Can money buy freedom?

On Saturday, my friend Tyler hosted a blog meetup.

I first met Tyler several years ago. He was a GRS reader who dropped me a line to see if I'd meet him for dinner. I said “yes” — as I almost always do. Now, several years later, Tyler runs a successful blog of his own. It was fun to see his readers come out to support him.

Note: I've never hosted a meetup for GRS readers, but the more of these I attend for other blogs, the more fun I think it would be for us to have some gatherings of our own. What do you think? Whenever I visit a new city — Denver in September, for instance, and Atlanta in October — we could gather to share stories and ideas.

After giving us a chance to chat, Tyler asked us to break into small groups, to work together to define the word freedom. “What does freedom mean to you?” he asked.

What is Freedom?

I was sitting with Tammy and Logan (they of the tiny house) and with our friend Michelle, who also lives in a tiny house. We brainstormed ideas. One obvious answer was that, in many ways, money equals freedom. When you have money, you have more options. Or, more precisely, when you have no debt, when you spend less than you earn, then you have more options.

But freedom is more than money, of course.

“To me, freedom means being able to what you want, when you want,” I said. We talked about that for a bit. We talked again about how money makes this more likely.

“But I think to be free,” said Michelle, “you have to somehow be aware of what your options are. You have to be conscious that you're making choices that reflect your values, choices that allow you to do what you want, when you want.”

“Fair enough,” I said.

After more discussion, we realized that each person at our table already felt very, very free. None of us worries about money: I've experienced a windfall; Tammy and Logan and Michelle have intentionally minimized their expenses so that money is no longer a stressor. We each do work we're passionate about. We have good friends, we have purpose. We've adopted lifestyles that give us freedom, or at least a sense of it.

“I think a lot of feeling free comes down to shifting priorities,” Tammy said. “It means choosing to relate to money, and other parts of life, in ways that others don't.” Tammy wasn't saying that she thinks we're better than anyone else — far from it! — but that in order to obtain this feeling of freedom, we've each made choices that we like but others might not. Such as living in small spaces. (If I'm doing my math right, the four of us live in three separate spaces that combine to total 985 square feet. My apartment is the bulk of that.)

Conquering Fear

Tyler took some more time to speak with his readers. He talked about his own ideas of freedom. “The core of freedom is conquering fear,” Tyler said. “It can be scary. We want to draw cartoons, or climb mountains, or do whatever makes us happy. But often, people are afraid of freedom because with freedom comes risk. When you choose freedom, you make choices for yourself. Nobody else makes them for you. And when you make choices for yourself, the responsibility — or the blame — for the outcome rests with you.”

At our table, we talked about the relationship between freedom and power.

“In some ways, freedom and power are interchangeable,” Logan said. “When you have freedom, you have power. Not like you have authority or control over other people, but you have power over your own life.”

“Here's a thought,” I said. “If you're lucky enough to be free, do you have an obligation to help others who aren't free? To give them this power too? And there really is an obligation, then doesn't that mean you're not actually free?”

“It's like a paradox!” Tammy said.

“The minute you choose to do what you really want to do, it's a different kind of life.” — R. Buckminster Fuller

The Limits of Self-Determination

But here's the rub: Even if you're free, even if you have power over your own life, bad things happen. You might get struck by a car. You might have a stroke. Your country might experience hyperinflation. You're only free to the extent that you can control life. And beyond a certain point, life is out of your hands. (Though, again, the more money you have, the less impact these events have on you. Another argument for a fat emergency fund!)

What's more, as free as you might be, you only have that freedom because your environment allows you to have it. If you lived elsewhere, or elsewhen, you might not be able to do what you want to do, when you want to do it. You might not have the freedom you do now.

Because of this, and because I'm fortunate to be very free myself, I'm finally starting to think of other people. I feel called to help others move closer to this ideal, to give them find the power to do what they want, when they want.

Money and Freedom

Money can't buy happiness, it can't buy love, and it can't buy freedom either. But money does make obtaining these goals much, much easier. When you have money, you don't have to worry about the basics. To re-visit Psychology 101, money helps you build the base of Maslow's hierarchy of needs.

Maslow's eierarchy of Needs

When you have money, you're able to take care of your physiological needs, like finding food and water. You're also able to better take care of your body and your belongings, able to afford a safe place to sleep. Because money makes it easier to have these things, it further grants you the freedom to focus on higher parts of the hierarchy, such as self-esteem, confidence, and achievement. If you worried each day about how you were going to feed yourself and your family, you wouldn't have time to pursue these higher aims. You wouldn't have the freedom to do so.

But here's the thing: I don't think money does buy freedom if the person with the money becomes obsessed with protecting it or with obtaining more. Money is a tool. It's useful only insofar as it helps you achieve your goals.

An old friend contacted me by Facebook the other day. We're going to get together for coffee soon. (Where “coffee” is a euphemism for “any other drink because J.D. doesn't like coffee”.) During our conversation, my friend asked, “So what do you do now that you sold your web site? Do you not work? Do you just go to the gym and travel the world?”

Ha. I wish. I feel like I'm busier than I've ever been. But to tell the truth, I'm busy in a different way. In the past, I was busy, but I was busy doing things that other people wanted. Now, I do things that I want. Most of the time, even my work feels like play.

I'm a happy man. I have a good life. I'm able to do what I want, when I want. This isn't because I've bought my freedom and my happiness, but there's no question that having savings, eliminating debt, and living below my means has given me peace of mind, has allowed me to take risks that I might have otherwise avoided.

More about...Psychology

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Sara
Sara
8 years ago

Count me in for Atlanta!

Also, I was thinking about your use of the term “windfall” to describe your earnings from the sale of this blog. Maybe it’s because I’ve been working straight through the night, and so English no longer makes any sense to me, but I don’t think that’s the right word. It’s not that you’ve experienced “an unexpected gain,” but rather you have traded your asset for cash. Before you had awesome blog plus some debt plus some savings; now you have awesome savings. 🙂

jack foley
jack foley
8 years ago
Reply to  Sara

So true,

very hard to concentrate on your wants when your basic needs are not met so from that perspective, money is very important in living a fuller life..

