Financial freedom sure sounds good, but what is it exactly? I think it means different things to different people. It's important how each of us define it because it typically serves as our primary goal - our light at the end of the financial tunnel...if we ever get there.
Regardless of how you might define it, reaching it begs for fireworks or some sort of celebration. It's an effort to reach it, but it's certainly worthwhile.
For some folks, I think the idea of freedom in the financial arena is so foreign or otherwise unbelievable that they don't have a clue where to begin to define it. After all, why define something that you'll never see, enjoy or partake in? For many it seems out of reach, but it isn't.
I'm hoping my experience and attitude will help you realize that financial freedom isn't out of reach at all. Just keep telling yourself that it's within reach, and make this a basic financial goal of yours.
All I can do is tell you what it means to me - my vision...how I see it through my own unique perspective. Here, put my glasses on and try to see more clearly what my vision of financial freedom is and what it means to me.
It's my hope that perhaps my vision will help you shape yours. How you choose to define it is important because it helps create expectations, and those expectations help define how one might go about attaining it.
My vision of financial freedom comes in several parts as discussed below. And, it's always changing...for the better, I think.
Freedom in personal finance for me has at it's core a life that is free of debt - all debt. No outstanding loans, no credit card debt, no home mortgage. I'm talking about having everything paid off - everything that I have, I actually own - no payments to anyone for anything.
This is key. The weight of financial uncertainty is substantially lifted when debts are no longer in the picture. Until you're there, it's difficult to appreciate the flexibility it offers.
Now, that doesn't mean I don't use a credit card, because I do (only two). What it means is I don't carry a balance on my credit cards, so I don't pay any interest for having given myself a personal loan by way of them, and most certainly, I'm not piling up debt.
At the risk of sounding like a horse's ass, when you get yourself into the "entirely debt-free zone," you'll be laughing too. Not laughing at anyone, of course, just engaged in a lot more laughter because you'll have the financial peace of mind that will allow you to enjoy more life and less work, and less worry about day-to-day things.
Financial freedom also means that I have savings and investments. It doesn't have to be a particular amount, but it should be substantial. It should be something that allows me to have flexibility in terms of how much income I need to earn and it should allow me to retire according to my own definition of retirement.
These resources also allow me to make purchases and respond to anticipated and unforeseen needs. It's my own financial "safety net" that allows me to maintain a lifestyle of my choosing, even in the face of economic turmoil.
I find that slow and steady progress helps build up financial assets, real estate, and other instruments of wealth that can eventually allow you to declare yourself to have reached financial freedom.
Part of my financial freedom includes regular and dependable revenue streams. These can be from investments, savings, employment, sideline enterprises, or other sources. Multiple revenue streams provide assurance that perturbations in one area won't necessarily knock all my income potential off course.
One healthy stream of revenue is great, but several smaller ones can provide the same cash flow as one big one, with the added benefit of not being prone to drying up. It's okay to have your main source of revenue drop off for a while, as long as you have other revenue streams that continue to provide for your needs. When it comes to revenue streams, there is safety in numbers.
The main sources of revenue should also be self-generated. In
other words, they should be based on my own initiative rather than being
dependent on the initiative of others. Self-employment is a good
example of self-generated income. When you're your own boss, you have much more control over what you do, when you do it, and your level of compensation.
Without using money to define it, let me simply say that financial freedom for me is a condition wherein I can enjoy a self-directed life with me calling the shots in terms of where and how I spend my time. It's the opposite of having to go to work to pay the bills and "get by" financially.
It's a more relaxed state where I'm free to enjoy myself more and worry less about what day it is and what time it is. It's also a condition that allows me to pick and choose activities based on my interests, and to do so in a manner that is as one might expect from a truly free spirit.
I've always enjoyed fishing, but never made much time for it during my career as an employee of others, and even less time for it when I was self-employed full-time as a consultant for the utility industry. Now, I spend one month "at the lake" twice a year, one trip in the spring and one trip in the fall. My family joins me during my spring outing, and we have a blast. That's my brother on the right, so happy to spend time in what I consider paradise in Texas where the fish are always biting. He knows a thing or two about frugal living too, he's a regular scrapper.
My financial freedom facilitated my deliberate early self-retirement. I had heard too many stories of individuals who worked all their lives, just to find out six months before retirement that they had some sort of terminal illness that was going to cheat them out of a long and happy retirement. That alone triggered me to retire at age 49 and focus on doing what I like to do: write, garden, tinker around the homestead, and do some serious fishing.
To be consistent with how I created and conserved my wealth, my vision includes a lifestyle that continues to incorporate a conservative and frugal approach to utilizing financial resources. There is no sense in acting in a responsible manner in the development of financial freedom and financial security, only to put it at risk by enjoying it in a reckless manner.
This isn't about pinching pennies, but it is about maintaining a mindset of making the most of my hard-earned money and disconnecting myself from the goofy consumer-oriented economy we have. I'm certainly not driven to own the latest fashions, gadgets, vehicles or appliances, and I never find myself regretting not having them. It's nice to be happy with what I have.
So, you now have a glimpse at what I consider to be financial freedom. It's not the same for everyone, but perhaps my view will help shed some light on what you might set your sights on.
Good fortune to you as you put together your idea of freedom in the world of personal finance. Remember to keep your vision reasonable so it's achievable. This will help maintain proper focus and motivation toward achieving it.
May you achieve all your desires.