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Financial & emotional freedom: What does it take?

Money doesn’t make you happy. And yet, we need it to live. So what do we do? Try hard to make more money? Or, be content with what we have?

The problem is that both options come with high costs.

We’ve all heard about the research that says you won’t be happier if you earn more than $75K or some other magic figure.

We’ve all heard about these studies by now. And yet, it doesn’t make a bit of impact on the way we live.

At least, those findings never changed the way I chased money in my life. And neither did it change anyone I personally know.

The problem with these averages is that they are averages. And yet, mindless writers keep quoting this research that says money doesn’t make you happy.

“Money doesn’t buy happiness.” A Google search for that phrase gives you 69,200,000 results.

I must admit that I’ve too said something like “money doesn’t make you happy because a study said so.” But no one can relate to statistics without a personal story.

 

I found out the hard way

Somewhere in my late teens/early twenties, I got the idea in my head that you need to be a millionaire to be successful. I’ve been thinking about how I came up with that idea, but I can’t exactly tell where it originated.

I guess it has something to do with pop culture, greed, vanity, insecurity, and peer pressure.

Those are all false reasons to do anything in life. But I also had good motives to make money. As a child from an immigrant family, we didn’t have much growing up. My parents did their best to support my brother and me. And they went into debt.

I always wanted to contribute. It’s a natural urge that many people who grew up with very little share.

That drive also motivated me to do my best at school. I wasn’t the smartest kid. I just worked hard. And that’s how I got myself into a good university. With the support of my parents, I became the first person in my near family with a master’s degree.

But when I got out of college, I became very money focused. I even lost the opportunity to work for a very successful entrepreneur because I asked for too much money. But that didn’t stop me from earning more.

I started a business and we hit $1 million in revenue in our second year. I paid myself $40K a year, living on my own terms. Looking back, it was pretty good for a 25-year-old. But that wasn’t enough for me.

I said yes to every single opportunity and found myself in a blind pursuit of money. After doing that for almost four years, I felt empty.

More money leads to bigger problems

I thought that more money was the answer to everything. “If I would only make more…Then these problems all disappear.”

But that’s not how it works. One of my mentors, who’s very wealthy, once told me that:

“The more money you make, the bigger your problems become.”

What he means is that money comes at a price. The more investments you have, the more you can lose. It’s the same for building a business. As a company grows, the more responsibilities and problems you get.

Life is not easy. No matter how much money you make.

You need less than you think

Back to the time when I was chasing money. I woke up at 6 AM and worked until I went to bed. I was in a bad mood all the time. Snapped at my girlfriend. Didn’t have time to see my friends. In fact, I didn’t have time to enjoy anything.

My story is not unique. In fact, these types of “I chased money” stories are more common than the stories of people who make it big.

Because what’s more unrelatable than a scientist who says “money doesn’t make you happy”?

When a rich person says that!

Right? When a millionaire tells you that money doesn’t buy happiness, we all think the same thing.

“Easy for you to say.”

That’s why I’m here, as a normal person, to tell you the same thing. Don’t chase money. Even if you think it gives you financial freedom. If it comes at the price of an emotional prison, it’s not worth it.

You always need way less than you think. When I was unhappy with my well-paying career, I took a step back. Literally.

Instead of being away from my family, I moved closer and helped them in many other ways. Not only financially but also emotionally, by simply being there.

And now, I’m doing what I love. I’m making a living as a blogger and online teacher. And you know what, I don’t even need a lot of money to live a good life.

It’s one of the main messages of Your Money Or Your Life by Vicki Robin and Joe Dominguez, one of my favorite books on personal finance. I love that the authors put things in perspective.

With examples, they illustrate how much money we spend on job-related things. For instance, if you live in an expensive city for your job, your cost of living and commuting will be much higher.

Plus, how much money do you spend on clothes you wear at work? Suits, dresses, shoes? It’s all money that you usually wouldn’t spend.

In Your Money Or Your Life, Robin and Dominguez lay out a plan that leads to financial freedom. It’s very sound and practical. But I think you need something else first.

Become emotionally free first

I’m feeling like I’m just summing up clichés in this article. And there’s no way I expect you to change your life perspective after reading this.

However, I do hope that you decide to strive for emotional freedom first—not just accumulating more money.

Yes, money buys freedom, but you don’t need a lot of it to achieve that. Remember: Mo money, mo problems.

That’s why we need to be emotionally strong. We can’t flip out at first sight of real problems.

We must be strong and able to cope with stress. To me, that was the first step towards achieving happiness and freedom in life.

I’m not afraid of what the future brings. That’s because of two things:

  1. I’m mentally and physically strong due to years of consciously stressing my mind and body. That’s how you build strength.
  2. I have 0 debt, have savings, and work for myself. Plus, I don’t care about my reputation. Hence, I don’t have to answer to anybody else, other than my own morals.

You see, the topic of money and happiness goes deep. Every choice you make in life has a significant impact on the quality of your life. For every action, there’s a reaction.

  • Did you take a job that requires you to be in constant fear of losing your reputation? If so, you’re not free.
  • Did you take out a loan to buy a car? If so, you’re not free.

But look, it’s not the end of the world. I’ve been in debt. I’ve been a prisoner of the corporate world. I got out. And I’m not the only one who did that.

It takes commitment and a plan.

Freedom is not an accident.

It’s a deliberate strategy that requires a lot of work, thinking, and planning. I encourage you to work on it. And I will do the same. Because in this game, you can never take anything for granted. You just need to be willing to start all over again.

And with that, I have no problem.

This article first appeared on Darius Foroux.

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