Christy
Christy
8 years ago
Reply to  Sara

I am totally in for an Atlanta meet up and have an idea of where that would be “free” ita a reataurant / bar with large rooms in the back each person only pays their own bill. But there is no charge for the “space”

the muskrat
the muskrat
8 years ago
Reply to  Christy

I’m in Atlanta, too, and would be game!

Charlene
Charlene
8 years ago

Freedom = choices. No, money doesn’t “buy” freedom, but it sure does open the door for opportunities and choices. I will agree with the statement that “Freedom is being able to do what you want, when you want” because that means I understand my obligations and responsibilities to others and can now make decisions that address my wants.

Enough money? Covers my needs.
Freedom? Allows me to address my wants.

As for the meetup? Would LOVE to participate in one. Though it’s doubtful you’ll end up in my area (cuz few do) – Louisville, KY or better yet, southern Indiana.

jack foley
jack foley
8 years ago
Reply to  Charlene

I think money gives you leverage..

You now can people and businesses for what yo want done leaving you concentrate on important thing in life such as family – growing more business, etc..

Katie
Katie
8 years ago
Reply to  Charlene

Another Louisvillian – I’m so excited! I live in DC currently, though, so that’s where I’d push for a meet-up (you know, if you ever feel like traveling across the country).

Lindsay
Lindsay
8 years ago

I think there are two different kinds of freedom. There’s “freedom FROM” and “freedom FOR”. “Freedom FROM” refers to having no obligations that are forced on you by others that impede your rights. “Freedom FOR” refers to possessing yourself enough to commit yourself to whatever you choose. So for example, it seems to me that a lot of people in my country, the USA, look at marriage as an impediment to freedom. It often places obligations on them they think they haven’t chosen, and it frequently requires them to choose to serve someone else’s desires and needs above their own.… Read more »

Elizabeth
Elizabeth
8 years ago
Reply to  Lindsay

My philosophy teacher introduced us to “freedom from” versus “freedom to” in high school and it’s always been an interesting way to look at issues. I’m kind of sick of my married friends assuming I have so much “freedom” because I’m single. I’ve learned the hard way that it’s good to have commitments. 🙂

J.D. Roth
J.D. Roth
8 years ago
Reply to  Lindsay

Nice, Lindsay. Thanks for delineating those two types of freedom. I like it…

Bella
Bella
8 years ago
Reply to  Lindsay

I think it’s important that you point out the difference between freedom and autonomy. There is a certain amount of security in having a loving supportive relationship that gives you freedom to do new things too. For instance, recently my husband quit his job, without a new one lined up. It was the right thing for his personal health, but without knowing that I could take care of things both financially, and “around the house” if he had to say work elsewhere for 6mo, was defintly freeing. It freed him from a very bad situation where he was able to… Read more »

Kristen
Kristen
8 years ago
Reply to  Lindsay

Reminds me of a quote I jotted down once from a Starbucks cup:
The irony of commitment is that it’s deeply liberating – in work, in play, in love. The act frees you from the tyranny of your internal critic, from the fear that likes to dress itself up and parade around as rational hesitation. To commit is to remove your head as the barrier to your life.

— Anne Morriss

Laura+Vanderkam
Laura+Vanderkam
8 years ago
Reply to  Kristen

Or the line from the Indigo Girls’ song (Power of Two?): “The closer I’m bound in love to you, the closer I am to free.”

J.D. Roth
J.D. Roth
8 years ago

🙂

The Indigo Girls — the soundtrack to my life…

imelda
imelda
8 years ago
Reply to  Lindsay

I’m only 26 years old, but this post strikes me as remarkably immature. “The ability to do what you want, when you want?” I’m sorry, but who has that? Only people with no responsibilities, no commitments, no community, no one to think about but themselves. Lindsay very generously called this idea “autonomy” rather than “freedom.” I would call it “being a baby.” This is what children want. Do you honestly wish you could do no work, and travel all day, every day? As a lifestyle? It might be fun, but what purpose would you serve? What contribution would you be… Read more »

Anne
Anne
8 years ago
Reply to  imelda

That level of autonomy does not sound like a life or attitude that is likely to promote any real or lasting happiness.

quinsy
quinsy
8 years ago
Reply to  imelda

I think you’re missing the point. The freedom to do what you want when you want does not equate to a life of no work and no purpose. That may be what some people think they want, but most people don’t really want that, or would quickly get bored with it if they somehow achieved it. The freedom to do what you want, when you want means not having to work a job you don’t enjoy, or to spend time on things that you don’t want to do just because you have to for financial reasons. Having that freedom allows… Read more »

Jaime
Jaime
8 years ago
Reply to  imelda

That’s what freedom buys you. It seems to me that when people are debt-free and have savings they can do what they want. They can quit jobs they hate, they can pick jobs they love, they can choose to travel, they can choose how they will spend their time. They can choose to have a family or not to. JD quit a job that he hated. He’s not the only one, plenty of people do that when they are debt free. Its actually quite common. A lot of mothers have started mommy blogs and quit their regular jobs once the… Read more »

Brian @ Progressive Transformation
Brian @ Progressive Transformation
8 years ago

Great post! I have always used Maslow’s Hierarchy of needs to assess how I am doing in a moment of anxiety or panic. If my basic foundation of needs is being met, I know that although the stress may feel phsycial, I am not having to address that need… It always has lent a brief and handy insight to where I am at any particular moment. Maslow’s triangle is a mental health tool that often can be used to asses anxiety and stress. If we have a proper foundation, then we always will have a great base that allows us… Read more »

MoneyforCollegePro
MoneyforCollegePro
8 years ago

freedom really can mean a lot of different things to a lot of different people. it helps to have an idea of what your ideal ‘free” life would be like and then set that as your goal. the old dream of retiring at 65 and then doing the things in life you want to do no longer seems attractive to me. Some people might be all about that, but the next generation is slowly realizing that life is best enjoyed when you have the health to enjoy it!

