By Rahul Agarwal
In recent times, there has been a proliferation in usage of the term Financial Freedom across media platforms, be it a personal finance show, a financial planning article, or advertisements by financial services’ companies.
While this comes across as the logical, rather the default outcome of a family’s or an individual’s personal financial plan, my question is whether it’s the ultimate or ideal outcome. Shouldn’t we as individuals, all endeavour and aspire to venture beyond this unidimensional and constricted notion of ‘freedom’ that ties it to the singular aspect of money?
Among the several definitions of freedom that google search returned, I found the following one on the Merriam-Webster website quite pertinent as it succinctly sums up the essence of ‘freedom’ as “the quality or state of being free: such as the absence of necessity, coercion, or constraint in choice or action.”
In my practice as a Financial Life Planner and my collaborative work with clients, before jumping into money issues straightaway, I want to know what their deepest, most cherished dreams and aspirations are (these are usally carefully and closely guarded). We then work around the obstacles to co-create a plan that delivers precisely such freedom into their lives–starting today!
I have a client who had an almost fanatical obsession with his investment portfolio’s return alongside a laundry list of behavioural biases. During the course of doing various life planning interviews and exercises with him, I found out that the germination of these were due to the money beliefs imbibed during his formative years. Today, he is far more relaxed, is not bothered about missing out on the next ‘hot’ investment opportunity, is soon taking a voluntary retirement, and has the proverbial bucket list of things he wants to accomplish in the next 2-3 years.
I am reminded of some lyrics of George Michael’s famous song, ‘Freedom’ which was released in 1990, and it goes as follows;
“I think there’s something you should know
I think it’s time I stopped the show
There’s something deep inside of me
There’s someone I forgot to be
Take back your picture in a frame
Don’t think that I’ll be back again
I just hope you understand
Sometimes the clothes do not make the man”
We as a society have increasingly begun to attribute personal and professional success to the acquisition of material things and the accumulation of wealth. Most of us find ourselves inextricably caught in a cycle of earning, spending, and investing often induced by societal and peer pressures to fit into a perceived definition of success.
And in spite of this, how many times have we heard from even well-to-do friends and relatives that they are not exactly happy with how their lives have shaped up, how they don’t enjoy what they are doing, or how they don’t have any time to pursue their interests?
If you look closely, there is a common undercurrent running across all these statements (and several others all confirming the same thing) that we find ourselves ‘enslaved’ to a script which was not exactly aligned to our values and innermost dreams.
If money was all there was to living a life of freedom, then I encourage you to consider the first of George Kinder’s famous Three Questions. I paraphrase it here:
Imagine you have just won a lottery ticket for an amount which can ensure that you don’t need to work for another day in your life, you have more than enough to meet all your ‘financial goals’ and maintain the lifestyle you have created for yourself, how does that make you feel?
I suspect that after the initial euphoria has passed, you might find yourself thinking about what this ‘financial freedom’ means to you and what to do with it. You might start questioning the beliefs you held onto for so long and wondering why the much coveted happiness for which you craved still eludes you.
I think the answer could be discovered by answering the following question:
“What does freedom mean to me?”
Your answer to this question is likely to be so profound that it will reshape your life and all other facets, including your financial life.
And therefore, whenever I meet new prospective clients, my first question to them is,
“Is your financial plan, life-shaped™?”
Rahul Agarwal is the Founder & Principal Adviser of Advent Financial, a boutique financial life planning & wealth management firm. He is a Registered Investment Adviser (RIA) & Registered Life Planner (RLP) and has over 17 years of experience in financial services. When he is not working, he likes to spend his time reading and learning about new things with a childlike curiosity. Contact Rahul at firstname.lastname@example.org & +91 8910336611. Website: www.adventfa.com.