Why do all of this? Essentially the question comes down to a more complex question: What does financial independence mean to me? This is indeed a far reaching question and couldn’t think of a better forum to answer it. There are three areas of my life that this idea means different things to and I’ll address each.
Being financially independent has eased a ton of the worry from my marriage. No longer do we fight, argue or feel dejected about not “earning enough income” and we have been able to come together and understand our common goals and define new ones as a couple. We still have our disagreements during budget meetings and life still happens between two human beings, but the strain and strife of feeling like we “can’t make it” have disappeared and we’ve been able to focus our energy towards the goals and things that bring us the most fulfillment in life. In the current day to me this means choosing to live below our means and save for our retirement and medium-long term savings goals. I have simplified and gone back to basics for what I enjoy most out of life. Spending money and trying to impress others is gone and I love being able to get to know my wife all over again. We talk and read more than ever before, and although not perfect, have a much better relationship than when all of this started, I feel like we’ve prioritized in every way shape and form what is important in our lives, and are taking baby steps to see them through. For medium and long term goals we plan to: pay cash for our first home, live overseas for up to a year, have a family and adopt at least two children. I really used to believe that the only way to achieve these goals was to earn a high income. Now I know and plan to prove that anyone with any income can do these things without debt by planning and re-prioritizing what matters in life.
Since the workplace is where I have spent the majority of my adult life, it is important to minimize stress as much as possible and enjoy my line of work. This is easier said than done. Between deadlines, human beings interacting, expectations from managers and trying to find balance, it is hard enough to achieve peace of mind. I remember clear as this morning going to work and being laden in debt. Stresses from home stayed with me at work and vice versa, I was a hamster running on the wheel trying to make the wheel go faster to get somewhere. I admit, I initially was dependent on my work relationship with my employer. I had student loans, rent and a future wedding and home to pay off/buy and I needed them more than they needed me. Once I got on a plan and secured my home first, a lot of the stress lifted and I was able to focus on my day to day job responsibilities and re-assess where I wanted to go in my career. The best part, the stresses at work stopped following me home. Every job has its challenges and good/bad days, but when the stresses of debt payments were gone from my subconscious, the issues at work weren’t as back breaking. I fully expect paying cash for our first home will top this feeling, but it was amazing paying off my last debt and walking into work. From my perspective the relationship changed from dependent to inter-dependent. I didn’t have to be there and was there because I wanted to be. Any day, even today, I can walk away and find a job that pays $20,000 a year and maintain my standard of living. Should the company go under or eliminate my job or be forced to take a pay cut, I will always be more than just fine. In becoming financially independent, I am not dependent on my employer and depend on myself for my future.
I have a ton of goals in my life that I plan to achieve. On top of the baseline security in my marriage and at work, there is a laundry list of things that I want to do in my life, debt free with no payments, regrets or buyer’s remorse:
- Work on a one year international mission trip
- Send my children to college debt free
- Pay cash for my Honda Civic Hybrid
- Set up a scholarship at the public high school of my hometown
- Coach high school basketball full time
- Adopt children
- Serve on boards for local companies and foundations
I grew up under the assumption that I was entitled and anything that I wanted, if I wanted it bad enough, could happen. Along the way I have learned that anything worth having takes effort, discipline, a followed plan and a realization that financial independence is more important than keeping up with the joneses.