Elizabeth
Elizabeth
8 years ago

Many people who “retire” choose to keep working because they want to. I try to think in terms of “financial freedom” rather than “retirement”

I agree that you shouldn’t have to wait until retirement to do things you want — like volunteering, traveling, spending more time with friends and family. However, I’ve seen too many people use “carpe diem” as an excuse to spend now and pay later, or saving for retirement as a reason to work themselves to the point of burnout now.

I think we need to have some balance.

El Nerdo
El Nerdo
8 years ago
Reply to  Elizabeth

Yes. That used to be me (the ‘carpe diem, pay tomorrow’) type. The thing is that working for “retirement” at 65 when you’re in your 20s just doesn’t seem too rational– honestly, it’s a very unattractive plan for young people. Sports car now? Or nursing home tomorrow? Sports car? Or nursing home? That’s a no-brainer. The idea of financial independence is a whole lot more motivating to me than “retirement”; and it’s what has finally made me start saving. Oh yeah, and I’m not in my 20s anymore ha ha ha–now I wish I had saved instead of racking up… Read more »

Carla
Carla
8 years ago
Reply to  El Nerdo

You could give up the sports car and still end up in a nursing home (the quality of the nursing home is a different story). At that point in your life its more about who’s with you.

Bareheadedwoman
Bareheadedwoman
8 years ago
Reply to  Elizabeth

We’ve been so inundated with images from AARP et al of the baby boomer “retiree” for whom 65 is the new 45… But the reality is that for most of us now in prime working age, there will be no “retirement” to freedom, but a real “retirement” from active duty when we can no longer physically care for ourselves. My father got out as early as he possibly could, retired to freedom in a small town, with generous pension, after a life of civil service (and while my mother, also a civil servant, was still gainfully employed) and ability to… Read more »

BlueCollarWorkman
BlueCollarWorkman
8 years ago

We’ve all heard the saying, “money can’t buy happiness;” and in light of that phrase, I really enjoyed this post. My girlfriend and I recently discussed what we would do if we won the lottery. After several minutes of fun, dreamy ideas, we started grappling with the idea of money bringing happiness and freedom. We questioned what money really does bring to the table. We came to similar conclusions as you JD, about money bringing needs like food and water, but after that it makes freedom and happiness only easier. For some people who find themselves rolling in dough it… Read more »

Christopher
Christopher
8 years ago

I like to think that when I have money to cover all of my basic needs that I will have more freedom. Once debt has been paid and we are working on saving, there is a sense of freedom, because you can really do whatever you want with that money. Ideally we would be saving for retirement, but if we wanted we could go splurge on something we have always wanted but didnt feel that we could ever afford. ie the new mustang or anything! I have worked hard to get where I am at through school and to me… Read more »

Rosa
Rosa
8 years ago
Reply to  Christopher

There is nothing like the feeling that you can walk away from a bad job. Either because of savings, or frugal living, or the skills to easily get another.

Bareheadedwoman
Bareheadedwoman
8 years ago
Reply to  Rosa

the only thing that keeps you in a bad job is your own fear of dealing with all those things without a job…and I’ve never found (nor has many guest reader posts found) one of those monsters to be more terrible than staying somewhere that nibbled the soul in some way.

none of those reasons ever kept me in a place I had defined to myself as bad for me and while it has made some harrowing moments at times, I ain’t dead yet.

Rosa
Rosa
8 years ago

I have worked with so many people stuck in jobs they didn’t love because they had kids or partners who needed health care and would be uninsurable if not through a work pool.

Me, I have always been free to walk away, because I’ve never carried debt and I have a low minimum standard of living. But it’s not just fear that sticks people.

Joe
Joe
8 years ago

While Maslow’s hierarchy is very popular because it is simple, the fact is that it has not withstood the scrutiny of scientific inquiry. It’s great that you point this out. People can be altruistic regardless of their level on the hierarchy; naturally, it’s elitist to assume that one needs to be rich to be a good human being. If you have major credit card debt, no you shouldn’t be giving away money (it’s not yours, anyway!). But if you have no debt, you have a solid income, you have a decent (and growing) asset base, then it’s incumbent upon you… Read more »

Tyler@Debt Reckoning
8 years ago

For me, money provides two things that may ultimately lead to “freedom” – flexibility and peace. It is freeing to have peace about money, to not worry whether or not you will be able to make the next bill. I’ve been there and done that, and it was the opposite of freedom. I was a slave to banks and credit card companies, and yes, even stuff. When I rid myself of the debt and the stuff, and the wanting for more stuff, it was only then that I began to feel free. The money then followed.

Diedra B
Diedra B
8 years ago

awesome post, and thanks for linking to your Power of Yes post. I needed to read that too.

After working with some teenagers over the weekend and finding that they sunk to their stereotypes, I was quite discouraged and wanted to quit. But I know there’s more to it and I want to dig deeper and keep saying yes to these kids.

Steven
Steven
8 years ago

Freedom is a state of mind. It has little to do with your situation, or your finances. “The last of human freedoms – the ability to chose one’s attitude in a given set of circumstances.” ~ Viktor E. Frankl (Holocaust survivor) When every imaginable freedom was taken away from Viktor, he still had the FREEDOM to chose his attitude about the situation, something no one could take away from him. THAT, to me, is the definition of freedom, and why I believe it has less to do with your situation than your attitude. You could be absolutely filthy rich and… Read more »

K.C.
K.C.
8 years ago
Reply to  Steven

I agree that being debt-free and having savings in the bank gives a person more choices and for me more choice does equal more freedom. But what Steven points out is real for me, as well. My essential freedom comes from an acceptance that I am not in control of my life. Letting go of the idea that my life is supposed to be a certain way, that I am entitled to have what I want when I want has been very liberating. Now I try to align myself with life instead of trying to adjust life to fit my… Read more »

Tara
Tara
8 years ago
Reply to  K.C.

