By Michael Drak,
Special to the Financial Independence Hub
As I was growing up my father taught me many important lessons. I was taught about the importance of getting a good education and using that education to get ahead in the world.
He instilled in me the need for working hard, making good money and providing for family. He taught me the importance of saving and having the goal of eliminating debt as quickly as possible.
But what he didn’t teach me was about the important concept of Findependence and how it would positively impact my life once it was achieved.
It really wasn’t his fault for not making me aware of Findependence [a contraction of Financial Independence] because back when he was working the goal was to find a good-paying job with a solid company, try to stay there for the rest of your working life, and eventually retire with a defined benefit pension in your back pocket.
Days of a single employer for a lifetime are almost gone
Life was so simple back then but times have changed. Today, the odds of a person staying employed with a single company for their entire career is slim to none. In fact, some surveys indicate that due to job instability and increased worker autonomy the average worker could hold up to seven different jobs in their lifetime, or more.
Financial Freedom is the cornerstone of financial planning and is the tipping point where you are finally back in control of your own destiny and are once again free to decide what you want to do with your life on your own terms. Remember what it was like when you first started out working — before you had a family, a mortgage, saving for your kid’s education? Achieving Findependence allows you to feel like a kid again, free from financial stress, living in a world full of possibilities.
Findependent co-workers are easy to spot
At work you can tell the ones who have achieved Findependence. Those are the ones who speak up and say what they think without fear of getting fired. They know they are financially independent and will survive regardless of the fallout.
For me the beauty of Findependence is that I am no longer focused solely on making more money and am free to get back in touch with my dreams and pursue work that really matters to me.
The ultimate safety net
So how do we get to this promised land of Findependence? Findependence is the point where your accumulated savings generate sufficient passive income to cover your survival costs without you having to work another day for the rest of your life. This is the amount you need to keep a roof over your head, food on the table, and the basic necessities to live. Findependence is the ultimate safety net and gives you financial peace of mind. If you lost your job tomorrow you could sleep at night knowing that your family will survive.
I’m embarrassed to say that because I was unaware of the concept of Findependence the extent of my retirement planning for a period of time was limited to me comparing my financial position to the family profiles in Moneysense magazine. For example If the experts said a family had saved enough for retirement and I had more savings than them I felt good for a while until the next issue came out and I had to do the comparison all over again.
Now don’t get me wrong. I belonged to a defined pension plan and had built up a sizeable RRSP but like many of us I didn’t understand the connection between my retirement savings and the lifestyle I needed to finance during retirement. To be honest I had no idea about what exactly I intended to do in retirement, so the default was just save more and things would eventually work out. But really, is that a very smart way to plan for your retirement? To have a successful retirement you need to plan for it and having a financial plan is just one piece of the puzzle.
Many of us make the mistake of not having a good handle on what our annual survival costs are and what amount of savings will be required to cover those costs. Uncertainty caused by not knowing our numbers is stressful and we can avoid a great deal of anxiety if we invest the time and get a good handle on our numbers.
I almost missed the milestone of my own Findependence Day
In fact, not knowing my numbers caused me to miss a very important milestone in my life: the day I actually achieved Findependence! Knowing that I had hit the magic number would have really pumped up my self-esteem with the satisfaction that I had finally saved enough to overcome my security fears, and that I was finally free again to do what I wanted when I wanted to do it. Plus the fact that I missed out on a great party!
We all have a responsibility to teach our children the concept of Findependence and the importance of adopting a simpler, less materialistic lifestyle. It will give them a definite goal to strive for and hopefully make them think before they make their next impulse purchase. We need to make the right choice obvious for our children and teach them to hate debt more than the possessions it can buy.
Mike Drak is part of the Komitas Mastromartino Wealth Management Group at RBC Dominion Securities, based in Toronto. He is currently writing a book about some of the themes mentioned in the above blog and at the Financial Independence Hub in general. This is the first in what is intended to be a regular column here at the Hub. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.