Finance | Retirement

Is there truth to less stress with financial freedom?

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financial freedomFREEDOM IS DEFINED BY YOU


Financial freedom means lots of things to many people and although everyone has their thoughts on what life is like without any debt for some it’s not all that it’s cracked up to be.

What would it take in order for you to take your stress financially from one level to the next? Would you have to pay off your credit cards, all of your debt, your mortgage or simply just be able to live a comfortable life while paying off your debts?

In a conversation with a colleague the other day he brought up a friend of his who just built a new house that he paid cash for, his wife doesn’t work and they have no debt.

Top that off with a well-paying job so that must mean his life is all roses, right? Wrong. We don’t know that. He seemed jealous to be honest especially when he said “it must be nice to live a stress free life” which made me wonder why people think that debt=stress.

I’ve had people we know think that I must make lots of money with the careers I hold but what they don’t know is it takes time to build up years of experience and training for those raises.


Financial freedom notions


Assumptions are the worst and everyone has someone in their circle of friends who has something to say about someone who must be doing better than them financially because of one reason or another.

One of my wife’s friends said that now she can stay home and quit her job with the baby on the way because she has no financial worries. This is why I never talk about our finances and although sometimes we let it slip it can bring up these awkward conversations you’d rather not have.

Just because you have a wife who stays home with the kids doesn’t mean you figured out the method to financial freedom. It could simply mean you are budgeting well and your debt load is not too high which allows your wife or even husband to stay home. You don’t know if either of them work from home, consider that.

Granted having debt is hard to deal with if you don’t have the money to pay for your bills but not everyone views debt as crippling as the next person. Some people use debt to their advantage and invest money in other ventures to make money.


Debt freedom and stress


Sure there may be less stress financially when you have no mortgage or no debt but there is still a financial worry for some people.

I could write out all the steps to financial freedom that I can think of but they will be my steps. What I do and what you do will be two different things and same goes for the emotional side of financial freedom.

We all experience stress at different times, different levels and for different reasons. You might stress over having x amount of dollars in your emergency savings where for me it might not be a big deal to have a few thousand dollars.

Same goes for that Freedom 55 mindset as it might be realistic for one person to retire early but cause much more stress to another who views early retirement in their 40’s or even earlier as no part of the equation.

Over the years my wife and I worked very hard to earn money and make it work for us so we could buy our first home as a couple and pay it off in full with-in five years.

Yes, we are now mortgage free and debt free and although we don’t advertise it among our friends there are the few that do know.

If you don’t know what’s happening behind closed doors you can’t make assumptions about anyone like I pointed out above.

I find it awkward that some people believe that just because you don’t have a mortgage or any consumer debt that you must be living the high-life.


Plan your own financial freedom


The flashy, sparkly, waited on hand and foot life is not so true for us but we’ve had that told to our faces. Honestly it really does make me wonder why people focus so much on how nice it must be rather than planning their own financial freedom exit strategy.

Getting from point A to point B is not easy by any means just as there are no simple ways to get rich unless you win the lottery and that’s a long shot for anyone.

When we were budgeting to pay down the mortgage and doing our best to not have any type of debt we didn’t maximize financially on everything we could have.

Unless you have some serious money coming in each month sometimes that balance of investing and paying down debt can be off-center a bit. Sure I would have loved to max out my RRSP contribution over the years but it meant more to us to get rid of the mortgage and then focus more on our investments.

If you are born in Canada then you can make the most of the RRSP and start contributing at a young age, but for someone emigrating and starting later in life it’s a little different.

That might not make sense to everyone but it does to us and we’re still happy with our decision to do so. I don’t think there is an easy answer to the paying down the mortgage vs. investing conversation and like Mark from My Own Advisor who guest posted at Million Dollar Journey said the other day he is comfortable doing both at the same time.

Here’s our approach – we do both – we kill debt and save for retirement, every month.

Why? I have no idea what the future holds.

Our budget has downsized since we no longer have a mortgage however as you will see in our monthly budget updates in more detail or in the example below we are still having to use up our income to ramp up other areas of our budget categories.

Example: Our TFSA we put in an extra $5000 this year and we will be ramping up my RRSP contributions. Now that the baby is on the way we will have to include an RESP which will take up another $200 or so.

Then of course there is all the baby items we need to purchase etc. for many years to come. Other areas the money is being diverted to is renovations.

We put off many renovations until the mortgage was paid where some people will do it as they go. There is no right or wrong way to do this but it still involves money.

Of course over the long-term there will come a point where renovations are completed and there will be that extra cash flow again but until then even though the mortgage is paid and there is no debt it doesn’t mean we are living the stress-free life.

Consider this for a moment… what if I lost my job? What if we got injured? What if we were in a car accident? What if one of us dies? What if a parent or a sibling needed us?

Sure we have life insurance but these factors still need to be considered and are potential stresses to any financial household.

What is that saying? Don’t count your chickens before they are hatched.. yes that’s it. Why? Because anything can happen.

Unless you’ve got millions in the bank or even enough to pull you through for the rest of your life including old age homes and any illnesses then you should still have some form of financial worries in your head.

Like Mark says, anything could happen and he’s right because we just don’t know what the future has in store for us

That doesn’t mean to say that you will worry as much as the next person, it means you will deal with your finances in such a way that you believe appropriate for your lifestyle.

So, the next time someone says to you that you must be living a dream life with no debt or mortgage shake it off and move on. You know that there will ALWAYS be a reason to think ahead financially about what could be.

Has anyone ever told you that life must be stress-free just because you have no debt or a good income coming in from your career?


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