What Do Aging Athletes And Financial Independence Have In Common?

I am passionate about sports and I have been that way for as long as I can remember. More so playing them than watching them but nevertheless, passionate. It was football, baseball and basketball in high school. Then, football and baseball in college. Followed by softball, basketball, tennis, cross-fit and competitive running thereafter. And all the while, I have lifted weights and worked out as a way of life. I love it. It makes me fit, I feel good and it’s cheaper than a psychiatrist when it comes to working out your daily problems! But over time, or more specifically, advancing in age, has a way of catching up to you when it comes to physical performance!

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I remember playing sports in my twenties and it was so easy to perform: Stretching the muscles was easy, as was gaining strength and endurance. If you got a little bit out of shape, you were able to get it back really fast. It wasn’t until I turned 34 that I realized my first reduction in athletic ability. I lost a step. I was moderately fast and running the bases while playing softball I was thrown out going from first to third on a base hit. For the first time ever!  This was my first dose of reality that athletic ability diminishes with time.

Then, I went into my forties. Now I was introduced to regular soreness after working out, coupled with a longer time period to fully recover from the workout. What used to take 24 hours to recover now took at least 48 hours. In addition, it took considerably longer to get in shape. At a twenty something, it felt like three weeks of solid work would produce a great fitness level. But by forty something, it took every bit of eight or nine weeks to feel really fit and even then, I wasn’t sure if I had reached the highest level of fitness. The other side of it was also true: As a forty something, it felt like six or seven days of not working out resulted in losing every bit of fitness and you had to start over again from the bottom of the fitness ladder!

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Then I reached my fifties…and a further reduction in athletic ability, with more aches and pains, and longer recoveries. It was in my fifties that I had to fully accept my physical limitations as an athlete. I could no longer deny that past performance levels were long gone and unreachable.

What Do Athletics Have To Do With Financial Independence?

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At this point, you might be asking, what does athletic ability have to do with financial independence? And I would understand if you did. But follow me here for just a moment. Because the lessons learned as I have aged as an athlete are directly applicable to the process of obtaining and maintaining financial independence. How, you might say?

First, It’s About Time

As an aging athlete, it takes time to get ready to perform. Much more time than it used to as a younger athlete. You need to take the time to fuel your body right before the workout. You also need to stretch and stretch a lot. In other words, you need to be patient  and prepare correctly before you can really perform.

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The same is true with the pursuit of financial independence. It is over time that one can develop wealth. It usually doesn’t happen overnight, and, expectations to the contrary can build unwanted anxiety or stress. To build wealth that can lead to financial independence requires saving and investing money over a long period of time, in order to produce a return. This patient approach to building wealth, and as a result, financial independence, is both time proven and considerably less stressful. There’s one more piece to the time element to develop wealth and that is compound interest.

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Saving money over time is only the first part of the equation. The second part, and largest part, is investing the money and letting compound interest work to develop an exponential wealth effect. What does that mean? It means that investments over time will produce far more profits than the amount of money you actually put into the investments. It is a multiplying effect. An example: A one time $2000 investment with a 6% annual return will yield $xxx after 40 years. But if you left it accumulate for only 20 years, half the time,  you don’t have half of the 40 year amount, you have only xx% of it. It takes an investment in time, using compound interest, to develop wealth, and it grows more and more each year. Just like it takes time as an aging athlete to prepare for a workout to produce athletic results.

Limitations Can Be Your Friend

As an aging athlete, you have to recognize your limitations or else run the risk of hurting yourself. When I was 21 years old I ran a five minute mile as part of a fitness test in college as we were getting ready for my junior year of college football. I’ve got NO CHANCE of running that same five minute mile now, regardless of my preparation or efforts to perform at my best. I need to accept my limitations or risk being deeply disappointed or getting hurt when I tey. In essence, I need to be content with my diminished performance level.

