To be an independent woman (or man) requires financial freedom. You are not truly independent until and unless you are financially independent.
Previously, I described financial freedom as the great feeling you get (at any age) once you have learned the basics about personal finance, have a workable long-term plan, and you are pursuing both financial independence and maximum fulfillment. You can be sure that you will learn more and your plans will change—and that’s ok! You will continually get closer to those two ultimate objectives
Smith College has a very successful program they call Women and Financial Independence under the direction of Mahnaz Mahdavi. “Traditionally, women have been told not to worry about money, that someone else will take care of all that,” Mahdavi observes. “But at Smith we’re committed to making sure that our students understand that they are not truly independent until and unless they are financially independent.”
Although taking charge of finances is important for both sexes, women often face greater challenges than men. The Christian Science Monitor writes that on average, women:
- Live seven years longer than men.
- Earn 76 cents for each dollar men earn
- Spend 11 years out of the workforce to care for children or elderly parents
- Qualify for lower Social Security benefits than men do, and have lower retirement account balances
- Are more likely to work for a company that does not offer retirement-savings benefits
- Have higher healthcare expenses
- Often have more difficulty establishing credit than men do
For these and other reasons, women make up 85% of the elderly poor. Schools need to do a better job of teaching basic financial concepts. Improved financial literacy among young adults could keep them from making potentially disastrous financial decisions later in life.
This not-for-profit website, FinancingLife.org, is my contribution to help men and women of all ages to become financially literate and savvy about saving and investing.
The Classic Life Cycle in America
From a young age, most of us are trained to get an education, get a job, and continue along that path for 40 to 50 years until retirement or death. Our peak earning years come late, and Social Security isn’t available until you reach your 60s. We all agree that financial freedom and financial independence are desirable. Without it, we are dependent on our parents, our spouse, our jobs, or our government. Yet many fear that achieving independence may not be realistic, that it is not for us, or that it is the result of circumstances we don’t control.
I too fell into the trap of conflating financial independence with being wealthy and it was life-changing to discover a practical new definition for it that was consistent with my core values. It is not about becoming rich, but is is as much about lifestyle choices as it is about income. Aligning your spending with your life purpose is the valuable contribution of the Your Money or Your Life program. Invariably, it moves us towards a sustainable future for our world.
A ‘Whole Systems’ Approach To Your Life
If you force me to summarize the Your Money or Your Life book in a few bullets, I might regretfully settle for these:
- Become very conscious of how you spend money.
- Minimize spending.
- Increase income.
- Pay off debts and save for “emergencies”.
- Invest excess money.
- Eventually retire.
Sigh. How bland. That’s what any respectable personal finance book would say. Why is Your Money or Your Life so much more? Because this book recognizes that your financial life doesn’t function separately from the rest of your life. This book is about putting it all back together. It is about a ‘whole systems’ approach to your life. It will take you back to the basics of making your spending (and hopefully your saving) of money into a clear mirror of your life values and purpose. It is about the most basic of freedoms — the freedom to think for yourself. What you can expect from this book? Author Vicki Robin reports that through the hundreds of letters she has received, we know some of the ways people’s lives have been enriched by following the program in this book. (1)
- They finally understand the basics of money.
- They reconnect with old dreams and find ways to realize them.
- With a great sense of freedom and relief, they learn how to distinguish between the essentials and the excess in all areas of their lives and how to unburden themselves.
- They find their relationship with their mates and children improve.
- Their new financial integrity resolves many inner conflicts between their values and their lifestyles.
- Money ceases to be an issue in their lives, and they finally have the intellectual and emotional space to take on issues of greater importance.
- At a tangible level, they retire their debts, increase their savings and are able to live happily within their means.
- They increase the amount of their ‘free time’ by reducing expenses and the amount of time on the job.
- They stop buying their way out of problems and instead use such challenges as the opportunity to learn new skills.
- Overall, they heal the split between their money and their life — and life becomes one integrated whole.
Authors Moss and Toltz tell us, “Financial Independence has nothing to do with rich. Financial Independence is the experience of having enough — and then some. The old notion of Financial Independence as being rich forever is not achievable. Enough is. Enough for you may be different from enough from your neighbor—but it will be a figure that is real for you and within your reach.” (2)
The goal of this book, which is organized as a nine-step program, is to help you integrate of all aspects of your life. Our financial life does not function separately. The basic idea is making your spending money (and your saving money) into a clear mirror of your life values and purpose. The purpose of this book is to transform your relationship with money.
CEOCOACH asserts:”Once you have changed the nature and function of your interaction with money, you will reach new levels of comfort, competence and consciousness around money. … You will learn the true impact of your earning and spending, both on your immediate family and on the planet, and what is enough money and material goods to keep you at the peak of fulfillment. It is having all aspects of your financial life in alignment with your values.” (3)
(2) Moss and Toltz, ymoyl.wordpress.com/summary-of-your-money-or-your-life/