If you reach financial independence in Australia you’re going to have some some weird and unexpected encounters with your fellow Aussies. A lot of it comes down to our culture, education and the value systems we grew up with. Here’s what to expect and how to navigate the oddities.
Why financial independence in Australia is totally weird
I’ve always been a black sheep of sorts. A contrarian thinker and do-er. So a little weirdness goes with my mojo. But if you’re an Australian working your way to financial independence, you many not be ready for what’s ahead.
Here’s a light-hearted journey through some of the oddness we’ve experienced since quitting well paying jobs to do more of what we want in life. 6 reasons FI in Australia is pretty damn weird:
1. You’re almost un-Australian
“So what do you do for a living?”
Work is a gigantic part of our identity and sense of self in Australia.
If you meet any Aussie in a social context expect to be asked what you do for a living. Usually, within the first 3 minutes.
If you’re financially independent, this can be a conversation killer.
Seriously, what do you say?
Expect raised eyebrows if you’re under 60 year old.
The truth is I’m not retired – I just do a different type of work. And besides, I’m not old enough yet to be retired.
“I’m financially independent…”
Cue… ‘Well, what exactly is that Ms hoity-toity high and mighty?‘
Get ready for glazed eyes and distant looks if you open your mouth to explain…
2. Ohh, you mean you’re a bludger…
It’s weird, but if you don’t have a job in Australia people assume that you’re poor or on the dole. A bludger in the local lingo. Unconscious bias or not, you might find that people look at you and treat you differently because of that.
Expect the judgy-mcjudge faces to come out.
IRL financial independence is the opposite of this. It’s you taking the ultimate responsibility for your own financial wellbeing, so the government doesn’t have to look after you. Financial independence flips on its head the widespread Australian cultural myth that it’s the government’s job to rescue us, many times from our own decisions and choices.
Forget trying to explain this around the backyard barbecue tho. Just ignore the furtive glances and dig into your free lamb chops. Yum.
3. You’re definitely less relatable
What proportion of the Australian population is financially independent? I’d love to know the answer. I don’t, sorry.
What I do know is that I’ve never met in person anyone else in my age bracket or social circles who is. I’m not saying they don’t exist. Just that they’re rare.
The reality is your ‘tribe’ becomes smaller when you make the transition to financial independence in Australia. You may just find that people don’t relate to you as easily because they don’t understand your lifestyle or your choices. Barbecue conversations centred on work gossip and industry chit chat become foreign territory.
Financial independence is a different way of thinking than the mainstream. It can be a chasm too far to cross around the barbie or other social situations.
4. General social life weirdness
Expect your social life to take some weird twists and turns once you exit the workforce.
Forming social connections outside of work takes work. There are no protocols in place, like after work drinks or birthday morning teas, to meet people, network and become friends. There’s no team bonding, ‘us against the world’ kind of culture. There’s no driver to network.
When work life is no longer your social life, how do you make friends and connect with people?
Not the questions you thought you’d be contemplating with your new found financial independence, but seriously have a think about it.
I’ve made a lot of friends chatting over the front fence of our new home in rural Tasmania. That was unexpected and it’s been kinda fun.
How are you going to build your social networks when you’re financially free?
5. Your calendar is wide open
It sounds simple until you really think about it. When you’re financially free and don’t have to work for someone else anymore, your entire day is up to you! There’s no-one telling you what to spend your day on.
While the thought of this drives a lot of people to want financial independence, the whole concept of filling your own day every day can be a bit bizarre at first. Especially if you’ve worked a job your whole adult life.
What’s also odd is that all of your existing mates or friends are at work! So you can’t rely on them to keep you amused.
What to do, what to do?
This honestly probably scares a lot of people out of quitting their jobs, even though they have the finances to do it.
But we are here to say the world is diverse and so are your interest! You just have to form them again! In a world where the majority of folks commit 70% of their daylight hours each week to work, it’s easy loose sight of our interests and personal pursuits.
Financial independence is weird because it makes you think differently about your day, your week and what the rest of your life will hold. Get creative!
6. The ‘tall poppy’ takedown
If you haven’t heard of this, Tall Poppy Syndrome is an unfortunate part of the Australian psyche.
