My Declaration of Financial Independence

As I take over Financial [email protected] on Mondays (following in the very big shoes of Dr. Scott Spann, who is bringing Financial Finesse wisdom to the retirement planning pages of About.com), I thought I’d take some time upfront to tell you my story so you know my perspective. Twenty years ago, I declared financial independence. I remember my Financial Independence Day very clearly…

It was the end of the year, and I was sitting on the floor of my Oakland, CA apartment surrounded by piles of receipts and some still unpaid bills for my political consulting business, trying to make sense of it all. There it was in front of me, incontrovertible evidence of another year of not paying attention to my finances. Needless to say, I was frustrated with myself for not staying organized and on top of things during the year.

I was resentful of the clients who hadn’t paid their invoices. I was irritated with the cost of Bay Area housing. I was angry I worked in a profession that didn’t provide benefits and required frequent relocation. I regretted the contribution I had made to the culture of negative political campaigns. Everything to do with money and work was bothering me that day.

Enough was enough. Resentment wasn’t going to organize my receipts or fix my future. I picked up a notebook and wrote down a list of declarations:  use my gifts for the common good, stay positive, live debt-free, practice financial responsibility, give away a percentage of my income, achieve financial independence, and teach what I’ve learned. I made that day about the kind of person I wanted to become.

My financial independence didn’t happen overnight, but surprisingly, it happened sooner than I expected. The first few years were very challenging. Taking the adage, “you become what you believe,” to heart, I read every financial planning and investment book I could get my hands on. Vowing to live free of credit card debt meant that I had to transition to a “pay as you go” economy. Initially, I had to cut way back on expenses and make some hard choices, like giving up my car.

Two years later, spurred by my growing fascination with financial planning and a desire to pass on what I’d learned, I joined a two-year training program for financial advisors at a well-regarded Wall Street firm. Over time, I saved and invested, building first an emergency fund and then retirement savings. I learned as I went along. Marriage to a guy who was an inspiration in terms of his financial knowledge and behavior certainly helped speed my progress. I learned from clients who made smart decisions, and I tried to pass on what I learned to others through workshops and coaching.

Twenty years later, I still have that original notebook. I refer to those declarations regularly. As best as I can, I try to live those declarations in my personal and professional life, and I can say with conviction that I have now achieved financial independence.

Are you ready to declare yours? Over the coming weeks, we will release our CEO Liz Davidson’s new financial wellness guide, What Your Financial Advisor Isn’t Telling You, and related, free resources to help readers declare their own Financial Independence Day. I’ll also be writing more about how you can develop your own personal financial wellness practice and about the financial wellness movement in America.

Do you have a financial planning question or a story you would like to share about declaring your own Financial Independence Day? If so, please email me at [email protected] or message me on Twitter at @cynthiameyer_FF. I am looking forward to answering as many questions as possible in the Monday blog.

 

 

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