Financial freedom is a subjective concept. The term may hold different meanings to different people. To a teenager, it might mean freeing himself from his parents’ resources and using his own earned money for his expenses. To a young adult, it might mean finally landing on a job after many unpaid internships. Moreover, to an adult, it might mean retiring with enough savings.
By definition, being free financially means getting to a position in life where one can live the way they want to without being tied to any job or monetary restriction. This definition, however, collides with the concept of retirement in the 21st century that is widely accepted, taught and followed by millions of people around the world.
FINANCIAL FREEDOM DESCRIBED IN STAGES
Instead of confining financial freedom in a point of time, the concept can be better understood if it is broken down in four stages.
Stage 1: No Freedom
This is the point of life where an individual, regardless of age, finally lands on a job that ensures a steady payment so that they can pay bills in exchange for the time and work they put in.
Stage 2: Temporary Freedom
To graduate to this level, the individual must learn to grow out of the lifestyle that makes them dependent on their sole income. They must learn to spend less money than what they earn and create a pool of savings that they can later use to invest on diversified investment portfolios to produce a regular stream of income or start a side-business that would create another stream of income. This will give them the freedom to feel comfortable switching jobs, starting a business or any other activity that is impossible to achieve without savings. This freedom, however, is temporary and will be gone when savings are depleted over time.
Stage 3: Permanent Freedom
The individual reaches this stage when their non-employment income exceeds their total expenses so they no longer require a steady paycheck from his employer. This non-employment income can be a reliable side-business or a large investment portfolio providing a substantial amount of income. The side-business is still labour but it is assumed that it is something that the individual finds fulfilling.
Stage 4: Luxurious Freedom
In this last stage, the individual has enough passive income to spend freely. It is the point at which the person’s income exceeds their expenses by a comfortable margin allowing them to spend time doing the things they want to do regardless of the expenses that come with it.
FINANCIAL FREEDOM AND GENDER EQUALITY
Financial freedom plays a very important role in the road to achieving gender equality. In fact, they go hand in hand. That is why financial freedom is crucial for women all around the world. It is through involving themselves in important financial decisions so that women can take charge of their lives and make life-changing decisions.
The mastery of money is the key to gender equality. To women, this is much more than money. This is about the status, privilege, power, and freedom that women get when they understand, manage, control, earn, and spend the way they want to. That is why it is vital for women to influence their relationship with money and involve themselves in important decisions that take place in their lives.
If they do not show interest in participating in financial decision-making then they will not be able to participate in decisions that affect their lives, their work, their community, and their world. Everything will be decided for them by others and the road to equality will never be found.
FORMULAE FOR FINANCIAL FREEDOM
Now that it is clear how financial freedom opens doors of opportunities, it is time for women to open their door to financial freedom. Despite the difficulty of the daunting task, it is very much possible to gain financial freedom if certain things are followed.
- Thinking positively about money
A lot of times money is thought to be an emotional obstacle that must be eliminated to gain financial freedom. Having this kind of negative impression of money leads to thoughts like too much money leads to evil or that money cannot buy happiness. Eliminating such thoughts should be the first step in the road to financial freedom.
- Rewriting major goals for financial freedom
It is through writing and rewriting that focus can be brought into determining life goals and evaluation of these goals refines enough to obtain desired results. The very act of writing and rewriting regularly increases chances of goal accomplishment.
- Planning every day in advance
Planning every single day the night before increases precision and creates a greater sense of self-control and personal power.
- Principle of concentration
The ability to develop a habit of concentration does more to ensure personal financial success than any other habit that is acquired. Concentrating single-mindedly on goals that will bring the most money, is absolutely essential to achieve financial freedom.
- Investing in self
The more knowledge is gained, the better it is for finding success. That is why investing in self by utilizing time whenever possible is imperative.
- Asking the magic questions
There are two ‘magic’ questions that are needed to be asked after every important event. One is “What did I do right?” and the other is “What would I do differently next time?” Asking these questions programs the mind into performing better the next time out. Improving self by improving the quality of work will ensure better opportunities for earning money.
- Being generous
It is the feeling of acknowledgement and recognition that everyone adores and if provided with that, anyone will appreciate. Treating everyone generously makes a good impression and good impression leads to better relationships formed that proves useful in the future to attain success.
HABITS OF SELF-MADE MILLIONAIRES
Women should also keep the habits of self-made millionaires in mind. Self-made millionaires are the ones who achieved financial freedom successfully. The key to their success were many habits that they picked on the way.
Many people might think that millionaires are the ones who spend money frivolously but it is quite the opposite. Such self-made millionaires are seen to be quite frugal. They grow the habit of saving money on a regular basis and investing in the right locations from a very early age. They never rent or lease when they can borrow and they certainly know where to allocate resources effectively. Such habits might seem very small but in return bring massive changes in one’s life.
ADDRESSING THE GENDER GAP
Standing in the 21st century, it is highly unfortunate that women are still less likely to accumulate wealth over the course of their lifetime. This is because women are still seen to have lower-paid jobs, are more likely to take a break or work part-time to take care of their families. The situation is exacerbated further after these working women give birth. They have to face great challenges when it comes to taking care of their needs.
Even after more and more women are opening their own financial accounts in banks and taking control of their life decisions, a global gender gap of 7 percentage points still exists. In Bangladesh, the gap in account ownership between men and women is of a very troubling 30 percentage points. One of the main reasons for this is that women are not earning enough to open one. This can be traced back to unequal opportunities, laws, and regulations that raise unnecessary barriers for women.
To address these problems and shrink the gender gap, a collective effort is required by the government, scientists, organizations, NGO’s and even the general people of the country. Discriminatory laws that create unnecessary obstacles for women should be removed. Focus should be on creating and enriching the financial capabilities of women through teaching them not only to read and write but also to manage, budget and save money along with understanding how to use transaction accounts. Lastly, technology that helps simplify financial actions like mobile banking, should be made available. Ensuring these three things will shrink the gender gap greatly and thus bring massive changes in the lives of millions of women.
ACHIEVING FINANCIAL FREEDOM
For women, it might be felt that gaining financial freedom while tacking all the problems that exist in the world is impossible; but actually, it is not. The world will help remove the obstacles eventually.
Women need to start entering the financial world, familiarize themselves with financial works and take charge of their own lives. They need to change the way they think to change the way society thinks. They need to start managing their own money, saving and investing their money efficiently and improve themselves, their thinking and their habits while they are at it.
All of these can seem intimidating to a lot of women but changing even the smallest of things can bring the biggest of transformations. To move towards a future of equality, financial freedom must be achieved. It might take decades of work to achieve financial freedom but the journey would be worth all the blood, sweat and tears.
By Nafisa Nawal Khan