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Financial Freedom is not about quitting 9 to 5 job

Financial Freedom is not about quitting 9 to 5 job

What is Financial Freedom? I asked this question to the audience during my speech sessions last weekend.

Quitting 9 to 5 job, not dependent on anyone, having enough money without working, retiring early, planning for the future are some of the interesting answers I received. Quitting 9 to 5 job was the choice of majority of them.

While all of them are more or less close answers, here is what I think about financial freedom.           I have personally realized that Financial Freedom is not about quitting 9 to 5 job. Its more about having the ability to make choices. Be it career, be it buying a house, be it taking a vacation – If your decisions are not driven by money, then I would say that you are Financially independent.

Do you have a better control of money, or it is the money that controls you most of the times? Are you the master of money or it is the other way? Your answer to these questions would reveal if you have possessed financial freedom.

If in case, you don’t have the freedom, the liberty to make choices, then let me tell you how you could also reach there.

Clearing your debts and abstaining from them is the first step to financial freedom. There are hundreds of books teaching you how to attain “financial freedom”, talking about multiplying money, retiring early, building a retirement corpus, becoming rich and what not. All existing hacks become useless when your wallet has a hole. Only when you stop leakages, the hacks would start working. You must have “Zero EMI” to attain financial freedom. That’s the first and foremost step.

Financial Freedom is about living comfortably and having choices. But when you are living under a debt mountain and savings is completely out of sight, what choices can you make? The debts that surround, stop you from reaching your goals quicker. Forget about reaching them faster, the majority of the time people do not reach their goals at all because of the debts they have, EMIs they must honor. Debts are real leakages that stop you from attaining financial freedom.

Having said that, there are two ways to be debt free

  1. Reduce Loans – You can reduce your loans by prompt repayments every month. As simple as that. You can also prepay your loans to reduce debt.
  2. Avoid Loans – By saving enough, reducing expenses, living within your means, you can avoid loans. Another important step to avoid loans is to stop using credit cards. Credit cards are the most dangerous, double edged sword that you have in your hand.

The next step to financial freedom is to write down your financial goals. Financial goals are like basement for the house. You need a very strong basement upon which you can build a beautiful house. Financial goals serve as the basement for financial planning. Every one of us have lots of desires, ambitions and wishes for the future. Putting them all in a paper, organizing those thoughts and giving a shape to our desires is what goal is all about. Your goal must be Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic and Timebound (SMART). In simple words, it is all about, figuring out how much money do you need, when do you need and why do you need. Your financial goals will act as a guide as you go through your life’s journey.

Knowing your net worth is another crucial step to financial freedom. Only when you know where you are, then you can decide where to go. To know your net worth, list down all your assets – cash in hand, cash in bank, stocks, mutual fund investments, real estate properties like land, house, personal properties like jewels, cars etc., Once you have this list of assets, then list down your liabilities/loans. I assume and wish that you have Zero EMI. However, if you have any loans like car loans, housing loans, Zero percent EMIs, credit card dues, educational loans – list down under liabilities. Your net worth is simply your assets minus liabilities. Knowing your networth helps you to know your financial health. You must know what your current position is, how distributed your wealth is, what are your debts etc. Most of the people think that knowing net worth is only for those who have lot of assets – No, it’s a wrong assumption. Your net worth is a snapshot of your financial position at this point of time. You must do it at least once in a year to check your financial health. By knowing your financial situation, you would be more mindful – about your spending, about your investments, about your assets. It would help you make sound financial decisions aligning to your financial goals.

Next is to track your expenses. One important powerful habit I have learned from my father during my early 20s is to write down the expenses incurred. Every day before he goes to bed, he would sit and write down that day’s expenses in a notebook. I have imbibed this habit somehow and follow it till now. This helps me to track my expenses and understand “where my money is going”. Habits are powerful. This single habit will help you to know your spending pattern. Only when you know where your money is going and how much is going, you would know what is left.

By this time, you know your goals, you know your net worth, you know where your money is going, and you also know if your income is enough to meet your goals. Whether you are a salaried person or a businessman, see how you can increase your income either by improving your performance, improving your efficiency, expanding your product line and what not. And also look for ways to create additional sources of income by taking a side job like selling books, writing contents, giving speeches, selling crafts, freelance jobs etc., Depending on your financial goals and your current financial situation – you should plan your ways to increase your income as needed.

Another step in the path to financial freedom is to invest. What is investing? Investing means committing your money to earn a return or profit. In simple terms, making your money to make money is what investment is all about. Investment is different from savings. You keep some money in your wallet or in your house to use it for later, it is savings. If you keep your money in an instrument, say shares, to earn a profit, then it is an investment. You can invest in shares, mutual funds, bonds, gold, real estate, in business – the opportunities are plenty. One key point to remember while investing is that your investments must be mapped to your financial goals. Always remember that! Any investment that is not aligning to your financial goals is not advisable. One of my friends is investing in Public Provident Fund to spend after his retirement. Likewise, you must also map your investments to your financial goals.

Like I said before, financial freedom is all about acquiring the ability to make choices, it’s not about quitting 9 to 5 job. Many people say, to attain financial freedom, you must have lots of wealth. In my view, to attain financial freedom, you must first get rid of your debt. When there is a hole in the bucket, how much ever you pour, it is going to leak. You might never be able to fill the bucket. Debt is a leakage; you must cover that up first to grow wealth and attain financial freedom. Trust me. Everyone can attain financial freedom. Good Luck!

About the Author

Ra Ma. Palaniappan is the author of the book ‘Zero EMI-Unlock Your Financial Freedom’. Ra Ma. Palaniappan was one of the founding members of the Professional Speakers Association of India (PSAI) – an association of the Global Speakers Federation. Academically, he holds an MBA in International Business. Please visit ramapalaniappan.in to know more about him.