PROBLEM #20: How to Break Away from the Grind and Achieve Financial Independence.
Are you stuck in the rut of corporate America? Does your routine involve going to work, working hard, coming home exhausted, going to bed, and waking up the next morning to do it all again? Do you wish you had the financial independence to get out of the rat race, mouse wheel, or whatever rodent exercise equipment you want to call it? I think those of us who feel like there is no escape have a PROBLEM.
What would financial freedom mean to you? Have you ever thought about it? Most of us have dreams we would love to fulfill. Perhaps you would like to help and give to those in need. Most of those dreams can be fulfilled with financial independence. But the journey to financial independence is like climbing a mountain. It doesn’t happen fast. It’s a slow, long hike. And if you’ve ever done any hiking, I think you’ll agree. There are few pursuits that offer the rewards of mountain top views.
Aside: I believe that God wants us to be good stewards of the resources given to us. Part of being a good steward is turning our talents and money into more than we started with. And while my life does not revolve around money, it (money) does enable living and giving well.
As you might have guessed, one of my hobbies is hiking – usually up a mountain. I’ve learned some lessons while hiking that can apply to our journey towards financial independence.
Lesson #1: You need a plan.
When you decide to hike a mountain, the first thing you do is plan. You get a map, and pour over the different routes. Many times debates ensue. That route looks harder. This route is longer. In the end – you choose one. Usually you chose a route that corresponds to your fitness level, fits your allotted amount of time, or takes into account weather considerations.
In preparation we pack a bag also. Some of us start out with different weight packs. For instance, I’ve seen people hiking with close to 60lb packs. I usually hike with a 15-25lb pack (depending on weather and trip length). Those with large packs struggle at times on the trail because of the weight. I’ve seen gear left behind in an effort to lighten the load.
Financially speaking, you need a plan as well. Without it, you will be destined to wander around never getting anywhere. Pick a plan and stick with it.
Most financial advisors will agree: debt can be debilitating to your financial independence. Some of us start out with large amounts of debt (student loans, other debt). Some of us have little debt. Whatever debt you have, research a plan to eliminate it. Just like a large, heavy pack – It will only slow you down. Debt makes you a slave to the lender. You will never be financially independent until you have eliminated all debt.
Lesson #2: You need some tools to help in your journey.
Before you start out on a hike, you pack a backpack with essentials. I take water, food (snacks, lunch, etc.), pocketknife, map, flashlight, rain jacket, and other tools. Without these items, I would not be prepared for what I might encounter out on the trail. I might not even make it to the mountain top. How far do you think you would get with no snacks or water? A few miles maybe? What if it starts to rain? Or what if you get off the trail? All of these potential issues can be eliminated or lessened with specific tools we carry with us in our journey. They can provide some security for the journey.
In our journey to financial independence we also have tools. We have jobs, money, debt (credit), and a financial plan. In my opinion, money is the primary tool we have. How we use this tool (money) can determine how far we get in our journey. A job can be another tool to enable financial independence (You need money to live). Anything you can do to increase your income can accelerate your progress towards financial independence. And if you don’t have a plan, you’ll never make it to your goal.
Lesson #3: “Hike your own hike.”
This is a mantra that is often repeated out on trail. Basically it means, hike at your own pace. Don’t force yourself to hike faster than you are comfortable with. You will only tire yourself out before you reach your destination. Granted, hiking with others can provide camaraderie and encouragement. But remember, you are the only one that will take responsibility for getting you to the top.
Usually there are several routes up one mountain. When hiking, you pick a trail and stick to it all the way to the top. You can’t switch trails halfway up. And just because someone else hiked a different trail to the top doesn’t invalidate their accomplishment. Hike your own hike.
On the journey to financial independence, we also need to “hike our own hike.” We are all on a different path, or perhaps on different points on the same path. Don’t compare yourself with others (keeping up with the Joneses). Hike your own hike.
Remember, there are also several paths to financial independence. My wife and I have chosen to not use credit cards. We have a sizeable emergency fund. We are paying off our mortgage instead of investing heavily. This path is one that others have taken with success. But I realize it’s not the only one. Others have used credit responsibly. A few have windfalls: inheritances, won the lottery (why you won’t win the lottery), bonuses. Hike your own hike.
I would encourage you: start your journey if you haven’t already. Set some goals and work towards accomplishing them.
The rewards of a well-planned and executed hike are views that few ever see and the satisfaction that comes from accomplishing a goal.
The rewards of achieving financial independence are varied. We will be able to give more, perhaps travel, work on our hobbies, or help others in need. I think these are rewards well worth pursuing.
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