Your Money or Your Life: The Freedom to Choose What You Do and Do What You Choose

YMOYLThis is the twenty-fifth part of The Simple Dollar Book Club reading of Your Money or Your Life. Want to know more?

When I read this section of Your Money or Your Life, I began to think of two of my high school teachers – incidentally, the two best teachers I ever had.

They both loved their jobs, without a doubt, and they both cared passionately about their students, but there was one huge difference between the two: one of them was financially tied to the job and the other was not.

The one who was financially tied to the job did a great job teaching his subject, which happened to be English. However, he was often frustrated by the confines that the school district put on him. He was very limited on the material he could have us read, and he was also limited as to how far he could take discussions. For example, he would often directly recommend books to me, but then say that he couldn’t possibly present them as course material. Why not? He lived in fear of a reprimanding from the school board. Even though he knew of ways to get us more excited and interested in reading, he didn’t quite go as far as he could have because of fears of the school board.

Another teacher I had taught a variety of subjects, often seemingly taking on areas that other teachers wouldn’t touch. Instead of lecturing on subjects, though, she usually sat in the back of the room with us, having us all turn our desks into a discussion circle, and she’d really, really push buttons. We would discuss a topic and she would very clearly play devil’s advocate and argue hard on behalf of her perspective. People would get upset, yell, pound their fists, and even be reduced to tears. Sometimes, she would even encourage some of the students to take on contrarian views and get us arguing so intensely on subjects that we’d keep going at it outside of class and on through the next day before class as well. The end result? We learned a lot more about the subject than we ever would have otherwise. Yet, unsurprisingly, this teacher didn’t last very long at the school and quietly slipped away after just a couple of years at the (rumored) encouragement of the administration.

While both of these teachers had impact on my life, which one do you think really changed the way of thinking of more students? My English teacher mostly influenced me because he took me under his wing to a degree, but in the classroom I believe that many of the students were quite bored. However, I still actually debate my wife about some of the things we talked about when we were in the other class together.

What does this have to do with Your Money or Your Life? It’s all about that magical crossover point. The teacher who had the courage to do things her way had a deep passion for teaching, but it was the freedom of not having her finances tied to the job that made it possible for her. Her financial freedom brought her different kinds of freedom.

To me, this is a deeply profound connection, and it illustrates once again the central point here: money is nothing more than a representation of the choices we make and the values we hold most dear. The more I experience, the more I genuinely believe that getting out of debt is, at its root, just a shift in values – everything else follows from there.

Tomorrow, we’ll start the ninth chapter, “Now That You’ve Got It, What Are You Going To Do With It?” continuing until the subheading “Three Pillars of Financial Independence.” This section appears on pages 292 through 305 in my paperback version of the book.