Dear readers, as I said in my last article, the most significant words that I have experienced since becoming an independent adult have been “Become Financially Free”. So, how did these words happen? And what do these words mean?
As I mentioned in my earlier post, early in our careers, (am talking about 1999-2000), like most people our age, we were merrily travelling along life’s highway, earning, spending and salting away a bit for the future, and ticking away at various “achievements” which were largely material acquisitions. But our middle-class genes also automatically built in some caution and I remember that we had started thinking about what should be the financial goal that we should be looking to build to “be comfortable”. At that time, the number “x” seemed both luxurious and unattainable and hence that was the number that we set ourselves a “target” to reach.
Of course, as a few more years passed by (by about 2005-6), the number started looking small! Not because our nest egg was getting closer to the number though, since we had continued to follow a fairly haphazard (in hindsight) approach to building wealth – a second house, some bit in the stock market, some insurance, etc. Just that “x” suddenly seemed both “within reach” and “not enough”. So, the target became larger (about “3x”) and we continued to earn and spend while saving up.
As we entered our middle years (around 2011-12) and our kids started growing up, life began to resemble a treadmill. Just that while the run in itself was enjoyable, the faster we went, the faster the treadmill also seemed to go and the ultimate destination seemed like a mirage. The target again started seeming “not enough”. That’s when we consciously decided to slow down the treadmill and asked ourselves a few questions.
- What kind of lifestyle did we desire for ourselves and our children?
- How much of a role should debt play in our lives?
- What is really the corpus that we wanted to “be comfortable” for the rest of our life?
Our search for answers to these questions helped us fulfil our need for financial security as well as discover the concept of “financial freedom”. Essentially, Being Financially Free in the simplest way meant having enough money that one need not have to work for money for the rest of his or her life. That said, it isn’t as one-dimensional as that. Being Financially Free necessitates the following
- Having enough money to ensure that all foreseen (and unforeseen) expenses are taken care of
- Still having money post that to take care of all future events/milestones until one’s death
- Making sure that assets are in the right form to enable one to live the lifestyle that one has planned for
- Last but not the least, making sure that your money is invested wisely enough to ensure that it is not getting eroded by factors such as unplanned expenses, inflation, market cycles, illiquidity, concentration, etc.
This process also helped us recognize the fact that how much people go wrong in their understanding of money and their efforts to build wealth. And 2 reasons stood out
- Underestimating the long term – both in terms of inflation as well as asset composition
- Lack of direction – Building assets doesn’t necessarily build adequate wealth, unless one knows what are one’s milestones and goals
In our personal case, as we underwent and completed the comprehensive planning exercise for ourselves, we discovered that the “number” we were looking for to be “comfortable”, rather “financially free” was about “10x” from the original number we started with, and that too in current value terms. We now know what is the number we are working towards, and we also have a clear understanding of what are our future financial milestones and how we need to plan for them.
As an aside, our personal experiences with money helped us set up Finwise, a firm that helps busy people achieve their financial goals, grow their wealth substantially and work towards financial freedom. In a way, we ourselves were our first “financial planning” customer!
I hope our story helps you understand what it means to “Be Financially Free”. Do let me know your thoughts at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Finwise is a personal finance solutions firm that helps people plan for their financial goals, follow their passions and achieve financial independence. For advice, please reach us at email@example.com or +91 9870702277/9820818007.
Image credit: Stockified.com, shot by ab-dz