Why I Don’t Want to Be in the 1 Percent

Photo (cc) by TJ Morris

The personal finance blogosphere is bursting with be-a-millionaire articles. Less well represented are writers who aren’t clawing their way up to 1 percent-ville. That would be me.

In part that’s because I’m in midlife, and time is more important to me than money. I’d rather have a flexible job (freelance writer) than a high-paying 9-to-5. But it’s also because I don’t think of “wealth” solely in terms of dollars and cents. If life is the currency, I’m already rich.

It’s precisely because I’m not chasing wealth that I’ve been able to spend the better part of three years attending conferences, visiting friends and relatives all around the country, and sightseeing in places like New York City, Chicago, Philadelphia, and the United Kingdom.

I’ve been able to spend time with elderly family members (I’d rather go for a visit than a funeral), help my dad on his small farm, chat with drunken lawyers in a London hamburger joint, run along a Jersey Shore boardwalk with my great-nephew, and people-watch in Times Square.

I’ve eaten really good sweet corn, tomatoes, and peaches (and far too many Tastykakes) in South Jersey, a ploughman’s lunch sandwich at a hole-in-the-wall London coffee shop, and a slice pepperoni pie the size of a pillowcase in a New York pizzeria.

Couldn’t do those things if I were a regular working stiff.

Not ignoring the risks

I can easily survive on what I earn because I live simply. I save where I can so I can spend where I want. My income is a tool, not a toy: I use it to craft a life that works for me. And this life does work for me. I plan to live as a freelancer (which pretty much precludes millionaire-hood) for as long as I can get away with it.

I’m not ignoring the risks, mind you. I’m mixing short-term serendipity with long-term security: a solid emergency fund, a Roth IRA, and a 401(k) from back in my newspapering days. I also have health insurance – it’s pricey but I pay it because no machine runs for more than 50 years without some maintenance issues.

Had I taken a job as soon as I earned a midlife degree, back in December 2009, I’d have had to wait at least a year to earn vacation time – and it probably would have been only a week’s worth. I’d also have had to quit writing for MSN Money and Get Rich Slowly, and I probably wouldn’t have been able to create my personal website.

At this point in my life, those options are unpalatable.

Life holds no guarantees

When I think about money as “security,” I get a mental picture of someone sitting in a bank vault surrounded by piles of cash that he’s unwilling to share. I don’t want to be Scrooge McDuck, backstroking through an ocean of dollars and singing, “Mine, mine, all mine!”

If there’s one thing I’ve learned in 54 years on the planet, it’s that there’s no such thing as security. Your job, your health, and the economy can all go south with incredible rapidity.

Suppose I’d found a full-time job after college (and these days, that’s a big “if”). Right now, I could be making more money. But I’d likely be spending more money. Working people often do.

More to the point, I wouldn’t be making a difference. I get reader feedback like, “I’m out of debt because of you” and, “I’m back in school because of you.”

Knowing that I’ve inspired people to change their lives is something I wouldn’t trade for a 9-to-5 with a dental plan. Not everyone’s in a position to do this. But you may be able to move closer to your goals by examining the way you handle money.

Try it my way: Save where you can so you can spend where you want. It may not make a difference right away, but the longest journey begins with a single step. Or a single $5 deposit.

More stories on DonnaFreedman.com:

Disclosure: The information you read here is always objective. However, we sometimes receive compensation when you click links within our stories.

Read Next
13 Brilliant Bulk-Buy Items on Amazon
13 Brilliant Bulk-Buy Items on Amazon

Every household should have these products on hand. Buying them in bulk on Amazon saves you cash.

8 Things You Should Never Put in a Microwave
8 Things You Should Never Put in a Microwave

A microwave can be a busy cook’s best friend. But heating certain things in a microwave can cause disaster.

10 Products That Will Help You Save Money
10 Products That Will Help You Save Money

Sometimes, spending a little cash right now can save you a lot of money down the road.

5 Secrets of Seniors Who Keep Their Minds ‘Young’
5 Secrets of Seniors Who Keep Their Minds ‘Young’

Here is why some seniors’ brains work as well as those of people who are decades younger.