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Contentment is also a key foundational element when it comes to financial independence. Without contentment (Being happy where you are, while on your way to where you are going), what you have will NEVER be enough. You will always think in your mind: “I need more to be happy, or rich, or successful, or wealthy, or (fill in the blank).” Part of being financially independent is to be independent of envy or perceived need for something to make you complete or happy. In fact, only when we can learn to be content in the moment, combined with gratitude for what we have, can we be truly independent of envy, covetousness and the sense of lack. There is certainly nothing wrong with ambition, but when that ambition prevents you from ever feeling secure, peaceful or blessed, you can never truly be financially independent.

Three Cheers For Consistency

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As an aging athlete one of the most important fundamentals of working out is consistency. You need to consistently stretch, consistently eat right, consistently hydrate and consistently work out because of what I mentioned before about losing your fitness level fast! When you can get into the appropriate consistent rhythm, your workouts and performance can be very rewarding.

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The same is true when it comes to financial independence. I have found that most financially independent people I have met didn’t hit the lottery or write a best selling novel to develop instant wealth, but built that wealth over time with consistent savings and investing. What do most of the financially independent people do consistently:

  • They save money consistently
  • They invest consistently
  • They live on a budget in order to meet their goals consistently
  • They track goals consistently to stay focused and on track

Consistency also lessens the sting of living below your means. If you consistently put money into an emergency fund, a retirement fund and a vacation fund, you eventually get used to that money being “gone” and you don’t miss the spending power in your day to day budget. Consistency is so important to old athletes and people pursuing financial independence alike.

Taking Advantage Of Technology

As you get older, an aging athlete is wise to take advantage of new technology to increase their performance, and comfort. There are new fabrics on the market that wick away your sweat while you perform. Running in the Texas heat, I depend on moisture wicking clothing. There are new shoes of all types that help you run faster, farther and with more comfort. There are new training apps that help you work out at peak performance. There is an abundant amount of new technology that can help you better perform.

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There is also new technology to help you obtain financial independence. There are tools like Mint to help you track your expenses and budget, Acorns to help you save spare change, Robinhood to help you invest and most banks now have automatic deposit and withdrawal for 401K plans and emergency savings accounts. Use technology to achieve your financial plans: In most cases it is easy, cheap (as in free), automatic and efficient.

Last, Know Your Why

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Motivation is paramount when it comes to working out or achieving financial independence. People ask me all the time: At your age, why do you workout so hard, and so consistently? It’s easy. I do it because it makes me feel great, it clears my mind, it challenges me and it helps me sleep so soundly. In other words, my “why” is to feel better and, God willing, live longer. It is worth it to me to put the effort in now, to feel better later. We need to “know our why” in the pursuit of financial independence too. We need to know why we are budgeting, saving and investing because it sure would be fun to live life unrestrained now. It would be fun, but it would not help us reach our goal of financial independence. Our financial independence “why” we sacrifice now is so that we can be independent later. Independent of money worries or stress and to be independent to follow our heart’s desire. To move working from something we have to do to survive, to something that we choose to do if we want to. Financial independence is not easy and it does not happen overnight. Just like trying to get into and staying in shape as an older athlete. But by using time to our advantage, practicing contentment, being consistent, taking advantage of technology and knowing our why, we can better enjoy the process and eventually achieve the goals of feeling good and experiencing financial independence at any age!

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The Total Money Makeover: Classic Edition: A Proven Plan for Financial Fitness

An Unconventional Path To Financial Freedom

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Financial freedom is frequently associated with making enough money to independently afford the lifestyle of our dreams. But this family approached financial freedom from a totally different perspective: How a quick series of disasters and bad luck forced a family to reconsider their lifestyle and make the tough decisions that ended up in a “Less Is More” financial freedom success story. Read on to be inspired by an unconventional path to financial freedom!

The Worst Day

The day started out well enough: This couple (We’ll call them Bill and Jeanette) in their forties had two well-paying jobs, he was an engineer and she was an accountant. They lived in a large four bedroom home, even though their last child had finally graduated from college and was out of the home. Their finances seemed solid but they had some debt: a mortgage, two car loans and some credit card debt. They were saving some money towards retirement but it was not a priority. There emergency fund was small. It was a pretty normal American financial scene in their household.

