The pursuit of financial freedom starts in the head, and the heart. That may sound a little cliched but one of the biggest barriers people find in trying to be financially free is their own limiting doubts and lack of self-belief.
But when you weigh the risks up against the potential benefits it seems like that the biggest risk at all is to take… no risks. This post explores the 17 ways we can all work towards a personal state of being that helps to propel us to financial freedom.
17 Personality Traits of the Financially Free
Financial freedom, or financial independence, is the freedom to pursue the lifestyle you want without worried about the financial implications of that lifestyle. Because it implies both wealth and freedom it’s not simply a term that describes working for wealth but generally refers to to the creation of assets that provide you wealth.
Creating an income that provides wealth whilst you are doing other things is referred to as a source of passive income. Though no investment is ever truly passive there are a number of so-called income streams that can yield a positive cash-flow. Royalties, rental income, and stocks dividends are some examples. They require work initially but can then provide an income into perpetuity.
However, most of us are only familiar with working for money. That’s all we’ve known. This guide is about some of the habits that will help you succeed in adopting an investor’s approach. After all when it comes down to it….
…it’s all about mind over matter
1. Think For Yourself
This is not as easy as it sounds. Do not underestimate the social control that our media, government, friends and family exert over us. It can be difficult to step away from that and really think for yourself. The expectations of those around us can place a heavyweight on the decisions and choices that we make.
To consider, or even question, the world around you and your place in it requires us to see ourselves as an independent entity that doesn’t exist as a consequence of the actions of other people but as an individual that has power and control — a person who can take steps to shape their own destiny. Financial freedom is about looking at things differently. Question the narratives of those around you and your own internal monologues. Think for yourself.
2. Identify your true values and priorities
Values are the things that you hold at the core of the way you live and work. If we have constantly been told by culture, religion and education what our values should be it can be difficult to define them for ourselves.
If you want to understand what your values are then it pays to consider how you would treat someone who was in need of your help. The way in which you would behave, the priority you would give to that person is probably a good indication of what your values are. Would you help them? Would you be patient? Or would you be cruel to be kind? These are the beliefs that can help guide your attitudes and actions and they help determine your immediate priorities too.
When there is a gap between the way we live our lives and the values that are important to us this can be a great source of anxiety. If you believe in personal freedom, but feel constantly restrained, then your values are not being met and your wellbeing will suffer. By identifying our values and very clearly outlining them in detail, we can begin to start taking steps and priorities the actions that will help us live by our core values.
3. Take responsibility for your life
Taking responsibility for your life, including the way you think, feel and look, is probably one of the hardest steps any of us can take. We grow up thinking that life is something that happens to us rather than a stage upon which we are all active players:
With financial freedom comes financial responsibility. But until we all take responsibility for our own lives we will be constantly afflicted by the challenges that life throws at us. It’s too easy to blame everything else except yourself and if you don’t take responsibility for your life then things will never turn out the way you hoped or dreamed. I know so many people in my personal life who just do not realise that they are in the driving seat. They have an addiction because they have an addictive personality (it’s not them it’s their personality), they are overweight in spite of following all the right diet and fitness advice (?), they are depressed because it’s written into their genes as sure as night follows day.
How many fucks does life give?
It is so easy to be a victim, even comforting. But life doesn’t care. Even if life has thrown the very worst at you, come back fighting.
4. See the world from another perspective
In our modern world where the personal narrative is paramount, we can often lose sight of someone else’s point of view. This is probably one of the main contributing factors to all arguments, conflicts and wars in the history of us. Ever.
All that we see or seem is but a dream within a dream.EDGAR ALLAN POE
And it’s getting worse. Facebook creates an echo chamber in which automatically algorithms secretly filter out the voices of dissent. Anyone who disagrees with your worldview is slowly filtered from your digital life. Which means people react with a level of an intensity akin to a mental breakdown when they encounter someone with a different point of view. It’s important we all learn to respect and listen to what other people have to say.
I believe everyone should have a broad picture of how the universe operates and our place in it. It is a basic human desire. And it also puts our worries in perspective.Stephen Hawking
5. Take control of your debt To Find Financial Freedom
If debts are a problem in your life they will never go away until you acknowledge it as a problem. It’s also really important not to tar all debt with the same brush. Not all debt is bad. Debt is the opposite of wealth and as such it has no inherent qualities that make it good or bad. The negative and positive effects of debt come about from the way we manipulate it for our own purposes.
I can give you an example from my own life:
In my 20s I had massive debts with the bank which reached a breaking point when men in suits visited my mother at her home when she had just returned from the hospital, demanding repayment of my loans. This was the wake-up call I needed and I was completely mortified. I would spend a whole year working hard to pay off my debts, cut back on everything, live like a recluse and make sure this never happened again. I became a hermit for a year, scraped together everything I had and made are that every debt was paid off, not an easy task when you live in one of the most expensive cities in the world.
