When most people think about financial freedom they tend to focus solely on financial goals. This is a mistake, as money is only part of the formula. The more important question is defining non-monetary goals, as these are the fuel to motivate a successful plan. I prefer to start with three questions to help people find what matters most in life.
The idea of achieving financial freedom can be nebulous for some people, other than the obvious of quitting their job. The answers to the three questions below will help formulate both retirement and life goals because they focus thinking on the aspects of life that are most important. It is valuable to immediately write down what comes to mind in response to each question. The responses may be emotional and pour out quickly, recording them can provide a road map for the future.
1. What would you do if you only had 15 years left to live?
Life is now not just some indeterminate period of time. There are only 15 summers left and the focus needs to shift towards the more meaningful aspects of life. It could be transitioning to a job that is more rewarding or finally taking the leap of turning a passion into a job. Now is the time to write the novel or practice getting on stage as a standup comedian if that is a dream. Buying things to impress others or trying to keep up with the Joneses is over. It is time to get rid of some material goods and cull any unproductive habits. Actions are now centered around simplifying life and focusing on things that bring the most happiness.
2. What if you only had 15 months left to live?
The clock is really ticking now, time is even more precious. The focus is on valuable moments with family and friends. Everything that does not matter is eliminated. If work is still a part of life, it is only for work that is truly rewarding. The bucket list trip to Australia or South America gets locked in. The dreams of "one day", become the realities of next week.
There is no mindlessly sitting on the couch or going down the rabbit holes on social media. There is not time available to be wasted. There is no more complaining about trivial inconveniences like an elusive parking space or lines at the grocery store. The value of every hour is extracted.
3. What if you only had 15 days left to live?
Now, every minute matters. Only the most important people or activities are part of the day. If there are any regrets, now is the time to correct them. At 15 days left, no one laments not spending more time at work. Every interaction is genuine, there is no time to speak or act without clarity and purpose. Nothing is left unsaid. Sometimes the smallest things, the embrace or the laugh, matter the most. Sunsets and sunrises are appreciated. Time spent amid nature is prized. These are days of discipline, of putting affairs in order and ensuring loved ones are protected.
Applying the Lessons
This exercise is to clarify priorities and recognized the importance of discipline and taking action. There is no reason to wait until life has set a deadline to implement the goals and motivations derived from this exercise. The responses to these questions are a valuable foundation for starting new habits and building a plan for greater happiness and financial freedom.
The next article will look at the financial questions to ask when creating a plan for financial independence, but answering these three questions is the first step. The motivations these questions unearth are the key to a plan's success.
For more details on developing a plan for financial freedom and maximizing happiness see the book Become Loaded for Life.