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Then one hot August day it all got startlingly shaken: First, on the way to work, Bill got into a car accident (no fault of his own) that ended up totaling his car. If that wasn’t bad enough, when he finally arrived at work, he was informed that his good paying job was being eliminated and he had a twelve week severance period (25 years on the job) to find new work. In the meantime, Jeanette also encountered some unexpected trouble. She fell while on the job and broke her right (writing) wrist. The wrist injury would require surgery and at least two weeks out of work. In an instant, their somewhat stable work and home life was upended, putting strain on their marriage and finances.

The Situation

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The situation seemed pretty dire: Down to one income, one car and one healthy worker between the two, this family had to make some big decisions. They summarized their situation as so:

  • The large house and debt was too much for the one income
  • Medical bills compounded the financial strain
  • Their savings was woefully inadequate, maybe a month’s worth of expenses at best
  • They already knew they were not set up well for retirement
  • Bill had no job and little enthusiasm to find a new one like his old one
  • Significant strain on their health and marriage

The Big Decision

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Fairly quickly, this husband and wife team made some big decisions: First, before Bill even found a new job, they would downsize their home and lifestyle. This downsizing would have three main goals:

  • Lower expenses which would free up money to eliminate debt
  • Start seriously saving for retirement and building an appropriate emergency fund
  • Attain and maintain financial freedom

They asked some hard questions of themselves, like:

  • Do we need this much house? Clearly not
  • Do we need two cars?
  • Do we need these high lifestyle expenses: big cable TV bill, lots of eating out, lots of discretionary purchases, unused gym, Hulu, wine club memberships, etc
  • Can we thrive on only one professional income?

The breakthrough came once they realized that these things (house, jobs, cars, etc) did not define them individually or as a couple. They realized, too, that this situation was a real opportunity to re-think who they are and what they are working towards.

The Plan

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With much excitement and anticipation of a better future, the plan came together quickly. Immediately they made financial freedom their purpose and being able to retire in less than 10 years their goal. This is what they decided to do:

  • Sell the four bedroom, four bath house and downsize to a two bedroom, 2.5 bath house about 30 minutes further away from the city they lived in to get a better value.
  • Aggressively eliminate total credit card debt with existing savings and some of Bill’s severance money.
  • Take the insurance money from the totaled car and pay off the totaled car auto loan. Try to live with one car.
  • Live by a budget. This budget was targeted to be 40% of the previous spending level
  • Reduce their lifestyle. No more cable, gym membership, endless eating out and mindless spending.
  • Fully fund their retirement funds each year

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They met with their realtor (after the successful wrist surgery) and after a while put up their home for sale. It took three months to sell, but at a nice profit. With the house sale proceeds they paid off their credit card, paid off the first car loan and funded their emergency fund (also using a portion of the severance package). They also set up automatic (full) funding of their retirement accounts and made a new family budget. As a result of these financial moves, they realized they had a new opportunity: With the new budget, only one car and no debt, they learned that Bill did not have to go back into a full time professional position. Bill could, if he wanted to, be the artist/craftsman/amateur farmer he had always wanted to be! After much thought and prayer, they decided to make the big move and Bill began setting up his new career(s).

The Math

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It took another month after the house sale (four months after putting their house on the market) to move into a comfortable (1,800 s.f.) home. The previous home was 4,500 square feet. Not only were they able to take their home downsizing profits to pay off debt and supercharge their retirement fund, their new monthly operating costs of their smaller house dropped more than $1,800 between the mortgage, taxes, HOA and utilities! Between those savings and the savings from reducing cars and their lifestyle they were able to take out more than $3,40o of expenses per month! See the budget below.

Bill and Jeanette’s New Monthly Budget

Income:    $7,200 ($6,400 Jeanette, $800 Bill…and growing)

       minus ($1,900) for taxes and tithing

Net Spendable Income: $5,300

Expenses:

Total Housing:    $1,450 (Small mortgage, utilities, taxes, insurance, no HOA)

Auto:                      $ 285 (Gas, insurance, minor repairs – newer car)

Debt:                       $ 0 (Hurray!)

