For a few years now, I have challenged myself to build a life worth being proud of. Sure, I made some foolish decisions, like any young adult. But fortunately for me I learned a lot from them and counsel of a handful of trusted friends and family. As a result, I have turned my life onto an entirely different (and significantly better) trajectory. That’s not to say I don’t have struggles or worries, I have some very significant ones, especially surrounding my health at the moment. But that is just another motivator for me, especially as it relates to achieving financial independence. None of us are perfect, that’s what makes us uniquely human. But it’s not our flaws or mistakes that hold us back, it’s not being willing to fix them and create a better future.
My path to Financial Independence (FI):
Many people dream of achieving FI, but not many people actually enact and maintain a plan to bring that dream closer to being a reality. Instead the majority just wallow in the misery that is being a slave to the money you’ve already spent. I am not one of them! I don’t claim to have the most efficient or best plan for FI, but I am being proactive, learning, and more importantly doing. I realize that there will be a day when I am unable to earn a salary to support myself, my wife, and future family. This could potentially be sooner than I expect, given my health concerns. As a result, I have deemed it necessary to be proactive and cautious about my life. Not just my financial life either, this includes my physical and mental health, as well as a variety of other dimensions. But focusing largely on finances here, I have been blessed to start my adult life with little debt. Both my parents and my in-laws live financially intelligent lives, and my wife and I have most definitely reaped a handful of benefits from their foresight. In addition, despite my health concerns brought on by my military service, I am now eligible for low cost healthcare and compensation for my various health concerns. Yea, I’d much rather be perfectly healthy, but this is a part of my life, and I have to embrace it, learn from it, and do everything I can to try to fix what’s broken or hurting. So we have benefited from our parents, but now we get to (not have to) do the “hard” work. Make intelligent financial decisions, and plan not only for our future, but the futures of our children and grandchildren. One where they have at least the same (but hopefully better) knowledge and opportunities that we have been blessed to have. After all, wouldn’t that be the best thing to be able to give them! I’m sure that a paid-for education or down-payment for a home would be vastly more appreciated than the latest and “greatest” toys that just end up in the garbage every few years.
What are we really after?:
So, it sounds like all this talk of financial independence is strictly about money. And it is largely dependent on money, but the real reward isn’t just a healthy set of bank accounts. Rather it is freedom. Freedom from the job that weighs you down, the mortgage or loans that hardly seem to go away, the ability to fearlessly walk away from a job if ever necessary (whether due to health, family concerns, or whatever), and most importantly in my eyes….the freedom to spend your time doing what is most valuable with the people that mean the most to you. Sure, I’d probably be happy for a bit if I was only focused on the money. But realistically, I doubt that I’d be happy very long if I was wealthy and had no family or close friends with whom to share that with. The ability to improve lives is ultimately the goal. Not just to squeeze by and survive, but to improve and create a lasting impression.
What can you do?
So, what if you want this too?! Well the first step is taking action. Learn about finances. Ask the tough and sometimes uncomfortable questions then seek answers from those who you look up to. Avoid the financially compromising lifestyle choices that many of us frequently make. Consider not only the dollar value of purchasing goods or services, but also the opportunity cost. Save as much as you possibly can, invest your money in ethically sound and sustainable companies. Share your experiences, successes, and failures with those you care about. Learn from the mistakes of others so you can avoid those same mistakes, and ultimately…live the life you’ve got! Make it a life worth being proud of. One that your spouse, grandparents, parents, siblings, kids, and/or grandkids can look at and smile knowing how responsible and thoughtful you have been. None of us know how long we have, so start today! Be proactive, thoughtful, generous, and kind. Be the person that is admired for your character and give back to those who could use a hand. Give yourself the freedom to make a positive difference.