“You only live once” is what I heard the other day from someone close to me. This friend was referring to all the time and energy I spend on personal finance and saving money. This friend argued that I may be spending too much time being focused on money. I thought about it for a bit, and then replied with, “That’s exactly how I feel”. See, it’s common to hear things like that from those who spend money freely on experiences and other things that help them enrich their lives today at the expense of tomorrow. But I’m taking a different approach to the same argument of “You only live once”, by deciding to get myself on solid ground financially first, and then being able to live the life I’ve always dreamed of afterwords. This is my “Why of Personal Finance”.

A week and a half ago as I listened to Adam Baker’s (the founder of Man vs. Debt) keynote in the second floor ballroom of the Grand Hyatt in downtown Denver, he said something that really resonated with me. He was interviewing a woman who had been very successful in her life but upon a divorce, she left it all to give back to others through end-of-life care with Hospice. Adam Baker, trying to learn the secrets of people dying and fishing for something along the lines of “I regret not doing…..” to help motivate others to achieve their dreams, asked the question of “What kinds of things did people regret not doing”. This lady’s response was surprising. She said, “They didn’t have regrets. Everyone seemed to be dying in the middle of their lives.” Weird, huh? People weren’t thinking about their regrets or even about their lives as a whole, because this wasn’t the end of their life in their mind. It was the middle.

Everyone Seems to Die in The Middle of Their Lives

I’ve seen this happen first hand. I lost my dad when he was in his mid forties. He had more he wanted to do. I had more I wanted him to be around for. Neither him or I planned for him being abruptly gone 11 years ago. We weren’t ready for that.

That’s why the phrase “You only live once” is so relevant to my “Why”. I’m not depriving myself of all the things money can buy today so that I can miss out on my one life, in which I have no idea how long it will last. I’m spending all this time and energy on my finances today so that I can get in a position to live my best life as soon as humanly possible. Like another thing Adam Baker said in his keynote, “This is your life and it’s ending one minute at a time”, my life is ending one minute at a time and I can choose to set myself up for better days ahead or worse days ahead. I choose better, no matter how many there are.

What I’m Striving For

To tie this all back in to my “why” of spending all this time and money on personal finance, it’s quite simple. I’m doing it to change my life and the lives of others who I spend my life with and who I come into contact with. A “me” that is out of debt, financially independent and achieving my dreams, is a me that’s willing and able to give to others.

First, let’s take a look at what I’m striving for. I’m striving for financial independence. Using a different form of the definition, some could say I’m striving to retire early. I don’t have a time goal for this, although I am seeing now that I need one (let me work on this, but for now let’s just say my goal is in 7 years). This means that my goal is to be financially independent or capable of retirement from being employed, sometime at age 35. To more fully explain this, it means that I plan to own enough income producing assets (stock’s, bonds, real estate and/or a revenue generating business) that the income from those investments will be more than enough to live on and will be expected to pay out indefinitely.

This seems crazy to most people, right? Well, it’s been done before by many people so it’s definitely possible. An example is Mr. Money Mustache, whom I met last week in Denver. He and his wife are in their mid thirties and did this already before they started a family. Let me say that again. Mr. and Mrs. Money Mustache were making good money, took a different path than most while they were in their twenties, and decided to retire BEFORE they started a family. It was done by living a life far below their means and they set huge goals. Tell Mr. Money Mustache that it takes 40+ years to save for retirement and he’ll laugh in your face.

Now, of course I don’t really mean retirement. I mean freedom. Reaching this point financially isn’t about sitting home and watching TV all day. It’s about not being a slave to your current and future employers for the rest of your life (or at least into your 60’s). How many days do you go to work thinking about doing other things, only to be unproductive and wish you weren’t a slave to your job? How many beautiful mornings did you wish you were out on the lake taking in the fresh morning air, watching the fog lift off the lake or on the golf course instead of going into the office just because you have to?

What Financial Independence Means to Me

For me, financial independence is about breaking free from being a slave to money. Tying this back to the phrase, “You only live once”, ask yourself this question. Since you only have this life, this one trip around the sun, do you really want to allow money to stop you from doing what you love, achieving your dreams and being free? When you NEED your next paycheck and you NEED that cubicle job, you aren’t free. You’re a slave to work that you may or may not enjoy. You’re a slave to having to be there 40 hours a week for many, many more years. If you’re into buying experiences and material things instead of investing in your future and your financial freedom, you are caught up in a never ending rat race. The more you spend and “enjoy life”, as a percentage of your income, the further and further away from financial independence or financial freedom you are.

None of us can afford to push the date back where we become free from money slavery. We don’t have enough time. Our lives are ending one minute at a time. Do you want to die in the middle of your life? Or do you want to take this opportunity to start right now on making financial freedom happen. The sooner you start the better and that’s why I’m already started. I’m not wasting anymore time buying all kinds of junk and chasing all kinds of material gratification when I know at the end of the day, I’ll have to work and be a slave to money forever until I break free from wanting all that crap.

I’m On a Mission. Are you Joining Me?

I’m on a mission to have a life where lack of money won’t stop me from doing what I love every day. No, I won’t be sitting on my butt watching TV. I will be using my gifts and talents and TIME where I believe I can make a difference. Who’s on board for joining me?