Thank you so much KC… I really needed to hear that today. I have been struggling with trying to make my life go a certain way and it is killing me. Time to let go.

J.D. Roth
J.D. Roth
8 years ago
Reply to  Steven

Steven, thanks for quoting Frankl. I’ve actually been intending to read “Man’s Search for Meaning” again, but keep forgetting to pick up a copy. It was an influential book for me when I was in college. I’m curious to see how I feel about it now.

Sherry
Sherry
8 years ago
Reply to  J.D. Roth

JD – Mans Search For Meaning is by far one of the best books I have read in years. Its an easy read too, something you can finish very quickly. Or possibly download as a podcast or audio book to listen to while you are walking.

Marianne
Marianne
8 years ago

This is something I’ve been thinking a lot about lately. I feel very free now that we don’t have to stress much about money (we have very steady and stable income, only mortgage debt, a very comfortable lifestyle) but my husband doesn’t feel free at all because he wants so much. He is unhappy because he wants everything (and now) and obviously we can’t have everything. Certainly brings home the point that freedom is often a shifting of priorities.

Marianne
Marianne
8 years ago
Reply to  Marianne

*blush* I didn’t realize my own post about our goals for financial freedom and what it means to us was going up today. You can check it out here: http://www.preservingpennies.blogspot.com/

Kent@TheFinancialPhilosopher
8 years ago

Defining freedom is an excellent exercise in sharpening one’s life vision and underlying financial goals.

Defining freedom other abstract terms, such as retirement, financial freedom, and happiness is an important skill for a life of meaning and purpose. I wrote a guest post here at GRS last year on the subject (and included the “Freedom From” vs “Freedom To” concepts):

https://www.getrichslowly.org/defining-your-financial-future/

Like JD said, money is a tool. I will add that most people are exactly the opposite: They make life a tool for money — they fail to make money a tool for life.

Laura+Vanderkam
Laura+Vanderkam
8 years ago

Yep – I like the “tool” imagery. Money is a tool, just like fire. The wheel and axle. A hammer. Can fire bring happiness? Sure, if you use it right. Money too.

Kevin R. (Portland)
Kevin R. (Portland)
8 years ago

Good post and topic. I wrote my master’s thesis on examining your relationship with money as a way to know yourself. in my research, academic studies verified 2 important correlations between money and happiness: 1. generally one’s happiness increases if people in one’s life (friends, close family members, neighbors) are of similar or even lower standard of living. happiness decreases if a person is surrounded by people better off (or appearing to better off). the keeping up with joneses is stressful and makes one feel less than . . . while one may say “it doesn’t matter if I can’t… Read more »

Mary
Mary
8 years ago

We’re working hard to reach the Pinnacle Point that Dave Ramsey describes — the point where we have enough money that we can live on the interest and pursue the work that interests us apart from its earnings.

That’s the ultimate freedom for us and money is directly correlated to it.

Laura
Laura
8 years ago
Reply to  Mary

Agreed. Freedom to me is when I have enough money (and “enough” will vary from person to person) that I can choose what work I want to do or if I want to work at all. If I HAVE to work or have to work a specific job/number of hours/make a specific salary, for whatever reason, then I’m not free.

imelda
imelda
8 years ago
Reply to  Mary

To me, that is the definition of financial freedom. Not freedom.

Samantha
Samantha
8 years ago

I do believe that money CAN buy happiness and freedom, but that they are not guaranteed just because you have money.

I don’t remember where I heard this, but it rings true: “You can’t NOT smile on a jetski.”

And just like with freedom, if you have enough money not to work your crappy job, and do what you’ve always dreamed, isn’t that freedom?

Bella
Bella
8 years ago
Reply to  Samantha

quoting Daniel Tosh on GRS! nice!

Richard Rinyai
Richard Rinyai
8 years ago

I completely agree about the “fear” part. I have been unemployed for just over 2 months now and received nice severance package, but I have all of this free time now.

I started thinking about what I would do when I retire. Wow! I would have to keep myself busy, since I would go crazy, like I have been a few times in the last 2 months.

Kate C
Kate C
8 years ago

This is another interesting post that has me thinking about some of the unfair underlying assumptions at GRS, and other “find your happiness”-type blogs. I have a 15 month old son at home, whom I love more than anything, and who has made me a very happy woman. But, by all of your definitions above, my “freedom” has been significantly reduced. No, I cannot do “whatever I want whenever I want” regardless of how much money I may or may not have. And it certainly has nothing to do with “fear” either. I live in in Colorado, but I’m not… Read more »

J.D. Roth
J.D. Roth
8 years ago
Reply to  Kate C

Kate, it’s okay for different people to have different goals. No two of us are the same. And while it’s true that generally speaking, certain things will lead to increased happiness, that’s not true for every person in every case. It’s interesting to note (as another commenter did) that sometimes having commitments and obligations can be perceived as liberating. So can having structure. For some people, these things free the mind and lead to peace and happiness. There’s nothing wrong with this in any way. But for others, like me, freedom and happiness come from a lack of structure, from… Read more »

Trina
Trina
8 years ago
Reply to  J.D. Roth

Read “The Unbearable Lightness of Being.”

Clara
Clara
8 years ago
Reply to  Kate C

But aren’t you free when you can choose this? Choose to be with your child (I did, too!), and free to turn away from a society that insists that you find your “freedom” in another’s definition, whether it is as in you aren’t free because of your attachment to your child, or as in you are not free because you do not have a job to provide you with that definition of freedom.

