Out of all the personal resources anyone can have, the one we can not store, save up or increase is TIME. And I don’t just mean how one uses the hours in a day. I mean the sum total of the future days each of us has left to live. That sum total is limited and finite. For every extra day you remain chained to a job now, you DON’T get to add on a compensating free day after you retire. Once a day passes, it is gone and cannot be replaced. So how one has spent that day — each day — is a crucial issue. Perhaps THE crucial issue in the sum total of each of our lives.
That is why for me the fundamental goal of personal finance is to maximize free time. To have as much time as possible free from financial obligations. To stop needing to hold a job as early as possible in life.
If you share that goal of life time freedom, then the personal finance articles in Retired To Win will make sense to you. But if you prize things above freedom, then those writings will strike you as wrong. If you value having maximum control of your time and your life, you’ll find yourself agreeing with many of the personal finance strategies and conclusions in Retired To Win. But if you value the psychological trappings and ostentatious symbols of media-defined middle class status above freedom, then you will think that I am either crazy or naively unrealistic.
Living Free Is the Bottom Line
If you are a hiker, on a beautiful sunny day do you have the freedom to go enjoy yourself in the woods… or are you imprisoned indoors by your job? If you are the parent of a toddler, on that same beautiful day do you have the freedom to enjoy that day with your child at the park or playground… or does your job obligation force you to miss out and leave your child with a stranger while you go joylessly to pound a keyboard, sling a tray or punch a press?
And, on a stormy, snowy, icy or otherwise miserable day, are you free to choose to stay warm, safe and dry in your home… or are you compelled to leave your home and endure those hazardous and miserable conditions to keep a business appointment, meet a job deadline, or avoid a supervisor’s ill will?
I can take that hike. I can enjoy that day at the park. I can stay home on that miserable day. Can you? Would you like to be able to? Is breaking free important enough to you to do something about it?
Make Financial Planning for Earlier Retirement Your Ticket to Freedom
The difference between how many free-to-live days and how many obligated days you get to have during your life is based on how you manage your finances. Because whether you can cut loose to live free from job obligations or must endure those obligations far into your future all comes down to MONEY. To what your expenses are. And to how much money you need to accumulate to be able to cover those expenses with passive income — without having to hold down a job.
That is why, for me, the key financial yardstick is not actually financial at all. My key financial yardstick is TIME. How much of it needs to be spent at a job to fund that string of shiny, showy new baubles — and how much of it can be fully enjoyed in freedom from job and financial obligations. And, to me and many others, increasing time freedom is the main goal of personal financial management.
In the end, based on your own values you will conclude that managing personal finances with earlier retirement as the end goal leads to a rich, free life or to a mean “non elite” life. You will have to decide which view to live by.
But be aware. One view will almost certainly keep you chained to a job for many more years than you have to be. Maybe even for the rest of your life. The other view could let you break free to fully enjoy the rest of your life. And a lot sooner than you’d think.
So I hope you’ll accept this dare and set off on a personal finance journey that takes you on the road to freedom that I have already traveled.
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image courtesy of bplanet at FreeDigitalPhotos.net