Our culture has a misguided notion of what Financial Freedom is. If we asked someone at random the question, “what is financial freedom?” We’d find that a common answer is: the freedom to buy whatever you want whenever you want. Well let me let you in on a little secret; in all of human history, there are only a handful of people who ever might have had financial freedom by that definition. Even the richest people of today, can’t buy anything they want anytime they want. So let’s stop believing the delusion; we must change our definition of financial freedom.
I think a better definition of financial freedom might be; having sufficient wealth to live and enjoy living a balanced life without having to work excessively to maintain it. An important part of that definition is about enjoying a balanced life. Financial freedom isn’t about a precise dollar amount, it’s not about making a certain amount of money per year or accumulating a certain amount of assets. It’s about enjoying and appreciating what you have. Have you ever noticed how happiness and wealth are not correlated? If you’ve ever been to a third world country, you’ll find in many cases, although materially they may have so much less than we do, many people have much more joy despite their circumstance.
So why am I talking about third world countries in a financial freedom section? Well my point is this: more money won’t make you happy (or at least not for long). So the sooner we all stop believing that the better! In thinking about financial planning, it’s important not to obsess about money for money sake. Don’t expect money to make you happy, It’s a tool and tools are meant to be used, both for your benefit and others! The first step in gaining financial freedom is soberly rethinking what financial freedom really is. It often means changing our expectations.
Money: Neither Be Consumed Or Careless With It
Now don’t get me wrong. In my discussion here about financial freedom, I’m not at all encouraging you to forget about money or just take a laissez-faire approach and be careless with what you have. Money is a tool that you should take good care of. You should want it to work hard for you. It’s not something to be wasted. Being totally consumed with money is one extreme that must be avoided to achieve financial freedom. But on the other side, financial freedom cannot be attained without careful consideration and intentional decisions. Financial freedom can be attained, but only by avoiding either extreme.
Money Is A Vehicle Not A Destination
Money truly is the ultimate tool. It can be used to purchase nearly anything! However, as a tool it seems somewhat foolish to horde it without purpose. Financial freedom requires purposeful savings, insuring and investing but with a purpose in mind.
I think it’s important to remember what money really is. It’s a tool, it’s a means; It’s not an end in and of itself. Consider that our currency today is mostly made out of paper/plastic and has little intrinsic value from a material perspective. In addition, most of your money is probably just a series of digits in a bank account ledger somewhere. When thought about from that perspective, it might seem a little foolish how obsessed we all are with it!
Of course, money does have a great deal of value because of what it can do. It’s in a sense the ultimate tool which can be traded for almost anything! But it’s a tool none-the-less. Consider for a moment what legacy you will leave behind at the end of your life. Do you want to be known as the rich person with lots of digits in your bank account? Is that what you want said at your funeral or written on your gravestone? I certainly hope I’m known for other things, like being a good father (and hopefully grandfather many years from now) and husband, building a successful business, a person of integrity who was respected and someone who was fun to be around and generous with both time and money. Ultimately I hope that I leave a positive mark on the world throughout my life. My point is this: money will most certainly help to achieve these goals, but life is about more than money.
If we can think of money as a vehicle for our goals, rather than a goal in and of itself; we will make better financial decisions. Consider the investor who is interested in the highest possible return on every dollar they have, all they want is more money. They will never be happy. They’ll always wish they had done this or that differently to have made more money. An old proverb reads “whoever loves wealth is never satisfied with their income” and it so very true!
Now consider the investor who has some goals beyond a simple dollar figure. Perhaps it’s for a child’s education; perhaps it’s a trip one day around the world or just to retire comfortably. These goals will cause this investor to methodically build up the assets they need, and ultimately enjoy the fruits of their investments! I submit to you the investor who is building assets for a reason will be happier in the long run, because they have purpose beyond simply acquiring more for more sake! The investor who invests just to have “more money” will never be satisfied as the “goal posts” never stop moving each time they get more. They desire having a tool just for the sake of having a tool.
Financial Freedom Requires A Disciplined Approach
Like most things in life, if financial freedom was easy we’d all already have it. But like most things in life that are important, they require commitment and discipline to achieve. But the good news is, it’s possible. With practice financial freedom can be yours!
We live in a culture that promotes spending and ramped consumerism. We’re encouraged every day to splurge, or to buy now and pay later. Financial freedom isn’t about being able to say yes to everything we’d like to get. Achieving Financial freedom therefore requires a certain amount of discipline; to say no to some things so you can say yes to the better things.
Financial discipline is also crucial to your investing. It takes enormous discipline to stay in the market after a rough patch when there are few signs of a rebound. Conversely it also takes enormous disciple to sell a good investment after they’ve had a good run. We’re always tempted to cut our losses instead of sticking with it, or investing in funds that are just reaching their peak! But achieving financial freedom necessitates that we invest carefully within our risk tolerance and exercise restraint when markets start moving!
Let’s Start Setting Your Goals
Financial freedom is about more than just money; but it’ll take more than just money for us to have the freedom we all want. But the most important starting point is setting realistic future goals, changing our attitudes about what we truly want out of life, and about building the financial discipline we need to have a sustainable financial plan. Once we have realistic future goals, we can begin to change our habits today so that we can slowly move toward those goals and build the financial plan we desire to reach those goals. The most important attitude we can change is trying to be content with less. It’s tough at first, but you’ll find it rewarding both now and in the future. Being content with less will help you to save more for a better tomorrow. Being content with less will help you be more generous with what you have too (which you’ll find can also be very rewarding in other ways)
As a financial planner, these are my principles and how I think. I’m ready to work with you to help you achieve your life goals, by helping you with the underlying financial goals needed to achieve them. It’ll take time and dedication to pay down your mortgage and build up your investments but it’ll be much easier when you’ve got good reasons to do it. Let’s start you on the path to financial freedom today!