Want to know about financial freedom? Here’s what true financial freedom means to me.
FINANCIAL FREEDOM: DEFINING TRUE FREEDOM
For years I thought that the more money I earned the more secure I’d feel and financially free I’d be. But in my experience, it’s just not that simple.
Why? Because constantly striving to earn more money can lead to spending more money and spending more money means you need to earn more money, which tethers you to the hamster wheel of life rather than giving you your financial freedom.
A LIGHTBULB MOMENT
Then I read a short story that helped me realise it was ok to step off the hamster wheel and find a different way to live.
In fact, you could say this was the story that set me on the road to living a more intentional life.
I read the story in Tim Ferris’s book The Four Hour Working Week. It’s a book I’ve drawn a lot of inspiration from, though I must also say that I have taken large chunks of it with a pinch of salt. Tim also has a website at FourHourWorkingWeek.com. Anyway, the story, it goes a little something like this:
THE STORY OF THE MEXICAN FISHERMAN
An American investment banker was taking a vacation in a coastal Mexican village when a small boat with just one fisherman docked. The fisherman had caught several large fish.
The banker was impressed by the quality of the fish and asked the fisherman how long it took to catch the fish. The fisherman replied, “Only a little while.” The banker then asked why he didn’t stay out longer and catch more fish?
The fisherman replied he had enough to support his family’s immediate needs. The American then asked, “But what do you do with the rest of your time?”
The fisherman replied, “I sleep late, fish a little, play with my kids, siesta with my wife, stroll into the village each evening where I sip wine and play the guitar with my friends: I have a full and busy life, señor.”
The banker was incredulous, “I am an Ivy League MBA, and I could help you. You could spend more time fishing and with the proceeds buy a bigger boat, and with the proceeds from the bigger boat, you could buy several boats until eventually, you would have a whole fleet of fishing boats. Instead of selling your catch to the middleman you could sell directly to the processor, eventually opening your own cannery. You could control the product, processing and distribution.”
Then he added, “Of course, you would need to leave this small coastal fishing village and move to Mexico City where you would run your growing enterprise.”
The fisherman asked, “But señor, how long will this all take?” To which the banker replied, “15–20 years.”
“But what then?” asked the fisherman.
The banker laughed and said, “That’s the best part. When the time is right you would announce an IPO and sell your company stock to the public and become very rich. You could make millions.”
“Millions, señor? Then what?”
To which the banker replied, “Then you would retire. You could move to a small coastal fishing village where you would sleep late, fish a little, play with your kids, take siesta with your wife, stroll to the village in the evenings where you could sip wine and play your guitar with your amigos.”
Of course, the cut and thrust of starting, growing and selling a business for big bucks can be exhilarating. So too can climbing the corporate ladder to make CEO, but for many of us, me included, neither of these paths is the way to financial freedom.
Who would ever define freedom as having to spend the majority of the best years of your life working your butt off to earn money to pay for stuff? Not me.
But it’s an easy trap to fall into. Not least because Western society conditions us to think that this is the norm. Something along the lines of…
We go to school and college to work hard learning stuff so that we can go out and get a good job and work hard and earn money so we can buy a place to live and earn more money so we can do the place up and earn more money so we can afford vacations to recover from all the working but then we come back from the vacations and feel down because we have to work even harder to earn more money to pay off the vacation and save for the next vacation, oh and we need a new car because our car is a couple of years old and we need to save for our retirement and, and… and so it goes on until eventually we retire and hope and pray that we have enough good health and time left to be able to enjoy our retirement before we fall off our mortal coils.
An appealing way to live? I think not.
A TRUER FREEDOM
Perhaps true financial freedom is being able to maintain a lifestyle that makes you happy without the constant pressure to have to earn more and more money. A debt-free life that is free from the bind of consumerism and societal expectation.
HOW TO FIND YOUR FINANCIAL FREEDOM
If you feel like you are deeply entrenched in a quagmire of financial commitments, the first thing I suggest you do is to start living more intentionally.
Do this by creating a blueprint for the life you want to lead, a plan that helps you focus on the things that are truly important to you and bring you joy and helps you shed the things that don’t really matter to you.
Read my post on Intentional Living and Why You Might Need It to get started and define your blueprint.
Once you have your blueprint there is a very simple process you can go through to start being more intentional with your finances.
- Establish how much money you currently have
- Work out how much money you need to cover the life you want to live
- Manage your money so that you spend less than you earn each month
- Set aside a percentage of your money for investing and saving
- Track your spending to understand your spending habits, where you can make savings and adjustments