I am part of a generation of people who grew up with certain fads, trends and slang that—back in the day—seemed timely. Each generation develops its own fads that sometimes look silly when we remember that era. Heck, I remember begging my mother to let me get bell-bottoms jeans, since they were what all the cool kids wore at school. I was a young child in the sixties and had influences including rock and roll (now called “classic rock”), President Kennedy, the Apollo missions, and of course the Vietnam War. Those history-making events had an impact on people in the 60s and are still part of our culture today. The term “The Man” has been around for a century, but really came to the fore in the 1960s.
Originally, the term “The Man” referred to the government oppressing citizens through various means. This could include laws, regulations, taxation, or brute force through police and National Guard actions. A prime example is Governor Jim Rhodes of Ohio sending the National Guard to Kent State in May of 1970 to break up a massive Vietnam War demonstration. The Neil Young song inspired by this event, “Four Dead in Ohio,” brings tears to my eyes every time I hear it.
A final definition could also involve someone who excels at a task, sport, or work. Certainly you have heard “You da man!” This is an endearing term meant to give praise to a person. (BTW, the person doesn’t actually have to be a man.)
Who is “The Man” today?
Let’s approach “The Man” from the perspective of having to work for a boss—we all have one if we are employed. A broader definition for our purposes could include the company where we work. Since this is a personal finance blog and I like discussing financial independence and early retirement (FIRE), my focus will be how to stop working for The Man (our employers) ASAP.
This person could also be “The Man.”
We are an equal opportunity blog at JustOneMoreYear.com. “The Man” does not have to be of the male gender. However, you hardly ever hear the statement “Working for The Woman.” For the sake of blurring the gender lines, let’s refer to “The Man” as the boss or the company!
Working for “The Man”
I think the entire concept of working for another is fraught with problems. You have to adjust your work ethic and role to carry out someone else’s plan. Sure, you get a steady paycheck, which works well for us in funding our retirement. “The Man” could be your direct boss or the person several levels above, who has his or her own idea of how things should run in the organization. You are expected to accomplish your assigned tasks with the reward being a paycheck.
“You know what, you did the work, and we paid you for it. We’re even, the company does not owe you anything.” –Norm, a friend and former co-worker & boss whom I highly respect
Of course, we have the corporate HR/marketing/senior management teams rolling out the new plans each year. Evidently, last year’s plan is now antiquated or the management team has rotated again and is attempting to put its mark on the organization by changing everything it can.
“Everyone is just carrying out someone else’s orders.” Paraphrased from The Grapes of Wrath.
In order to stay in line with all our other work soldiers, you can’t cause waves or ask too many questions. Asking why you should do illogical and useless tasks for no measurable result is an excellent way to get on the naughty list or sent to the principal’s office. Those are definitely CLMs (Career Limiting Moves) you are making. Bad worker, stop that now!
Is it helpful to have a plan to stop working for “The Man?”
I remember reading working for The Man should be a last resort and an interview with The Man by David at Raptitude.com some time back. This notion about working for The Man has stayed with me since that I read those articles.
Do you have a plan to stop working? I know many of my fellow bloggers and commenters do. It certainly is better to put into action a plan for achieving financial independence, therefore eliminating the need for continued work. Please don’t let your plan be based on the lottery, an inheritance, or other chance events.
It really comes down to setting some goals, saving money, and building a passive income stream that can support your lifestyle. The bigger the lifestyle, the bigger the income stream needs to be to sustain it. We receive a double benefit by living frugally now, making a nest egg easier to fund.
Creating measurable goals that include saving a majority of your income while investing that into an income-producing asset is the path the majority have taken to leave “The Man” behind. I found out a long time ago that working for The Man—without one’s own side gig—makes it difficult to retire early unless you spend very little of your income. Saving nearly all your money makes you strange and weird to your peers and is difficult for the majority of us to accomplish.
You are going to need a side gig to build your income and provide future sustainable cash flow. Start thinking in terms of working 60 hours a week or more for an extended time. Real estate worked for us; something else may work better for you.
Here are some great articles that describe steps others have taken toward gaining financial independence:
ThinkSaveRetire “Our Next Life series”
Retireby40 “7 Phases of Retirement”
Mr. Mustache “The Shockingly Simple Math Behind Early Retirement”
Honorable mention: “7 Steps to reach FI & Retirement”
It is a matter of motivation, and how fed up with The Man you are, that makes a difference
Does your current work environment feel like you are the frog that was placed into boiling water? Or has the water begun to boil without your awareness? I think that, for many, when a work place is toxic, it is a simple process of deciding WHEN to leave for other work. We are motivated to find another job quickly.
In the other scenario, when the water slowly heats up, you find yourself 15 years later working for an employer that is not a good fit. Now you are faced with a decision about having to start over with a new company—starting at the bottom of the vacation list, as the new person in the pecking order. Maybe the existing company isn’t that bad after all and the next five or 10 years will pass quickly. Have we been saving and investing all those years?
The common thread through both scenarios is what we do outside of work. The solution is simple: Save all we can and invest the difference. Either way, one of these days we will not be working and we will need a sustainable income. Will it be your choice or your employer’s as to when you stop working at your current job? If you didn’t plan, who knows? If you did plan, you can make the choice to work or leave.
The Man won’t go away until you have the ability to leave him.
A simple question: Do you have a plan to generate a nest egg outside of your employer’s paycheck?