Wednesday, July 1, 2009

What Does Financial Freedom Mean to You?

Get Rich Slowly is one of my favorite personal finance blogs. Its writer, J.D., used to be a chronic debtor who worked a job he hated. Several years ago, he committed to getting out of debt. His journey attracted so many readers, and opened his own eyes so much, that he quit his job and now blogs full time. What I like best about his blog is that many of his posts link financial freedom to personal freedom. This post is a perfect example.

J.D.'s post links financial freedom to the freedom to choose your work, the freedom to live where you want, the freedom to do what you want, the freedom to seize opportunities, and freedom from worry. In my "About Me" statement and in a previous post, I link financial freedom to several of these things as well. This is how I link financial freedom and my freedom using J.D.'s criteria:

1) Freedom to choose your work: When I had six-figures worth of student loan debt, I absolutely felt like I had to make a lot of money. In fact, I have read that graduates need to limit their student loan balances to no more than two-thirds of their first year salary. My high pay jobs were so stressful they were hurting my physical and psychological health. I paid off over $50,000 in student loans last autumn and immediately felt like I could downsize my career to something more sustainable. I am now searching for less stressful, less time-intensive employment that focuses more tightly on subject matter I like and responsibilities that I enjoy and are good at handling. This will probably entail a pay cut, but reducing my debt load gives me the financial flexibility to absorb that hit and chase satisfying work.
2) Freedom to live where you want: Ultimately, I want to live in different parts of the world during different parts of the year, but still spend decent time in California. I could achieve this by traveling and then renting housing in whatever locale I decided to stay for a while. That would certainly be cheaper than owning property every place in the world I want to li.
3) Freedom to do what you want: This is huge for me. Financial freedom means doing what I want where I want with whom I want when I want. I traveled through Costa Rica for five weeks without a job and without concern about finding one because my finances are in good order. Though I had an amazing time abroad, I do desire work that plays to my favorite skills, deals with my favorite subject matter, and that focuses on tasks I enjoy performing. I have a decent feel for what all of this entails, so I feel like I am moving towards achieving this goal.
4) Freedom to seize opportunities: My Costa Rica trip was a great opportunity for personal growth, and one that I would have passed on had I been furiously searching for a job because I was drowning in debt, or because my lifestyle was so expensive I needed constant income to support it. A friend recently approached me about investing money in a private business he found. I passed, but the fact that I seriously discussed investing felt empowering.
5) Freedom from worry: I still worry about money, my remaining student loan debt, maintaining cash flow as I age, and similar concerns. However, I don't worry about those things nearly as much as I did before I paid off over $50,000 in student loans last autumn. When my last $33,000 is gone, I know I'll worry even less about money. Also, I don't worry about car payments because my car is paid for. I don't worry about mortgage payments because I don't have a mortgage, nor do I desire to purchase a house in the foreseeable future. I don't worry about monthly, or even emergency expenses because I have ample cash.

What does financial freedom mean to you?

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