Did you ever notice that personal finance gurus reduce attaining financial freedom to some number of steps? Dave Ramsey has 7 Baby Steps. Suze Orman has 9 Steps to Financial Freedom. I searched for the phrase “steps to financial freedom” and Google returned 2,050,000 hits (in .29 seconds, no less).
That’s a lot of steps, and everybody seems to have a different number of them. I guess if I were choosing one, I’d pick the one with the fewest steps! And they all want to make their steps sound easy. Instead of Ramsey’s 7 Baby Steps, how about 7 really difficult steps that anybody can climb, but most won’t. Well, I guess that wouldn’t sell as many books, but here’s a simple truth–attaining financial freedom is simple, but not easy.
Over the next few weeks, I plan to write a series of posts about how I attained (and am still attaining) financial freedom. Unlike a lot of the financial gurus, however, I don’t look at success with money as a series of steps to be walked or climbed, each touched once and never again. To me financial freedom is about developing good habits that must be repeated. And unlike a rigid set of steps, the paths to financial freedom are many. I do think that there are some key habits that should be followed, but there is no one right way to taking back control of your money. Like Barbossa of The Pirates of the Caribbean fame, my money habits are “more what you’d call ‘guidelines’ than actual rules.”
But there is one thing that is critical–understanding that achieving financial freedom is simple, but not easy. Living below our means is not a difficult concept to understand. Spend less than you make is not rocket science, but it’s also not easy to do. And it’s a habit that must be repeated. Spending below your means 29 days of the month isn’t good enough if you blow it all and then some on day 30. Even investing in the stock market is simple, particularly if you use mutual funds like I do, but it’s not easy to do it right. It’s not easy to keep your money invested when the market is crashing, or to sell a fund when it’s going up and up.
So why am I telling you that achieving financial freedom is not easy? Wouldn’t The Dough Roller be more popular if I made achieving financial freedom sound easy? Maybe. The problem though is that it’s not. And as soon as we recognize that achieving financial freedom is difficult, it becomes easier. If we go into this believing that a few easy steps will get us to our goal, we will become discouraged very quickly. We need to recognize that getting control of our money is a battle to be waged every day. It’s not easy, but I believe anybody can do it. So over the weeks and months to come, I’ll be writing about the habits (or “guidelines” if you prefer) that are important to attaining some degree of financial freedom. I can’t promise you an easy journey, but if you take it, you’ll be glad you did.
Published or updated February 14, 2013.