Do You Suffer From Apathy? Here’s How To Care Again

Swiss Flag Waving In Mountain RangeEverybody warned me about the incredibly expensive prices in Switzerland and for that reason I found things to be just fine. I caught myself saying in my head, Is that it? a number of times I opened my wallet. For example, the cost of a one way train ticket to Lucerne from Zurich was only 20 CHF (~$22 USD). Is that it? The cost per night at the Hotel Pilatus in a quaint town called Hergiswil was only 120 CFH. Is that it? Even a plate of gooey raclette was only 9.5CFH, leaving me more than good enough to get three scoops of gelato for 5 CFH afterward!

I decided to visit Switzerland for three reasons: 1) I’ve never been and heard Switzerland to be one of the most beautiful and livable countries in the world, 2) To test the upper limits of what my income can comfortably afford and 3) To get firsthand experience about Swiss neutrality, which I find synonymous with apathy.

The first things that comes to people’s minds when they hear the word, “Switzerland” are chocolate, mountains, and cheese. There aren’t any sort of negative connotations about the country except for perhaps the high prices. Try the same exercise with North Korea, and you get a completely different set of nouns and adjectives. What we also don’t get from Switzerland is any feeling of emotion due to its neutrality.

EVENTUALLY WE STOP CARING OUT OF SELFISHNESS

The reason why Wall St research analysts have Neutral ratings is because they don’t want to take the wrong stance for fear of being ridiculed or fired for being wrong. Instead, it’s better to stay apathetic and massage their argument whichever way the stock goes after the fact. You can’t lose!

One of the key benefits of being financially independent is that you care much less about what other people think. If you don’t depend on a job to live a comfortable life, do you really worry about saying “the wrong” things? Of course not because nobody controls your livelihood. A large part of the reason why there’s so much opinion on Financial Samurai is because I’m 100% not dependent on any online income. That’s what saving an investing for the past 13 years was for. The more neutered the writing online, the higher the dependency.

I’ve noticed a shift in my attitude over the four years of writing online. Slowly, my most opinionated soul is gradually getting extinguished with apathy. If someone attacks me on some topic, I really don’t care as much anymore, especially if I know they’re still working for a living and inhabiting some wretched place where no tourist ever visits. I actually feel a little empathetic to my detractors because it’s tough being miserable. The louder the criticism, the more pain they are going through.

My attitude shift is evident in the article, “There’s No Need To Worry About Other People’s Finances.” I think we’re too nosey and a little too judgmental when it comes to what other people do with their money. If you want to blow your money on fancy things, go for it! You can always deal with the consequences later. When it comes to my own children, I’m going to embed the mentality of deserving only what is earned. But when it comes to other people’s children, I have no jurisdiction and all parents should enjoy the freedom of going their own way.

Apathy might seem like a default negative given caring is a fundamentally important attribute to progress in society. We stop caring because we’ve got everything we need and that’s pretty selfish. However, let’s take a look at the benefits of apathy to better understand those who are apathetic.

Top of Mt. Pilatus Overlooking Clouds

THE BENEFITS OF APATHY

* You don’t get hurt. Thanks to Swiss neutrality, the country remained largely unscathed during WWII. If you are neutral, there’s no need to enslave yourself to the winning side and risk being wrong. The same thing goes for not standing up for your friends or loved ones in battle. If your friend is getting beaten to a pulp by a mugger, just pretend you don’t notice and walk away. So long as you block your borders and stay out of harms way there’s a good chance you’ll keep all your arms and limbs.

* You enjoy more stability. The main reason why Switzerland became such a huge financial center is because of its stability. Offshore money poured into the country because of the strong belief it would be the least likely to be invaded or overthrown. The Swiss government has been very stable for almost 200 years and will probably continue to be this way for the foreseable future. The last place you are going to put your money is in an Egyptian, Greek or North Korean banks at the moment. The United States has become a financial powerhouse for the same reasons.