The 3 Biggest Regrets of Retirees — and How to Avoid Them
The 3 Biggest Regrets of Retirees — and How to Avoid Them

Rescuing a retirement from regret starts with these steps well before it’s time to quit working.

View this page without ads

Help us produce more money-saving articles and videos by subscribing to a membership.

Get Started

Most Popular
7 Kirkland Signature Items to Avoid at Costco
7 Kirkland Signature Items to Avoid at Costco

Even if it seems you save a bundle buying Costco’s Kirkland Signature brand products, they may not be the bargain they appear to be.

8 Tips for Retiring Comfortably on Social Security Alone
8 Tips for Retiring Comfortably on Social Security Alone

It’s never too early to start learning how to live well while living on less.

Am I Eligible for My Mother’s Social Security Benefit?
Am I Eligible for My Mother’s Social Security Benefit?

Can an adult daughter tap into her late mother’s benefit?

The Next 5 Groups Who Will Get the COVID-19 Vaccine
The Next 5 Groups Who Will Get the COVID-19 Vaccine

The CDC has unveiled a schedule that likely will determine who gets the next doses.

11 Generic Products You Should Buy at Costco
11 Generic Products You Should Buy at Costco

Not all generics are worthwhile, but these are among the best from Costco’s Kirkland Signature brand.

9 Things You’ll Never See at Costco Again
9 Things You’ll Never See at Costco Again

The warehouse store offers an enormous selection, but these products aren’t coming back.

3 Ways to Get Microsoft Office for Free
3 Ways to Get Microsoft Office for Free

With a little ingenuity, you can cut Office costs to zero.

This Surprise Factor Can Raise Your Risk of Dementia
This Surprise Factor Can Raise Your Risk of Dementia

Nearly half of U.S. residents may face this threat.

Organize Your Home With These 10 Thrift Store Finds
Organize Your Home With These 10 Thrift Store Finds

Resolve to be clutter-free in 2021 with these secondhand purchases.

This Gas Station Scam Is Victimizing More Drivers
This Gas Station Scam Is Victimizing More Drivers

For the second straight year, a growing number of Americans believe they’ve fallen prey to this scam.

11 Laws You Could Be Breaking Without Knowing It
11 Laws You Could Be Breaking Without Knowing It

Seriously? Fibbing about the weather is a crime? This and other little-known legal traps await the unwary.

These Are the 3 Best Used Cars You Can Buy
These Are the 3 Best Used Cars You Can Buy

These vehicles boast reliability, safety and long-lasting value.

6 Legal Documents Retirees Need — but Don’t Have
6 Legal Documents Retirees Need — but Don’t Have

Few retirees have all of these documents that are crucial to their golden years — especially during a pandemic.

13 Things Seniors Can Get for Free — or Almost Free
13 Things Seniors Can Get for Free — or Almost Free

There are many ways to get cheap or free services and goods after reaching a certain age.

Internet Providers Can’t Charge You for This Anymore
Internet Providers Can’t Charge You for This Anymore

Starting this month, your ISP no longer can bill you for this fee.

Can a Divorced Widow Claim Her First Husband’s Social Security Benefits?
Can a Divorced Widow Claim Her First Husband’s Social Security Benefits?

The rules are complicated when it comes to eligibility for survivors benefits.

9 Small Expenses That Are Bleeding Your Budget Dry
9 Small Expenses That Are Bleeding Your Budget Dry

Keep more of future paychecks by eliminating these budget-busting unnecessary expenses.

15 Painless Ways You Can Cut Costs in 2021
15 Painless Ways You Can Cut Costs in 2021

Follow these tips to save, so you’ll have money for things that really matter.

11 Huge Retirement Costs That Are Often Overlooked
11 Huge Retirement Costs That Are Often Overlooked

Does your retirement budget account for all of these costs?

View More Articles

View this page without ads

Help us produce more money-saving articles and videos by subscribing to a membership.

Get Started

Add a Comment

Our Policy: We welcome relevant and respectful comments in order to foster healthy and informative discussions. All other comments may be removed. Comments with links are automatically held for moderation.