FREE: How I Achieved Financial Freedom
Focusing on what’s essential, living within my means, setting boundaries and learning to love the concept of “enough” were the secret ingredients to achieving financial freedom.
John P Weiss wrote, “The slower you go, the faster you get to where you want to be because if you are enjoying where you are you don't have to go anywhere.” While that may seem like a funny quote to use when starting to discuss a path to financial freedom, it resonated with me.
Why? Because slowing down was the starting point. And it was the hardest thing to do (it took years to accomplish). You see, by slowing down, a person can start to see where they are now. You notice everything around you. You notice what’s there, what’s not there, what could be there, what you want there, what you don't want there and what you can and can’t let go of.
I’ve struggled for years to create my own financial peace. I’ve been great at making money and spending that money. Everything else in between never was a concern or a skillset I wanted to sharpen. I outsourced management and tracking of money and never had conversations with money managers about doing better. Because I never did this, I don’t think I really ever understood my money, and my lack of interest in it had led me to miss many opportunities.
That’s now changed. I love learning about and actively managing my money. I don’t adhere to a system, I simply follow the idea of, “Use less than you have.” I save it, I invest it, and I always think “thrice” before I spend it. I also don’t spend it unless it’s in the bank and I’ve planned its use once it goes back out into the world. I always ask myself, “What will I get by putting this out there?”
I am proud of myself for developing my own ability to make choices about my money. For me, simple was best. And simple meant spending way less by consuming less. It also meant automating and maximizing the saving and investing of it. Creating a simple approach to money was easier than I thought, and I didn’t do it by following one guru or sticking to one system.
So here’s my a snapshot of my journey to financial freedom:
It All Started With Abraham Hicks
I love Abraham Hicks, and a good friend introduced me to them in 2018. The quote that sparked my heart and mind was:
Continuing to tell stories of shortage only continues to contradict your desire for abundance, and you cannot have it both ways: You cannot focus upon unwanted and receive wanted. You cannot focus upon stories about money that make you feel uncomfortable and allow into your experience what makes you feel comfortable. A different story will bring different results: My thoughts are the basis for the attraction of all things that I consider to be good, which includes enough money, and health, for my comfort and joy.” - Money and the Law of Attraction on 8/31/08
This was it, the "aha!" moment. The reason my relationship with money was so broken was because of beliefs I held around acquiring it and it's meaning in my life. I had to change the stories I told myself about money and change my beliefs about its use in my life. By shifting to this mindset, I was able to be free to start making better decisions about it.
Then I Had An Elizabeth Gilbert Moment
So here’s the kicker, after that shift, I had an Elizabeth Gilbert Eat, Pray, Love moment with money. In the book, Gilbert wrote:
Hadn’t I wanted this? I had actively participated in every moment of the creation of this life. So why didn’t I see myself in any of it? The only thing more impossible than staying was leaving.
It was her realization that how she was living didn’t serve who she had become. Shortly before this, she’d met a medicine man in Bali (Ketut), who said to her, “You will lose all your money, but you will get it back again.” This is when the divorce came from an unwilling, unconscious husband. She gave him everything she had in order to be able to walk away. As she then later wrote, “I was the administrator of my own rescue.”
That pretty much sums up my relationship with money. After realizing that I was the only one who would steer my future, I showed up like a mother f*cker in my own financial life. And yes, finding new common ground ended up costing me most of what I had and built.
Finding Financial Teachings That Were Outside The Mainstream
In owning my financial life, I had to learn what I did and didn’t want for the later years of my life. In the last few years, I’ve become an observer of people and their lives. I’m obsessed with learning about how they live, their choices, their beliefs and what their realities are like. I do not judge any part of it, I simply seek to understand it and broaden my perspective to dynamic complexities that make up these people. In these observations, I started to find patterns. Those patterns and commonalities lead me to create a list of how I did and didn’t want to live as I got older. The list:
- I didn’t want to be in debt. I didn’t want to be burdened with not having enough to live day-to-day.
- I didn’t want to be overburdened.I didn’t want to be so overburdened with responsibilities that it had a negative effect on my life.
- I didn’t want to be overworked. I want the work I do to be from a place of joy and creation, I did not want to have to work because of the first two items on this list.