* You will have a higher chance of getting rich. The per capita income of Switzerland is one of the highest in the world at roughly $79,000. That’s more than 50% higher than we poor folk in the US. With little fear of upheaval or confiscation of property, the playing field for meritocracy levels out. You can build a foundation of wealth that will last for generations. Online, those sites with the least amount of opinion tend to be the largest and most lucrative sites. People like blasé, even though they say they want personality.

Bird In Flight

BUT WHAT IF YOU CARE?

Those who care the most tend to be the most successful. The best employees stay until whenever is necessary to get the job done. The best athletes practice long after the crowds go home. The best bloggers figure out ways to not only entertain but to involve the community and educate. There is guilt associated with not doing our best. I don’t want to stop caring because it simply feels good to do my best every single chance I get. I’d like to stand for something and help others a long the way.

If you use the words “whatever” too often when someone asks what you want to do, you’re likely very apathetic. If you are very apathetic you might as well be dead because you’re adding no value to society. Sometimes apathy is used for survival reasons, such as the Swiss in World War Two. Maybe you’re being apathetic to appease others by just going with the flow. However, most of the time apathy is either due to being too comfortably numb to care.

Sometimes you’ll feel that it’s pointless to care because suffering is never ending. But if we individually make an effort, such as with recycling or spending time educating our children, surely things must improve eventually. If we can start giving even just a little bit more than we receive, then there will be a surplus of goodness to go around.

The best way to start giving a damn is by being so financially and emotionally secure with ourselves that we can’t help but give. When we are secure we can give our money, our time, and our love to others. If we’re too busy just trying to survive then we’ll always be just an apathetic taker.

Lucerne Bridge At Sunrise

Readers, do you suffer from apathy? If so, why? Do you agree that it’s very hard to care for others if you can’t properly care for yourself? What are ways to get out of an apathetic funk?

Photo 1: Back of the boat on Lake Lucerne. Photo 2: The top of Mt. Pilatus. Photo 3: Bird in flight on Mt. Pilatus. Photo 4: 6am in Lucerne, Summer, 2013. 

Regards,

Sam

Sam started Financial Samurai in 2009 during the depths of the financial crisis as a way to make sense of chaos. After 13 years working on Wall Street, Sam decided to retire in 2012 to utilize everything he learned in business school to focus on online entrepreneurship.

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Comments

  1. No Waste says

    Chocolate, mountains, cheese…and Federer.

    Although Gross Per Capita income is high, what does take-home look like? What about the cost of living?

    I will have to do some Googling.

  2. Lucas says

    I definitly have found there is a difference between not carring about what other people think and not caring about other people. My goal is to not worry about what they think but to care about them. Not worrying about what they think of you is actually one of the most freeing things in helping people becuase a lot of times we don’t help or say what really needs to be said becuase of our fear of their response. One of the best things I have grown to realize as well is that focusing on small incremental steps (that lead down the road they need to be on) is often more effecitve at helping someone then trying to get them to change everything at once. So having the longer term vision but not worrying as much about imediate impact has resulted in more effective help/change as there is often much more resistance to large scale suggestions.

  3. krantcents says

    I suffer because I care too much. It is tough when you work in an organization where apathy is everywhere. Adding to the mix are some of my students and parents. It is a lot to overcome every day. There is hope though because I can change the students! The apathy or lack of support from parents and administration is discouraging. It is good that I am self motivated!

    • Financial Samurai says

      I suffer from once caring too much too. I’ve begun to care less now, much less as I work my way into the majority. It feels good to no longer get attacked by society for making more or working in finance.

      There’s always hope for the students. Keep it up!

  4. Maverick says

    Thanks for caring and sharing your opinions on this blog…keep it up. Change of topic…so now my large employer is having another reduction in force to be announced on 1 Aug. Fourth one in four years. A separation package is well documented in procedures and retirement plans. I have been planning for years but not sure when to pull the cord. Well, now a colleague of same age suffers a brain stroke and dies within a week. Makes you think about the work / life balance. So in my one on one meeting with my manager today, I inform my manager that he can select me for the R.I.F. list. He says the final list is up to H.R. and Legal, not him. Let`s see what happens. Yeah, I guess I`m somewhat apathetic…

  5. Mr. Utopia says

    “Online, those sites with the least amount of opinion tend to be the largest and most lucrative sites.”

