Everyone dreams of being financially free. All the affiliate marketing ads and social media bombard us with videos, pictures, and stories of “normal people”, like me and you, achieving it. With few clicks you are free. Free of traveling around the world in first class, owning a mansion, three Lamborghini and 100 square meters closet full of branded clothes and shoes.
But what actually means being financially free? And what is the difference between financial independence and financial freedom? Which comes first? Which one should we aim for?
“Financial freedom is freedom from fear” Robert Kiyosaki
Financial Independence is the ability to generate your own income. This implies you are not dependent on others for money, whether it’s parents, spouse or credit cards/loans. If you live with your parents because you cannot afford your own place. If you have a student loan to repay or cannot afford to fully pay your credit card monthly, you are not independent.
You may argue with me that is your choice to live with your parents and have nothing to do with financial independence. The reason I bring up the “living at home with parents” scenario, apart from the one above is due to the fact that having one’s own place has always been the main signifier of adulthood. If you choose to live with them and are able to regularly support them financially, like it happens in many Asian countries, then it’s a totally different story.
A student loan is something many of you may have. I think of it as a monkey. Education is a great asset. It’s with you when you need it. It fits nicely between your ears and it is a thought away when you need to access it. If there is a debt attached to it, and you do not have a clear a definite plan of how you are going to take care of it, it will be your worst liability. It will follow you, seated on your shoulder. Every day, if you do not feed it, it will grow larger and larger, putting more and more pressure.
“Money is not the goal. Money has no value. The value comes from the dreams money helps achieve” Robert Kiyosaki
Robert Kiyosaki does a marvelous explanation of the difference between good debt and bad debt, in his famous book “rich dad, poor dad”.
Financial freedom, on the other hand, is a different animal altogether. You may define it as being able to: retire comfortably, afford things you have always wanted, not having to worry about money, or simply the ability to make life decisions without worrying about financial constraints. When I think about financial freedom the first thing that comes into my mind is passive income. Having an investment portfolio or an apartment building that generate enough income so that one does not have to work for a living.
You should choose your own definition of financial freedom, as it is different for each one of us. To be clear, earning a high income is not the same as having financial freedom. Highly-paid professionals in medicine, finance, and law may make a high six-figure salary, but long hours and stress drastically reduce the quality of their life.
“A big part of financial freedom is having your heart and mind free from worry about the what-ifs of life” Suze Orman
In my last trip to Sicily, I was shocked when Mario, a restaurant owner in Marzamemi, a small village close to Pachino, told me that he takes 3 months off during the off-season to explore the world. In the other 9 months, the restaurant is pretty busy and the working hours are pretty long too. While I was enjoying my “aperitivo” I thought about one of my closest friends in Singapore, she has an amazing job, however she works 6 to 7 days a week with long hours, earning much more than Mario, but in comparison, Mario seemed to have more freedom than her.
What is your definition of financial freedom?
Please share with me your thoughts about it. Drop me a line at firstname.lastname@example.org