“Go confidently in the direction of your dreams. Live the life you have imagined.” – Henry David Thoreau
Achieving financial security and financial success is not always easy. The principles of achieving the goal are pretty simple; pay yourself first, spend less than you earn and pay off your debts; the reality of adopting and maintaining the discipline and the habits that will keep you on track and take you where you want to go is not always so simple.
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The trouble is that being smart with your money is not always the most fun you can have with your money. As human beings we’re hard-wired for pleasure and it’s the anticipation of that pleasure that is far more exciting than actually achieving it. There are a myriad of pleasurable things that can be bought with money and it can be all too easy to get caught up in the drive to enjoy those short term pleasures rather than spending time building something bigger in order to reap a much higher long term gain.
Part of the solution lies in a change of perspective; if we can start to see saving as more exciting than spending then the drive to save will be greater than our drive to spend. This makes it easier to resist the temptation to spend our hard-earned money on bargains and must-haves that all too often turn up in our closets months later with the tags still attached. The other part lies in having a financial motivator to save that is bigger than our motivator to spend. It's not the act of saving and building wealth that we enjoy, it's the fact that in building wealth we are creating a life that is rich in so many non-financial ways.
What does financial freedom mean to you?
Is it a house on the beach? A great education for your kids? The time and the money to travel? Perhaps it’s establishing a charitable foundation or having the time to commit to volunteering overseas or just the freedom to spend time with those you love? How much money would you need in order to fund that freedom? If you had enough money coming in each month to pay your bills and meet your savings goals then what would you do with the time you currently spend working? It might sound like a pie in the sky fantasy but the reality is that every day, ordinary people who work ordinary jobs and live in ordinary homes retire with an extraordinary amount of wealth. They are able to do it not because of a lottery win or some other windfall but because they had a clear vision, followed simple principles and worked consistently towards achieving a financial goal.
Reaching that goal needs a plan but what it needs even more is a financial motivator. Once you've defined what achieving your goal looks like, take it one step further and consider how exactly attaining financial freedom will impact your life? Why do you want to achieve your goal? How will it benefit those you care about? Dig deep for your motivator; you need to make the vision of achieving your dream so real that you can taste the excitement of reaching it. It’s this feeling that will boost your willpower when you’re tempted and get you back on track when you’re discouraged. It’s this excitement that will fuel your drive to achieve and inspire others to believe in and support your dream. Don’t let your dreams be limited by what society or your peers say is real and possible; the world is full of people who have achieved so much more than others thought they could. Don’t be intimidated into making your goal too easy; you won’t ever know what you are capable of unless you’re willing to risk going outside of your comfort zone.
I recently joined a goal setting group in order to get a little more accountability and motivation to help me stay on track towards achieving the big goals I’m intending to achieve by the end of 2014. The leader of the group told me not to think small in setting my goals but to push myself right to the limits of what I think I’m capable of.
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The theory is that if you set the bar too low you won’t push as hard to get over it, setting it high enough to be challenging but not so high that it’s impossible inspires you to drive harder to achieve. For me financial freedom means no debt, a year’s worth of expenses in the bank, a steady passive income stream, a cozy (rented) apartment and a shiny, black (fully paid for) 2014 Tesla Model S. The car is my one indulgence; I've learned that I don’t need a big house, a lot of “stuff” or the trappings of an extravagant lifestyle but I really love driving nice cars.
What financial freedom means to me is time; the opportunity to spend as much time as I like with the people I love, especially my family in England, to travel to all the places on my bucket list and to volunteer for organizations in Canada and overseas. It means having the time to build businesses, to speak, to write and to learn. That joy of having total time freedom is my motivator. That’s what keeps me going. What about you? What’s your definition of financial success and what's your financial motivator to achieve it?