    Hmm…doesn’t controversy sell though? A controversial headline/title often gets clicks and brings in more traffic. In general, traffic means more income, right? I know I’ve simplified things quite a bit, but I’m very curious about your statement on how sites that are more “vanilla” tend to be larger and more lucrative.

    • Financial Samurai says

      Perhaps, but plain vanilla is what brings in the BIG, BIG bucks. Those sites that cater to as many people as possible, which means no opinions which could ostracize another side.

  6. Nick @ AYoungPro.com says

    First, let me say that I have been to Switzerland and it is one of the most beautiful places I have been (and the chocolate was great). What were your thoughts of Switzerland Sam?

    Second, I used to have a major case of apathy. When I got married that all changed because then apathy was equal to selfishness. I can’t speak for anyone else, but ridding myself of apathy has made me much more successful, and I think things are trending upwards even more. So I would have to say that I agree with your statement of correlation between apathy and success.

    • Financial Samurai says

      My impression was that the Swiss enjoy life, but I feel there’s just not much opportunity other than a comfortable lifestyle with nice benefits and good infrastructure. I talked to a number of 20-somethings, and they all want to get out of the country, move to America or go where there is more action and opportunity.

  7. Michael | The Student Loan Sherpa says

    During high school I had a friend who was a foreign exchange student from Switzerland. We liked to joke with him about always staying neutral, but we learned that military service is mandatory for all in the country. You can only stay neutral if nobody is willing to pick a fight with you.

    As for fighting apathy, I try to stay informed. I feel like ignorance breeds apathy. The more I learn about a subject, the more passionate I get.

  8. VB says

    As a Swiss, I think it’s funny that you relate Switzerland to apathy, we are just one of the most international and active country of the world, politicaly, culturaly and economicaly.

    The neutrality is something that most people just don’t get : it’s a relic from our warrior past.

    If you learn a bit about the swiss history, you will discover that the country was founded by small city states banding together to be independant of the big empires of the middle age (and stop paying taxes).

    This independancy was defended by arms soon after the creation of the swiss pact in a serie of battles against the Habsbourg, considered at this time has the strongest army in the world. Actually the early swiss history is just a long list of fights for survival (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Growth_of_the_Old_Swiss_Confederacy).

    That’s where the neutrality was forged, even now we simply want to stay alone because well, from our point of view, we have the best political system and one of the best economy of the world : why join europe and pay tons of taxe to “help” other countries at the cost of our wellbeing.

    I’m quite sure that now that they are forced to help greece, italy, malte and soon other countries, the german people regret joining europe…

    • Financial Samurai says

      I’m definitely a novice when it comes to Swiss history and relations, hence one of the reasons why I went to speak to others and experience the country and culture for myself. I understand that because of the many small city states and the heritage of German, Italian, and French culture due to its surroundings it makes sense the country was neutral in WW2.

      The question I pose in this post is whether being Neutral is the right thing during times of great travesty. Americans can’t help but see Switzerland in the context of WW2. We wonder how and why we in America sent hundreds of thousands of troops to fight in WW2 when neighboring Switzerland stayed neural. 405,000+ of our men died. Maybe we should have minded our own business and not heeded our Allies calls. But Americans can’t stay neutral, or apathetic when an ally is in need.

      The other thing we read about in America was the confiscation of Jewish assets in the Swiss banking system during the 1940s and 1950s as well as the denial of tens of thousands of Jews for refugee status during the war. This is what we read about, and so I wanted to find out for myself whether all this was true.

      Here is some content from jewishvirtuallibrary.org.

      The Holocaust

      Prior to and during the Second World War, Switzerland gave refuge to about 23,000 Jewish refugees although the government decided that Switzerland would serve only as a country of transit. These Jews were protected during the Holocaust due to Swiss neutrality. The Jewish refugees, however, did not receive the financial support from the government that non-Jewish refugees received. Many more Jews were prevented from entering, effectively shutting the border. The Swiss government persuaded Germany to stamp “J” on the passport of Jews, making it easier to refuse Jewish refugees. The end of the war had delivered many thousands of Jews into the hands of the Nazis and their collaborators. In 1942, the Swiss police issued a regulation that denied refugee status to “refugees only on racial grounds, e.g., Jews.” By the end of the war, less then 25,000 Jews were permitted to take refuge. Most of the refugees left Switzerland at the end of the war. More then 30,000 Jews were turned away according to a 25-volume study on Switzerland’s role during World War II completed in 2002.

