Recently, Mrs. RB40 read an article about an interesting movement in China and passed it along. She said, “Hey Joe, this is like your FIRE movement.” That’s how I discovered the Lying Flat movement in China. Luo Huazhoung coined the term lying flat when he shared his story on Baidu. He quit his factory job in 2016 and biked from Sichuan to Tibet. Now, he lives on side gigs and savings. Okay, from that bit, it sounds somewhat similar to FIRE. However, China isn’t the United States and Lying Flat might not be FIRE. Let’s dig a little deeper.
(Chinese: ??; pinyin: t?ng píng; lit. ‘lying flat’)
Lying Flat in China
After some research, I found that lying flat means a spartan lifestyle. Their motto is – “Don’t buy property; don’t buy a car; don’t get married; don’t have children; and don’t consume.” Wow, that’s pretty extreme. By quitting his job, Luo Huazhoung is giving up long-term employment, marriage, children, and luxury consumer goods. More power to him. Unfortunately, being a slacker in China has serious consequences.
Lou doesn’t want to get married or have kids because he doesn’t want the responsibilities. Well, he’ll get his wish. I’m sure 99.999999% of Chinese women don’t want to marry a slacker either. The family wouldn’t support the decision to marry someone who’s poor and doesn’t have a stable job. Financial stability is a huge deal. In China, the man has to pay a dowry to the bride’s family. The bride price can be anywhere from $10,000 to $160,000 depending on the location. That’s a lot of money in China where the average annual income is around $15,000. Getting married is damn expensive in China. This is partly due to the old one-child policy. There are more men than women so men have to compete to get married. From what I read, Luo probably can’t afford the bride price. No Chinese woman in their right mind would marry the dude.
The Chinese culture is very success-driven. I think it’s a lot more stressful than in the US. Here you can study and work in any area you want. As long as you can support your family, you’re doing well. There, the pressure to become wealthier is immense. Marrying a slacker isn’t going to help with that. That’s a big difference from the US. Here you can be a slacker and still get married and live a comfortable life. Love conquers all, right? In China, you’ll be a bachelor for life if you’re a slacker.
In addition, the Totalitarian Chinese government hates any hint of rebellion. Lou posted his story on Baidu and gained a lot of notoriety. Lying flat resonated with young millennials who work way too much and can’t get ahead. Soon after, the post was taken down. Then, the topic “tang ping” is banned and censored. Big brother is watching. The government wants young people to work hard and maximize their economic output. They want to squash the lying flat movement before it grows. I wouldn’t be surprised if Luo Huazhong got sent to a reeducation camp somewhere. In China, dissenters tend to disappear.
Lying Flat isn’t FIRE
At first glance, lying flat sounds a bit like Barista FIRE. This is where you work easy jobs/gigs after you saved up a modest retirement fund. So the odd jobs are to support yourself in the present. The savings will grow over the years to support your retirement.
However, I think lying flat is missing the FI part of FIRE. It sounds like Luo is just getting by. What will he do when he’s 60? From what I understand, the state doesn’t offer any kind of elderly support. Old people usually rely on families, personal savings, and pensions to retire. Luo probably won’t have any of those resources. He’s signing up for a life of poverty in old age. That’s a big difference from FIRE. We plan for a comfortable retirement.
FIRE is easier in the US
There are always contrarians who think differently in any society. The FIRE movement arose from the desire to enjoy life and minimize stress. We worked hard in the beginning so we can escape the rat race and retire early to find our own happiness. The key component is to ensure a comfortable retirement later by saving up early. This is contrary to society’s expectations. If you make a good income, you’re expected to increase your earnings and spend more. Fortunately, I was able to reject this social value without a lot of terrible consequences. I’m still married and enjoy a comfortable lifestyle. The government didn’t send me to a reeducation camp or put me on a no-fly list. It’s way easier to FIRE in the US. If you have a well-paying career, you probably could FIRE in 10-15 years if you save and invest 50%.
It’s a lot more difficult in China. It’s harder to get a job that pays well, the competition is fiercer, the pressure to spend is relentless, and everyone expects you to work as hard as you can to become wealthier. In addition, the government doesn’t like slackers. They’ll put the kibosh on you if you reject the party’s value.
In conclusion, I’m extremely glad I live in the US where I have the freedom to do what I want. I imagine it’s much more difficult to FIRE in China.
Readers, do you know more about the lying flat movement? It doesn’t sound good to me. What will Luo do when he’s old? How long can he enjoy this slacker lifestyle? Hopefully, he wasn’t sent to a reeducation camp. China is a bad place to be a dissenter.
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Image credit: Jacalyn Beales
Source: Retire By 40
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