Financial freedom is often seen as some vague unreachable dream many of us don’t even dare to aim for. When we are younger, we learn that having a job is essential to live a prosperous life, and often we are conditioned into thinking that once we have this job, we will do it for the rest of out life and that will be it.
Gladly, my (millennial) generation is one of the first to doubt that this is the dream life, and – thanks to the financial crisis of 2008 – many of us have learned to value freedom, independence, variety and self-development over owning a house, buying a fancy car and climbing some corporate ladder. I would like us to take this even a little bit further: let’s talk about not having to work 40 hours a week for the rest of your life at all.
My love-hate relationship with working
Ever since I can remember, I have found the fact that I had to work the largest part of my week, for the largest part of my life, extremely unjustified and repulsive. I remember telling my mom and dad that when I grew up, I would simply refuse to work. Their advice was always to find a job that I really loved, so it would feel like less of a burden. And I did.
The job I have right now is absolutely amazing (for a job): I have a lot of freedom and responsibility, I can spend a lot of time on my own or simply socialising, and I get to do something that I love and find important. On top of that, I hardly ever get stressed and my salary is really good for my age and experience. But like I said: it’s still a job. Other people might be fine working this job for the rest of their life, but I simply don’t feel like that. My job, as amazing as it is, still feels like something mandatory, something I can’t opt out of, something I never chose to do but someone just decided that I should. (Maybe it’s part of my aversion of authority peeking through ;).
So at the end of last year, I decided for 2021 that I wanted to look for ways to not have to work 40-hour workweeks for the rest of my life. Complete financial freedom is a dream which I may not be able to realise in one year, but I decided that I could at least find something to become a little more financially free. The thought of having to work 20 or 30 hours a week for the rest of my life, is a way smaller burden to bear. And of course, we can grow as we go. Here is what I learned so far:
The richest people have multiple streams of income
Of course, our goal here is to be more financially free, not become a millionaire (for which in many cases, you’d actually have to work more, not less). But there is something we can learn from the richest people in the world that teaches us how to be more financially stable, and how to be less dependent on one job for the rest of your life. And that is to generate multiple sources of income (it is said that the average millionaire has around seven).
So the trick here is not to excel in one job, but to do a little better than average in multiple ones. This way, you spread your risks, costs and advantages, and when one fails (or you simply don’t like doing it anymore!) you always have the other ones to fall back on.
Now, I’m not saying you should take seven small day jobs. I’m saying: have a day job that you love (if you can and want to), and see what you can do on the side to generate another stream of income, or multiple ones. Eventually, your goal could be to make any one of your streams of income optional, including your initial day job. That’s what we call freedom!
Passive is massive
Now, the smartest (or only) way to generate multiple streams of income, is to make money in a passive way, not an active one. If you have a job for which you have to visit an office every day, or you have to talk to people every day, or ‘do your trick’ for a different audience every single time, this job will take a lot of your time and energy. It will also only generate an income on the days you actually show up. If we want to juggle multiple jobs like these, we will probably burn out and not feel very ‘free’.
So, what you want to do is put your time and energy in one product or service, that you can sell multiple times. Think of online products people can download, books you can write, prints you sell or video’s or courses you could get paid for. And of course, you can create multiple products like these. The point is to produce/write/upload something once, and people will be able to buy your product or service endlessly. This way, you’ll be able to cash even when you’re sleeping.
Make money with money
Another way to generate money without working (more), is to do smart things with the money you already have. Many of us are not able to buy a second house they can rent out, or invest a lot of money into profitable business, I’m aware of that. But that doesn’t mean that the only thing we can do is save up (the old fashioned way), and wait for the day we finally allow ourselves to spend it. And we do not want that either. The thing with saving money is: eventually, you can still only spend it once.
Imagine you can bring yourself to save up 100 euros/dollars/whateveryouhaves a month. This is 1200 a year, and after ten years you have 12.000. This is a lot of money, well done! What are you going to do with it? Buy a car? Remodel your house? Take a long trip somewhere? When you envision these (not even great big) goals, you can already feel what I’m trying to say here: this money took you 10 years to save, but spending it will go a lot faster, since life and the things we want to do are very expensive. And during your remodelling, travelling or driving, you will find yourself thinking: is this what I saved up for all these years?
So we have to make sure that simply having money, also makes more money, until the point it cannot be spent in one go. An easy and accessible way to do this is to invest a part of your money (long-term) into low-risk funds. There are actually many organisations which can help you with that.
Another way to invest your money wisely is to buy things that do not lose their value quickly, so you can resell them and get even, or even make a little profit. Real estate is one example of this, but it is said that these days even Chanel bags do not lose (or even increase in) their value. Make of that what you will. 😉
You don’t have to earn money you don’t spend
One thing I realised last year, and this is probably the most accessible way to become more financially free, is: if you spend less money on the regular, you’ll have to work less in the future. Most of us are conditioned to think the other way around: I work 40 hours a week (because that’s the status quo) so I can afford the things I want, and I deserve to spend my self-made money.
However, if you’d somehow spend less money, you can spend less time working! For all the clothes, make up and out-of-the-house drinks and dinners I bought in 2020, I spent around 1/3 of my pay check. This means that theoretically, in 2020 I could have worked 27 hours a week instead of 40! Would I have sticked to this lifestyle, I would need to work these extra 13 hours again this year, and the next, and the next. Now, if I stay in my current lifestyle (and don’t upgrade much on my house or car), I can sign a 27 hour contract next year. This is freedom too!
I’m not telling you to never upgrade your lifestyle or never buy new and pretty things. I’m saying being more aware of what actually adds to your happiness, and what really doesn’t add to anything at all, could have great consequences for your financial freedom. If you learn to be happy with what you have, or if from now on you set higher standards on what you spend your money on, working full-time in the future could be just an option.
If you don’t spend the money you have now, you don’t have to work for the thing you want later in life. And if you realise that for 10 new pairs of shoes a year, a new car every 4 years, or a home-upgrade every 5 years, you’d have to work all those hours for the rest of your life, is it really worth it? Remember: what you spend, does not only influence the money you have in your pocket right now. The money you have right now, also influences what your future could look like. Money is a crazy thing, right?
Thank you so much for reading my thoughts on financial freedom. Let me know if these tips helped you out!