Reaching financial independence is no small feat. One has to turn inward and explore personal habits, goals, and rebalance value systems. These are somewhat introspective topics. Indeed, they require quite a bit of self-focus. This, I believe, is good. If we don’t continuously re-evaluate our beliefs and actions then how are we going to grow? On the other hand, such thinking leads to another critical question. Is financial independence selfish?
Are we spending too much time on ourselves? Some may argue that such pursuits are full of conceit and egoism.
Are they right?
Pay yourself first
We use this term often in the personal finance community to discuss how we prioritize saving and investing. But I wonder if it has further meaning. I am often reminded of the oxygen mask in the airplane scenario. You must place your mask on yourself before helping your children.
Why? Because you are no good if you pass out before you help anyone.
Could the same be said for financial independence? Is financial independence selfish? Maybe in the beginning.
When we first set out to take control of our financial lives it behooves us to set up systems and start the process of compounding as soon as possible. Once in place, however, a world of opportunity awaits.
Social mission and purpose
I have said before that financial independence is irrelevant. It is a lever that we can pull when our W-2 is no longer bringing meaning into our lives. The magic of having financial freedom is letting go of economic concerns in order to pursue passion and meaning.
For many of us, our post-W-2 existence becomes a platform to explore social mission. This can take many forms.
Education is a major one. Many bloggers and podcasters do their work not to enhance the bottom line but to forward an educational agenda. When it comes to personal finance, many wish to teach and coach those around them reach their goals.
Volunteerism is another. Once no longer bound to the 9 to 5, many use the skills they learned in their profession to volunteer. They bring hard definable skills to nonprofits and other organizations that may not be able to afford such expertise.
Is financial independence selfish? It doesn’t have to be.
See the world
Freed from a daily schedule, and with the financial means, many choose to travel the world. Although the joy and exploration are often the impetus, one can’t help but also realize that there is suffering that reaches far outside the borders of one’s country.
International missionary work, medical or otherwise, is another arena in which financially independent people thrive. Not only do they have the time but the resources to pursue such activities.
And there is an added bonus. You have an excellent excuse to see the world — not just the glamorous places but the ones that desperately need help. I can think of few better ways to search for meaning once money no longer takes up so much mental space.
Is financial independence selfish? I guess it could be. There is no question that on its surface it is a very me centered activity. If you dive down a little deeper, it becomes apparent that it doesn’t have to be.
Becoming financially independent means freeing yourself from the bonds of money and indebtedness. This opens your life up to pursuing meaning and purpose wherever you may find it.
For many, this includes social mission. Educating, volunteering, mission work, and donating are just a few of the obvious ways.
So you’re rich. How are you going to make a difference?
“DocG” is a physician who blogs at DiverseFI.
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