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The Backside of the Invisible Hand: Desire & Possessions

[Today’s post is a deviation from investing concepts and explores the power of deliberate spending and saving. If you haven’t yet read the website disclosure statement, you can find it here.]

In the late 1700s, Adam Smith wrote of how the invisible hand was a force for good, driving a productive economy and a fulfilled society. The basic concept maintains that the free-market influences – i.e., supply and demand – inescapably succumb to self-regulation without government intervention. Thus, the laissez-faire creed was coined, and free-market capitalism was born. 

Fast forward 250 years later, and we have arrived. Nearly every person in the developed world has access to wonders that were once unthinkable to Pharaohs or Kings. Clean water with the twist of one’s hand, temperature regulating abodes, pressed gowns, and access to fast transportation – bringing the world to your doorstep. 

Overall, life is good. Not to dismiss the struggles all too many experience – poverty, discrimination, and worse – but the invisible hand has brought prosperity in large as promised through wonders of convenience and life-saving advancements.

However, has it brought fulfillment? 

While the invisible hand has pushed us forward, it secretly has been pulling us back. With a push against one shoulder and a tug on the other, the invisible hand has thrown us into a spiral of unhealthy dizziness. 

Materialism. Overconsumption. Waste. Unfulfillment.

We are encouraged to chase the newest shiny object while the hamster wheel of desire spins. Then, once grasped, you discard the trinket into an ever-growing pile of forgotten curiosities, and it is time for the next one. After all, once you start running, the wheel only spins faster. 

Thus the vicious circle of self-sustaining consumption lives on, enslaving the vast majority of society to an economy puppeteered by the invisible hand. 

On the puppet strings, the phrase “Possessions slowly become the possessor” is woven.

Own a home? You cannot uproot your life; you have a mortgage to pay! Bought that new sports car? While it is the rave of the office, you are bound to the desk by the car payment. Eat out for every meal? You might as well trade your clothes for dishwasher scrubs because you are never leaving the kitchen.

Financial freedom is a dream in the world of materialism. After all, who saves, anyways? 

Admittedly, not many. I continue to see this firsthand through my work in the retirement industry, and statistics back this up. With an average retirement savings of $112,000 in the US, not many can afford to stop working. Because if we crunch the numbers, $112,000 equates to a safe retirement withdrawal rate of $4,480 a year. Can you live on this amount? 

In a developing country, absolutely, in the United States? Probably not. 

While we could delve into what constitutes a living wage, that is not my focus. Instead, I am here to assert that you must control your consumption if you don’t want to become the possession of it.

The only way to break free of the invisible hand’s grasp is by jumping off the perpetual desire wheel. Learn to be deliberate with your spending, and don’t forget to spoil your future self by saving and investing during the present. 

If you attain happiness from an expensive activity, great do it! I am not advocating frugality to the point of deprivation. Instead, spend on what brings you happiness and peace of mind. However, do be mindful of what matters to you and what does not. No one can enjoy everything; it isn’t possible. So, be abundant with desires that add joy while cutting out those that are easily forgotten. 

Concurrently, start investing away for retirement while optimizing what accounts you save in. 15% should be a base target, and if you can save more, great. That only gives you F-You Money to walk away from a toxic job or situation. 

Remember: Money doesn’t buy happiness, but it does get you to a place where you can experience it. The feeling of joy is a conscious decision that you make each day upon waking. No possession or person can provide that for you. It is something you have to realize for yourself. So, enjoy the wonders provided by the invisible hand but cut yourself free of the strings holding you back. Savor the freshly plucked fruit while budgeting your money and ensuring self profitability

The act of deliberate spending and saving is the key to financial freedom, which leads to a genuinely productive economy and a fulfilled society. So share this knowledge, and let’s make the invisible hand entirely a force for good together!


Mile High Finance Guy

finance demystified, one mountain at a time






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