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Financial Independence–Expanding Your Choices

In last week’s column, I talked about defining retirement as doing what you want to do, when you want to do it, with the people you want to be with. When you define it that way, “retirement” becomes something you can begin to do long before you reach what we think of as retirement age.

As a follow-up to that idea, here’s a question for you. What would you be if you were financially independent?

Notice, I did not ask you what you would do or what you would buy, but what you would “be”. How would you spend your time? How would you like to like to “show up” in the world?

Would you choose to have a job? If so, what would that job be? Would you earn money (even though you didn’t need any money) or volunteer your time? Would you focus on being with your family or friends? How would that time you spend with them look?

You could spend your time being in the moment, just having fun. What does having fun look like to you? It might be anything: sleeping late, watching old movies on television, hiking, playing golf, traveling—the list is endless.

You might decide to change jobs. You might go back to school to work toward a career in a completely new field. You might get involved in local politics or volunteer at a charity you support. Maybe you’d spend time on hobbies you’ve always wanted to try or take classes in anything from fly-fishing to flying just because they interested you.

With your new wealth, you might hire someone to do basic chores like house cleaning or yard work, to free you to be what you really wanted. For example, perhaps hiring someone else to do tasks you don’t like would free you to spend more time being healthy and in good physical condition. You might find a personal trainer to help you develop a health and fitness routine.

You may want to be more spiritual, spending more time in study, meditation, prayer, involved in your church, or at spiritual retreats. Maybe you’d spend your time learning how to be a better spouse or a better friend. The range of choices is vast; think about what you’d put on your own list.

If you read last week’s column, you probably know what’s coming next. How might you incorporate some of those choices into your life now, even though you are not financially independent?

If you’re working at a job you dislike or one that doesn’t interest you any more, changing careers is certainly an option. People do it all the time. I’m not suggesting you go in tomorrow morning and tell your boss you’re quitting. But you can start working on a plan to make that career move in the next six months, year, or even five years.

If your wish list includes things like spending more time with family, volunteering, or running for city council, maybe it’s time to take a closer look at your priorities. Are they supported by the ways you spend your time now? Maybe you still belong to an organization that no longer interests you. Maybe you spend your weekends keeping up your house and yard to someone else’s standards. Consider what you might give up or get rid of instead of just squeezing more commitments into an already crowded schedule.

One of the biggest advantages of being financially independent is that it expands your choices. Consider turning that around. Start with expanding your choices, and you may just be able to live more richly and independently.

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