I run a personal finance blog…but I must admit that financial independence is not my end goal.
Financial independence is simply a means to an end. I want to be financially independent solely for the fact that it means I will have control over how I get to spend each day.
Bringing Value To The World
We all have special interests and desires that make us feel alive.
I mean really feel alive.
Whether this is writing books or producing music or doing woodwork or making paintings or starting businesses or playing sports or tutoring students or WHATEVER else. We all have something to offer to the world. We are all capable of creating something from nothing that adds value to the lives of others.
When we find what makes us feel alive and we begin to create content and put it out there for the rest of the world to consume, we realize that this brings a deep sense of satisfaction. Everyone has a desire to use their skills to make an impact on others and bring value to the world.
This is one of the most well known paths to happiness – using your skills in a meaningful way to improve the lives of other people. In one way or another we all can uniquely enhance the lives of other people and make a mark in the world, big or small.
The Undeniable Power of Financial Independence
So where does financial independence enter the mix? When you are financially independent you have the option to spend every single day pursuing these interests and using your skills and experience to truly improve the world. You gain the freedom to really add value to the world in your own unique way. You are free from the liability of going to a job 5 days per week and having your week pre-planned for you.
Now maybe you already hold a job where you feel you are truly contributing positively to the world and using your knowledge and skills in the best way possible. If that’s the case, that’s fantastic. Keep doing that meaningful work that makes you feel alive.
But the unfortunate truth is that most people are not in a job where they feel like they have the absolute freedom and autonomy to use their skills in the most effective way possible.
Odds are, even if you are comfortable with your job, there are aspects of the job that you don’t enjoy. This might be meetings, or performance evaluations, or pointless administrative tasks you have to participate in on a regular basis.
When you gain financial independence you gain freedom from all these pointless activities and you get to truly focus on work you find meaningful.
End Goal = Freedom to Use Time How I Want
So although I am at the beginning of my financial independence quest it’s important to keep in mind that I’m not seeking a huge sum of money just for the sake of having it. I’m seeking it so that I can have the freedom to work on awesome projects and spend time with people I love.
Life is a never ending journey to grow and develop every single day. I don’t have a plan to suddenly quit growing and pushing myself everyday as soon as I hit financial independence. Nor do I have plans to retire to a beach and sip martinis all day (maybe every now and then) until I grow old and die.
Once I reach the point where I can ditch my job and be able to live off of passive income full time I know I won’t be eternally happy or accomplished. But once I reach that point I will have full control over my time.
And that is what I am truly seeking.
When I have control over my time I am free of other obligations that might prevent me from making the most of my skills and interests to create work I feel passionate about. I will have full autonomy to use my time how I see fit and live each day how I want.
Money Is A Tool
The problem with the phrase “Money can’t buy happiness” is that people assume money is inherently evil and that understanding it is pointless since it won’t bring happiness. The issue with this type of thinking is that even if you believe that obtaining money is not the point of life you can’t deny the fact that money plays a huge role in our everyday lives, so much so that it literally dictates our actions from day to day.
Truly rich people do not think of acquiring money as an end goal in life, but rather they recognize money for what it really is: a tool. Money is a tool that you can use to build an amazing life. It’s the tool that you can use to say F-you when life throws problems your way you don’t want to deal with.
When you begin to view money as a tool you suddenly understand the importance of understanding basic personal finance concepts. You begin to realize that 401(k)’s, IRA’s, HSA’s, and the stock market are not all fancy concepts that only financial analysts should be concerned with, but that understanding these monetary tools can literally transform your life in a dramatic way.
Acquiring money is not an end goal. Rather, money is a powerful tool you can use to create a life filled with purpose and happiness.
So I do agree with the idea that money can’t buy happiness directly, but it can buy you freedom, which in turn gives you the free time to pursue activities that bring you happiness. I think we should rephrase this overly used quote into something more accurate like:
"Money can't buy happiness. But it can buy freedom, which leads to happiness."
When I constantly remind myself that financial independence is not the ultimate end goal it helps me realize what my real end goals in life are. These goals involve combining my skills and interests to live an incredible, rich life. When I think about being financially independent and having ultimate control of how I want to live from day to day I become that much more motivated to optimize my financial life.
Financial independence is NOT my end goal. Rather, it is the most powerful tool I can use to achieve my end goals.
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