The concept of financial independence may be daunting for some people. The more I write about it, the more I recognize that. Additionally, while I’d love to believe anyone can achieve it if they want, that may not be realistic. Actually, what I think is most important is for anyone to be able to achieve some level of financial stability.
Firstly, let’s define the generally accepted definition of financial independence. Typically, it is known as having 25 times your annual spending saved in investment accounts so that you can live off ~4% without depleting it. The idea for this came from the Trinity Study.
There is a lot of controversy surrounding what are actual safe withdrawal rates.
That being said, let’s just define financial independence as having enough money saved in investments so that you don’t need to continue to work to generate income.
Can Anyone Achieve Financial Independence?
This is a rather interesting topic and was asked of me when I was on the Chain of Wealth podcast. I have some thoughts on this topic that I will expand upon in this article.
Additionally, this question was asked today on the What’s Up Next Podcast. During this episode, five inspiring people, who’ve all achieved financial independence shared their thoughts on this topic. What’s amazing about these five people is the obstacles they’ve had to overcome to end up where they are at financially:
- Jillian Johnrsud of Montana Money Adventures
- Paula Pant from Afford Anything
- Kristy Shen and Bryce Leung from Millenial Revolution
- Carl from 1500 days
It’s a really interesting interview and I recommend that anyone take a listen. One of the things that stood out to me, which was said by Krysty, is that a scarcity mindset is not necessarily a bad thing. Here is the link to the episode if you want to hear more about that:
My Short Answer is…
No. Realistically, achieving financial independence might not be possible for everyone. Moreover, not everyone may want to achieve financial independence.
Years ago, I watched the documentary, Happy.
One of the major takeaways for me was that in their research of traveling the world to discover what makes people happy they found that it’s not really money. Unless someone is in extreme poverty and an increase in income would drastically change their life from impoverished to sustainable, increases in income do not typically correlate to an increase in happiness.
Hmm, isn’t that interesting? I think most of us know that deep down.
What’s Important to You?
Finding financial stability, in my opinion, is the thing to focus on. Gaining control of your finances doesn’t have to be about this big audacious goal of financial independence. Sure, I think most people want to know they can retire someday but maybe not.
Take, for instance, my father. He and my mom have done well for themselves. They both worked hard most of their lives, lived within their means and saved for retirement. They are financially independent.
In spite of that my dad only officially retired about a year ago at age 79. Sure he wasn’t working full time up until that age. Additionally, he worked for himself and out of his home but none the less, he worked. He liked his work and it gave him purpose. He didn’t need to keep working for the money, but he kept working.
I know many people that say they enjoy work and want to keep doing it until they die. There’s nothing wrong with that. If you’ve found something that gives you purpose and brings in a paycheck, by all means, keep at it.
What moves me the most in wanting to help others is when I meet people who have no financial stability. When I see people in a constant struggle with money, I want to teach. Because, for most of us, it doesn’t have to be that way.
Bryce Leung says, “if you figure out money, life is incredibly easy; if you don’t figure out money, life is incredibly hard.” There are exceptions to this like, cancer, depression, etc. However, what I will say is that if you don’t figure out money life will be exponentially harder.
Financial stability can really start with little things. Everything big always starts with something small.
What do I mean by the little things? I am talking about…
- Reducing debt
- Mindful and/or value-based spending
- Modest living
- Increased savings
And when you figure these things out, you have the opportunity to become outrageously generous.
It’s Not All Equal
When I’ve been asked if I think financial independence if possible for anyone, I often think of a particular friend I have in recovery. She is not able to work and is on disability. In light of that she lives a simple life and within her means.
Furthermore, she has found purpose in helping other ladies in recovery which is something not limited by her disability. Sure financial independence, in the sense that many people define it, may not be feasible for her. However, I’d argue that she’s found it.
While she has limitations in this life, she’s able to manage and should be able to continue to manage all of the days of her life. Sure she doesn’t have money to spend on whatever she wants but she is sustained and thriving. She’s found financial stability.
No one’s situation is equal. Nor does everyone want the same thing.
In closing, I think the most important thing we can do is to focus on the little things with our money. Essentially it comes down to working to create margin so that what comes in is more than what goes out.
If financial independence is a goal you’d like to achieve, awesome. Go for it and be sure to help others along the way.
If financial independence seems like an impossible goal, that’s okay. Just focus on gaining control of your finances so that you are the master of your money rather than the other way around.
Reader Questions: Do you think anyone can achieve financial independence? Is that even the right question to ask? What if financial independence isn’t for you? How do you obtain financial stability?