What Financial Freedom Means to Me

beautiful blonde woman with a glass of wine

What does it mean to be rich?

FACT: The people who look rich often aren’t, and the people who don’t look rich, sometimes are.

Take two people who make the same income: one of them saves 50% of their salary and lives simply. The other saves nothing; their salary funds their lifestyle of cars, renovations, luxury trips, expensive brunches and nights out.

Who is wealthier?

The thing with money, if you keep it instead of spend it, it makes more. If you spend it, its value is decreased, and you have whatever thing you bought left in its place.

When you think about the power your money has, and the compounding you’re giving up when you buy something, how often do you ask yourself: is it worth it?

I’ve learned that my happiness is not bought with things. My happiness is also not bought with a pile of money. My happiness is earned with peace of mind and free time that’s mine — my money is going to “buy” an early retirement.

In June 2017, four years ago, I was laid off from my job. The type to always have an emergency fund, a few months earlier I had all but drained it to fund a $12,000 kitchen remodel in anticipation of refilling it with a bonus that was now not coming. My severance ran out. I was weeks away from starting another job, and the $220 a week in unemployment was barely filling the coffers; my checking account was slowly draining. I was worried, stressed, and ashamed at the excess around me. 

After getting through that, I never wanted to feel that way again. I rented out my entire house, living elsewhere to save money. I cut down on extraneous purchases and memberships. I made better financial decisions, and stopped chasing status symbols and appearances.

I rebuilt my emergency fund and maxed out my pre- and post-tax retirement funds. Because of my contributions over the past four years, my 401K and Roth IRA are valued at $125K together, and I have a year’s worth of living expenses in my emergency fund. In fact, I saved more for my future in four years than I did in the first 10 of my career!

This post is not to brag or to flaunt. Others are in far better situations than me, and I started late. But at least I started. For those who aren’t there yet but want to be, this post is to tell you, with (some) concrete numbers: you can do it too. If financial freedom feels out of reach, if you don’t like your relationship with money, if retiring before 65 sounds like a pipe dream, change it. 

I did.

#FinancialFreedom: When you think about the power of your money, and the compounding you give up when you buy something, ask yourself: is it worth it?

Thoughts? Leave a comment!

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