Bella
Bella
8 years ago
Reply to  Clara

yes, dont you see – you’re free to choose to be with your child – it seems like that is what you really want to do
“And it makes me sooo much happier to see my little boy out climbing on the playground than seeing a desolate mountain top by myself. Why is freedom the ultimate goal anyway”
Because some people aren’t even free to chose to spend their time with their kids on the playground – they feel like slaves to their jobs – and losing that precious time

Steven
Steven
8 years ago
Reply to  Kate C

Having a child doesn’t equal being tied to the house. That’s a choice. Want to climb a mountain but don’t want to leave your son at home? Take him with.

Kate C
Kate C
8 years ago
Reply to  Steven

This is all very true. And we do, actually, take the kiddo with us on mountain climbs in the summer. I was being metaphorical. 🙂 I guess the thing that gets my goat is the published concept that true happiness comes from doing “what you want” and if you’re not doing exactly what you want at any given moment it’s only out of your own fear and unwillingness. When, in reality, being responsible usually means you’re NOT doing what you want. You’re doing what needs to get done, and OCCASIONALLY, you get to do what you want. I see this… Read more »

Anne
Anne
8 years ago
Reply to  Kate C

Kate, thank you! You said it better than I could. I think Roth is wrong here and in so many areas when life comes up. Everyone has infinite possibilities or finite ones, depending on how you look at it. No one is totally free. We live in communities. We have bonds regardless of whether we want. But lives with responsibilities, love and other ties that bind are just as full of infinite possibilities as those who live without such ties. Everyone’s life has structure. You’re lying if you say your life doesn’t. The message of freedom and personal choice that… Read more »

El Nerdo
El Nerdo
8 years ago
Reply to  Kate C

Oh, burn! I didn’t really want to comment about the philosophy-light approach of today’s post but here it was dished out both barrels. One thing I’ve noticed is that whenever “Roth” (lolcopter) grapples with immaturity somehow the Tiny House people are around him. Why is that? Are they contagious? JD, bro, you’ve been schooled here by a bunch of smart ladies. “Freedom to me means having infinite possibilities” or whatever it was you said above is just a bunch of Peter Pan talk. Of course, everyone is entitled to follow their own path, but the “freedom” of a little boy… Read more »

Trina
Trina
8 years ago
Reply to  Kate C

Is it a coincidence that this is the type of thought that occurs to one while setting up a bachelor pad after leaving one’s wife?

Kristen
Kristen
8 years ago
Reply to  Kate C

The level of condescension and judgment in this particular string of comments is stunning to me. I’m talking to you especially, El Nerdo.

Jaime
Jaime
8 years ago
Reply to  Kate C

@El Nerdo-Was that really necessary? Are you in JD’s mind, in Kris’s mind? Do you know what they both think and feel? How can you expect to know what’s better for someone else.

@Trina, read JD’s old posts here and you’ll see he’s been talking about doing what works since the dawn of GRS’s time.

Jaime
Jaime
8 years ago
Reply to  Kate C

It seems to me that you did whatever you wanted by choosing to have a family. Everyone happens to find peace and happiness through different paths. What about the wife and mother who chooses to quit her job so she can stay at home? Or the mother who chooses to go back to work? or the mother who chooses to start an online business from home to be with her kids? Not everyone wants kids, not everyone wants to live in the suburbs. What’s wrong with chasing what makes you happy? You clearly chased what made you happy, which was… Read more »

doug_eike
doug_eike
8 years ago

Money buys flexibility, and flexibility is what it took for me to start my blogs. When I was working 8-5 (which was really 7-7), blogging would have been nearly impossible.

I am grateful for the flexibility to do what I enjoy, and it took saving money and investing it to reach that point. Thanks for the insights!

Mom of five
Mom of five
8 years ago

I know what you mean, Kate C, but I think it’s just a matter of where a person is in life. JD is a single guy without kids. His perception of freedom is going to be very different from yours or mine. I consider it freedom to know if one of my kids is struggling with something, we don’t have to rely simply on ourselves or the school or a particular coach to get the concept across, we can afford to pursue expert advice and private coaching. It’s freedom to be able to pick up some takeout after an exasperating… Read more »

Rosa
Rosa
8 years ago
Reply to  Mom of five

Time to spend with your kids is a huge freedom – and so is the access to resources for them that you mentioned.

Kate C
Kate C
8 years ago
Reply to  Mom of five

Yep, you’re absolutely right, everybody idea of freedom is different. It would be nice if they were all celebrated equally as well. It seems some of these GRS stories have a subtle undertone that being responsible – doing what you have to rather than want to – is a terrible thing that should be rectified immediately. Perhaps I’m being sensitive. It’s quotes like these: “The core of freedom is conquering fear,” Tyler said. “It can be scary. We want to draw cartoons, or climb mountains, or do whatever makes us happy. But often, people are afraid of freedom because with… Read more »

imelda
imelda
8 years ago
Reply to  Kate C

Yup – and I think your last sentence shows why JD’s defense that “we’re all different” is problematic. You ARE giving up freedom for the sake of your kids. To say that your definition of freedom is just different than JD’s, or that you define freedom by “choosing to be with your kids,” is totally disingenuous. You have decided that your love for your kids is more important than your personal freedom. Thank god you – and most other parents – make that decision. I live in Japan right now, so I’m experiencing a different ethical culture. Responsibility to the… Read more »

Carla
Carla
8 years ago

Having spent most of my adult life on the negative side of things when it comes to money and finances for one reason or another, its easy to idealize what having money means, or can mean to me. A quality of life that I only read about it here on GRS, other blogs and in general. A quality of life that many of my friends freely enjoy, many without having experienced the opposite. Looking at the Maslow’s hierarchy of needs chart, I’ve found myself at every tier at some point of my life regardless of my financial situation, but lately… Read more »

BD
BD
8 years ago
Reply to  Carla

I totally know where you’re coming from, Carla. I’m in the exact same boat (except that I don’t think I’ve even hit all the tiers at any point in my life). But yeah, I’m hovering between the yellow and the red in the hierarchy, and have been for the last seven years. Sigh.

