I have been thinking about financial freedom recently. It’s a term that’s used a lot in the profession I’m in. People look at it as something to accomplish or to aim for; achieving financial freedom is seen as the Holy Grail for clients of financial planners. I get the sentiment. I understand that helping people to find themselves in a position where they can do what they want, when they want, is a powerful thing. That point where work becomes optional is a great feeling to be able to give someone, as well as to receive, I’m sure.
I am not financially free. I need to work to be able to support my family, to build my future and to continue to enjoy my life as I do. I am very fortunate, though, that my work is something I really enjoy doing. I spend a lot of evenings and weekends thinking about and planning how to do my job better. It’s the constant strive to improve that makes it feel that it’s not really work; it’s what I love to do.
It’s here where something bothers me a little about the near-obsession with financial freedom. There are so many uncertainties in life that we don’t know if financial freedom will ever happen. I hope that other professionals and peers of mine aren’t working to a specific plan that comes to life when their client reaches a certain age. What happens if the client doesn’t make that age? Are they wasting the one life they’ve got to live while they’re bang in the middle of it? Once again, my idealism is coming to the fore, I know. Of course, not everyone can do everything they want to do at any time. I get that, I live that. I can’t just take all my family away to the Maldives or Disneyworld at the drop of a hat. I can’t just travel around the Galapagos Islands to see the wildlife.
What I can do is make sure that in the days I’m alive, I’m trying to do things that I enjoy, that give me purpose. In true Einstein fashion, “not everything that counts can be counted and not everything that can be counted counts”. It’s not all about money. It really shouldn’t be. We should be trying to enhance people throughout the journey, not just once they arrive. Almost every conference and financial planning book I read gives the example of the client who retired and died a short while after, never getting the chance to do everything they’d wanted to in retirement. Again, I get the sentiment, but it drives me mad that the adviser telling the story failed to get their client to live while they were alive.
The United Capital motto is “helping clients to live richly”. This is how it should be done. Tell clients to live, to enjoy their time; to spend it doing something meaningful before life throws them a curve ball. We, as advisers, must hold ourselves accountable for people to live now, not in 20 years’ time when the mathematical equations tell them they’ll be able to retire. I am fortunate enough to work with clients who have lots of options open to them in their lives. They would be deemed to be financially free by most standards. However, their financial freedom is the ability to live a full and rich life while they’re able to. That is what true freedom means to me – the mentality to live life and enjoy whatever life you have, regardless of the money. Some people will never have enough; some people are so poor, all they have is money.