Have you ever seen people who have financial freedom and thought to yourself, “I want to be able to live like that, too”? For most of us, the mental picture of financial freedom looks like someone who spends what they want when they want to, without concern about whether they will be able to afford it.
While having more than enough income and control of your expenses are definitely worthy financial goals, how do you define the point at which you’ve “achieved financial freedom”?
Are you chasing after an elusive dollar amount in your bank account, online savings account, investments, or retirement fund? What does financial freedom look like for you?
I ask this because it seems that os many people list this as a goal every year (New Year’s Eve, usually) and yet fail to achieve it because they don’t understand what it really means. What’s your definition of financial freedom? Here’s mine:
Freedom from Stress
Money concerns are one of the most common causes of stress, and stress can lead to physical symptoms such as ulcers, high blood pressure, and sleeplessness.
Do you think having an overflowing bank account and certain possessions will free you from stressing out about money? Think again. Some research suggests that the wealthiest countries in the world are also the most depressed. And studies have shown that making $75,000 a year is the tipping point for happiness — anything above that adds to stress.
Why is this? I think the more some people have, the more they want, and then they realize that’s not what they really wanted. This vicious cycle can be pretty depressing. The old saying that money can’t buy happiness rings true.
Freedom from Fear
Throughout my life I’ve been fearful of not having enough money to pay my bills or buy groceries. Going broke is not fun, and for those who are looming dangerously near the edge, it can seem pretty scary.
Again, you might think that having a better income, getting your debts paid off, or controlling your spending will eliminate this fear. But then you might carry the fear of losing it, or of someone stealing it from you. Financial security can bring you freedom from fearing not having enough.
Freedom from Greed
Let’s face it, most of us view financial freedom as the ability to spend a lot of money…on ourselves. No one wants to think of themselves as greedy, but if you were to list the top ten things you’d buy if you had the money, most of them would be self-fulfilling.
Having more than enough money to spend on the things we enjoy in life is not a bad thing, but having more money will not necessarily free us from a greedy attitude. Start developing selfless spending habits now by contributing to charities, funding causes, and helping others less fortunate than you.
Freedom to be Yourself
More money will bring out more of who you really are: if you’re already a greedy person, you’ll spend a disproportionate amount on yourself (and probably end up depressed, as in the statistics).
If you’re a generous and outward-focused person, you’ll give and invest more in others. More money means more of you. This is why it’s so vital to realize that finances are just a way to express our passions, interests, and perceived purpose for living.
Freedom from stress, fear, and greed can happen at any point on the financial spectrum depending on how you view money and how you view life.
For me, financial freedom means making choices with my finances that are a true reflection of who I am, with the continuing goal of eliminating stress, fear, and greed from my relationship with money.
What about you? Is the pursuit of a better financial situation stressing you out? Are you afraid of going broke? Do you find yourself consumed with the desire for more stuff you can’t afford?
Do you have the incorrect assumption that your financial problems will disappear when you’ve reached that elusive financial freedom goal? Or do you realize it’s about much more than money?
What does financial freedom look like and mean for you?