Carla
Carla
8 years ago
Reply to  BD

No matter what you do, life feels like a lottery. I would like to think that I’m wrong, BD.

John | Married (with Debt)
John | Married (with Debt)
8 years ago

Freedom can also pertain to your relationship with your money. If you are “free” on paper but can’t sleep at night worrying about what-ifs and your nest egg, are you truly free?

I think true freedom comes from mastering money in a way that allows you to think about it less and need it less.

zud
zud
8 years ago

this post and comments are really inspiring to me, i also want the freedom to do what i want and the freedom from stressing about money. i’m struggling tho to make frugal living, consuming less, focussing on experience rather than items etc.. part of what i truly ‘want’. i feel those priorities (frugal living) etc.. are more thrust upon me as a result of my situation (basic job, middle-low wage, expensive city). what have you done, or what have others done to really, truly embrace these new values. i would like to feel happy couponing, thrifting, tiny house…. i guess… Read more »

Gemma
Gemma
8 years ago

Freedom can mean different things to different people but financial freedom can be sure to come near the top of a lot of people’s lists. Having your finance in order can free you up to do things you’ve wanted to do for a long time such as, take that holiday you’ve been promising yourself.

Terry
Terry
8 years ago

I live on a borderline poverty level income, and I don’t ask for much in life. I can’t think of much “stuff” I would want to buy if I had the money. But I do crave peace, quiet, and solitude, and I cannot get any of these things. I rent a room in an old, small, crowded house. Currently there are four others, only onne of whom is working, and she is in the process of buying a house, so she will move out when her deal closes. The others in the house are drunks, druggies, and bums on SSI,… Read more »

bethh
bethh
8 years ago
Reply to  Terry

Terry, that sounds stressful and horrible. It sounds like you don’t have much money, but I wonder if you’d do better renting a room in a home? You sound like an ideal housemate for the right person. I hope you can make some changes to get out of that situation!

Jan
Jan
8 years ago
Reply to  Terry

Terry, Consider tapping into the hidden rental market. Do you know a realtor(s) in your area? They always know about the hidden gems for rentals too. Lot’s of home owners have lower levels, etc that they rent out to select people. They never advertise but rely on referrals from realtors and friends. The rents are usually cheaper too because they are not relying so heavily on rental income.

greg12
greg12
8 years ago
Reply to  Terry

Terry…

Once you leave (or before you leave), you should consider writing a novel about your experiences.

Your post reminded me of what I loved about the “kitchen sink realism” of a writer like Charles Bukowski. You have a knack for descriptive detail… it would be a shame to not put that to use (and make money by selling the stories on Amazon). I’d buy them.

Terry
Terry
8 years ago
Reply to  greg12

Greg, Thanks, I’m flattered, sorta. Bukowski is in some pretty lofty territory. But yeah, I’ve got all sorts of material. Lots of stuff I didn’t work into my original post because it was more than long enough as it was. Like the bits about how I moved in when my previous rented room (the house, of course) was foreclosed. And how I moved into the cheapest place I could find. (Cheapest in terms of total move-in cost, because I didn’t find any other places I could afford to move into except those rock-bottom fleabag hotel/motel rooms which are cheap to… Read more »

Laura
Laura
8 years ago
Reply to  Terry

Terry, what are the chances that you could work out an arrangement with the working woman who’s buying her own home, where you rented a room directly from her? She would certainly know you’re quiet (and hopefully vice versa) and might welcome the chance to help cover her mortgage, which is hard to do in the early stages of home ownership. I’m guessing she lived in this hell house to save money, so she might appreciate the chance to defray her mortgage costs. Good luck!

Catherine
Catherine
8 years ago

“Freedom’s just another word for nothing left to lose.” That said, I find it telling that no one has mentioned the “freedom” one has to give up to earn money. The older I get, the less freedom matters to me. I am grateful to my job for allowing me the freedom to do that which matters to me and for satisfying my material needs, including emergencies and retirement. But if my well paying job, investments and savings, home and possessions went away tomorrow, I know that I would okay because I have been fortunate enough to learn the secret of… Read more »

Ms Life
Ms Life
8 years ago

Money does definitely give you freedom. I am not sure about ‘buying’ freedom though. Money gave me freedom from the worry of not knowing where my next meal will come from. This to me has been the best thing about having money.

Micke
Micke
8 years ago

J.D:
I got very excited about the Meet-n-greet prosepect…
Especially since you said you’ll be in Denver in September. I am curious what would bring you here, but even more so, I am very interested in meeting up with you.

As a fellow non-coffee drinker, meeting for a “Fika” (google it, ’tis swedish) sounds like a fantastic idea (You’re welcome to contact me).

bethh
bethh
8 years ago

Interesting post; I like the autonomy vs freedom discussion as well. I have a job and I’m certainly not free to do what I want when I want. However I view it as one of those life commitments that feeds, clothes, and shelters me, gives me health insurance, lets me travel, AND lets me stretch my brain and use my people skills on a daily basis. Not a bad deal!

I’d do a meetup for sure – I’m in the Bay Area (road trip for JD!).

Adam P
Adam P
8 years ago

What’s that great about total freedom? Isn’t that essentially anarchy? Freedom to do what I want is limited to not imposing on other people’s happiness or freedom to do what they want. Money isn’t about freedom to me, you can be dirt poor and totally free or extremely rich and oppressed (the wealthy wife of some oil shiek in a religious Muslim country for example). Money is about security and taking stress away from not meeting your basic needs, and allowing yourself to meet the basic needs of your family and close friends should they need it. Beyond that, the… Read more »

Marshall Davis
Marshall Davis
8 years ago

Can money buy freedom? Sure, for all the reasons previously stated. Will money by the majority of people freedom? I have a sneaking suspicion that it won’t, for most people. To be truly free requires a reboot of one’s brain. By that I mean that society, in general, has programmed people to keep up with the Jones and to spend above our means. Income goes up, spending goes up and happiness doesn’t necessarily improve. This type of mindset will never offer complete freedom. Sure, all the money in the world certainly can make a difference when it comes to happiness,… Read more »

retirebyforty
retirebyforty
8 years ago

Deep post, JD. I have to get on that invite list. 🙂 The Advance Riskology site is very well put together. One of the nicest site I’ve seen.

