Financial Freedom – what does it mean and does it exist?
Usually when I write articles around this time of the year, I try to be as practical as possible so that people can receive guidance regarding how to make it through the uplifting, joyous but financially challenging Pesach holiday season. This year I’m altering my focus slightly due to a question that was posed to me recently. I was asked, “if I had a million dollars invested today, how much money could I generate annually without touching the principle?” While the answer is complicated and beyond the scope of this article, the implications of the question are actually quite profound.
When I was growing up I remember distinctly a financial services commercial from one of the local insurance/investment companies showing a ‘young’ couple in their 50’s walking down the beach, seemingly carefree and enjoying life, while the announcer discussed a plan to achieve financial freedom at an early age from life’s stresses. Clearly they were marketing to young professionals who were working hard to ‘get ahead’ and retire early and relax. While quite possibly this dream remains inbred in the hearts of many, the question you need to be asking yourself is what does financial freedom mean to you?
Money plays a vital role in so many of our life decisions: where to work, live, go to school, how much to work, decisions about travel, vacation, supporting the kids or parents … the list goes on and on affecting all elements of our daily decision-making experiences.
Often people will say something like, “if only I had 30% more income I would be in a much better place”. Or, “if I would sell my house I’d pay off my debts and be much better off”. Before throwing out statements along the lines of increased income or major changes, you need to think about the concept of financial freedom.
So now, what does financial freedom mean to you? If you had more resources at your disposal, how would it affect you? Would you stop working? Would you move homes? What, if any, lifestyle changes would you make?
You need to give serious thought in order to discover what money means to you. Be honest and realistic with yourself. Some people can’t imagine stopping work, even if they don’t need to, as their occupation largely defines who they are. Others see money as the key to long term stability while there are those who marginalize money as a means to get through the month.
What does money mean to you? Freedom from your parents? Freedom to buy more things, freedom to control your time, your future. Maybe it means freedom from your boss or spouse, the ability to give your children an opportunity to get started in life, with education, a house or whatever. But maybe first we need to recognize that thinking that we completely control our destinies is a false sense of freedom.
When we left Egypt we weren’t just running away from our current reality. We were leaving to take upon ourselves a bigger yoke of service to Hashem. When we are constantly overwhelmed by the financial challenges facing us sometimes we forget the bigger picture of why we are here in this world and what our true goals should be. Money is useful, even essential in many ways, but we can’t lose the focus of the bigger picture that should be driving our long term decisions.
When we consider the national freedom we attained when leaving Egypt and continue to enjoy today in our homeland, the Pesach season provides us with an excellent opportunity to explore what financial freedom means to us and how it affects our decisions. This insight can be truly critical and provides us with:
- greater clarity and deeper understanding of who we are and what we want from our lives, career, family, and our future.
- the ability to better formulate our goals and prioritize our short term and long term spending habits.
It could well be that when you define your ‘financial freedom’ you may not have the finances to achieve that goal. However, once clearly recognized you will know what you are aiming for. And knowing what is really important to you will help you either channel your finances, or adjust your spending so that you can be ‘financially free’.
When you have an accurate picture of your future needs, you will be able to be more proactive in saving towards these future needs and/or wants.You will then have a much healthier relationship with money. From being controlled, you will be the one in control, which is both mentally empowering and financially liberating.
Don’t forget how Pirkei Avot defines true wealth: ‘who is truly rich? Those who are happy with their lot’. Wishing you, and all of Clal Yisrael a Chag Kasher VeSameach.