stupid career move and you will learn what not to do by watching a disaster unfold. On second thought, be extremely careful when taking advice from a professional. Make sure their incentives and yours are aligned before trusting them at all.
Q: What is your background in personal finance and economic thinking?
A: I started thinking about personal finance when I was a little kid. As far back as I can remember I would count my pennies. Later, when I was five, my neighbor, who was a few years older, started borrowing change from me to go buy chips and pickles from the corner store. He regularly borrowed about $.25 to $.50 at a time for the next four or five years. When I was about ten he paid me back a total of $5.00 out of the $50 or more dollars I had lent him over the years. About this time it dawned on me that some people understand money while others had some serious learning to do. I also learned that it’s not prudent to lend to somebody who already has a loan outstanding.
Throughout my childhood I had various “businesses” which included selling candy, snacks, toys, homemade stilts, yard services, and probably other things I have long forgotten. Growing up in a poor area, I was always interested in poverty, money, and how people’s behaviors impacted those realms of life. I can remember thinking thoughts like, “if Miguel’s parents weren’t so bad at money management their life wouldn’t suck so bad.” Sometime in my early teens I thought I could help others live better by learning about money.
In college I was introduced to economics, which I loved, obviously! Not much more needs to be said about that. A few years later I put those topics together and created a high school class on econ/personal finance, which I taught for six years until this spring, when I quit. Now here I am.