Freedom vs. Freedom

Today I’m pondering the idea of re-entering the workaday world.

Two years ago I quit a job I didn’t like to pursue whatever I wanted.

The world was my oyster, the possibilities endless. I was free to do as I pleased. True, I had no source of income, but I did have plenty of money in reserve and had every intention of creating a source of income.

I’m a smart guy, lots of skills, entrepreneurial spirit, vim, vigor, etc., etc. If others can do it, so can I.

Two years ago I was full of confidence that I could create a source of income. I could be free and have money. I could have my cake and eat it too.

But over the course of the last two years, the source of income I’d intended to create never materialized (for a whole host of reasons,) and I convinced myself (and my family) that we don’t need money. We don’t need things. We don’t need to travel.

I convinced myself (and my family) of these things because I couldn’t find a way to retain my freedom and have money.

If the choice is between freedom – defined as my time being my own – or money and things, I choose freedom. If having money means I have to go back to a 40-hour-a-week-job, I don’t want it.

Not that we’re deprived. We just don’t have the freedom to travel. We don’t have the freedom to pursue many of our various interests because our financial resources are limited.

And therein lies the dichotomy: Because I’m free, I’m not free.

Money will purchase a certain degree of freedom, a certain type of freedom. With money, I have the financial freedom to do stuff. Without money, I don’t.

In order to get money (apparently,) I have to give up my time. I can either have my cake, or I can eat it. But not both.

Wait, how could I eat the cake if I didn’t have it in the first place?

See how confusing this is?

It’s possible (because we live in the realm of endless possibilities, don’t we?) for me to find a job I love, doing something I’m passionate about. Then I’d have it all.

Wouldn’t I?

Financial Independence

Boil the concept of money management down to its most simple elements, and you must do three things:

  1. Spend less than you earn.
  2. Get out of debt.
  3. Stay out of debt.

It doesn’t get much simpler than that. And yet, those three concepts can be exceptionally complicated.

Nonetheless you have to do them. There is no other way to become financially independent, short of winning the lottery or some other sort of windfall. Even still, although by some lucky stroke you might get rich overnight, if you fail to understand and practice basic financial management principles, chances are, you will not be rich for long.

Each of the three must be done in order. You cannot stay out of debt until you’re out of debt in the first place. You cannot get out of debt until you spend less than you earn.

A fundamental truth in money management, and one far too often overlooked, is that you cannot save money until your debts are paid. You may be tucking away money in some sort of savings vehicle while paying minimum payments on your credit card, but your net worth – assets minus liabilities – will always be reduced by the amount of debt you have. What good is it doing you to sock away money for retirement, kid’s college fund, or a vacation fund, when the most basic elements, namely spending less than you earn, being out of debt, and staying out of debt, are not met?

You will never be free of financial worries until you accomplish the three goals of spending less than you earn, getting out of debt, and staying out of debt.

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