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What I’d Tell My 20-Year Old Self about Financial Freedom

the futureEnjoy this guest post today from blogger and website owner Joseph Hogue as he shares his ideas about financial freedom.

The best lessons come from our experiences even if sometimes it’s our biggest mistakes. I’ve made more than a few mistakes in life. Fortunately, I’ve learned from at least some of them.

I think most of us can relate to Brian’s story of getting financially real from a mistake even if it took a while to figure it out. I have a drastically different interpretation of financial freedom now versus what I thought it meant earlier in my life.

It would be great to go back and clue my 20-year old self in. Maybe a quick slap on the head is what would be needed for this stubborn former Marine. I can however be happy that I learned from my misguided idea of financial independence and that it set me on a path to fulfillment in the future.

Before reading how financial freedom has changed for me, ask yourself, what does it mean to you? Then see if it changes after you read my story.

What I Thought of Financial Freedom in My 20s

I had just graduated college in 2003 and was just a couple years out of the Marine Corps. I started my first professional job in corporate finance because that’s just what you did. You went to school, sat behind a desk for 40 years and then you retired.

I was happy to get the job. However, that new job smell quickly wore off. It was mind-numbing numbers work, looking at the same accounting every day with very little variation. I felt like every cliché of the rat race, running my wheel in circles every day and getting nowhere.

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I was miserable.

This was before the financial independence, retire early (FIRE) movement had a name but it was no less appreciated by the coworkers in our little maze of cubicles. All I could think of was saving as much money as possible, investing every dime and someday leaving the monotony behind.

That’s what financial freedom meant to me. Having enough money to pay my bills and not have to work ever again.

I was working two jobs as well as managing my own rental properties. Rarely did I leave the house except to go to work and I spent as little as possible. I was saving thousands. Sadly, I would burn out every six months and go on a spending spree.

It was the financial equivalent of yo-yo dieting and I was getting no closer to financial freedom.

I ended up overextending myself in real estate, buying into the hype of a quick fortune and destroying my credit score when I missed mortgage payments. I ended up even further away from that financial independence to which I thought I was sprinting.

And it wasn’t even the right definition of financial freedom.

What I’ve Learned about Financial Freedom

It wasn’t long after that I quit my job and started private consulting in Colombia around the free trade agreement. I worked independently and the contracts were erratic, but it was more than enough to pay the bills in a country with a cost of living about a fifth that of the states.

It was here that learned a very important lesson though while working for myself. I wasn’t making as much money and there was no job security, but I loved every minute of it. It felt great to build my own business. Furthermore, I loved being in control of my income and setting my own schedule.

Financial freedom wasn’t the idea of making lots of money and never having to work. It was being able to work in what I loved and not being tied to a job I hated because of a paycheck.

I long since stopped consulting around trade and started my own websites in 2014. The irony is that I now work more hours building my online assets than I ever did at a traditional 9-to-5 job, but I truly feel financially independent. Of course, I still save for retirement. But I can’t imagine not doing this every week.

Doing something I love, I’ve also gotten quite good at it and have been more successful than I ever could at a job I constantly deplored. The financial success I’ve had has also opened my eyes to another aspect of financial freedom, the freedom from worrying about a catastrophic expense.

Three Ways to Build to Your Own Sense of Financial Freedom

While I think the message of finding your own sense of financial freedom is important, I didn’t want to end on such an abstract idea. I want to share some steps you can use to help find your financial freedom, no matter what it means to you.

  • Most people can’t just pick up and move to somewhere the cost-of-living allows them to do anything they like. You can however start experimenting with different side hustles from home, working 5 – 10 hours a week freelancing or building your online assets. This will help you find that thing you love doing and can eventually make the transition.
  • Don’t forget to invest in some passive income ideas as well. Monthly income for the self-employed can be highly unpredictable. It helps to have some other income sources to support you when your main income varies.
  • No matter how happy you are with your job and how unnecessary retirement becomes, don’t forget to put money aside through investments. Take full advantage of tax-deferred retirement accounts like an IRA or a SEP-IRA.

Related Content: The Ultimate Beginner’s Guide to Investing Money the Right Way

The point isn’t that my idea of financial freedom is the one true answer. Yours might be completely different. It might even include working that 9-to-5 for 40 years and having that job security to not worry about an uncertain paycheck. The point is to think critically about what financial independence means to you. Don’t get it from a blog or some pundit on TV. Find out what it means to you and work to that.

Joseph Hogue worked as an equity analyst and an economist before realizing being rich is no substitute for being happy. He now runs four websites and a YouTube channel on beating debt, making more money and making your money work for you. A veteran of the Marine Corps, he now makes more money than he ever did at a 9-to-5 job and loves building his work from home business.

Questions for Discussion: What is your idea of financial freedom? What has been the best thing you have done to get you financially free? Can you ever be content to stay in a job you don’t truly love?  

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