Financial freedom looks different for everyone, and no two versions will look exactly alike. Your priorities, savings goals, career aspirations, and spending habits will affect not only what you envision for your future, but your ability to reach it as well. I’ve read about people who simply define it as “having enough money to pay all my monthly bills,” while others say things like “owning multiple properties.” Our notion as to what financial freedom looks like will inevitably change as we get older as we discern what is and is not important to our future selves.
For me, my notion of what financial freedom is today, is vastly different from what I believed it to be just a year or two ago. When I was working at my first entry-level job, freedom meant building up the highest possible dollar amount in my savings account, and working toward hoarding thousands of dollars just because. Now, I have way more complex goals for my money. I want to have the freedom to support the things I love, the freedom to not depend on my fiancé for financial support, the freedom to take friends out to expensive celebratory dinners because I love them, etc. I want to travel to foreign cities, and stay for extended periods of time — I don’t want to think of them as vacations, but instead as a chance to immerse myself without having to worry about money, and getting back to work. I want to be able to offer friends and family financial support without feeling resentful that they are eating into my own cash reserves (which sounds terrible, I know). These are lofty financial goals for sure, but I know they are attainable. I know if I put the time and sacrifice in now (while enjoying myself to a certain extent), I can hopefully build up a strong and diverse foundation for myself.
I was curious to see what the women around me want for themselves and their financial futures. Not everyone has considered the question, “what does financial freedom look like to you,” and I thought it was a good opportunity for a bit of self-reflection. Check out the answers below!
1. “Having a clean slate with no debt. I’ve been in debt for as long as I can remember. I came out of school with roughly $30,000 in student loans, and I feel like I’ve been carrying around a metaphoric ball and chain for the last six years. When it’s all been paid down, and that debt is finally gone, I’m going to feel like the world is truly my oyster.” — Haley
2. “Making enough money so I can stop working my second job. I’ve been a teacher for the last three years, and I also waitress and babysit on the weekends. I work a lot, and I’m fine with it because I’m able to make extra $$$ on the side. But, it is draining. I know that once I get to a certain point in my career, I won’t have to work extra side jobs. Until then, I have to #hustle. I have to work hard to get to a place where I can pay off the nasty bit of credit card debt I accrued in college, and I can finally feel like I’m in a comfortable financial spot.” — Ivonne
3. “Being able to afford an annual vacation with my husband. It feels like ages ago that we were able to afford to travel anywhere that wasn’t the beach two hours away, or someplace a half hour outside the city. I’d love to be able to fly to Europe and see a foreign city, or fly to the West Coast to experience California weather, or see a beach in the Caribbean. Getting away once a year would be an enormous upgrade to my life, mental health, and stress levels. I hope we can get to a place where we aren’t completely priced out of traveling.” — Emma
4. “I want to be in a position where I can afford minor crises without depleting my savings account. Last year, I lost control of my car on an ice patch, and I hit the curb pretty badly. It ended up costing me nearly a thousand dollars in damage. I immediately felt nauseous because I knew how much of a financial setback it was going to be. Freedom to me would mean that I could handle these accidents and crises with confidence. I would relish the knowledge that one event wouldn’t derail me for months. I want so badly to be able to say, ‘shit happens,’ and move on.” –Casey
5. “Financial freedom would mean having enough money saved up that if I lost my job tomorrow, I would be OK for a year. Every day, there’s a small part of me that knows I would be totally screwed if I got laid off since I’m living paycheck to paycheck. I live in an expensive city (with three roommates), and I have bills and monthly student loans to pay for. To me, there would be nothing more wonderful than feeling unafraid to speak up, take risks, and call out people’s sexist BS at my office. However, I can’t risk pissing anyone off. I need the money that comes with this position, so I have to put up with it all until I get on my feet.” — Danielle
6. “Outearning my partner. My husband is extremely supportive — he always pushes me to follow my dreams, and he tells me to make difficult choices that scare me. Unfortunately, the work I do does not pay well, and it’s a drag to see him having to pay for a majority of our expenses. I want to be the one who pulls out the credit card and says ‘my treat,’ but I can’t. I just got a raise at work last month, so I’m on the right track financially, but he still out-earns me by a lot. Freedom would mean I wasn’t dependent on anyone for anything.” — Alex
7. “I’d love to have the freedom to have children without panicking/worrying about money 24/7. But, bringing a child into this world is just not feasible at this point in my life. I turn 30 next year, and my husband and I want to start a family, but I know it would be financially irresponsible. We both have savings goals we try to meet each month (which we do most of the time), but we are a bit selfish. Right now, we’re focused on enjoying the last dregs of our twenties — we go out, grab dinner, and vacation too often. I hope to achieve that financial freedom in the next few years, but we’ll see.” — Monica
8. “I want to own property so badly. Financial freedom to me would be coming home at the end of the night to a house I know is mine. It would feel empowering as hell, and I can’t imagine a greater feeling of freedom than the one that comes with knowing you can change things inside your living space. I want to be able to grow and build my property into the kind of investment I want it to be, and it’s a level of freedom I can’t wait to have.” — Ashley
9. “The ability to start my own business. I’ve been saving for the last few years because I’m trying to stockpile enough money to purchase all the inventory I need, but it’s not easy. There are so many little details and expenses you have to account for — everything from licensing your LLC to paying for printer ink. But, to me, it would be the biggest financial freedom to earn money for myself and not have to work for a giant corporation day in and day out.” — Janine
10. “Financial freedom would mean having a diversified portfolio, and possessing a true working knowledge of how to invest money smartly and efficiently. I recently sat down with an investment advisor, so I could take the first steps to becoming more financially independent. I already feel empowered. I love the feeling that comes with being able to give thoughtful and intelligent responses to financial questions about my future, and I’m working on achieving that skill every day.” — Faye
11. “Financial freedom means having the wiggle room to spend on little luxuries for myself once in a while. I’d love to have the flexibility to have a total ‘treat yo’self day’ with brunch, a facial, a manicure, and other things I never get to do. Maybe one day I’ll have enough cash in my account to pay for that stuff, but until then, I just can’t justify charging it all on my credit card.” — Erica
12. “For me, financial freedom is all about travel. It’s probably a very juvenile definition, and I definitely have bigger goals for myself and my partner, but in the immediate, what really makes me feel free is being able to travel frequently and without worrying about it ruining my savings goals. My partner is from across the Atlantic, so we’re constantly having to choose between families for things like holidays or events, and we don’t get to see a lot of the aging family members we love so much, but who won’t be around for a very long time. It’s sad, but when so many of your friends and family are so inherently divided, all that really becomes important to you is travel. I’d trade a lot of things to be able to see the people I love several times a year.” — Chelsea
13. “Having flexibility, in general. Freedom means having the financial cushion, so I don’t have to make hard choices frequently. A lot of that comes from living within your means, and making smart (sometimes frugal) choices today and every day. It’s not fun to be the person who says ‘no’ to going out and doing things with a group of people. Plus, when I do go out, I choose what I do/order/eat/drink/see very carefully. I try and ignore people’s opinions of me (and their sometimes snide remarks about my lifestyle). I’m on a five-year savings plan where I hope to have achieved a number of aggressive goals by the time I hit 30. Everyday, I try to chisel away at that dream, and it keeps me motivated and moving forward. — Claire
Image via Pexels