      In the past few years, Switzerland has had to owe up to its behavior during the Holocaust. In 1996, Swiss President Kastar Villiger formally apologized to world Jewry for their 1938 accord with the Nazis and its wartime actions against the Jews. At the same time, however, he downplayed economic cooperation between Switzerland and Nazi Germany. It transpired that numerous documents relating to Jewish property in Swiss banks disappeared during the 1940s and 1950s and there was significant pressure in the 1990s and early-21st century to rectify and compensate Holocaust victims and their heirs who were denied their assets in Swiss banks.

      ***

      And then there is the picture of three white sheep kicking out a black sheep by the SVP party. http://www.time.com/time/world/article/0,8599,1664269,00.html

      If this happened in the US, the minority community would rise up and obliterate the party. There is very little apathy in America relative to Switzerland.

      My goal isn’t to blame or criticize the Swiss. My goal is to understand where they are coming from and see if there are benefits to being apathetic/neutral which I highlight in my post because I’m feeling more apathetic by the day. I don’t want to feel apathetic, so I’m trying to reconcile how the Swiss reconcile. So far it seems like the country is doing great and so long as the economy and its citizens are doing fine, neutrality will continue to be the way of the future.

      • VB says

        It’s interesting that your opinion of Switzerland is only founded on WW2 : for me it’s something of the past since it happened during my grand parent generation.

        The neutrality of the Swiss during the WW2 is really simple to explain : a good part of the country was for the nazi, the other part was for the allies.

        Since, has a country, we work with concensus and we couldn’t get any on this matter, we simply decided to stay out of this mess and stay neutral.

        The way the country acted in this time of war was quite shitty, when we judge it now. Since some people were rooting for the nazi they did buiness with them, helped them and mistreated jews.

        The fun thing is that because we stayed neutral and only a part of the country acted like dicks we are, most of the time, judged more poorly than the people who clearly sided with the nazi and did everything to be the best jew killer.

        Today no one would dare to judge Germany, France, Italy, Austrich, Poland, Japan and the other axis countries just because they where the nazi in the WW2. But it’s ok to do it for Swiss since we weren’t really and completly nazi and most people seem to think it’s a lot worst to turn away half of the jew coming to your border (and none staying in your country) than to kill 100% of them in extermination camp.

        But one thing is sure we are, probably, the country who has done the most soul searching and the most historical research about the way it acted during the WW2, except Germany mabye…

        For exemple, for the US, did you ever heard of the rapes commited by the GIs ? Confidential history research estimate that the boys raped quite a lot of the nice french girls they liberated since they waren’t “gratefull” enough to give them sex willingly (http://www.nytimes.com/2013/05/21/books/rape-by-american-soldiers-in-world-war-ii-france.html?pagewanted=all&_r=0).

        And I let to your imagination what happened to the german ladies : Vae Victis.

        In a war big enough to be called a World War all countries have done good and bad, but at least in Switzerland we have a good idea of what we have done, not like most.

        As for the SVP, Swiss politics is an incredibly complexe thing, if you are interested I can try to give you a rough idea but it’s a lot more complicated than the fight of the donkey and the elephan.

        The racist part of the SVP is our local equivalent of the KKK, the white supremacists and the survival nuts that you have in the US and as far as I know, they are far from obliterated.

        • VB says

          Ha, to come back to your apathy misconception : like I said, Neutrality is not apathy, it’s just the decision to stay alone because it’s the best for you.

          Swiss people are far from apathy, we have strong opinions on a lot of thing and a lot of interest in the rest of the world.