Later on, when I started learning more about personal finance, I took out three buy-to-let mortgages in addition to two credit cards (paid off in full every month) in order to build up my credit rating in order to support my mortgage applications. This debt enabled me to create 3 income-producing assets, apartments that I still own today, which kick-started my journey into passive income-producing assets.
Like most things in life, debts are neither good or bad; debt is just a tool, used by individuals and organisations to transfer wealth. Once you work out how to better use that tool you can stop transferring wealth away from you and start transferring it to you. This will help you to acheive financial freedom.
Some forms of debt, like mortgages, can as per the example outlined above, enable the transfer of wealth to you. Whilst other forms of debt, like payday loans, can enable the rapid accumulation of more debt and the subsequent transfer of wealth away from you.
Wealth and debt have good and bad influences on your life depending on the kind of debt you have. Mortgages have enabled billions of people around the world to acquire homes, or assets if they choose to rent them out and the right type of credit cards can be useful to build a credit rating; a necessary evil in today’s world. Control your debt, don’t let it control you.
6. Do Not Dwell on regrets
You may have read about The Top Five Regrets of the Dying: A Life Transformed by the Dearly Departing – a book written by a palliative nurse who recorded the most common regrets of the dying and how they influenced her own perspective on life.
Before I get onto them I think one thing that’s really important to encourage is: you should try never to regret your life. By all means, regret the things you said or did to people in your weaker moments (if you don’t have any regrets at all then you might have psychopathic tendencies – seek help!) and use those to help shape the future you into a better and more evolved human being. But don’t regret your life. Because if you do, you are using anxieties about the things you can no longer change to influence the way you feel about the future.
That doesn’t mean we can’t reflect on things and ponder how we might have done things differently. The secret is to make time available to go through this process before it becomes too late. But until then we can learn from those in the very unfortunate position of realising life truly is short. And the top 5?
The Top 5 Regrets of the Dying
Use any regrets you have now to learn and grow, to change yourself into a better person and to make sure, in your twilight years, you can have fewer regrets and more contentment.
7. Take Action. Just do it!
…Wouldn’t be a world-famous sports logo if people around the globe didn’t find it an inspiring message to get up and just do it. And the reason why? Because the words ‘just do it’ don’t inspire motivation they simply tell you to get on with it.
After all, motivation is elusive, it depends on the individual and their current state of mind. But more importantly, motivating people, and/or yourself, don’t work, because it can be transitory, temporary and misguided. We are generally already motivated, they just need to get on with it.
Most people want to succeed, they want financial freedom but when we look at motivation you are starting from the point of view that they need an external stimulus in order to progress. Instead, we should be seeking to meet our own requirements in order to provide the right framework for that person to succeed. And so much of that comes down to how much we, as individuals, can influence our working environment.
I work best outside of the office environment, when I am in control of my own time and when I am working for myself. But if that wasn’t enough to persuade you, then maybe Shia LaBeouf will:
8. Choose Your Own Adventure | Design Your Life
We’re constantly told to follow our passions, to live our dreams or to make our dreams a reality. This sells a narrative that is, for the most part, achievable.
My dream, when I was younger, wasn’t to run a personal finance blog but I do find it absolutely fascinating because of the power that money holds over all of us and the lack of education around personal finance in our younger years. The things you do can enable the dreams you might have. The advice to ‘live your dream’ isn’t necessarily wrong, but it puts pressure on us to only do the things that are directly connected to the living of ‘our dreams’.
And sometimes it’s difficult to even know what your dream might be. This Huffpost article goes to the heart why the younger Generation Yuppies Are Unhappy and it’s all to do with soaring expectations failing to be met by actual reality.
9. Be flexible, evolve constantly and never, ever give up on yourself!
Remain flexible, life is forever changing. You must adapt your approach as you go because if you find something that isn’t working and your money is involved then the chances are that you will lose money. Knowing when to step back from something that you are not enjoying and when to seek out the alternative is key to finding a strategy that works best for you.
Flexibility requires an open mind and a welcoming of new alternatives.DEBORAH DAY
If something isn’t working it’s important to be able to change and evolve your approach. But that’s not the same as giving up. In fact, it shows determination, intelligence and the flexibility to evolve when needed.
10. Know when to let go
This is very much related to being flexible knowing when to let go is key to adopting a strong, yet flexible, investment policy. I have lost tens of thousands of dollars worth of investment in certain stocks because I didn’t know when to let go. I became emotionally invested and my ego wouldn’t allow me to recognise that I’d made the wrong decision. The day I sold this particular stock was a big blow to me and required me to take some very deep breaths in order to do it. I had gotten the better of myself and forgot it was a business.