- I didn’t want to work publicly after 55. While I love people, I did not want to be someone that had to work until 60, 65 or 70. At 55, I’d like to work in a way that doesn’t require balancing lots of people and personalities.
Listing what I didn’t want led to clearly establishing what I did want:
- To create an abundance/surplus in the world through my actions.
- To live off less than I had, to be able to save and also give to causes that I cared about.
- To not compromise or settle for anything less than something that would satisfy my soul in healthy ways.
- To be able to interact, commune and live in a highly mindful, meaningful way.
With those goals in mind, I had to get down to business. So that’s when I started doing research so that what I didn’t want and what I did want could come to fruition. In order to understand money, I didn’t go to the mainstream gurus; David Ramsey and Suze Orman never hit my bookshelf.
Instead, I did what I always do. Look for information where there’s a void or obvious connection. That meant I looked for information created by people with experience and expertise in certain topics and aspects of money, finance, and investment.
That search led me to the lesser-known experts and thinkers I wanted to find. Here’s a list of the ones that influenced my journey to making peace with money and wanting to develop a healthy, intuitive relationship with it, and manage the hell out of it. (no, I’m not going to give you the nitty gritty to build a system). Here are the ones I feel are worth reading:
Lillie House of Transformative Journeys
Lillie is a permaculturalist who started a one-acre permaculture homestead when old rules and “road maps” for life just weren’t working for her. Feeling that they weren’t working for others, Lillie set out to find a way to live a healthier, more joyful life by having less. She began to develop these practices through her work with plants and the environment. Her philosophy is simple:
We need to build our lives on a real, live human scale and budget. No scammy funding schemes. No money from heaven. If it doesn’t pay for itself, we can’t afford it. If it doesn’t work, it doesn’t last. If it ain’t for real, it ain’t here. And each step has to give us LESS WORK, not more, and MORE FREEDOM, not less.
Lillie’s ideas, values, philosophies, and practices support the life I want to live, and is living proof that financial sustainability can be achieved via a less is more model. Her FREE (instead of FIRE) model is right up my lane (check out part 3, 2 and 1).
The Fioneers (Jess and Corey) aren’t typical FIRE model followers. As they themselves write, most FIRE movement followers and writers talk about the extreme measures they are taking to increase their savings and put off indulging in their immediate desires for future rewards. What spoke to me was the idea of designing my ideal life regardless of its cost (whether cheaper or more expensive). Once I really dug into outlining what my “ideal life” looks like, I realized that my ideal life was a simpler, slower version of the one I had. It didn’t have to completely burn down what I built, I just had to change it. This "aha" moment drove me to reassess my business.
I realized the money I was making was not worth the stress of running my business as it was currently operating, the constant travel, and the continual impact on my mental and physical health. In designing the ideal life, I also adapted some of Jess and Corey’s posts to fit my situation. When I sat down to start making plans to meet my end goal, I realized I wasn’t making nearly what I should as the founder and CEO of my own company. The divorce from toxic clients and projects was the right move. It also helped me understand how a scarcity mindset was subconsciously impacting my attitude toward money and how I spent it.
One Big Happy Life
One Big Happy Life is written by Tasha Cochran and her husband, Joseph. I was instantly drawn to Tasha’s writing for two reasons; the first was that she was a black woman raising a mixed-race family(throw my hands up and REJOICE!), and the second was that she had thrown out the playbook of systems from gurus and crafted something way more profitable. Tasha’s work could be used by newbies or savvy investors, falling somewhere in the middle. I elected to use her overall frameworks to assess my finances, debts, and goals in order to create my path forward.
I used her templates to create a one-year spending plan for personal and business needs (it was expanded quite a bit). Once I had a clearer picture of where I was at, I figured out where I could cut down in order to save and invest more wisely, and created a tactical list of steps that would help me get where I wanted to be. And no, it wasn’t restrictive in any way that it shouldn’t have been. The biggest takeaway from her wealth of knowledge is that “your money isn’t something you figure out, it’s something you own.” Understanding it, making peace with it and owning it will lead you to whatever your definition of security and success is.
Handful of Thoughts & Agape Investing
The Fioneers lead me to Maria who writes a Handful of Thoughts out of Canada. Maria’s financial path is far different than mine but I admired the way she is going about achieving financial independence, it is realistic and relatable. That makes the information she provides so much more valuable. The piece she partnered with Katie from Agape Investing on about paying off student loans was the best one I could find online. Tactical, relatable, understandable, and actionable –- I used it to make a plan for my own student loans payoff.