Savings/Retire:   $2,300 (401K, SEP, investments, etc)

Food:                     $ 425 (Includes eating out)

Entertainment: $ 300

Medical:               $ 250 (Prescriptions and HSA funding (savings))

Misc:                     $ 290 (Toiletries, gifts, etc)

The result is a balanced budget, with more than $2,400/month going into savings (45% of budget). There is no debt, a fully funded emergency fund (six months of expenses) and ample financial peace. In addition, Bill’s new artist/craftsmen venture not only feeds his soul but continues to grow slowly, with upside to add more to their monthly income.

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From Tragedy To Transformation

Bill and Jeanette turned a tragic day into a transformation to financial freedom. By looking at the abrupt disruption thrust upon them as an opportunity to break out of their rut and take action, they were able to achieve financial freedom. Here’s a short list that describe’s their financial freedom:

  • Balanced budget on their combined incomes
  • 45% savings rate
  • No consumer debt. Only small mortgage on house, to be eliminated in 8 years
  • Full emergency fund
  • Aggressive retirement savings to support retirement in 10 years
  • Bill was able to change his career to pursue his dream
  • Smaller house, simpler lifestyle, more peace, more contentment

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Truly, Bill and Jeanette turned tragedy into a contentment-filled, simple lifestyle that allows for current and future dreams to be realized and opens the door for more freedom and options. Now that’s financial freedom!

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5 Don’ts For Financial Freedom

Financial Freedom – What Is It?

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Most people have a fairly good idea of what financial freedom means to them. For some it is simply having no bill collectors calling them. Or maybe a little money in a savings account. Others might define it as simply being rich. Having more money than you could ever spend in a lifetime. My definition tends to fall in the middle: As having the attitude and resources to live abundantly in each stage of life, free of worry, to completely live out the full purpose of one’s life. In any case, just about any definition of financial freedom tends to focus on what we DO want (money, time, savings, etc) to eliminate what we DON’T want (worry, anxiety, debt, etc).

Let’s take a step back and focus on the underpinnings of financial freedom. That is, the attitudes and mindset in order to attain the freedom and then maintain it. There are two main attitudes, I believe, that allow us to become financially free: Gratitude and Contentment. Gratitude allows us to appreciate what we have and stay away from focusing on what we don’t have. Contentment allows us to have peace in our current situation, whatever the circumstances.

How Do I Get This Gratitude And Contentment?

Gratitude and contentment come with a pretty clear set of DON’Ts that go a long way in allowing us to obtain and maintain a basis for financial freedom. So, with no further ado, here are five don’ts for financial freedom:

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  • Don’t let things you own define you

Your car doesn’t define you. Your bank account doesn’t define you. Nor your home, your toys or your barbecue grill. Your stuff doesn’t define you and neither does your neighbor’s define them. When we look at our stuff to define us it quickly leads us to comparison. Comparison steals joy and peace and definitely steals contentment.

  • Don’t let fear rule you. 

When it comes to our finances, fear makes us defensive, negative and “playing not to lose”. The result is worry and anxiety, neither of which bring about the feeling of freedom. When we experience fear, we lose our gratitude for what we have and the blessing that it is,  and instead, focus on the potential of losing it.

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  • Don’t focus on scarcity, focus on abundance

Fear focuses on scarcity, or the sense that there is not enough (money, peace, possessions, etc). Gratitude focuses on the abundance we have in our lives, however little we may have.   Gratitude is thankful for what you have/had, fear focuses on the loss or lack of it.

  • Don’t view success as keeping things the same. Change is constant

Accept the fact that things change over time. If you view success as keeping things always the same, you will eventually be disappointed. Accept that change is constant and inevitable. Here’s a thought process I use to stay grateful: When things change, I give thanks for the opportunities or experiences that I had instead of focus on the loss when it changes. I had a sportswear for 7 years and drove it everyday, but one day, I had to sell it. I gave thanks for the seven years of fun, not on the fact that I no longer had my dream car.

