Thursday, March 15, 2012

You'll have three kids and the twins were born disabled, your spouse will die in a car crash and you'll be too injured to go back to work...

...oh, and you'll still have the mortgage to pay off. How much money will you need to get by in this scenario without having to turn the kids over to the state? $700,000? $300,000? Less?

Sounds ridiculous, huh? Actually, it sounds like tonight's dinner conversation topic: life insurance.

There seems to be a lot of chat this week about the idea of 'professional minimalism,' which in some ways I prefer to think of as 'extreme minimalism.' While we're all defining our own brand of minimalism, I thought I'd dive in. Sorry folks, no reckoning today.

I've read a lot of books about minimalism to understand life beyond the hoard. There are stacks of books and websites written by minimalists who are true anti-hoarders. They've ditched it all in favor of a bedroll, a rucksack, a passport, and a modest bank account. Look, they say, here is the life you're not living because you're chained to your job!

"Ditch your job and pursue your passions" minimalism would probably also make me very happy. That is, until something went wrong.

In the long-term, how many of us can be extreme minimalists and can realistically afford to quit our day-jobs to pursue what we love? Maybe you can and that's fantastic. But I think you can still be a minimalist and spend 8 hours a day at a job that maybe isn't your calling or your mission in life.

Why? Because minimalists with plain vanilla jobs *are* pursing their passions. Our primary passions are our safety and security instead of travel or writing, or whatever. Once we're safe and secure, we can devote the rest of ourselves to writing, music, travel, etc.

How does a full-time job (pick a job, any job) give me that safety and security?

I need health insurance, which is pricey and hard to get (or pay for) in the US if you're not employed full-time. This insurance pays for the surgeries that have kept my vision intact for the last 15 years and will keep my eyes in good shape hopefully for the next 15. It also pays for the hospital in case I get hit by a car and need tens of thousands of dollars in treatment and rehab.

I need life insurance (courtesy of my paycheck), which will help me pay for the condo in case my husband is killed and I'm too disabled to work and I can't sell the condo quickly.

I need to keep up my job skills to support myself on my own if I have to. I watched a woman very close to me stay in an abusive marriage because she'd let her job skills lapse. Without those skills she couldn't get a job that would support her and all of her kids. Unfortunately, she was too emotionally beaten down to think she could get retrained for a job that would support three people. So she stayed. So did the scars on her kids' bodies and minds.

Do I enjoy my job? Absolutely. Is it my calling? Not exactly. But protecting myself and those I love is a calling for me.

Minimalism espouses the idea that money can't buy happiness. That's true.

But it sure buys you the kind of misery you can live with.

*rant over*
Thanks for reading!


  1. Minimalism for me isn't about quitting my job. I've always taken care of myself and always want to be able to. There are way too many people in my family who rely on others to bail them out of tight spots and I don't ever want to be like that. Minimalism for me is giving myself more freedom. I don't love what I do, but I do love that I can do it from home and it gives me the freedom to live wherever I want. Everything's a trade-off in life. BTW - Health ins is pricey even if you are employed full-time. I pay a ridiculous amount and it is through my employer. *sigh* I debate constantly over dropping it and stashing the cash. When I think about how much I've pd out over the yrs and how little they've pd...

    1. Karen, you're absolutely right that health insurance is pricey for most even with a full-time job. I've been blinded by the fact that I've worked my entire adult life in a field that has what many call lousy pay, but has always provided affordable health insurance options. I think I'll change my post to reflect that. Thank you for the comment!

  2. I think we can all define minimalism however we like. Why do the couch-surfers get to make the rules? :)

    Minimalism, for me, means living and earning in a way to fulfill basic needs and a few modest wants, to get out of debt and stay out, and not to burden anyone else with our junk or our bills when we are gone. That may not match other peoples' definitions, but I don't worry about that.

    I love your conclusion in the last two lines!

  3. I definitely DO NOT think that everyone should quit their job and run around the world. What minimalism allows us, is to be content with one salary, and for my husband to work less too.
    Besides, I think there is integrity in working an "honest" job, to make a living. Just as long as you are not completely miserable in it. I have great respect for the people who make this world run smoother, the nurses, bus drivers, waitresses. Not everyone has a passion they can turn into a job. And often if you have a passion and try to turn it into a profitable career, the passion vanishes and you still left with -just a job.

    1. Exactly! Not many people in the world would want to be garbagemen or embalmers, etc., but we need people who do those jobs. I admire the people who can't turn their passions into a job, but are able to get out from under the other things in their lives (be it clutter, guilt, debt, etc.) to follow their passions as much as possible in their spare time. They're the ones I want to be like, not the extreme minimalists.

  4. I could not agree more! I think it's naive to think one's passions can and should be turned into a lucrative career. What if passion in your career doesn't matter? What if you have enough passion in your relationships or outside activities that having a "good enough" job works for you? I'm so glad you've found a good balance!

    P.S. I think I commented the other day but forgot to do the captcha. Oops!


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