Financial Independence: What Does It Mean?

We’d like to thank Experian for having us on their Twitter chat a couple of weeks ago. The topic was financial independence, and we heard a lot of great opinions from Ready for Zero, Wise Bread, the Better Business Bureau Military Line, Madam Money and everyone else who participated.

Here’s a look back at the major themes discussed:

Financial Independence Is Not Having to Worry

This idea came up a lot.  It’s true that money can be a blessing and a curse because it can be the source of so much stress and worry. This is what The Simple Dollar is all about. It’s not some get-rich-quick website. You aren’t going to get rich pinching pennies! But you can change your habits to banish the stress and instead use your money to be happier. Focus on what you’ve been able to accomplish, not on your failings.  The path to financial independence isn’t a perfect one, but it’s something that each and every person should strive for.  

Living Debt Free

Many of us (@ReadyForZero, @BBB_MilLine, @mikedelgado) tweeted that being debt-free is the key to worry-free living. While some debts are necessary, it’s the unplanned or frivolous credit card debt that keeps us up at night – the kind that you are unprepared and unable to pay off. Eliminating credit card debt is the first step to getting your financial house in order. There are plenty of techniques for defeating your credit card debt and building a better relationship with your cards; learn how to do that with the educational credit card and debt guides on The Simple Dollar. In the end, most of living debt free boils down to spending less money and having financial goals that lead to small and major changes.  

Make Extra Money and Save for Retirement

The Simple Dollar has countless posts on clever and easy ways to save money. The other obvious route to financial stability is to make more money. You don’t want to sacrifice your family life or friends to make just a little more cash, but if you have some extra time, why not? Go into it with the right mindset: don’t base your decisions off just a few experiences. There are plenty of part-time opportunities out there and many are actually fun. A low-stress, part-time job can be a great way to make new friends, learn new skills, and get out of the house.

If you live a frugally and earn some extra cash, your savings can go a long way. Even small amounts can add up over time thanks to compounding interest. Plus, when you know you’ve got money in the bank, you won’t fear losing your job, you’ll worry less about emergencies, you’ll breathe easier about retirement, and you’ll probably sleep better too: this is financial independence.

Live Simpler, Live Better

Living simpler is a key step towards financial independence. Every day we are bombarded with ads making us believe we need to spend, spend, spend to be happy. This is a lie. Our reality is warped because we’re surrounded by messages designed to get us to buy.  That’s one reason credit card debt is epidemic, why 3/4 of Americans live paycheck-to-paycheck, and why so many of us are stressed about money. Take a step back and really ask yourself if you need the thing, or if you want it.

If beginning your path to financial independence seems daunting, don’t worry.  There is a large community out there to help. The Simple Dollar is just one of those sites. Connect with some of the sites and people mentioned here, or if you prefer the independent study approach, take a look at The Simple Dollar’s list of essential finance books.

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