The Myth of Financial Independence and The Reality of Commercial Interdependence

We’ve all been in a financially dependent situation, especially during our younger years. It’s when we relied on others to provide for us financially. This included meeting our physical and educational needs. All of us relied on our parents or the state to provide for us and it was most likely a mixture of both. In many developed countries, education is considered a public good and it is one that is provided by the state. Education takes up a sizeable portion of one’s time and energy till one becomes an adult.

Even when we become financially independent, we remain financially dependent on others in one form or another. Even when you possess a job that provides for you so that you can provide for yourself–you are still relying on your employer to provide for you in exchange for services rendered. Financial dependence is a tricky topic because we all have to depend on each other to provide.

Think about a newborn. He relies on his mother for milk. As time goes on, his needs grow more complex–and he can no longer rely solely on his mother to provide for him. Humans require decades of development before they become financially independent. It is a reality of life.

For women, in particular, the decision to have children could return them to what is usually called ‘a dependent status’. In these situations, we erroneously conclude that the husband is the primary provider in the relationship. But if we look more closely, we’ll see that it is the woman who is providing for the child or children–which makes the label of ‘financial dependent’ far more complex than what it seems.

Unless a child is enrolled in a private school, it is the state that funds the child’s educational needs up until a certain point. The parents’ contribution, especially as it pertains to education, is generally limited in scope and in nature.

Financial dependence is a state of being where a person is wholly maintained financially by another person. When financial boundaries are unclear, people feel under appreciated and over used. Over time, the provider can even harbour feelings of resentment; especially when they have to jeopardise their own livelihood to support someone else indefinitely. The provider may feel entitled to a sense of gratitude. They may feel the surmounting pressure to provide for things they cannot afford or that will put them in debt.

Regardless of the age of the individual, financially dependent people often avoid undertaking tasks or endeavours they find unpleasant or uninteresting because they do not believe that they have to create their own income to help pay the bills. As a result, they end up focusing their lives entirely on pleasure-seeking. They may not realise they are limiting their life experiences and their financial growth potential; while at the same time putting a financial and emotional burden on the primary provider.

To a psychologist, this sense of entitlement is usually a cover for deep feelings of inadequacy. To a pragmatist, the problem lies in education: an individual has not developed the skills and the know-how necessary to become financially independent in a way that is fruitful. To a realist, the answer is somewhere in between.

We are all inadequate in someway. That’s why we need one another. Imagine running a business and having to do everything by yourself. And I do mean, everything.

Imagine you sold apple pies. To do this business on your own, you have to grow the apples yourself, cut it yourself, bake it yourself, market it yourself and sell it yourself. But that’s not how the world works. We usually find a supplier for apples. We hire someone to cut and bake the pie. We may focus on just selling the pie. Or we could just come up with a killer recipe and leave the rest to someone else.

But when we talk about financial dependence, we’re not referring to diligent delegation. We’re talking about that person who wants the apples for free.

Which leads me to my next point: in addition to education, there is also a need for gainful employment. Ideally, the education system and employment system should work together to ensure that the most qualified and capable person would get the job.

It is generally not a good idea to go “cold turkey” and cut off funds to someone who has become dependent on those funds for their livelihood. Imagine if the state were to wake up one day and tell everyone to fund their own education in its entirety. There would be widespread chaos. It is also likely to cause severe problems in society at large.

Rather than just turning off the tap, financial advisors generally recommend that the flow be diminished over time by creating a transition plan that can lead to financial independence.

Financial independence is not a state where we are alone; but rather, a state where we can function as a productive unit of an interconnected whole.


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