But what about our own independence?
Not surprising, for many people, money is all about independence.
Money can give us the freedom to live our own life, make our own choices, and determine our own future.
So in the spirit of Samuel Adams, Thomas Payne, and others, here’s a 21st century update revealing 7 self-evident truths to achieving financial independence today:
Have very clear priorities. If controlling your own financial future is important to you, then act like it. Make sure that you can always earn enough to support yourself, without help from anyone else. This is a lesson I reinforce constantly in my house, especially with my daughter. We all hope for the best, but in my practice I meet with far too many middle-aged women who gave up careers to raise a family and find themselves at age 60 with no job, few skills, and not enough money. If you want to be financially independent, you’ll need to make choices that lead to that result. Some of those choices may not always be easy.
Invest in yourself. Being independent is all about enhancing your ability to support yourself, whatever life brings your way. Invest (wisely) in higher education. Learn what skills are in-demand in your field and add them to your repertoire. Keep networking, evolving, and always have a “Plan B” lined up in case your job gets axed. We’ve probably all worked in places where the corporate “re-engineering” geniuses come in and decide they can do the work just as well with half the staff (yeah, right). One thing you learn fast is that your education, skills, and credentials belong to you. No one can take them away.
Build up an “independence fund.” What’s that? Think of it as the polite version of the proverbial “*&%# You” fund. You need to have money set aside for when you really, really need it. It’s your ultimate ticket out of the workforce, your so-I-can-eat-and-pay-the-mortgage-after-I-lost-my-job fund, your buy-in to that house with a porch down in the Keys, or maybe a way to transition into the new business you’ve been dreaming about. Having this money set aside buys you time and gives you choices.
I learned the value of this when I was almost eight months pregnant with my first child. I was married at the time, and my husband, a pilot for Pan Am, called me at work to say the airline was suddenly closing down and he was out of a job. I interviewed for a higher-paying job out-of-state when my daughter was only a few weeks old, we sold our house and moved to Florida. He didn’t land a new job as a pilot for almost a year. It wasn’t quite the way we had planned it, but the point is, we survived thanks to money we had already put aside.
Spend less than you earn. This is the real key toward generating a “surplus” that you can put toward your future, use to invest in yourself, or build up your “independence fund.” If you spend every penny you make (or like many people, even more than what you make), you’ll never be able to call the shots. You’ll always be a slave to other people’s expectations or material goods that ultimately mean nothing. Refer back to rule #1 – it’s all about your priorities.
Pay yourself first. Most people are fully prepared to save … mañana. The problem is that, as the saying goes, tomorrow never comes. Make saving a priority, and put aside your “independence” money first by directing 10-15% of your earnings straight into a 401(k), IRA or Roth, or a retirement plan you set up yourself if you’re self-employed. It’s essential to save for yourself, because nowadays, no one else is really saving for you.
Lemons? Make lemonade. You never know what life will bring your way, so stay flexible, be nimble and always look for opportunities. Banish the word “entitle” from your vocabulary. I try to teach my kids that in this country, no one owes you anything. Be prepared to work hard. The silver lining is that as Americans, we have the freedom to reinvent ourselves as often as we want. I have friends who are successfully starting new careers in their 50s and 60s, and who revel in the opportunity to make money, give back, and express themselves creatively at an age when people used to be thinking about winding down.
To thine own self be true. Let’s face it. Wanting your independence isn’t always an easy road. You have to know what really matters to you, where you can compromise, and ultimately what will make you happy. For some people, finding their independence means going against expectations and finding their own true calling, their own true voice, their own true life. That’s what makes our country great, and that’s the freedom our country’s founders fought for.