Oh no, here we go again… Another click-bait title. After that vegan piece you probably don’t feel like reading this. I get you. I feel the same. Too bad, you’re here now.
However, this is a serious question I’m asking you. Now before you remind me that slavery has been abolished a couple of years back, let me tell you a story.
Sit back. Relax. Make yourself a nice cup of hot tea. Maybe some Sencha tea or some gunpowder green tea. Whatever enlightens your day. Let it infuse 3 to 5 minutes at 70-80 °C and close your eyes. Take some deep breaths and put aside your reality and who you are. I’m giving you a new personality.
Imagine you’re this young little Asian girl, Yu Yan, born in Nashville, Tennessee. The state that has more than 3,800 documented caves and birthplace of Miley Cyrus. You’re 16 and your parents are asking you to pick which college you’d like to attend. Being born from an immigrated family, your parents always put a lot of value on hard work. “College will open many doors, you’ll see”. Maybe you could become a doctor? Or a banker? Your parents have big dreams for you. They believe that if you go to college you’ll have a nice and happy life. You won’t have to worry about anything. You’ll be able to max out your 401(k) and retire on a nice income at age 65. Lucky you. Now again, you’re this 16 year old girl and you don’t want to disappoint your parents. After all they have sacrificed a lot for you. Your dad was not around much, but that’s because he was saving for you to be able to go to college. You’ll probably end up going for a finance degree, even though, deep down, you wanted to become an artist and pursue your passion for drawing. But as your parents told you many times, drawing is a hobby and won’t provide food for your family. You need to be serious about life and the future.
And since they are your parents, they’re probably right.
Fast forward a couple of years. You graduate from college. Not an Ivy League school, but a well respected community college. In your hand you hold a fancy piece of paper. Your degree.
Adult life begins. Your bank account displays: -$56,000. It’s fine. According to the plan laid out by your parents and society, you should be able to reimburse it in 10 years give or take.
Ok let’s take a short brake now. Your tea is getting cold. Have a sip of your fine tea. So far, it’s going well. You graduated from college. You made your parents proud. Now time to enter the corporate world.
Close your eyes again and please don’t fall asleep (hence me wanting you to drink tea).
You graduated two weeks ago. You went on a short vacation to Cancun, to
celebrate get drunk. Now your objective is to apply for a job. What do you do with a finance degree? Wall Street baby! You write your resume, your best cover letter and start sending your application to top firms. JP Morgans, Citibank, Goldman Sachs, Morgan Stanley… After the big banks, you send it to many more investment firms out there. Out of the 88 (lucky number) applications you’ve sent you’re confident to lend a job pretty quickly.
A month later, out of the 88 applications you got 32 rejections and 1 potential call with a lesser known firm. Your enthusiasm dissipates. You start to think that you should maybe not aim so high and start at a more junior position and work your way up. You check your bank account. -$58,344. It’s really time to get a job. The call is tomorrow. Stress is building up.
Next day, 10:56. 4 minutes till your call. You’re sweating like crazy. This is your one shot. Your only option. You have your parents in mind. They love you. You don’t want to disappoint them.
Luckily for you, the call went well. They’ll update you by the end of the week. They asked you for a salary expectation. Since it’s your only option you went with a low offer. $32,000 + benefits. You could barely survive with this in New York and you know it. But you’re still confident that after a year or two you’ll get a raise. Maybe you’ll be able to get a better job with the experience. It’s not so bad after all.
Good news. They decided to hire you. You have 2 weeks to move to New York. Welcome Big Apple. The city where dreams come true.
Your first day is tomorrow. You found a place in Brooklyn, 1 hour and 35 minutes away from your work as you have to change subway lines at the Atlantic Terminal stop. You’re pretty far out, but New York City is expensive. You share your flat with 4 other roommates. They all have big hopes as well. Think about it. You’re in New York. You got a job. And in 45 years, with the compound interests, you’ll retire with 1.3 Million dollars! The future is bright. You just need to hustle a bit and keep the end goal in mind.
First day. Your boss is an a**hole and hates women. You’re the only woman in the office. And you’re Asian. Things might not be so easy for you after all. But you still sign the contract. $32,000 + benefits. 15 days of vacation. A 2% annual salary increase. And 39 hours work weeks (which in reality is more like 56). In 2 years, you’ll apply to work for JP Morgans anyway. You just need to be conscious of your spendings for 2 years. No more avocado toast.
Luckily for you, since you got a job, your bank decides to send you a brand new shiny credit card. You can spend up to $20,000. Yay! The yearly interest rate is 21.26%. Life is beautiful after all. Sunday is now Avocado Toast day.
Now fast forward. You had ups and downs. You were not able to secure another job for 5 years but with some small bonuses here and there and a slightly higher salary you were able to reimburse some of your debt. New balance: -$43,766. You start thinking about acquiring a tiny apartment. You should pay rent towards something you own, that’s what my parents keep telling me. The economy is good. You should be able to get a mortgage easily.
So you go apartment hunting.
Here are your keys. You now own a small 32m² big apartment in Brooklyn (sorry but I just love the metric system, here’s a converter for you). You manage to reduce your commute to 59min. Just a little under an hour. One of your requirements. And no more roommates. Let’s pop the champagne open. $186 on the credit card. Moet & Chandon of course. You have good taste. Your current balance: -$486,433.
You’re living the American dream now. You got a new job at a better firm and were able to negotiate a better salary. $86,000 per annum. Soon you’ll join the 6 figures club. You feel lucky. However, you now work 67 hours per week. And you still have your 15 days vacation per year. But you usually only take a couple of days of for Christmas as it’s not well perceived going on vacation in your firm. And you really want to climb that corporate ladder. If you work hard, you’ll get compensated for it. And you’ll be able to sip as many Martinis as you want when you retire with your 1.3 Million dollars.
Now open your eyes. Take another sip of your delicious tea (I should really make myself some tea as well). Let me ask you something. How did it feel to be Yu Yan. You had downs but in the end things turned out pretty well, no? You own an apartment in New York. You’re a director of something in a reputable financial institution. You made your parents proud. And in theory you’ll be a millionaire at age 69. Yes it will take a bit longer than planned. But you’ll get there. Asians have good genes and tend to have a long life expectancy. You don’t drink coffee. Only tea. Oh and don’t forget those healthy avocado toasts. At $23 a pop, they are the perfect investment towards a longer life.
Sure you work over 60 hours a week. Your dating life is miserable. And you have literally no vacations. But you’ll catch up once you retire. Oh and did I mention that you own the latest iPhone? I knew I forgot something.
See, this is normal, as in THE NORM. I have no f*cking idea how it became normal. But this is normal. Really.
We f*cked up as a society, don’t you think?
If this is not modern slavery, what is it? You give up your life, trading time for digital digits in a bank account. Trying to turn the – into a +. 5 digits into 6. I don’t know about you, but I don’t really like the taste of $100 bills. Even with a nice vinaigrette, it tastes like crap. And colones don’t taste any better. Oh and don’t even think about using it as toilet paper it’s not good either. Single Ply. You’ll end up with the same red ass as my daughter and her nasty nappy rash. Not fun. So why are we looking to accumulate more Benjamins in exchange of time? What are we really looking for?
Freedom. We believe that retiring will gives us freedom. Until then we shall remain modern slaves.
Enjoy your day and your avocado toast.