Afford Anything was a binge read for a period of time (like back when it was so pretty and polished!). Paula is a FIRE master who’s got real estate investing down cold. Like me, she was a writer with a serious case of wanderlust. She had an "aha" moment where she couldn’t imagine going back to work and created a path and plan to never have to be reliant on traditional ways of working ever again. While she chose real estate investing (something she writes about regularly), the newsletters and posts aboutmoney, determiningwhat’s enough, and steering your own life are what drew me in. They challenged me to think in different ways; always asking myself, “Is this taking you closer or farther away from where you want to be?”
SMI Financial Coaching
If you’re a small business owner such as myself, finding resources designed to help us navigate and understand finances is hard. Enter Sylvia Inks of SMI Financial Coaching. I can’t remember how I found her website, but I did. I subscribed to her email list for over a year. Sylvia was one of the few financial experts that could teach you about how to pay yourself through your business, but also breakdown the psychology of money as it related to making business decisions. From The Diderot Effect to determining how Maximizers/Satisficers behavior impacted the choices my business made, she can explain what’s going on inside the entrepreneurial mind.
Your Money, Your Life & Simplify Magazine - The Only Purchases I Made
The only book I purchased was Your Money Your Life because it's the foundation for most of Lillie House’s writing. It’s not a book about managing money. It’s a book about transforming your relationship with money. While many of the blogs do this in pieces, I’m a writer and reader. I love a good book. So this was the one I chose. I also found Simplify, a magazine whose topics focused on what was ESSENTIAL in all categories of life. I like the perspective and challenge to think of needs versus wants (spoiler alert: You buy a lot less shit).
I Learned to Love Money Management as Much as I Love Food
In the end, I learned to love money and money management as much as I love food and farming (andwriting about it). I do 80 percent of my finances myself. Receipts, budgets, invoices, and whatever else comes up. I leverage BECU’s (my badass credit union) free budgeting software for personal finances as it’s better than anything available online.
For the business, I use Wave Apps for billing and I employ their monthly bookkeeping services to free up time (something I can totally afford to do). I useGusto to manage payroll, health insurance, and 401(K) investments. I pay a tax accountant to file all the final returns. While I’m by no means an expert in all things finance, I own what I have and have created a system that works for me, as well as a timeline to achieve my larger, long-term goals.
My greatest encouragement to you is to find the same. Don’t spend hundreds of dollars on books and courses, use the free resources available online. If you decide to invest in a course after you’ve done your own research, then, by all means, go for it! But for that investment, maybe you simply hire someone and get some one-on-one advice.
So What Happened Next?
After all the financial self-discovery and research, the writing and inner reflection, and after learning where I was financially and establishing where I wanted to go –– I decided to quit. I’d been refining my life down for years, fewer clients, fewer employees, less physical stuff. I realized this slow pattern of shifts, pivots, and quiet exits were leading me to what I needed –– the final purge and the grand finale. And hell, COVID-19 was the perfect pivot point. So in a matter of weeks, I quit doing things that brought me no joy and I sold anything that I didn’t need.
- I sold my house.
- I sold my horses.
- I sold most of my possessions.
- I donated possessions.
- I donated a good amount of money to charity.
- I redesigned the services my company offered.
- I redesigned my company to reflect my values and beliefs.
- I set boundaries on working with toxic people.
- I stopped taking part in one-sided relationships.
- I moved back to Washington and left California in the rearview.
The Cost of My New Life was My Old One
Who doesn’t love the saying, “the cost of your new life is your old one.” Well, that’s exactly what I did. I gave up the old life for the new one. After all this, I made a financial plan that worked for me, created new ways to make money, diversified where and how I made money, learned to live on less, and am quite happy about it. As of today, the only debt I have left is my student loans and I’ve got an active plan to pay those off long before I die. I focus on what’s essential, live within my means, and continually make sure my life is one that allows for opportunities and learning to shift the trajectory if I need to. And I don’t regret one single choice. I’ll get to my end and goal, but I’m not solely focused on that or rushing to get there.
If you want some inbox inspiration, here are my top three. I subscribe and regularly read theZoe Financial,Stash Wealth, and Afford Anything newsletters. You might find them helpful.