Paula
Paula
8 years ago

The measure of how “free” one is, financially, is directly connected with their ability to delay gratification. Most GRS participants are folks who take responsibility for their own lives and who practice sacrifice as a part of daily living. While we may not be able to get what we want when we want it, it is usually an attainable goal. So, can money buy freedom? Not necessarily, since freedom is the result of exercising self-control and not spontaneously spending or doing anything else without consideration of the consequences.

PFM
PFM
8 years ago

Love the post J.D.
Often we get so tied up in the “how to” aspect of finances that we don’t focus on the “why”.
I really enjoyed the esoteric musings because it makes you think and ponder, it’ll lead to some interesting discussions in many households (mine included), thanks!

celyg
celyg
8 years ago

This post got me thinking about how the idea of safety fits in.

For me, money makes me feel safe. And it’s only when I feel safe that I feel a sense of freedom. The “what ifs” prevent me from feeling free…but I suppose there is always a “what if,” no matter how much money you have.

What I find interesting is that some people might view being “safe” as a path away from freedom. It’s only when you don’t play it safe that you can be free. ? Maybe it’s all semantics. 🙂

Elaine
Elaine
8 years ago

JD,
I’ve really been enjoying your increased presence here at the blog. A well-thought out and interesting post that has caused me to think a lot today about what exactly is “freedom” – from work, money, responsibilities, etc. Definitely agree with others’ comments about freedom from/freedom to.

The purpose of freedom is to FREE SOMEONE ELSE. <—One of my all time favorite quotes.

J.D. Roth
J.D. Roth
8 years ago
Reply to  Elaine

Thanks, Elaine.

Where did you find that quote? It reminds me of my all-time favorite quote, which I’ve shared here before: “The small man builds cages for everyone he knows while the sage, who has to duck his head when the moon is low, keeps dropping keys all night long for the beautiful, rowdy prisoners.” Love it.

Evgeny
Evgeny
8 years ago
Reply to  Elaine

As smeoone who has been practicing EFT professionally, I have found myself collecting all the books on the subject. What I liked about this book is that the author explored attracting money from all angles and didn’t just promise that EFT would be a magical solution to all your problems. Some EFT practitioners have been known to do that, so it was refreshing to see smeoone approach the topic honestly. The one issue I have is that, unless you are experienced with EFT, you can’t just learn it from a book. I would recommend checking out the hundreds of videos… Read more »

Amanda Thomas
Amanda Thomas
8 years ago

Great post.
I particularly love the inclusion of the triangle in relation to money and Maslow’s theory of the hierarchy of needs. Money doesn’t = freedom but having more choices surely must give more options and more of a move towards freedom. Thanks for the insight. For those interested in self actualization in the UK and the States check http://www.micpeakperformance.com

Jaime
Jaime
8 years ago

I think its awesome that you’ve been able to get out of a job that you hate and doing work you love. I used to think that it was impossible to do work you love, but it seems that the people that do work they love find a way to monetize their interests.

Freedom to me means having civil liberties, right to bear arms, free speech and many of the things we take granted here in the first world. Freedom to me means doing whatever I want without hurting others.

AverageJoe
AverageJoe
8 years ago

I think for me money doesn’t buy freedom, but my ability to not worry about “the rat race” = freedom.

It seems like when my debt was over my head all I worried about was the next bill and getting it paid. I couldn’t think about the things I really valued in life because I was too stressed out about that day.

So, while in some ways “money” bought freedom, it was really “what I did with the money” that bought freedom.

Michelle
Michelle
8 years ago

I was just talking to my 11 y/o about this. He says he can’t wait til he’s an adult! See, freedom, to a child, is adulthood. The crazy thing is that freedom to an adult is childhood! My kids have no idea what it feels like to be truly scared that you won’t make ends’ meet or worried that someone might get sick or the furnace will break down. I hate to sound like my dad, but he was right; those were the best years of my life. I am going to conquer this debt. I might not live like… Read more »

getagrip
getagrip
8 years ago
Reply to  Michelle

I find we tend to look at the past with rose colored glasses. I think I’d like to be free as a child again, but when I really think about it I was under my parents (loving as they were) thumb and at their mercy for many decisions. Fast forward a bit and I recall fun times camping in the woods or hanging at the bowling alley, but when I really consider it Middle and High school were doses of bad emotional rollercosters. I truly loved the freedom I experienced in college and could easily imagine looking back wanting to… Read more »

BD
BD
8 years ago
Reply to  Michelle

I think ‘getagrip’ is right. Childhood was pretty oppressive, if you really think about it. I would NEVER want to be a child again. I had pretty strict parents, and no freedom at all. I’d rather be an adult, worrying about surviving, than be a child again. At least as an adult, I’m free to go where I want to, and to live where I want to, to some extent. And as an adult, I’m free to make other choices as well. If I want to drink a Pepsi, or have a candy bar, I can do so. I never… Read more »

Alex
Alex
8 years ago

Whenever someone says “Money can’t buy happiness” I always want to retort with “Neither can poverty.” I don’t quite remember where I heard the phrase, but I think your post does a good job of summing up how we should be realistic with our attitudes toward money. It can help us achieve our goals and makes a lot of the basics much easier, but I think you point out a very big trap people should watch out for: becoming obsessed with money as money.

krantcents
krantcents
8 years ago

Having sufficient money or savings provides choices. You have choices to do what you want which many would call freedom.