On the flip side, in the very same stock that I am referring to here I also didn’t know when to let go when it doubled in value. Greed took over and I imagined that 200k would turn into 400k and so on. Ultimately not knowing when to sell meant that I lost over half the value of that particular initial investment.
11. Limit toxic people and stick up for yourself
It can sometimes be difficult to avoid toxic people when they are close to you because they might be family members and or close friends that you have in a mutual circle of friends. But avoiding toxic people does not mean you have to banish them from your life completely, especially when it might be difficult to do so.
I’ve experienced a friendship where I ultimately left each encounter feeling way more negative than I had before I met that friend. It brings to mind the expression ‘who needs enemies when you’ve got friends.’
But I came to realise that that particular friend was negative about me because ultimately they were insecure about their own status in life. The friend in question would meet me and constantly talk down aspects of my life, from my job, to my relationships to my wealth.
It was difficult for me to address this because a) I am not a confrontational person and b) we had a wide circle of mutual friends. However, when it finally came to a head I realised that if you value yourself and believe that you treat people as you would want to be treated, then sticking up for yourself is the best policy.
I started to stick up for myself and explain to this friend why their comments were rude. It came as a shock to my friend and I honestly believe that people are inherently bad but when this friend heard their comments coming out of my mouth, they realised how insulting they were. It’s not always possible to avoid toxic behaviours but you can limit them in those around you by sticking up for yourself.
12. Question social expectations and norms
Society expects you to study, graduate, work and die. Ok so you can’t do anything about the dying bit that comes to us all. But you can question everything else and decide if that’s the path that you want to walk. All of the other points within this list come from the point of questioning social expectations. You don’t need to do this vocally to everyone you meet, however, if you start to think about what you want out of life then you’ll begin to understand if social norms are the way you want to live.
13. Take care of your needs | Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs
Taking care of your needs is essential in providing the foundations from which you can lead a well structured, healthy and positive life.
Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs classifies the needs of individual humans living within the broader influences of a collective society. They are:
By making sure all of the needs within your life are met you are creating a strong foundation in which to grow. Life experiences will mean that this does not always follow a smooth path upwards. But the route to self-actualisation can give us some sense of where we are at and where we need to be.
14. Seek Meaning, not Happiness
There’s a great deal of focus on pursuing happiness in the 21st Century. It’s a multi-billion dollar industry with thousands of books and articles published each year on obtaining the elusive goal of happiness. But a great deal of this focuses on the achievement of happiness as a goal rather than a by-product of the things that we do to lead a more contented life.
Happiness is elusive, it’s ephemeral and fleeting. It’s an emotion that we feel when we’re in the act of doing other things. Which is why the pursuit of happiness is misguided. The chances of encountering happiness are greatly increased when we pursue meaningful endeavours instead.
This is part of the reason why I’ve never wanted to acquire wealth for wealth’s sake. I don’t want to be rich. I want the freedom that money enables.
15. Eliminate addictive behaviours
I was raised by incredibly open-minded and liberal parents. This meant that I was free to experiment and try different things with an open mind.
I’ve also experienced first hand what it’s like when loved ones develop addictive behaviours that are damaging to their health and wellbeing and create anxiety for those around them (including myself!).
I consider myself an open-minded person and my approach have previously been one of experimentation. But now I take a more nuanced approach that takes into account two main factors.
The first is to consider why people want to get drunk or high. What is it about their lives that lead them to escapism? And why would you want to escape reality? I think for a lot of people who get drunk on a regular basis (which used to include myself) the answer is life is hard and sometimes you want to forget it.
The second factor is to consider what benefits alcohol or drugs might bring. For someone quite introverted like myself it can be handy to make me more relaxed. But those benefits are dwarfed by the physical, mental and emotional toll that alcohol has caused in the past. A panel of British experts assessed 20 different drugs and concluded:
Alcohol is the world’s most dangerous drug when you consider the harm it does to drinkers, their friends, and families and to society in general. The harm that alcohol does exceeds the dangers of even heroin and crack cocaine when the overall danger to the user and others is taken into account.
Science is beginning to suggest that even one alcoholic drink a day is too much, causing negative consequences. Addictive behaviours can cause problems across many aspects of life: it’s all too easy to be addicted to porn, shopping, social media, unhealthy foods! Spend your time doing activities that benefit you physically, emotionally and mentally and eliminate addictive negative behaviours from your life.
17. Stay fit
Look better. Feel better. Function better.
▶︎ hi, I’m Tom
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