What's a rat race?

From: C M

Rat Race

My dad once said to me “Life’s a rat race and even if you win in it – you’ll only be the top rat!” I guess I have carried those words around with me all my life and subconsciously have fought against anything that would enter me into the race. It’s only now that I am 35 and feeling ‘older’ that I have had reason to re-think these words.

It seems many other people in this forum, for varying reasons, have had a similar inner resolve to not be in the race, and have seen property as their ‘out’. In several other posts people have spoken about wanting to ‘retire’, ‘stop working’ or ‘getting out of the rat race’. This is all prefaced by, what formula do I follow to work out how many properties do I need, percentage yields, colour of tiles on the roof etc to determine how many years does it take to win?!

My aversion to being part of the masses, of running alongside other rats or even perceiving myself to be potentially near to the rat race has led me to unusual career paths and avoidance of the ‘ordinary’ (whatever that is). I almost stumbled into property and shares in the mid 90’s but soon realised that this may well be my way of permanently ensuring I got ‘out’. I developed my small beginnings to where I am today (slight larger beginnings but still beginnings), and now that I have moved along the path a little it’s led me back to the question – “What is the rat race anyway ?”

It’s funny how we can all use the term but actually it doesn’t mean anything except for what it means to us all individually. My grandmother worked all her life, got a bad super payout, penalised by the govt for having too high a retirement income, so gets no state support and lives on very little. 45 years of work with not much to show. The result? Bewilderingly, she’s happy. She doesn’t own 50 income producing properties, nothing to brag of or show off, yet her life is filled with family that she loves and activities that bring her pleasure. Do I want the same thing for me? NO WAY ….. but maybe I do?

So, what’s my point? I have been fortunate to have been able to live in the UK, USA and now Australia (my newly adopted home, which is as close to heaven as it gets for me). I have travelled the world, seen all the ‘must see’ places, taken the photos and sometimes even bought the t-shirt. I’ve met famous people and celebrities and done many of the things I thought would set me apart from the rat race, and give me a good life. Funny thing is, when you are so doggedly climbing the mountain, certain that the view from the top will be life-changing, it comes as a bit of a shock to realise that the view can be strangely ‘average’. You feel as if you are meant to be more moved, become a ‘better’ person or have an experience never had before.

All sounds a bit gloomy but isn’t meant to be – more an issue of perspective. My feeling from this forum at times, is that it can be so easy to get desperate and feel as if the ends are so important that we HAVE TO HAVE TO do something now. I feel the same thing too. My point is that, if you sit back with yourself and are honest, you may find as I have, that it doesn’t take that much to create happiness and contentment in life. People are what count, who you are to them and what they are to you. Times when you have laughed and struggled together – that’s what makes it all meaningful. For me, it’s not so much about how high a mountain I climb or how many – but who I do it with and who shares the view with me when I am there. Why go up the mountain alone? Financial independence is the means for me and not the ends.

I have properties in the London and Sydney and feel really fortunate to have found a forum like this to share and be encouraged. I hope that I can become a better contributer to this and share in the success of others and learn from you all. I hope in the process, as we become more financially independent, have increasing net worths, better cashflows and can one day go into the boss and say all those things we have wanted to for years, that there is something more meaningful at the end of it all than just a pile of bricks. If my grandmother is anything to go by, If I can gain financial independence AND have contentment and happiness, then I will consider myself the richest person alive.

What a ramble – now back to all the figures, charts and spreadsheets!!!

Thanks for listening – hope it wasn’t too ‘navel gazing’?!
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Reply: 1
From: Alan Hill

Not a ramble at all Clay.

I'm sure the Forum will be all the richer for your participation.


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Reply: 2
From: Kristine .

Hi Clay

Thanks for sharing that with us. Your grandmother is a very wealthy woman, do not underestimate her pride in her own honest achievements.

Perhaps it's worth keeping in mind, that this forum, too, is only one aspect of the contributors' lives.

Just as reading the daily papers, watching TV or patting the cat, logging in to see if anything interesting is happening becomes part of the daily routine.

My husband logs onto various model railway websites daily, the webcam overlooking his native Norwich, and his email accounts. However, this does not mean he obsesses about the weather, although I must admit he is now installing a wall mounted narrow gauge track in the rumpus room!

None of these activities are exclusive to living a generally well rounded life.

Many people do not have anyone to discuss investment with, and so raise their questions here.

As far as the 'rat race' goes, would it not be true to say that most people work honestly and diligently for their daily bread? It is a matter of pride, skill and self respect to contribute to our society through our work.

When Alan Bond's daughter married, I was intrigued by the negative press comments that the wedding was rumoured to have cost over 40,000 pounds.

But Clay! how lovely to have 40,000 pounds to spend on such a happy occasion! To be able to provide work for the florist, the clothiers, the caterers, photographers etc, in other words to be able to pass the good fortune along. This was not money sitting in a box under the bed, but being shared, through work, out into the community.

