The Alien Mindset of a Fixed Income

One really weird mindset I notice among certain readers looks something like this:

My wife and I are both teachers. Our combined salary is $___. And in about five years, we’ll be earning $___. So based on this, we’re able to afford ___, but we won’t be able to afford ___.

So the basic idea is that the couple’s income is fixed and predictable. It’s not really up to them. Their family income is largely determined by the system that they’re in.

Okay, this is an alien mindset for me. I’m impressed that people can hold this mindset and not have it fall apart on them.

Here’s what I actually hear within the statements above:

My wife and I choose to get jobs working within a system where we get paid fixed salaries with modest but predictable increases over time. We’re pretending that we don’t have other options for earning more income, so we can have the experience of a fixed income for a while to see what that’s like. And we’re also pretending that we can’t afford anything these two streams don’t directly cover, so we can see what it’s like to experience that form of scarcity as well.

Remember that this couple chose to engage with this system. Even while they’re engaging with it, they still have an enormous range of options available to them. Their income isn’t really fixed – they’ve simply chosen to have the experience of earning a fixed income. To maintain that situation, they have to deliberately ignore or dismiss other opportunities for income generation, which are everywhere.

How do they tune out all those other opportunities? How do they avoid the temptation to create other income streams on the side? That’s hard!

It must take a tremendous amount of discipline to hold themselves back and keep their income from going up. I mean… how do they avoid accidentally making money some other way?

What if one of them gets inspired by an income-generating idea, and they’re tempted to take action on it? How do they stop themselves?

What if they get seduced by some new item they want to buy, but it’s not in their budget? How do they avoid earning more money to cover the expense? How do they get themselves to pretend not to want it or to settle for less than what they want?

I’m really impressed with people who can deliberately cap their income, especially if they can keep this up for years. Most of the people I hang out with regularly are really bad at this. They’re always succumbing to the temptation to make extra money. If they tried to limit themselves to earning a teacher’s salary, I don’t think they could do it. They just don’t have the discipline or the resolve.

I tried having a job with a fixed salary myself, back when I was 21 years old. I didn’t even last a year… couldn’t do it! I have no idea how some people can manage to do this year after year – and make it look easy. Their discipline must be through the roof!