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  • Don’t strive for comfort, strive for freedom

Robert Arnott is quoted as saying: “In investing, what is comfortable is rarely profitable.” Comfort is rarely profitable and can limit personal growth. Many times when we are comfortable, our gratitude slips away. Instead, strive for freedom in your finances, which does require some risk (investment) that builds the wealth that provides the freedom.

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Having an attitude of gratitude and contentment is the foundation of living financially free. Yes, we need to save money for future needs, eliminate our debt and live within a balanced budget. These actions are fundamental to financial freedom. But unless we are grateful for everything we have or experience, and content with where we are in our lives and who we are, we will never truly experience freedom from money worries, fear of unpreparedness or comparison with our neighbors. When we are financially free, our options open up and our dreams can become realities. The interesting thing about having an attitude of gratitude and contentment is that once you have them, material things and your circumstances matter far less and that magnifies your financial freedom even more.

Financial freedom: It’s not easy, but it is worth it!

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Budget Example of Financial Freedom

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What does financial freedom look like?

Financial Freedom – What Is It?

Financial Freedom is about the liberty to chose without restraint. Since our finances are simply tools for us to use to meet our life’s goals, financial freedom is defined as having the attitude and resources to live abundantly in each stage of life, free of worry, to completely live out the full purpose of one’s life. Many people have heard about the concept of financial freedom, but what does it really look like? I mean, of course I want to be free to do what I want, free to enjoy myself and free to pursue my dreams. But beyond that, what is the big deal? Is it just about having some money?

Financial freedom goes far beyond having a few bucks. Sustainable financial freedom enables us to reach our potential as people. This freedom has five key components. Let’s take a look at those components and how they fit into your life

  1. VISION for how you want to invest your time, talents and money
    • Answer the questions: Why am I here? What am I passionate about? What does my life plan look like? The purpose of this Vision is not to rigidly plan your entire life, but to form a direction and plan of action to focus your efforts. Freedom to pursue one’s passions and goals is worth the effort to define one’s vision. How can you pursue your dreams when you don’t know what they are?
  2. PLAN (budget) that supports your vision and quality of life you want to maintain
    • There’s that dirty word, Budget. Don’t let it throw you. A budget is simply a plan for spending your money that is consistent with the vision you have for your life. If you make a budget and it doesn’t work for you, change it, but make sure it meets a couple criteria:
      • You live within your means: Only spend money you have
      • It includes your savings goals
  3. DEBT-FREE approach to everything we purchase
    • A debt-free approach doesn’t mean we NEVER use debt, but that we use money we have whenever we can and when we use debt, we prioritize the elimination of debt in our budget. A wise man once said: “The debtor is slave to the lender.” There’s no slavery in freedom.
  4. A bias toward SAVING
    • Savings must be a priority in your budget. How much do we need to be saving? Let’s start the conversation at around 15% of our take home pay. Why? Because we need to have three types of savings for future needs: We need an Emergency Fund for when life throws us a curveball. We need savings for Retirement and we need to be saving toward known future expenses, like cars, furniture, kids, etc. Adequate savings allows us freedom to act when we want to.
  5. An ATTITUDE of contentment with where you are, and gratitude for what you have
    • Don’t compare yourself to anyone else, but be content with where you are. Contentment brings peace and peace is a large component of freedom. Gratitude focuses our mind on what we have instead of focusing on what we do not have. Be grateful, always.
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Budget Example Of Financial Freedom

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The budget of the financially free can take many forms, but whatever the form, they all have these common traits:

  • They spend less than they have.
  • They account for saving toward goals
  • They eliminate debt

Let’s take a look at a very good actual budget that allows for financial freedom. Note: The budget is shown as a percentage of Net Spendable Income (NSI). NSI is your total income, minus taxes and charitable giving, usually represented on a monthly basis.

