How much financial freedom do you feel like you have?
What is financial freedom in the first place? It seems to be something that we’re all after, and most people define it as a number. This number is the net worth where you no longer have to rely on income from working.
This definition is in no way wrong, but I do think it’s incomplete. I don’t see financial freedom as something only to be attained someday in the future. I see it as a state of being I can experience on my way to that point as well.
You Don’t “Have” To
Many people, maybe even you, are working where they are because they have to. They can’t take the time to explore what they really want to do because there are bills that need to be paid, and the only way these will be paid is if they make it to work this week. This is the paycheck to paycheck situation 70%-80% of Americans are in.
When you combine that reality with the total acceptance of consumer debt as the “norm” in our society, you have a recipe for financial bondage. Everyone wants to live the lifestyle they see on an Instagram feed, so they turn to the quickest way to be able to attain it: debt.
Now we have a vicious cycle of people living a lifestyle they can’t support on their paycheck using credit cards and outrageous mortgages to make it work. If your goal is simply to have every material thing you want and to live in a nice house, then by all means follow this strategy.
If you want to have financial freedom, I suggest a slightly different path.
I refuse to feel trapped.
If you want to live a life of financial freedom, it starts with a simple choice. One of the foundational principles that guides my life is that I want to have the freedom to make choices rather than doing things because I have to.
I graduated college debt free. However, after graduation I started dating a very pretty girl, and I soon decided I wanted to marry her. In the greatest sale I’ve ever made, she felt the same about me.
Now, she didn’t graduate debt free. In fact, she had $28k in student loans and credit card debt following her around, which became OUR debt when we got married.
Many in this situation will just pay the minimum payments, content never to see that few hundred dollars a month for a decade or more. This is all a function of the “this is just how things are” trap so many live in.
I’m sure people you know are carrying around credit card balances, car loans, student loans, and all sorts of financial strain because they feel like that’s just what you have to do to live the life you want. Too many never have the thought of making different decisions so they can take control.
We went a different route.
We got flat out mad at the debt and did everything in our power to get rid of it. Why? Because we wanted to get to decide where that money went when we brought it home.
[clickToTweet tweet=”I didn’t want student loans tapping me on the shoulder every pay period for a decade.” quote=”I didn’t want student loans tapping me on the shoulder every pay period for a decade.” theme=”style3″]
I wanted to be free.
The cool thing is, in the moment we decided that, we were free. Sure, we were still working through the debt payoff, but we were living in freedom. We were experiencing what it feels like to chart your own course instead of letting it be charted for you.
We were empowered to find satisfaction in the progress we were making rather than the stuff we were (actually, weren’t) buying. We still had debt, but we were in control and knew it wouldn’t be long until it was gone.
Financial Freedom Is More Than A Number
You see, financial freedom is about being in control. Yes, once my net worth is high enough to support me without a paycheck I will be officially “free.”
But I can live with that kind of emotional freedom now because I’m not knocked around by my money. I’m in the driver’s seat, and there’s a big difference.
Living this way makes saving an emergency fund a fun activity. It makes you get excited about controlling your grocery budget and investing in your 401(k). Financial freedom happens when you get more satisfaction from building your net worth than you do buying something cool.
Intentional Decisions Now Breed Awesome Opportunities Later
So how do you achieve financial freedom? It all starts with knowing where you want to be, then making decisions today that will lead you there.
We began our marriage knowing that we wanted to be debt free as soon as possible. That caused us to do things differently than most of our friends, and we were debt free in under two years.
I want to be able to adopt a child or fund an adoption for someone else someday, so getting to a place where I can invest above my personal retirement investing to prepare for that is a focus.
We want our family culture to be one of peace and unity. Therefore, we make intentional decisions about taking regular vacation, and we’re currently saving aggressively for a large down payment on a house rather than jumping in with little to no equity.
Financial freedom isn’t about having everything you want. It’s living in a place where you clearly know where you’re going, and you have a plan for the steps from here to there.
None of us are trapped. We just have to decide to live free, and that’s what I intend to do.