When I was in school, I picked a college major that I thought could make me rich. After two years of college, my brother and I started working together writing software. I thought this was my ticket to becoming wealthy. Both of those got me great experience, and I have no regrets doing either, but neither made me wealthy. I was focused on making money. I didn’t know what I would do if I became wealthy but making money was my only goal. Obviously, I am not against building wealth. When I started getting serious about my financial life, I realized that the only way that I would become wealthy was by saving money. At this point, I also realized that money is not the goal. It was going to be the journey.
Building Wealth is the Journey
Building wealth is not the destination in life, but it’s part of the journey. The journey can be “fun” sometimes when you spend all your money, but after many years of living paycheck to paycheck and complaining that your boss has you working overtime, it’s no longer fun.
Why build wealth when you can spend your money to have “fun”? At some point in your life, you need to focus on your future. You need to realize that the journey can be fun when you use your money to build wealth. Know that money is a tool that can help you reach your goals. This will help you to set goals for your future and not always have to spend your money on your perceived fun. I like to think of having money as a means to reach the following goals:
Use your money to remove financial stress by paying off your debt and breaking the paycheck to paycheck cycle. Although you are not accumulating money when paying off your debt, your net worth starts to increase. This is the first goal that you should be aiming for. When your money isn’t going to your credit card debt or your student loans anymore, you have money that can be working for you to increase your wealth. Instead of losing 17% a year paying interest on your credit card balances, you can be investing and making 10%. Even before your debt is eliminated, once you’re on a budget and are paying more than the minimum payments to your debt, you already broke the paycheck to paycheck cycle. This in and of itself removes a lot of your financial stress. You no longer worry if the mortgage is going to be paid because you have a plan for your money.
Retirement for some is when they can quit their job because they no longer have to work for money. For too many others, retirement is when they are unable to work and forced to leave the workforce. Therefore, I like to keep retirement and financial independence separate. Retirement to me is when you no longer work. You hopefully have enough money to live the rest of your life, but unfortunately, that is not always the case. Hopefully you have a pension, social security, investments, or a combination of the three. Having the goal to retire is a good goal to have but being financially independent is a better goal. There are some people who will be unable to work and are forced to retire. This can put a hamper on your dreams during your retirement years if you do not have enough to support the lifestyle you want.
Being financially independent means that you no longer must work for money. You might keep working, or you might quit your job and have more time to do the things you love. You can get paid to do the things you love or not get paid. It’s up to you! You broke your dependence on having to work for your money. You saved and invested to have your money work for you. It doesn’t matter if you become unable to work, because you no longer have to work to support yourself and your family.
This is the ultimate goal! Everybody says they don’t have enough time. The fact is, we all have the same amount of time each day. Once you become financially independent you have additional time since you do not have to be working a 9-5 job. You aren’t commuting, so maybe you have 10 extra hours a day to manage.
Hopefully, you use some of that time to volunteer. Don’t neglect this while building your wealth but embrace it even more when you no longer must work for money. Now you can do things like starting a non-profit to use your past experiences to help people. The possibilities are endless.
Use some of your time to travel and spend time with your family. Do things that you couldn’t do because your job took your time. Use some of the time to learn new things. Use your time to have fun.
I said this was the goal, but once you become financially independent, you need to set new goals. This becomes the next journey in your life. You have a new normal because your life doesn’t revolve around a 9-5 job. It revolves around the 10 additional hours that you have.
Don’t have the goal to just making money, because money is not the goal. Have the goal to become financially independent and enjoy the journey.