I've been hearing this phrase a lot whilst working in the finance industry, and it has got me questioning... what does it really mean?
I know the experts or the people hawking you the ideas of financial planning, direct sales or some MLM thingie mean it to be "never having to worry about how you're gonna earn your next dollar"... or they call it, "having residual income". It's certainly a grand idea, but I'm beginning to see it differently.
The whole idea that's being sold in the marketplace now is how to gain more and more and more and more. Yes... society demands it, the economy demands it... the government demands it :P But should be demand this of ourselves? If there's anything I learned after 7.5 years of chasing the $-sign, it's that it may cause us to lose sight of life when all we chase is the green.
So what does financial freedom mean to me now?
1. Having enough to live in reasonable comfort each day... like having a good space to live in, being able to eat wholesome food and to be able to afford the basic things to take care of myself.
2. Being as debt free as possible.... having enough cash in my bank to pay off the monthly credit card bills. It's inevitable that we will need to take up loans and etc as life eventually requires us to make such purchases to build a family or simply own some assets to our name. As long as you are able to pay them off at a steady rate without having to live in poverty, you're fine. And this also means that you should never make a purchase that is way beyond your means or rack up credit card bills you can never pay off.
3. Not having to worry if I can afford any medical bills... short of sounding like an insurance agent, I do believe in having good medical insurance, and working for a company that at least covers your visits to the GP. Everyone should have a good hospitalisation plan. And for those in SG, please upgrade your Medishield plans. You will understand how important it is when something happens.
4. Being able to enjoy life once in awhile... a good meal with loved ones, a nice trip with my other half, being able to buy that dress, shoe or bag I've been eyeing for awhile. Being able to indulge or spend a bit more than usual would be nice. But otherwise, there are so many ways to enjoy life with your loved ones. Sometimes the simplest activities like a walk in the park or watching a DVD together is meaningful enough.
5. Being able to contribute to my parents' living expenses... I guess this is a basic. I'm not quite there yet, but I hope to be there someday.
I know all the above sounds like a contradiction. If I'm earning a miserable salary, how will I be able to afford any of the above in the long run, other than #1? I guess what I'm trying to say is not that we should not have ambitions to upgrade and achieve more in life, but to focus less on just getting more, with no end in sight. I previously put so much emphasis on earning money that I forgot that job satisfaction was important. I kept believing that as long as I was paid an amount I was 'happy' with at the time, it would make up for any lack of love or interest in the job. I thought that as long as I could afford to go on shopping sprees, go on holidays, buy a new gadget and eat expensive stuff all the time, I would be happy. As time has proven, I was wrong. No amount of money could make up for the eventual loss of interest in the job... and in any case, it wasn't as if I was earning an obscene amount of money. LOL!
I'm trying to change my life bit by bit now. First thing is to seek a job that I can see myself doing for the next 2-3 years. True... I've never stayed at any job past 2 years. So I'm setting myself a goal... find a job I enjoy, and I have to stay at least 3 years if possible. Other goals include... doing more reading to enrich myself, writing more as part of self-reflection, eating healthy, exercising constantly, evolving my mental well-being to the next level. Yea... all these sound like very lofty and spiritual sort of goals... but I guess that's where I'm heading.
I just had a job interview today. For the first time, I don't really care what they might offer me. I just want to get the job and see how well I can do it. But of course, not at the price shortchanging myself. As long as the salary commensurates with the job scope, I'm good :) I'm slowly starting to believe that there is nothing I cannot do... it's all about willingness to move forward and take a whack at it :D I just want to learn different things and add to my life experiences.
So now... what does financial freedom mean to me? I think the most simple answer after all the mumbo-jumbo I've written is... to be able to live in contentment and without greed. Feel free to disagree ^_^