FI and Politics: Can Financial Independence (FI) Pave the Way to Your Political Career?
Ok, so maybe the last few elections have put a bad taste in your mouth about politics in America. Or maybe you’re tired of the constant barrage of middle school-esque comebacks and tirades of politicians in the news, thinking to yourself “I can’t BELIEVE these people are leading our country!” Whatever your thoughts are towards politics, you may be surprised to learn it is actually a financially lucrative career. Not only are the salaries for some elected positions well into the six-figure range, but many of them also strike lucrative book, consulting, or speaking deals during or after their term in office. In fact, this report last year says that the median net worth of members of Congress is $1 million!
I’ve always been curious about when a person makes a decision to run for office. Is it truly because they want to make a positive change? Is it when they have so much money they decide they need to take it into their own hands to ensure taxes stay low? Do they have existing connections or family members in politics that help them pave the way?
I wonder if any of them stop to think about the financials of it. Even if they have the best intentions to enact change for the betterment of the lives of their constituents, can they afford to stop working and start campaigning? If they lose the election, how will that impact their personal financial situation?
You see, many working people feel that running for office is out of reach for them. Or maybe they are so busy trying to make ends meet, that the thought of running doesn’t even cross their mind. Of course, there are those like AOC or Marco Rubio who are not multi-millionaires (or at least that’s what they have disclosed) However, there is a plethora of US Congress Members who are worth tens of millions, if not hundreds of millions of dollars. Some of them are lucky enough to list $41 million lake homes for sale. That’s not even considering people who work in the executive branch, cabinet, various federal departments, or state/local governments.
So, were they wealthy and then decided to get into politics, or did politics make them wealthy? Or was it a mixture of both? Or was it due to family money?
We know with so many different positions in politics, the journey to a political career is varied, as is the financial approach.
I would argue though, that no matter the background, FI enables a career in politics.
Think about it. The majority of campaign contributions, according to this report from OpenSecrets.org, come in the form of large donations from individual donors. How do you get to know these deep-pocketed donors? By revolving in that social circle, upholding a compelling reputation, and having existing relationships with those donors.
It’s not only having a foot in the door with rich donors but also having the confidence that your bills will be paid while you are out on the campaign trail. For example, if you are running for office for the first time, and you manage to line up a bunch of donors to fund your campaign, you still have to make sure your mortgage is paid and your credit card bill is taken care of for however long you are on the campaign trail, which can easily be over a year in some cases.
If you are financially independent, you don’t have to ask your boss for a paid leave of absence (if that’s even possible) or exhaust your vacation time in hopes you can get some solid campaigning done within two weeks and on weekends (your opponent might out-campaign you!) While surely this has been done in the past, it can hurt your chances of winning.
Knowing your bills are taken care of isn’t the only thing FI can support you with. While you are on the campaign trail, there may be instances where in the moment you need to come up with a large amount of money to take advantage of a photo-op, a media event, or a cause-related partnership when lots of journalists are around.
Plus, if things go bad during your campaign, you can still come back to where you were before the run for office. This isn’t only related to losing the campaign, it can also be if you become a victim of “cancel culture”. If you off-handedly say a reprehensible comment, retweet a controversial statement, or even have a questionable years-old photo of you resurface, your job could be in danger. Or if you are self-employed, social media will come after your business via negative reviews, threats, and bad publicity, thus hurting revenue.
However, if you are already financially independent, that shields your pocket from this kind of backlash. Public outcry cannot reduce the value of your personal stock portfolio or your bank account. (Whether or not you get invited to any more pool parties though, that’s another story).
All I’m trying to explore here is the connection between FI and the freedom to follow your passion, should that be a career or even just a stint in politics. If you are passionate about jobs in your community, the environment, taxes, healthcare, or any other contentious political topic, FI can help you feel confident about running for office and having a direct impact on creating and changing laws that affect those topics. It doesn’t even have to be a run for US Congress; it could be for the state legislature, mayor of your town, or even a seat on the school board. Yes, those positions listed probably have vastly different media coverage and fundraising thresholds to overcome, but you get my point. FI gives you options. FI gives you freedom. FI gives you peace of mind. It gives you the confidence to attempt self-actualization in your life, and one of the many ways people do that is through passionate engagement in politics.