Thursday, March 13, 2014

The Ultimate Status Symbol: Freedom

I’m now just over one week into a two-week break from the hustle and bustle of the 50-hour workweek at my day job.
Life is good.
I’ve been aggressively saving and investing my way toward financial independence for four years now, and blogging about it for most of that time period.  But it’s hard to know exactly what financial independence is like because I’ve never actually had it. I mean, I’ve had periodic breaks from full-time work for one reason or another over the years. And, of course, I had a long pause from work in my early 20s as I wasted away an inheritance. Ahh, youth. They say youth is wasted on the young; I’m inclined to agree.
So I’m chasing after this concept of financial independence, but I’ve never experienced it. How do I know I’d even like it? What would I do all day without a superior at work telling me what to do? Would I just end up staying in my pajamas all day long in a daze?
Now while I’ve had sporadic time off from work, I’ve never had a break like this. I’m now completely enveloped in my journey to financial freedom, and my dreams and goals are clearly laid out. So this is the first time I’ve had time to sit back and enjoy the hard work I’ve put in over the years while also taking advantage of unstructured free time as I continue to push myself closer to the freedom I crave so badly. It’s one thing to have time off in your early 20s when you don’t really know where you’re going in life or what you want, and quite another thing to have time off when you’re chasing after a dream with all your being.
And what I’ve learned from this time off is that freedom is the ultimate status symbol.
It seems that most of the world judges wealth by money. And there’s no better way to show off your money than by having status symbols. Objects like a big house, luxury automobiles, a yacht, hired help, large parcels of land, exotic vacations, and expensive clothing are all status symbols that are meant to convey wealth, power, and happiness. It seems us human beings are not far removed from peacocks and their affinity for showing off the colors of their feathers.
However, while I’m aggressively building my wealth it’s not for purposes of money. No, I’m actually building my wealth so that I can gain access to a status symbol way better than the biggest mansion, the longest yacht, or the most colorful feathers. I’m chasing the ultimate status symbol: freedom.
We are all aware of the unique relationship between time and money. Money is time, and time is money. But time is a lot more than money, folks. Time is everything. Without time, you have nothing. Time is life, and life is time. Without one, you also lose the other. And day by day, we’re losing a little bit of both because we’re all slowly dying. So I’m trying to build up as much money as I can so that I can also have as much time as possible. And I plan on cashing it all in for the ultimate status symbol that is freedom.
So what have I been doing during this little preview of financial independence?
I’ve been spending this time off concentrating on all the things that bring me great joy. My personal passions are primarily: investing, writing, frugality, fitness, and spending time with people I care about.
I’ve been researching investments with even greater detail than usual. I’ve been pouring my heart out in my writing, as you can see with this article. The workouts have been bigger and better. And while it’s hard to spend time with family when I’m 1,200 miles away, I’ve been able to spend time with the people I care about in my immediate life here in Florida. Basically, I’ve been able to live my life on my terms.
And it has been wonderful!
With freedom, we can actually live our lives in a manner that befits us. And it’s tough to do that when we’re spending countless hours per week getting ready for work, traveling to work, putting in the time at work, coming home, unwinding after a long day, and then finally settling in to what we actually want to do. How can it be that we’ve been up for more than 10 hours and we’re just really starting our day?
Now that I see what freedom is like, my questions have been answered. I love it, and I want as much of it as I can possibly get my hands on!
While having the traditional status symbols like a McMansion and a hot sports car in the driveway seem nice, the hidden truth is that these objects require a ton of work to not only purchase, but also to pay for the ongoing costs like maintenance and repairs. How can you possibly enjoy that big house when you’re constantly working to pay for it? Status symbols mean nothing if you can’t actually enjoy them.
But that’s the great thing about freedom. You can enjoy it, because freedom is time. And time is life. With freedom you can chase your dreams, passions, goals, and aspirations.
Enjoy painting? Freedom allows you to paint your heart out. While it might be tough to pour your heart out on the canvas when you’re busy working all the time, freedom unlocks the time necessary to put color to white and bring life to your paintbrush.
Want to travel? It should go without saying it’s impossible to travel anywhere when you’re stuck at work. And while travel isn’t cheap, travel also doesn’t mean 5-star resorts and first-class airfare. Furthermore, freedom can be as cheap or expensive as you want it to be. I enjoy writing, and writing is free. Travel isn’t. The latter idea of freedom would simply require a larger passive income source to sustain.
But it doesn’t really matter what your passions are in life if you’re not actually enjoying them. You could talk about how you love flying model airplanes. But if you haven’t done it in two years because you’re so busy working to pay the bills you’ve mounted up for yourself it’s not really a passion at all. At that point you’d better hope paying bills is a passion because that’s what you’re actually doing.
But paying bills isn’t a passion for me. And I hope it’s not for you either.
Freedom can be attained. It simply requires a plan of action.
My plan is to live as frugally as possible, while still enjoying my life in the now. I then leverage this frugality by using the savings I generate to invest in high quality companies that have a lengthy history of rising dividends. Companies like Johnson & Johnson (JNJ)PepsiCo, Inc. (PEP), and Philip Morris International Inc. (PM) are all major holdings for me because they generate huge profits and share a piece of that profit pie with me in the form of dividends. As their pie expands they send me greater pieces. And who doesn’t love pie? Or money?
These dividends, or freedom chips as I call them, will one day pay for all of my living expenses. Once my passive dividend income exceeds my living expenses it’s sayonara to the day job. I could keep working, because by giving up a stable source of income so early in life likely means I’m giving up millions of dollars in potential earnings. But what would I do with the extra money? Buy status symbols? Why bother when I’d already have the greatest status symbol of them all? Plus, I’m already a guaranteed millionaire.
A job simply gets in the way of me and my passions. It’s a wall standing between me and freedom. I plan on breaking down that wall one day because after this little break I know exactly what’s on the other side.
How about you? Do you believe freedom is the ultimate status symbol?
Thanks for reading.

This article was written by Dividend Mantra. If you enjoyed this article, please subscribe to my feed [RSS]

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