The Richest Man in America

Recommended article – The debit account switch plan

Soft White Underbelly is a great YouTube channel that offers fascinating insights into the lives of people on the fringes of society.

Whether an addict, escort, ex-prisoner, or homeless person, these one-on-one sessions provide honest and open discussions with the host of the show, Mark.

One of these is Deke who described himself as a ‘drifter’, or ‘traveller’.

He’s never had a credit card or mortgage, and never bought into the conventional way of living.

He wakes up each day with no regrets. No ifs, buts or maybes about what could have been had he chosen this and that path.

But despite this he says he’s never been happier than travelling the country, living on the road with his little furry friends.

This lifestyle was a choice; for the most part he’s avoided drugs and alcohol, both of which had no influence on his living situation.

He doesn’t have much money, but then again he doesn’t need much money to get by. In his world, he’s rich because he fulfils his needs and lives the life he wants to live.

Take a look at the full video…


What it means to be rich

It’s an enlightening interview, and got me rethinking about an old post on what it means to be rich.

We may feel societal pressures on what it means to be successful and happy and judge ourselves against these metrics.

But these are often blanket expectations where one person’s success and happiness is not equal to another’s.

During the interview he states that “walking makes me happy, it’s the one thing that makes me happy”. And without any commitments holding him down, he can do this for nothing all day everyday. If this isn’t time rich and happiness rich, I don’t know what is.

The only reason someone might say this isn’t him being rich is because it doesn’t align with their idea of what it means to be rich. And that’s ok, because wealth is subjective and comes in many forms.

So before judging someone’s lifestyle, and assuming they’re ‘doing it wrong’ because they’re not living how we expect them to live, we need to try and take a step back and look at their current and past self as a whole rather than the (often biased, blinkered and limited) snapshot of them we are privy to.

Deke’s disconnect

Deke has managed to completely disconnect from standard convention telling him what he should be striving for, and how he should be constantly struggling and grafting for the next best thing. He’s happy to forgo regular comforts to live in the moment and not be bogged down by material possessions.

It might be incredibly unconventional, and not work for 99% of people (myself included), but I have to admire the ability to completely detach from societal expectations and live the way he wants.

FI is usually used as a faux-suffix at the end of the descriptor for the type of FIRE someone is aiming for. But the ‘F’ in FI seems to assume independence can only be viewed through a financial lens.

When FI is all about escaping the rat race and realising your happiness away from the burden of employment, it’s quite limiting to only ever focus on the financial element – at least in the journey towards achieving independence.

In effect, we could say Deke is CoastHi or DrifterHi (Happiness Independent). His happiness isn’t dependent on some arbitrary metric of success based on what your company may determine for you, or whether he’s able to upgrade to a larger house. His happiness is as independent from external forces as you could get.

We might scoff at his way of life, but he’s achieved a level of happiness and mental stability that many on the road to ‘F’..I could only dream of.

After all, does it matter what you’re doing or where you live as long as you’re doing it all legally, not hurting anyone and are happy? What else is there after these things have been achieved?

Is he just avoiding responsibility? Sure, maybe – he even admits this – but if he has no one depending on him, does this even matter?

His lifestyle is far from anything I could adopt, or would want to for that matter. But in an age of hyper-consumption, social pressures for ‘bigger’ and ‘better’, and an unhealthy fascination with meaningless materialism, I’d argue someone in Deke’s position is richer than many of us whether we want to admit it or not.


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