          For exemple, since we are a small country and are quite rich, most of the swiss travel the world to visit foreign countries when only 40% of the US citizen have a passport (http://www.theexpeditioner.com/2010/02/17/how-many-americans-have-a-passport-2/) so not even half of the US can visit the world.

          If you look for international organisation : most of them are located in Geneva, whe even founded the red cross, it’s flag is the reverse of the swiss flag so we are quite active in international politics.

          Swiss people have strong opinions and some times on stupid thing… a good exemple is that 3 or 4 years ago I had to vote to decide if we had to cut or not the trees of the market place in my small city, they had some parasists who where going to kill them in at least 15 years, some ppl wanted to cut the trees and plant new one so we would soon have new, healthy trees when other ppl wanted to keep the trees at least 10 years since they where quite nice.

          They arged for months and finally agread to do a vote and a political campaign to know if the people of Carouge wanted to cut the damn tree or not.

          Does that look like apathy ? I don’t think so…

          We vote every 3 month on a lot of subjets, some are stupide like this but most are really interesting, so we are quite vocal about our opinions.

          I think we are the only country where people vote to increase our taxe and to block some hippy idea of getting more paid holidays…

  9. Tortoise Banker says

    My only memory of Switzerland is a man getting tackled to the ground by guards armed w/ automatic rifles in the zurich airport. That was intense.

    The secret to success is ENTHUSIASM. Those that are enthusiastic in their endeavors will have a hard time failing.

  10. Liquid says

    I sometimes feel apathetic, like when I go on a long holiday and leave everything behind. But then I come back to reality and everything goes back to normal again lol. I want my coworkers to think I’m apathetic to opinions so I don’t make any enemies at work but I don’t really care for my blog. One nice thing about doing business on the internet is content creators can create an avatar and be anonymous :) I think it’s true that apathy can come from selfishness, and although there are some good points about why apathy is not necessarily a bad thing, all those points seem to benefit the individual, not society as a whole, but that’s how nature works.

    • Financial Samurai says

      I like your strive towards harmony at work. That goes a long way. But at some point, you will have to choose sides and select your horse to ride. That is when you’ve got to take a stance and hope for the best!

  11. Nneka says

    Jack Kerouac has an amazing quote: “the only people for me are the mad ones, the ones who are mad to live, mad to talk, mad to be saved, desirous of everything at the same time, the ones who never yawn or say a commonplace thing, but burn, burn, burn like fabulous yellow roman candles exploding like spiders across the stars.” Life is too short to be unattached, non participatory, and boring. I wonder if there is a study about the optimal level of stability/apathy vs volatility/emotional investment for maximum happiness? I find that many impulsive wild child types are not much more content than the square milquetoast types.

  12. GP says

    It shouldn’t come as a surprise that laziness, distractions, and a lack of discipline can cause apathy. When you’re apathetic, you just don’t care—and you’re not going to spend your time or focus on things you don’t care about. That’s a big problem when the thing you don’t care about is your relationship with Christ. So, what do laziness and distractions look like in your spiritual walk? Maybe it’s oversleeping on Sunday morning and skipping church. Perhaps you sometimes get so wrapped up in video games, texts, or Facebook that you don’t take the time to read God’s Word. Second Timothy 1:7 tells us that God has given us a spirit of power, love, and sound judgment. Numerous times throughout Scripture we are told to pursue Christ and seek Him in all that we do. That’s not a lazy, ­distracted, undisciplined faith. Instead, Scripture calls us to an active, focused faith that marks our lives with discipline and love.

  13. Untemplater says

    Those are some great pics. Switzerland looks cool. I always think of green mountains with beautiful flowers and happy cows when I think of Switzerland. And yes chocolate of course.

    I try to be engaged in everything I do and show compassion and kindness towards other people. As far as apathy goes, I need to get more motivated and disciplined with exercising and working out. It’s one of my weaknesses.

  14. Mace Windu says

    We just got back from a tour of Switzerland, very beautiful place, Murren this time of year is breathtaking.
    However, I just couldn’t get over their neutrality, as Zap Brannigan once said: “What makes a man turn neutral … Lust for gold? Power? Or were you just born with a heart full of neutrality?”

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