I’ve been writing a lot about freedom lately. Probably because I’m more free than I’ve ever been before and perhaps as close to financial independence as one can possibly get without the prerequisite passive income. So you could say it’s been on my mind. As such, I’ve been incredibly interested in sharing the benefits that my freer lifestyle has brought me so as to potentially inspire you to reach for your own goals, dreams, and aspirations.
While there are benefits and drawbacks to everything – I hope to write about the drawbacks of this lifestyle at some point – I can only say that living life largely on my own terms is everything I thought it’d be.
And what I’ve really found throughout the process is that freedom from has allowed me freedom to. That’s true not only in 2010 as a young, hungry Jason eager to dig his way out of debt, but also true – perhaps even more so – of the Jason today.
Freedom From What?
So when I say freedom from gives you freedom to, what does that mean? What should we have freedom from?
Well, this is somewhat of an individual call, but I can tell you that I am mostly free from the following things:
- The desire to have the nicest house on the street.
- The desire to drive the nicest car in the neighborhood.
- The desire to make more money or have more wealth than anyone else.
- The desire to travel the world in luxury, staying at five-star hotels.
- The desire for status.
- The desire to wear bespoke suits.
- The desire to impress anyone.
- The desire to go out to eat every day.
- The desire to consume more than what I really need.
While desire and drive are, in my view, important factors for a successful life, they’re also easy to misplace which could potentially set you down a path that won’t deliver the type everlasting happiness and joy that you might think is awaiting you.
Now, I have desires like most people. But whereas my energy used to be focused on making more money, attaining more stuff, and gaining status, I was able to, over time, realign that focus toward different desires which have absolutely and completely changed my life for the better.
But if one has freedom from desires and things that don’t bring true and lasting happiness, what freedom do they gain?
While I’ve found freedom from desires for things, status, and experiences that may not bring me everlasting joy, it’s equally important to replace freedom from with freedom to. It’s also important to note that because our money, energy, time, and focus are all finite, freedom from and freedom to are sometimes mutually exclusive.
You can’t spend 50 hours per week at work to collect a paycheck and simultaneously be at home that entire time working on projects that actually mean something to you.
Likewise, unless you’ve inherited millions of dollars or won the lottery, it’s unlikely that you can live in a mansion, eat out every night, spend unchecked, and still be financially independent. And even then, as we’ve seen all to often with past lottery winners and athletes that have wasted away millions, it’s important to really think about what kind of freedom and lifestyle you want and what you can afford.
So I have freedom from.
Just as importantly, this is what I have the freedom to:
- Set my own schedule, waking up and going to sleep when I want.
- Have a routine or a non-routine.
- Work on projects that I’m passionate about.
- Explore my local area on my time (Ever go to the beach on a Tuesday?), rather than the work-home-work drill.
- Spend time with people I want to spend time with and avoid those I don’t (no co-worker drama).
- Take on opportunities that interest me.
- Decline opportunities that don’t.
- Stay true to myself.
- Make my community a better place through volunteering.
- Live life on my terms by owning my own time.
As I previously mentioned, our time and energy is finite. So even someone who’s financially independent or fairly close to it can’t do everything all at once. But every day is a new opportunity to take on or not take on whatever you want. Is today a beach day or a volunteer day? Is tomorrow vegging out in front of movies or finishing up a project?
What I’ve also noticed is that we change over time. And that’s a good thing. Our interests change, our creativity ebbs and flows, and new ideas enter our spheres of interest. But being free to gives you the chance to change it up as you go.
Want to study marital arts for a year? Go for it. Then maybe it’s writing a book or painting a gallery’s worth for a year. After that interest has run its course, you can then then try out volunteering for local causes that become interesting. Or maybe you just want to fish every body of water you never had a chance to before. Whatever your interests are now, freedom from the stuff that doesn’t really matter gives you the freedom to vary your interests and how you spend your time over the course of your life. Live multiple lifetimes in one life!
Learning As We Go
For me, it’s a learning process. I didn’t have complete freedom from all the superfluous right away and I still don’t. I’m not a monk living in a temple, after all. Moreover, I didn’t have so much freedom to right away. It’s something that took years and years (Did I mention years?) of hard, hard (Did I mention hard?) work. And I’m still learning, changing, and growing every single day. Life would be boring if that weren’t the case.