Category                              Budgeted $            Includes                                                                         

Housing                                    25% of NSI           Includes rent/mortgage, taxes, insurance, HOA

Utilities                                       5%                        Electricity, water, gas, trash, internet

Autos                                         14%                        Car payment, insurance, gas, repairs

Food                                           12%                       Groceries, toiletries, beauty items, eating out

Insurance                                   2%                        Life insurance

Medical                                       2%                        Medical costs and insurance

Retirement Savings                12%                      401K plus company match of 3%, totaling 15%

Savings for upcoming needs  10%                    Saving for new car, furniture, house repairs

Kid’s college savings                  5%                    529 plan

Entertainment/Clothing           5%                    Clothes, gifts, pets,  misc.

Vacation                                         8%                    Fun in the sun!

Total:                                           100% of NSI

This is a very good budget, with ample savings, (totaling 27% of NSI) and no consumer debt. This budget is sustainable and takes care of the family’s goals, namely:

  • Saving aggressively for retirement
  • Saving for the kids to go to college
  • Saving for new cars, furniture and house repairs
  • Funding for vacations and living life (entertainment, etc)
  • Funding for security: medical insurance and life insurance

Does every budget need to look like this one? Absolutely not. Each budget should reflect the goals and priorities of the person or family. But every budget must make room for savings, must eliminate debt and must never allow expenses to exceed income in order for it to be sustainable. And a  sustainable budget is a large part of the puzzle to live financially free in order to live abundantly in each stage of life, free of worry, and free to live out the full purpose of one’s life.

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The Secret Sauce For Financial Freedom

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Financial Freedom – Huh?

Financial Freedom is about having choices. Having the liberty to chose without restraint. Since our finances (money and possessions) are simply tools for us to use to meet our life’s goals, financial freedom is defined as having the attitude and resources to live abundantly in each stage of life, free of worry, to completely live out the full purpose of one’s life. 

Financial freedom goes far beyond having a few bucks. Sustainable financial freedom enables us to reach our potential as people. This freedom has five key components. The first four are things we DO. But the last one is key, it’s the secret sauce, that allows us to STAY in financial freedom:

  1. VISION for how you want to invest your time, talents and money
    • Answers: Where am I going and for what purpose?
  2. PLAN (budget) that supports your vision and quality of life you want to maintain
    • Answers: How will I get there?
  3. DEBT-FREE approach to everything we purchase
    • Eliminates the burden of obligation and provides a sense of security
  4. A bias toward SAVING
    • Provides a safety net for future needs and unplanned emergencies
  5. An ATTITUDE of contentment with where you are, and gratitude for what you have
    • Here’s the secret sauce…let’s unpack it some more

Secret Sauce To Financial Freedom

Contentment and gratitude are the secret sauce? What do you mean? Let’s break it down: Contentment, being satisfied with what one is or has; not wanting more or anything else, generates an ease of mind that is so essential to financial freedom. Contentment eliminates the need to compare  yourself to anyone or anything else.  Contentment also brings peace and peace is a large component of freedom.

The second component of the secret sauce to financial freedom is gratitude.  Gratitude, defined as a feeling of thankfulness or appreciation,  focuses our mind on what we have instead of focusing on what we do not have.

Combined, contentment and gratitude allow us to live financially free at all stages of our financial journey. And this is the key: Financial freedom is a journey and not a destination. If done right, we can experience financial freedom at all stages of our finances because we can choose contentment and gratitude. Whether you are just starting your career and making a minimal salary, or you’re a wily career veteran and make a large salary, you can live in financial freedom if you DO the four Do’s listed: Define the goal (Set a vision), budget, eliminate debt and save. Contentment and gratitude allow us stay in balance and not stray from feeling free while at the same time building wealth which allows even more choices.

The Takeaway

Commit yourself to being content with your current situation and grateful for what you have. Combined with being disciplined to set the direction in your life (vision), living within your means (budget), eliminating the burden of debt and saving for future needs and emergencies, we can live in the moment, free to pursue our dreams without worry or anxiety. You don’t have to be rich to be financially free, but over time, with discipline, contentment and gratitude, we can have that too.

 

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The Total Money Makeover: Classic Edition: A Proven Plan for Financial Fitness