We act as though comfort and luxury were the chief requirements of life, when all that we need to make us happy is something to be enthusiastic about.
— Albert Einstein
Any good plan requires a goal. Today we’re going to begin a series on setting a goal for your finances. If you’re reading this, chances are your eventual goal is, stated simply, becoming financially independent. That is, after all, what this site is all about. It’s only natural — everyone wants financial freedom, right? Well I have one question for you:
It’s a simple enough question. Yet few people ever ask it, perhaps because they believe the answer is so obvious. Surely we all know the reasons to seek out financial independence, don’t we?
Or do we? I wonder.
When reading or talking about financial independence, the discussion always seems to end up revolving around the number. This is the magic, mystical sum of dollars that will make all of your dreams come true and solve all of your problems. Some call it “fuck you money,” because it’s the sum it would take for them to march into the boss’s office and say exactly that. Endless sites, books, and online calculators are devoted to determining the number (or “your number,” as it’s often called), and how to advance your net worth from its current, woefully inadequate state to match it.
But honestly, when you sit at your desk pretending to work and daydream about what your life could be like if only your bank account matched the number, chances are you’re not envisioning staring lovingly at your bank statements, or swimming in your piles of money like Scrooge McDuck (if you are, that’s cool — whatever floats your boat). No, you’re more likely thinking of what you’ll be able to do once you’ve got all that money, or perhaps what you won’t have to do anymore.
This is important, because no one-size-fits-all book or calculator is going to be able to get inside your head and see what you see when you envision your future as it could be. Accordingly, there’s a good chance that their ideas of what the number should be for you will be way off.
So however silly the question may seem, I want you to take it seriously, and think it over for a minute before you continue. What are your reasons for seeking financial independence? Close your eyes and visualize what your life will look like after reaching your financial goals. What do you see?
No, really. Seriously. Actually do it.
Your Real Goal
What did you imagine when you visualized reaching your financial goals? Because this is what your real goal should be, not the number. Your goal is to transform your life into what you have imagined for yourself. This is what will keep you motivated and strong when you run into the inevitable setbacks along the way.
The good news is, if you delve a little deeper into your goal’s particulars, you may find that the number required to get there is far smaller than you might have come to believe. There’s more than one way to skin a cat, and amassing massive reserves of cash may not be the only path from where you are to where you want to be. More on that to come.
By the way, from my experience from talking to many people about this subject, the answers are highly varied and deeply personal. There are, however, a few common themes. We’ll go over some of these over the next few posts.