FFF: Define Your Freedom

Alright, it’s time to welcome you to the first part of a new series here on The Amateur Financier, Financial Freedom Fridays!  We’re going to be spending Fridays from now on discussing how to gain the freedom to do what you want with your time.  Of course, before we can discuss HOW to get there, we need to figure out WHERE there is, that is, you need to

Define Your Freedom

We’re all individuals, and we all have our ideas of what it means to be financially free.  For some of us, it’s being debt free, with enough money in the bank to buy anything we want.  For others, it’s having a regular stream of income that’s independent of work, providing income to allow us to take an endless vacation.  For still others, it’s the opportunity to do whatever work we want, from high paying to simple volunteer work, while living the lifestyle we want.  For many of us, it’s some combination of all of the above, along with any of the other options about your life and how to live it.

You might already have a good idea of what your financially free life would look like.  After all, if you’ve been planning for retirement (or fantasized about marching up to your boss, telling him to do something anatomically impossible, and walking out of the office to the applause of your coworkers), you’ve basically been considering what you’d do if you could follow your dreams.  But, if you need some help getting started, here’s a few questions to ask yourself as you plan your financially free future.

What Do I Enjoy Doing In My Daily Life?

Let’s start with an easy one; what brings joy and happiness to your life?  Presumably, there’s something in your life that makes you happy.  Do you enjoy reading?  (I’m something of a bibliophile myself, so I understand the feeling.)  Are you a sports fan, someone who all but defines the word fanatic?  Do you have pets that you love, a family you adore, a significant other you like to snuggle?

Now that you’re thinking of your favorite things, imagine that you could devote as much time and money to them as you want; what would you do differently?  Would you start collecting rare first editions and lovingly read them every night?  Would you get a season ticket to your favorite team(s), and follow them to all their away games?  How would you spoil your loved ones if money was no object?  Go ahead, let your mind wander.

Congratulations, you’ve come up with at least one, possibly many more, things you’d do if you were financially free.  Now, let’s look at another idea spark:

What Events Or Places Have You Wanted To Experience?

The world is a big place, and ever increasing advancements in transportation make it easier to reach almost any place on the globe.  As a result, the limits on where you can go, and what you do there, are lower than ever before.  Almost anywhere in the world is a possibility for exploration.

For an example from my own life, I’m a huge Japanophile.  Sondra and I love Japanese culture (particularly their pop culture; but culture is culture (that’s my story, and I’m sticking to it)), Japanese art, and the Japanese lifestyle.  We are hoping to go there during our honeymoon, a goal that I hope I can help make real for her.

Similarly, I’m sure there’s places and events around the world that you’d love to experience for yourself.  From Munich during Oktoberfest to Paris in the springtime to the rain forests of Brazil to, well, Japan, I’m sure there’s plenty of things you’d like to experience throughout the world, as well.  Part of being free is being able to do everything you have on your to do list, so be sure to write them down.  Then, consider one more spark to help you think about how to define freedom:

What Work Would I Do, If I Could Do Anything?

‘Wait a minute!’ you exclaim, ‘I thought this was all about financial freedom; since when do I have to work when I’m financially free?’  Well, hang on a moment.  I know that work is one of the worst four-letter words in the English language, but it does serve its purpose.  Work, at its best, gives us a chance to benefit our fellow humans, improve the world around us, and add to the knowledge in existence.  If you’re doing work you love, you’ll enjoy every moment, and the world as a whole will be better because of it.

On a more mundane note, work provides money on top of (hopefully) emotional fulfillment.  Unless you are from a wealthy family, or have already saved up enough to never work again (about twenty to twenty-five times the amount you spend annually, to help put it in perspective), you’ll need to have more money coming in from somewhere.  Even Timothy Ferriss, one of the primary advocates of leaving work as soon as possible, still entitled his book The 4-Hour Workweek; you’re not going to be able to dodge work completely, as long as you need some income.

Instead, think about what you would do in an ideal world, one where you could have almost any career, doing whatever you love, regardless of considerations like money.  For myself, I want to become a college professor; I love to teach (well, most of the time; I have a class this semester that already seems intent on making me question that commitment) and I like to do research.  With those considerations, working as a professor seems like an ideal job.

Once you’ve come up with some ideas for all of these questions, you should have a better idea of what a financially free life would look like for you.  You should have a better idea of what you want to do with your free time, your vacations, and yes, even what you want to do while you’re working.  For me, it goes a bit like this,

I, Roger Raby, will consider myself financially free when I am able to work as a college professor, take my love Sondra on trips to Japan whenever we want, and fill my study with every book I’d ever want to read, without ever having to worry about a credit card bill afterwards.

How would you define your own financial freedom?

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