Checkmate is a position that you may find yourself in even in you never play chess. You may also find yourself in a stalemated position or you may repeat your own sequence of actions many times without improving your position in life. Checkmate happens in life when you have lost power over your future; stalemate happens when you cannot increase your power; repetition happens when you don’t have a plan and you keep on spending your money on the same things. Of course, we don’t want to be kings and we don’t want to destroy our opponents in the game of life. Yet we do want to be like the pawn: a frail character that becomes more powerful after completing a long journey. For many of us that means finding work, saving and investing money, avoiding the threats to our progress, and making a plan for our later life. Going into the future without a plan can be as scary as walking through the countryside at night without a torch.
As in chess, the secret to avoiding checkmate is to have a plan. If you do not have a plan for your money right now you should definitely work on it. Do you have a pension? Do you know how to invest? Have you thought about how you can improve your qualifications so that you can secure a better job? Likewise, failing to plan can lead to a moment of dread in which you realise that you are facing a financial problem but you have insufficient resources to block or fix the problem and you cannot escape from it. This experience can be traumatising and the worry about experiencing it in the future can negatively affect your mental health in the present.
Interestingly, Robert Greene listed planning among his 48 Laws of Power and he likened the plan for life to a military strategy. Greene’s advice was that one should concentrate one’s forces on one thing at a time because ‘intensity defeats extensity every time’. In other words, it is better to be make excellent financial gains in one thing than to make modest gains in many things. In our context, that of seeking financial independence, the ‘intensity’ that Greene lauded could mean that it is wise to focus all of your energy on passing the MRCP exams, or on increasing your passive income, or on reducing your expenditure, or on any other action that will benefit your financial situation in the future. I do not imagine that all of the medics who read this blog will have the time in the short-term to read everything that is relevant to their various investment opportunities. However, it is important to be intensive in finding out any relevant information if one is serious about investing money. For many, the investments may seem like a pipe dream and, in that case, they should focus on improving their career through gaining promotions and increasing their salary. Additionally, they should focus on understanding their own budget and reducing their expenditure. Bringing in more money from multiple income streams would be a pyrrhic victory if your career becomes less profitable or if you lose your job.
Moreover, Greene emphasised the importance of long-term planning so that one will not be ‘overwhelmed by circumstances’ and will ‘know when to stop’ which highlights the importance of understanding how much money you really need to be satisfied. It is highly unlikely that I will become as rich as Donald Trump Jr. or anyone else who was born into a highly successful family. But even Trump Jr. will surely have a long-term plan for his own future since money is a finite resource and it can be frittered away on pleasures and high-value goods. Indeed, I admire the rich heirs of the wealthy for their intensity in maintaining and improving their financial situation. They were not guaranteed success in life. Fire begets ash; rich people can produce vain and ineffectual offspring. Yet their plans for making money are effective and buttress them from the circumstances that could otherwise hurt them. You may not want to be one of the wealthy elite but you need to know what you do want and how you can plan to get it so that you can retire and relax when you do attain enough money.
Alternatively, it is also possible to improve your financial prospects without having a plan in place by being an opportunist and taking advantage of the changing realities of the world. An opportunist looks at what is available and pays for what is of good value right now. For instance, an opportunist who is interested in a holiday may look into the exchange rates of different currencies and the changing political situation to decide where he or she will visit (I hear that Hungary is good just now for British holiday-makers). In the Internet age this is what most people do when they have to make a significant purchase. It is the reason why price comparison websites exist and it is an excellent idea to check such websites for cheaper holiday deals or for specific services or goods that you require such as a new car. An opportunist would also have an understanding of the particular tax and savings laws in his or her country and he or she would pay attention to the changes in the legislation to make profits.
The tax situation has been explored by Rory. I will perhaps look into the comparison websites in more detail in future. However, we both urge you to make a plan for your financial future and plan for your early retirement.