What is financial freedom?
Financial freedom is monetary stability – doing what you want in life without worrying about your bank balance. It’s taking that amazing trip to Tahiti while knowing you don’t have to go into the office. It’s buying your dream house and still having the funds to pursue your other interests.
Some people equate financial freedom with retirement, and while being free to retire when you want is important, you don’t have to wait until your twilight years to be financially free. Depending on your unique situation, it may mean having the means to turn your passions into profits, turning down a 9-to-5 job to spend time with your kids, or supporting your partner while they work to build a business they love.
There are many ways to become financially free, but it’s ultimately about having enough financial resources to connect to – and support – your deepest values without worrying about paying the bills. A good guide to financial freedom can be the key to unlocking an extraordinary life.
FINANCIAL FREEDOM VS. FINANCIAL INDEPENDENCE
Many people use “financial freedom” and “financial independence” interchangeably, but they don’t mean the same thing. To truly work toward freedom, it’s important to know the difference. Financial independence means meeting your financial needs without relying on anyone else. When you’re financially independent, you have a steady source of income, pay all of your bills (including debts like student loans or a mortgage) and manage to save some money. You may even start investing, but that doesn’t mean you’re financially free.
Financial independence is an essential first step but isn’t the end game. Financial freedom is a long-term plan to build the life of your dreams. Success is doing what you want to do, when you want, where you want, with whom you want, as much as you want. That’s also financial freedom.
IS FINANCIAL FREEDOM POSSIBLE?
For many, true financial freedom seems like an impossible dream. Student loan debt is at an all-time high, the economy is unpredictable, and investing can be intimidating. In addition, we spend more time working and have poor work-life balance, yet make less money. So what is the solution to all of these apparent obstacles? It’s to take responsibility and make the changes you desire.
Your income right now is a result of your standards; it is not the industry; it is not the economy. It’s easy to blame the economy and resign yourself to how things are. It’s much harder to raise your standards and work toward the life you want, but financial freedom becomes a much more realistic goal when you do.
HOW TO ACHIEVE FINANCIAL FREEDOM
Common tips for financial freedom include tracking your budget, living below your means and setting savings goals. These things are essential to becoming financially free, but it all starts with connecting emotionally to your goal and laying out actionable steps to reaching that goal.
1. FIND YOUR “WHY”
Most people know what it’s like to start a goal and fail to finish it. Whether it’s New Year resolutions that only last a month or never quite finding a more fulfilling job, we’ve all learned first-hand that our deep human need for certainty has the power to keep us right where we are. Yet as much as we crave certainty, we also crave growth.
A lack of willpower isn’t holding us back – we’ve created impotent goals that do not inspire us. Real inspiration must connect to our purpose in life. Connecting what you have to do now to feeling good later is one of the best tips for financial freedom. You’ll need to make sacrifices, but it’ll all be worth it when you can retire early and make your dreams a reality.
2. ADDRESS LIMITING BELIEFS ABOUT MONEY
Our limiting beliefs restrict us from achieving our goals. If we don’t believe we’re worthy of being healthy, having an extraordinary relationship or becoming financially free, we’ll never achieve it.
Financial limiting beliefs can affect anyone – even those with plenty of money in the bank.
To live the life of your dreams, address financial fear and the limiting beliefs behind it. For example, do you believe wealth is impossible because no family member has ever experienced financial freedom? Do you think you’re not talented or smart enough to earn enough money to be financially free? Once you identify these beliefs, replace them with empowering beliefs like “I am an abundance maker” or “I am worthy of experiencing financial freedom.”
3. DETERMINE YOUR NUMBER
What is financial freedom to you and your family? An important step is thinking about how much money you need to become financially free. There’s no magic number for everyone, but there is a certain amount of money that will allow you to live freely and pursue your passions. How much money is that?
Consider everyday living expenses, a cushion for unanticipated expenses and enough surplus to live without financial anxiety. Write down a number that makes sense to you, even if it seems large. Now, do some analysis: how much are you currently earning, and what do you need to do differently to make this amount of money?
4. PAY OFF YOUR DEBT
The first concrete step toward financial freedom is to examine your finances and identify any issues that need to be resolved. Do you have lots of unsecured debt? Balances on high-interest credit cards? Accounts in collections? If you owe money to others, a good chunk of your monthly income will go to someone else.
To pay off your debt, you need to prioritize it. If you get a bonus or a raise, use those funds to pay off your debt. Use the snowball method to pay off your smallest debt first, then start paying down the next debt with the money saved on the smallest debt’s monthly payments.
5. START SAVING
Once you’re out of debt, it’s time to set a monthly budget and start putting money into savings. Everyone needs a six-month emergency fund capable of covering everything from a sudden income loss to major medical issues. Achieving financial freedom will take time, and you need a buffer to pay for life’s expensive surprises.
An emergency fund is a practical and necessary boost to your mental well-being. When you have a financial cushion, you can take more risks at work and say yes to experiences that bring you true happiness without fear or guilt. Once you’ve saved up your emergency fund, you can put those extra dollars into your money-making machine.
6. LEVERAGE COMPOUND INTEREST
Compound interest is the foundation of how to achieve financial freedom. Compound interest is enticing because you don’t need to make much money to leverage it.
Compound interest is how anyone can save enough money to live their dreams. It’s also one of the lowest-risk ways to start investing and saving. Open a retirement savings account like a 401k or a Roth IRA to leverage compound interest. Put at least 10% of your pay check into this account and the power of compounding will put you on the road to a comfortable retirement.
As you build your savings and retirement accounts, start thinking about other ways to invest. You have many options, and it’s helpful to think of asset allocation as three imaginary buckets: security, risk/growth and dreams. Your security bucket is where you put money for bills — you need this money to make your life function. Then, your risk/growth bucket is for things like high-yield bonds and stocks.
Lastly, your dream bucket is money that you can have fun with. When you receive a bonus or win a sum of money, it goes into the dream bucket. Many people taking steps to financial freedom find it helpful to work with a fiduciary who offers information about investment options and helps to develop the best strategies for their unique needs.
You’re never done learning new tips for financial freedom. Watch your portfolio for red flags affecting returns, put more money into your buckets when you or your partner receives a raise, and diversify your investments if the market dictates.
If you’re working with a fiduciary, evaluate the relationship: are they putting your interests first? Are you comfortable with the relationship? You’re under no obligation to stay if your broker is a bully or you don’t trust their advice. A new financial advisor can open your eyes to new options, or you may find that you’re at the point where you can handle investing on your own.
Remember, the question “What is financial freedom?” has different answers depending on your unique goals, values and living standards. Knowing what financial freedom means to you will help your financial dreams become a reality. By actively managing your finances and using the power of compound interest, you can achieve financial freedom one day.
A true guide to financial freedom is not about being rich or having power and prestige – it’s about having the flexibility to make the most of your life without relying on a job or pay check. Financial freedom is attainable so start working towards it now.
What is financial freedom?