The 5 Levels Of Financial Freedom And Slavery

You’ve been told you don’t need to be rich to be happy.

In this idea, there’s an essential truth that’s been lost, and an essential lie that’s replaced it.

I hope to disabuse you of that lie with a simple story.

There once was a man whose daily path came to an underwater cave. To reach the other side, he had to take a deep breath, plunge beneath the water, and swim through the underwater passage.

There was only enough time to swim straight for the other side. Any lingering within the cave, and he would drown.

The man carried on this way his entire life. And though he became well-acquainted with the blind catfish and pale pebbles of this one cavern’s floor, this is all he ever knew.

Another man, too, had an underwater cave to swim each day. But he did not share the other man’s patience, so after a few weeks, he bought some scuba gear and a tank of oxygen. He did this not only to secure his passage, but to create time enough to explore the underwater side-passages that intrigued him.

Thus equipped, he explored these passages until he came to a cavern as immense as a city, its roof upheld by massive limestone pillars. In the bottom of the cavern he found an old chest full of gold and silver. He used the treasure to buy a better mask, and fins, and a larger oxygen tank, which allowed him to explore further still. In time, he discovered a vast underwater network of caves, each cavern stranger and more beautiful than the last.

Most men live as the first man, with only enough income to gasp their way to the next paycheck.

And although you can find joy and beauty and meaning in any circumstance, the life of impact and adventure you long for… it lies in those larger caverns. It lies beyond the well-worn groove of subsistence-level living.

To reach these caverns, you must take a five-level financial journey:

Level 1 – Rabbit: Expenses exceed income

This is the deepest, basest form of financial slavery. You are a debtor to other men, and as such, your means of tearing yourself free of their claims on your life do not increase but DIMINISH with each passing month.

Your powers of creation and imagination are devoured by stress, anxiety, terror. You are preoccupied and shrunken. You are a caged, snarling animal, biting hand of friend and foe alike, eyes wide and frantic as you claw at the bars of your cell.

You’ve been told this is how we live now, that the numbers work out: you borrow to live, and repay with future earnings. But beneath this twisted logic is the old, primal calculus: you know you are in the clutches of an ancient slavery, and the would-be king in you recoils, heaving in shame and self-reproach. You feel this slavery always, like a quease in your belly that slowly brings you to your knees.

Level 2 – Fox: Earned income exceeds expenses, no investment

This is the most productive form of enslavement for your captors. In terms of slavery, you have, at this point, “gone pro.” Your slavery takes the form of lucrative-for-them consumption: steady, high-volume cash out of your pocket and into theirs.

You’ve been told that spending everything you make is normal, and healthy, even, so long as you live “within your means.” Yet even as they tell you this, they nudge you into the stall… have you place your hooves just so… and then the suction cups come up and the milking begins. You become one of their prized cash cows, hooked up to the milking machine they’ve designed to siphon off every discretionary dollar you make.

Level 3 – Wolf: Investment income greater than zero

This is the beginning of freedom. The cash you save and invest, whether that be 5%, 15%, 50% of your income… this growing, glorious spread between your income and your expenses… this is THE WEDGE. It is the self-forged tool you use to incrementally break your chains and pry open the prison door.

You’ve been told this is pointless. That there’s no need to save and invest. That your government, or your employer, or your pension will take care of you. That you might as well “live a little” and spend that money you’ve saved on whatever truck or trip or shiny new toy you’ve been wanting. For that is what most men do: passing the seeds of freedom on through their milk to die un-sprouted in the machine.

But if you have the vision and the will to build your WEDGE… to INVEST your savings, then this glimmer of freedom will grow, until you find yourself nearer and nearer to full escape.

Level 4 – Bear: Investment income exceeds expenses (Financial Freedom)

This is the moment at which the passive income from your investments or business is sufficient to cover your living expenses. You are financially free.

You’ve been told this is impossible, or at least wildly improbable. That it’s a fool’s errand. Something you’re not smart enough or skilled enough to achieve. At least, not for many decades. Not until you’re too old and fat to enjoy it.

Most damaging of all, you’ve been told it’s an “all or none” proposition… that the benefits come only when you’ve fully extricated yourself from the machine.

Yet you ARE capable of achieving this freedom, especially once you’re invested in your oxygen tanks… once you’ve unleashed your powers of creation and set them to the task.

And with every degree of freedom you wrest, with every extra millimeter of steel you add to your WEDGE, your agency rises in turn. Until one day you are free.

But even then, you’re not finished. You have yet to explore the wildest, richest cavern of all.

We think of freedom as the ultimate goal, but freedom is a means, not an end. Freedom is merely the prerequisite to power.

Level 5: Lion: Investment income exceeds expenses by 500%+ (Financial Power)

This is the final level. The ultimate expression of financial abundance. It is when your investment income is high enough to take you beyond subsistence-level passive income to ABUNDANCE-level passive income.

It manifests as working capital. When you have capital at your disposal, you have, at last, everything you need to underwrite your wildest visions, to capitalize your will… to create with the power and agency of a king.

If you take but one thing from what I’ve said here, let it be this:

You cannot be a financial slave and still, somehow, lead an otherwise free life.

You can find the spark in any cage. But the best use for that flame is not to bring warmth to slavery, but to burn your way free of it.

It can be as bold as selling an asset that do NOT provide cashflow so you can buy one that does.

And it can be as simple as scraping together one month’s worth of living expenses in your savings account: giving yourself thirty days of runway if you lose your job… thirty glorious days to say “fuck you” to whoever tries to scare you into the next available milking stall.

Resolve every day, and WORK every day, to move yourself along the path from financial slavery to financial freedom.

And do not stop there: for every degree of freedom you create for yourself and your family, take a breath of gratitude, then continue on into the life of incremental power this freedom has won you.

Consumption or creation.

Slavery or freedom.

Oppression or power.

The choice is always yours.


  1. This is an eye openner for me, thanks

  2. Thank you Bryan! This is resonating strongly with me. I am already creating a new life schedule full of micro commitments. I have always wonder why it is so rare to find someone who is high on love and also high on strength. It is the life I have been looking for, for years. I am on fire again ! Thanks for looking out for Fathers/creators. We will change the world. You already have done so. -LZ AKA Zazzle Saswell, From Eugene OR.

  3. Great article, Bryan! Like the analysis and definitions of the five levels.

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