Google defines it as “a perceived tendency to discredit or disparage those who have achieved notable wealth or prominence.” It’s generally a tendency to cut people down for your achievements.
It’s a weird part of our culture and massive backfire to our collective success down under, but we do it anyway.
If you’re financially independent, there are times you’ll be a target, from friends, family, randoms, and particularly trolls online. It’s a hole bunch of crazy, but we’ve certainly come across it. So you can understand it and be prepared – here’s an article about how to deal with tall poppy syndrome.
How to navigate the oddities of financial independence in Australia
Here’s what we’ve learned to help navigate the weirdness that comes with attaining financial independence. No one really shares this perspective, so we hope it helps with your transition when you do get there.
Get ready for the questions!
“So, what do you do for a living?”….You’re going to get this question so best prepare for it. Think of all of the random forms you need to fill out in your everyday life that ask you about your current employment. What are you going to say?
If you’re like me it’s hard, after a great career, to swallow the words ‘I don’t work’ or ‘I’m retired’. We Australians are simply pre-programmed to equate not working with failure. And it’s simply not true. I’m as busy today as I was on an average work day. I’m just busy doing things I want to do! I still create jobs, help grow the economy and pay my taxes. I’m still a useful member of society, just not in the way most people are used to.
Here are some suggestions that I use when people ask me what I do:
- “We’re self employed”
- “I quit the workforce to work for myself”
- “We’re full time investors”
- “I work online”
What answer is going to work for you, when you no longer work for someone else?
Revive your creative interests!
I’m a learner. I love learning anew and I love sharing what I’ve learned. I’ll talk your ear off about all of the cool things I’ve taught myself since reaching financial independence – things I never thought I could ever do!
I’ve plumbed a water tank. I’ve built a wood stack. I’ve built bookshelves and grown a garden full of fresh food. I’ve up-cycled numerous bits of furniture into beautiful new additions to our home.
I’ve built this website, from zero prior knowledge!
Write down everything you used to love as a child, when you were single, or before you had kids.
What jumps out at you?
Seek out ‘your people’
If your friends are at work 5 days a week, you might need to find a new tribe in alternative places. That’s ok!
So where can you look? Online!
Facebook groups can point you to local community pages where you’ll meet great people. You can also find other FI enthusiasts in these groups – you may find some of these are your people.
Twitter. We’ve found loads of people with similar interest on Twitter. We don’t meet up with them IRL but we do follow them and chit chat on the blue bird.
Forums. There are a tonne of online forums covering some whacky topics you wouldn’t even believe. Get on, join in, contribute.
Online communities. These pop up like parsley in our veggie garden on apps like Discord and Clubhouse. They are a great place to meet people and find your tribe.
Be open to new experiences
This sounds weird but when you get to financial independence, learn to say yes more than you say no.
I’m an introvert. Now I chit chat to random tourists who pull up at our front fence to take photos of our novelty letterbox and wild Tasmania views.
I’m a highly educated, multi-lingual, ex-diplomat, white collar professional. From time to time chew the cud with local farmers and wonder through neighbouring paddocks helping to stack hay.
Lay your biases to rest. Let go of any preconceived notions of who you are or who you think you need to be.
Instead, open your eyes to new world views and new kinds of people. Do different on purpose.
I promise this will enrich your life in ways you don’t expect.
Plan your purpose
While you build towards financial independence, think about what your purpose is in life. What drives you? Exactly what do you enjoy? What gets you excited to wake up in the morning. Is there a topic you inevitably stray to when talking to friends about over drinks at night? What do you want to contribute in life?
Work this out before you quit the rat race, and then write it down.
Not only will it help you make the leap to financial independence, but it will soften the landing when you do get there. It will help smooth out the weirdness, fill you calendar and give your new social life some direction.
The point of this post is to highlight the culture shock you’re going to feel when you reach financial independence in Australia, and spend a bit of time there. Life is just a bit different on this side of the fence. We hope this helps prepare you for the transition. And for those fearful to make the jump, we hope it can alleviate those fears. After all, time is your true wealth. When you work out what you want to do with yours, it’s all riches from there!