Financial freedom vs. financial empowerment

I found this line in another budget/finance forum I follow. Being in my mid-50s now it seems a bit late to be contemplating financial freedom (aka early retirement) right now, but I find it curious the trend and thinking from others far younger and better planners than I have ever been.

Financial empowerment, however, is intriguing. It spells a wider variety of choices and freedoms than being enslaved to a job for the paycheck. For us it meant M could retire early, and here we are, 6+ years later and both pretty happy with the low-key lifestyle we have carved out for ourselves.

There was a comment on this post that also got me thinking about such matters:

Good for you, Janelle! You really seem on top of things. I am curious though…it sounds like you employ a veritable team of experts to help you achieve your personal improvement goals. What percentage of your income do you allocate to these professional services? Also, in a long-term marriage, how do you find time to nurture your relationship in between all the personal goals? What kinds of things do you do together?

My village of experts does not exactly come cheap, and her question is a valid one. Training with J, once I realized its value to me, became a consistent line item in the monthly budget. While I only have to revisit this every 4 or 5 months (sessions are purchased in blocks of 40), I budget it out because I am a planner and I have every intention of continuing. Unless he fires me, of course. Or moves to Dubai to work at the most expensive private gym in that country. Or perhaps goes into some witness protection-like program for super nice guys who become entangled with bunny boilers. (Hey, it could happen.)

TM and RD are healthcare expenses. Since I have an HSA-compatible insurance plan, I contribute the maximum to our HSA every year and hope not to have to use those funds until our much older and grayer years when healthcare is projected to consume a lot of our retirement cash. However, the money is there and ready to be spent if needed now to pay for healthcare expenses, including sessions with TM or with RD. Both are also generous with their off-the-clock time, as is J, so I do get extra help as needed. I endeavor to not take advantage of their kindnesses towards me. Thus far this year, I have not had to make withdrawals from our HSA for services received, and hopefully the trend continues.

The real way I manage the luxury of such paid expertise is by increasing my income whenever it feels like we are approaching a pivotal tipping point and something must be sacrificed in the budget. I have taken short-term projects just to pad self-improvement funds, because I am not the only consumer in my household. While I am training with J and working with RD and TM, M is running, running, running in the mountains and shoes and socks and clothes and packs and supplements and gas to get to where he goes to run canyons and such adds up. As I said, I am a planner, and I craft our monthly budget so funds are squirreled away year round not just for my training but also for summer’s peak running expenditures. And if I need to work harder, bill more hours, I let it be known to my network of clients and business contacts that I have time available in my schedule if there are special projects or other work that could be done now versus later in the year. One way or another, opportunities for cash flow come up and the money leak is plugged. In worst cases, I use our savings to cover the shortfall that tightening our belts on expenses cannot overcome.

So essentially I am not above hustling to generate more income for our self improvement luxuries. I also think the money I save on not having to buy insulin and diabetes-related medications and supplies will easily cover my sessions this year with TM and RD, including the gift cards I get for them as thanks for their off-the-clock time investments in me. I know all members of my village have choices in how to spend their personal time; that they choose to share some of it with me is extraordinarily generous of them.

As for our long-term marriage and nurturing our relationship along side our personal goals, I think that’s a big part of what strengthens us – room to pursue our individual objectives to become the better, stronger, faster versions of ourselves. M gets up at 3 a.m. and goes running every single day, usually straggling in around 8:30 as I am preparing to leave for the office (on the days I leave the house for work). I am up at 4 a.m. for the gym on weekdays, by 6 a.m. on weekends. Other than sleeping in together, there is not much else we would likely be doing at those hours if we were not pursuing exercise. Ours is also a very simple, low-key life. We do chores around the house together, we grocery shop and cook and run errands together whenever possible. Mostly we live the normal life of a middle-aged couple – we hang out, talk, pursue things that interest us, and are present with each other. Ours is not a big, flashy, social media worthy exciting lifestyle; we simply enjoy our time and strive to make the most of it.

Over the course of my adult life, I have found that financial stability allows me to sleep restfully. Financial empowerment lets M be at home and unfettered by the responsibilities of a job that ends up having a negative impact on his nervous system. Financial freedom seems to have past us by, seeing as I am probably within 10 to 15 years of actual retirement, and in all honestly does not interest me much. If not working, what else would I be doing with the majority of my time? I can only cope with so much travel – I feel better when tethered to our home – and my hobbies and outside interests would be less enjoyable if I spent large chunks of time pursuing them. Maybe I will feel differently in 10 years, or even 5 years. But for right now, it is best for both my emotional and mental health that I continue to toil at paid employment.

Fortunately I have always liked my jobs and gotten a psychological boost from work, so our present arrangement suits us and our marriage. Working at the law firm provides benefits and the human interaction I enjoy and thrive upon. Self-employment gives me the flexibility and more control over our monthly income in the present and funds our long-term plans. Right now I have the very best of both worlds. If there was something I was missing and really wanted, I would be working on mapping ways to make it happen for us. As it is, we do not feel especially deprived or as if there is a large crater of emptiness in our world.

I feel very spoiled, I admit. But I also work really hard and do not take our simple lifestyle or anyone present in my/our life for granted. I make sure to say please and thank you and try to help others when and where I am able. My kids are grown and living their own lives, and I love, Love, LOVE that we are as close and so much a part of their happily ever afters.

Ours is a good if simple life. I have no strong desire to pursue more outside the objectives I am presently chasing. And personally, I think that is a huge bonus – to be happy and satisfied with all that I have.

One thought on “Financial freedom vs. financial empowerment

  1. I am striving for a simple life. I am happy and thankful that we have a flex savings account after these past weeks. So all in all it’s all good in the end.

    All that matters in the end is happiness and being content

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