I often run across people who say they want financial freedom. The truth is, that goal is set by people who don’t have a well-rounded picture of financial freedom and what it truly means. In my opinion, financial freedom is pretty much unattainable. Financial security, on the other hand, is a stage that can be reached by anyone with a plan.
For that reason, I believe people should seek financial security, not financial freedom.
What is financial freedom?
Financial freedom is defined as being able to maintain your financial lifestyle without a regular paycheck. Basically, the definition of retirement. Sure, retirement exists, but when we say we are seeking financial freedom, we aren’t saying we are seeking retirement. Instead, in reality, we are associating financial freedom with a mindset that we are free from financial worry.
There’s no walk in life where you are truly free from financial worry. No matter the financial circumstances of a person or the stage of life we are in, there are financial worries. They’re just different.
Financial freedom changes per person, situation
Let’s think about that for a minute by walking through examples.
A retired individual
For this individual, perhaps there are multiple sources of income including Social Security, withdrawals from retirement accounts, and/or income from a part-time job.
Even in retirement, this person has financial concerns. What if they realize they’re going to outlive what’s in their retirement account? Or an unexpected expense happens that wasn’t planned for, like a crack in the foundation of their home. What if a previously independent child becomes a dependent again?
Even though retirement has been reached, there are clearly financial worries for this person.
A couple working in the service industry
Perhaps one works for a local non-profit, and the other is a teacher. These are important jobs and add so much value; however, people in these jobs are not doing it for the money.
These are not the jobs through which someone becomes rich financially.
Think about what the concerns may be: My kid is begging for the newest, most expensive gaming console for Christmas, but how can I afford that? I need a bigger car for my expanding family, but I can’t afford a larger payment. I really need a break but the little vacation money we had saved needed to be used for paying for an unexpected medical expense.
A couple with white-collar jobs
Now let’s think about a couple who both have white-collar jobs with good salaries, benefits, and bonuses. They have, in their own terms, outpaced their career goals.
These are business people, successful entrepreneurs, medical professionals, ladder climbers.
For these people, there is a different set of financial concerns. I work hard and we make good money, but the money is always gone at the end of the month. I feel like I’m having to keep up with the Joneses. Because I make sufficient money, family or friends always expect me to help them financially.
A fortune 500 CEO
Ok now think of the richest person you can think of, who you think on the surface would have no concern about money whatsoever. These are the people that you think have financial freedom without a doubt. But more money, more problems, is a song for a reason.
We are talking CEOs of Fortune 500s, A-List celebrities, athletes with endorsement deals. These are foreign diplomats, royalty.
You think these are the people that have it made. Instead of being up at night worrying about what bills they can pay this month, they are up at night thinking about if they get hurt or if they’re unable to continue earning at their level, could they sustain the lifestyle they and their family are accustomed to? They’re concerned about preserving the money for future generations and making sure confidants are not taking financial advantage of them.
Financial freedom vs. financial security
As you can see, no matter what stage of life, what income level, or how much financial savvy you possess, there is no walk of life that ensures mental financial freedom.
For that reason, I think we should keep retirement as a goal for our future, but let’s reframe our present goal from the goal of seeking financial freedom to focusing on being financially secure.
No matter the stage of life, financial security is attainable, unlike financial freedom.
Financial security is having peace of mind knowing your income is greater than your expenses.
Let’s all focus on being educated in personal finance enough to feel secure. To feel the security that we are making informed decisions, and ensure that we are striving to live within our means.
Let’s make it our goal that financial worry will not keep us up at night. No matter our current situation, whether we have the thoughts in the above examples, or other concerns with respect to our financial situation, are all things we have control over. They may be concerns, but let’s focus on being in the power seat over our personal finances.
Ultimately, we have enough ownership and awareness to combat our financial worries head-on instead of burying our heads in the sand, so that no matter what arises it isn’t money that is the issue.
- I am seeking financial security.
- I will combat financial issues head-on.
- My financial education is important.