Financial independence is a life of no debt and the ability to spend on anything you want.
Everybody wants financial freedom. Financial independence happens with the right focus and commitment. Financial independence is a life of no debt and the ability to spend on anything you want. While one feels exuberant to be able to live life on his/her terms, there is also a feeling of unsurety on the way ahead. Should one leave the job or continue working is the biggest dilemma that people face.
Take the case of Aarav (45), who has accumulated wealth from exiting Esops (employee stock ownership plan). He decided to quit his job to spend more time with his family. Within a couple of months, he started questioning his decision. His wife and kids had their own schedules and while they did get some quality time together, Aarav felt restless with his life. His friends and colleagues were too busy with work and people actually mocked him for doing nothing. Extended family members even branded him as a house husband. All this took a toll on Aarav and he desperately started looking for a job. Life after achieving financial freedom did not turn out to be a good experience for Aarav.
Through the working years, one has a goal to reach financial freedom but after achieving that goal, what next? How can you use your money to build a better life? That is the question that needs to be delved upon. The best way is to evaluate what you can do better in life and at the same time be mentally engaged. At each stage of life, new goals need to be created. The same applies for life after financial independence.
In Aarav’s case, I advised him to start by listing down the things he wants to do to make his life better—hobbies, get fitter, reading etc. Remember, you have the money and time, you need to give yourself direction and take the first step.
Next, think about how you would like to spend your time. Are hobbies enough or would you like to do something more stimulating? Would you prefer to get back to work or can figure out something to keep yourself busy?
It is always going to be a tussle between what gives satisfaction versus what passes your time. I recently met two relatives at a wedding who have chosen different paths. One has bought a farmland and spends mornings at the farm and the balance time in hobbies. The other gentleman has taken up a job and is working as hard as ever. Both are financially independent and happy with their decision.
The key is to set your goal and remain focused. In Aarav’s case, he decided to use his money to build something new that can improve other people’s lives instead of getting back to a full-time job. He felt this would be meaningful and he could work on his own terms. The concept of living life on your terms and doing what suits you is still very alien in India. People around revere job titles in well-known firms and even though startups are in vogue, unless your firm is in the media, friends, family and former collogues tend to deride your work. Do not let this upset you. Aarav told me that he often feels like a nobody even after having an illustrious career and now working on something that is so useful to people. Keep reminding yourself that it is your life that you are improving and that’s what matters.
There will be times when things don’t work out and hence it is good to have a couple of other ideas. The gentleman who went back to a full-time job had tried consultancy work and teaching a technical course at a college, but did not feel respected by the people he was working with. Remember, in life after financial independence, you have the ability to walk away if what you are experiencing doesn’t resonate with your values.