As such, it’ll likely be the same for you. Even if you’ve already had that “eureka” moment where you all of the sudden realize you’ve been living in cave, it takes time to free those chains, escape, see the light, adjust to the light, and figure out what’s next. It’s not an overnight process.
Still Freeing Myself
And just like I’m learning and growing every day, I’m also slowly freeing myself from even more, which allows me more and more freedom to. Every dollar I invest, every dividend I receive and reinvest, and every dividend raise gets me that much closer to complete freedom to.
But I’ve also noticed that I’m sometimes guilty of complacency. I think it’s easier to get complacent as you go, especially once the portfolio is well into the six figures and the dividend income is enough to cover a very healthy chunk of your expenses.
Now, that’s not necessarily a bad thing. If you’re well on track for your goals regardless, then a little complacency will probably cause little harm. We’re not robots. However, when I say that, I’m speaking of the financial consequences. There are also other consequences to becoming complacent, like losing your edge. I quite like my edge.
So I’m going to sharpen the edge up a bit, even though I surely don’t have to.
Selling My Car
I’ve decided to sell my 2006 Toyota Corolla. Do I have to? Absolutely not. I could afford 31 of them – one for every day of the month – and still have money in the bank. But I just don’t need it. I work from home now and Claudia takes the bus to work anyway (she hates driving). Other than the occasional extracurricular activity that Claudia’s son takes on, we rarely use the car. It’s a convenience and a luxury. It’s great to have, but completely unnecessary.
Furthermore, we lived for years without a car. And that was when I working full-time – the irony of showing up to a car dealership by bus. No reason we can’t again, especially if it’s even less necessary these days.
So there’s the financial aspect. Getting rid of the car allows me freedom from:
- The cost of the car itself (in the form of opportunity cost since I paid cash).
- Insurance costs.
- Paying for and using fuel.
- The chance of catching a speeding or parking ticket.
- Liability, which can be particularly expensive in case an accident were to occur.
But there’s more than the quantitative financial reasons. I also have the freedom from:
- Getting in a steel box every time I need to go somewhere, which isolates me from society.
- Polluting the atmosphere more than necessary.
- Worrying about if something will break.
- Dealing with traffic and crazy drivers.
- Taking trips across town that I wouldn’t ordinarily take.
Freedom from all of that gives me the freedom to:
- Walk more, improving my health and my wealth.
- Be a part of my environment, rather than just driving through or past it.
- Challenge myself to get around a city not known for its public transportation prowess.
- Make every day an adventure.
- Save a lot of money.
- Avoid stress.
- Become financially independent even earlier by saving more and needing less.
Not everyone can get by without a car. Some people absolutely need a car. And that’s fine. But we designed our lives around living car-free years ago, which means my complacency regarding owning a car is simply me being inattentive. So selling the Corolla is something I’m going to explore over the coming weeks.
This decision alone will give me a lot more freedom all in one fell swoop. Not just more financial freedom by spending a lot less and needing less passive income to be financially independent, but freedom to go out into the world and explore it a bit more viscerally, challenging myself and keeping myself sharp along the way.
I think what we can learn by the bullet points above regarding selling the car is that every decision in our lives can be laid out like that. When you look around your life, what excess is there that holds you down? How much freedom from could you have, and how much freedom to could that afford you?
Some things can’t be eliminated and there are many things in our lives that we don’t want to or shouldn’t eliminate. Furthermore, we’re all in different situations with different lifestyles. But keep in mind that freedom from can in fact allow you freedom to. So one has to ask themselves what they want out of life. What makes you happy? What makes you unhappy? How do you maximize the former while minimizing the latter? How does that interplay with freedom from and freedom to?
And the great thing is that freedom to tends to compound itself. Every dollar you can save through an action that allows you freedom from affords you the freedom to invest that same dollar. These decisions over and over again grows your wealth and income to the point to where you have more freedom to than you ever thought you’d have.
What do you have freedom from? Has that afforded you freedom to? How has that changed your life?
Thanks for reading.
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