This is what financial independence, for me, is all about. To have a little slack in the financial rope. To be able to pay my way in society, to provide work for others, to live independently in my old age, and to be able to contribute to causes of charity or topics which interest me.

How lovely to be among the Pratts and the Myers, the Sussan family group, Dick Smith and countless others, who, through their enterprise, provide in a most generous way for those less fortunate in the community, or foster the 'luxuries' of a civilised society such as the performing arts, various scholarships etc Or what about Bill Gates, giving B$170 towards world immunisation programs?

And please note, this is all first generation money, being given away by the people who actually EARNED it!!

Clay, if you think getting out of the 'rat race' is a limited, selfish ambition, think again. The great changes in society across centuries have largely come about by people of vision, who had the intelligence, wit, connectedness and 'wherewithall' to help change come about.

By the sound of your post, you are one of those people. Lift up your eyes towards your own future, seek to understand yourself and your own purposes and motivations. Whatever you are born to do, only you can do, and whatever materials you need will come to you.

And go and give your Gran a warm, fuzzy hug!


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Reply: 2.1
From: C M

The morning after always feels different than the night before doesn’t it? You end up typing a message on a forum and then when you re-read it the next day you think, “Why has someone written that piece using my name!” and you start thumbing through the yellow pages looking for lawyers, plumbers, chiropractors or some other tradesperson (not tradesman by the way) who can fix the massive wrong that has been done to you. As you rub the sleep from your eye, you get that uneasy feeling that, you may be the guilty culprit of aforementioned note written to whoever, and you sheepishly wish there was a delete button that works on posts written 12 hours ago! Sigh – such is the trauma called life!

Thanks for your reply Kristine – I felt like a first-timer at an AA meeting, summoning up the courage to confess myself and be cleansed (no offence meant to those that have attended an AA meeting). At the very least, I should qualify for a spot on Jerry Springer or, if things look up a bit, Oprah and Dr Phil – I sounded very morose and in need of ‘cheering up’. Even though I wasn’t in need of any of this (not yet at least), thanks for a cheery reply anyway Kristine – and so sorry to hear that you are having an extension to the Sydney Train system being placed in your house!

In the light of (a much clearer) day, this was my point about the rat race: the rat race doesn’t exist, except in our own mind. To try and escape it is a self imposed catch 22 in my mind. Some people feel they are in the rat race because they have a boring job, are not paid enough, have to work with an ogre of a boss, hate the industry they are in. We have all felt that way before. But these things we all face are only the rat race if that is what we label it and believe it to be. We then sentence ourselves to be part of it and spend the rest of our lives trying to hatch Steve McQueen like plans to escape it! Life’s too rich to make it so complex….so here’s my mad theory…..

I could believe that because I start off in a position of not owning any properties and not having any huge amounts of capital that this is my sentence in life i.e. I am poor and have no net worth. Even when I was at that stage in life many years ago, I never believed it to be true of me. And that was my reality. And because I believed it not to be true of me I set about (perhaps unknowingly) to live the reality that I wanted.

We could all believe that we are in a rat race because we keep telling ourselves that being in any type of paid employment, by it’s very nature, is the rat race. I think you were alluding to that Krsitine in some of the examples you gave of people that have done great things (Bill Gates, Dick Smith et al). That was my intended point – if we are frustrated in feeling our job is oppressive, to me that’s just a sign that you have the capacity to do more elsewhere and in a different context. There is nothing more rewarding than doing something that you love and getting paid for it – it’s a shame that so few believe that this is a possible scenario. I have heard it quoted that true success is doing what you love and getting paid for it. John McGrath is a great example of this – I heard him speak at a Sydney venue recently and the man lives and breathes real estate and his passion shows. And I get the very strong feeling that he is well paid for his passion and enthusiasm!

So my encouragement to myself and to others who care to read it is that don’t look at the journey between now and financial freedom as having of necessity to be a rat race – it’s only that if you allow yourself to believe it. So endeth the tortured lesson……maybe I will go back to bed for a while and hope I didn’t write this one either. Enjoy your Sunday all – it’s a great day !
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Reply: 3
From: S W

Clay, are you married? I think I'm in love.
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Reply: 2.1.1
From: Sim' Hampel

Clay, first of all an apology... I skipped this thread thinking oh-no, not another "how do I get out of the rat-race" post. I am so glad I went back and read your post and the follow ups.

Thanks for your thoughts, and please never have regrets the next day. If you post what you feel, and read your own writing to yourself several times to make sure you are saying what you meant to say, then it is worth posting. I have certainly appreciated you making the effort to post and to have had the courage to leave it posted ! (pssssst... nobody show him where the delete button is, he doesn't need to know !)

I look forward to hearing more from you.

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Reply: 3.1.1
From: S W

Clay, don't mind Michele, she seems awfully bossy don't you think?
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From: S W

Doh! Drat!
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