Jason
Jason
8 years ago

I believe you are correct when you say freedom is not bought with money, and that money is simply a tool. I look at it this way: building freedom (as you define it) is a very close parallel to building wealth. To be wealthy, you must maximize income and minimize spending. In other words, increase the gap. To gain freedom you must maximize your wealth (money to be able to do what you wish) while minimizing your encumbrances (e.g. debt, a job that requires tons of your time, animals/pets that require attention, etc). Pursuit of freedom, just like the pursuit… Read more »

imelda
imelda
8 years ago

This is so funny…. I was going to comment about how I disagree with all the commenters here who equate choice with freedom. But I couldn’t express it eloquently enough.

I JUST happened to open up this TED talk by Barry Schwartz, the Paradox of Choice: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VO6XEQIsCoM

He expresses it perfectly. Western society is obsessed with more choice = personal freedom = the greater good. This is not true!

J.D. Roth
J.D. Roth
8 years ago

Thanks for all the comments today, including the criticisms. Kate C, especially, has had some constructive things to say. I appreciate the rest of the feedback too, even if I disagree with it. For one thing, I’m not trying to pretend I have the answers to life. I don’t. I didn’t intend to argue that my definition of freedom was correct. I’m not even convinced of it myself. I’m thinking out loud, trying to explore these ideas. So trying to tell me that I’m immature for wording things the way I did doesn’t really bug me because I can see… Read more »

imelda
imelda
8 years ago
Reply to  J.D. Roth

I dislike the lifestyle bloggers because I think they’re chasing false idols. They think that a 4-hour workweek in a meaningless company, or owning less than 100 objects, or living a nomadic life, or whatever, will make you happy.

They suggest that you can design the perfect life, one that will make you happy every minute of every day – just like them!

Ugh. I like PF blogs because they’re about reaching goals, not chasing some impossibly high image of the Good Life.

J.D. Roth
J.D. Roth
8 years ago
Reply to  imelda

Well, I’m with you there. A four-hour workweek? Owning less than 100 things? These things don’t interest me, and I think they’re distractions. Plus, I don’t think there’s any such thing as a “perfect life”. But a better life. I think that’s worth working toward. I just think “better” is going to be different for each person.

greg12
greg12
8 years ago
Reply to  imelda

What you dislike is the fact that you can’t live up to the standards other people have set for themselves.

Ask yourself why you care about not meeting their standards in the first place… and do what works for you… and you’ll find that you’re a lot less annoyed by a lot of things.

I don’t need a 4-hour work week but I don’t begrudge those for whom it’s a goal either.

Jaime
Jaime
8 years ago
Reply to  imelda

Imelda, I disagree. Some people are happy with a nomadic lifestyle. What’s wrong with that? I don’t agree with the 4 hour work week because its unrealistic for most people. I don’t own 100 things, but I do own enough stuff and 99% of it is used on a daily basis. You shouldn’t look down on people just because they make different choices from you. IMO JD Roth seems to be saying that with if you’re debt free and have money then you have financial freedom. Dave Ramsey says “Live like no one else and later on you can live… Read more »

Jaime
Jaime
8 years ago
Reply to  J.D. Roth

IMO I think sometimes people get jealous of people that achieve success, but deep down they want what you have, financial freedom. That’s why you see the nasty comments. But I hope you succeed, I hope your writers succeed as well. I think its a shame to see nasty and jealous comments. For some people easier to be negative than to be positive and improve their lives. When I was growing up my mom always said “Take what works and leave what doesn’t.” I don’t get why people can’t apply that to their own lives when they read GRS. Seriously.… Read more »

Anne
Anne
8 years ago
Reply to  Jaime

Ahhh… yes, The jealousy card. The one that gets played any time someone voices a different opinion. Heaven forbid anyone disagree with this round of super-deep arm chair philosophizing between lifestyle bloggers. Would I like a big pile of money? Sure. Do I want to blog for it? No. I absolutely hated blogging every time I tried it. He did the work and he gets the reward. What I know about my friends who are self-employed is that they really do earn every penny. In some ways their lives look freer and more flexible and in others ways they are… Read more »

Anne
Anne
8 years ago
Reply to  J.D. Roth

At a certain point, you have to look beyond “Do what works for you”. If you apply it to EVERYTHING, it becomes an empty slogan. At some point life goes beyond that. Having children isn’t something I did because it “worked for me”. It’s so much more complicated and nuanced than that. It’s too shallow a perspective to simply say “well you chose to be a mother, so you’re as free today as the day you made that choice”. Why not look for information rather than confirmation when you write these types of articles. My guess is you don’t treat… Read more »

J.D. Roth
J.D. Roth
8 years ago
Reply to  Anne

Hey, Anne. You’re right, of course, that “do what works for you” — or any other general advice, really — isn’t meaningful for all situations. And I’m not suggesting that it should be applied to all situations. (Although there’s no doubt that I’m a relativist and see the world in shades of grey, not as a place filled with blacks and whites.) That said, I think that freedom is one of those things that’s personal for everyone, as the comments on this post demonstrate. “Do what works for you” is applicable in this case. I don’t think everyone should live… Read more »

Jaime
Jaime
8 years ago
Reply to  Anne

Take what works and leave what doesn’t, my mom taught me that. I don’t think that JD expects us to be his sheep. Personally I love the “do what works” philosophy because it means to me that everyone has to find their own path and people find happiness with different paths. There is no one right path for people. I wouldn’t can food, in fact it would make me unhappy, I’d rather shop for groceries. I also don’t like to travel solo. Most of my life I’ve gone on trips with friends, boyfriend, or parents. I wouldn’t buy a mini… Read more »

Tyler Tervooren
Tyler Tervooren
8 years ago

Thanks so much for coming out this weekend, J.D.! GRS has been such an inspiration to me for years and Jessie and I were so excited to have you. I’m even more happy to know the “Field Assembly” sparked some useful thoughts and ideas for you.

I’m sorry we didn’t get to chat more; hopefully we can catch up again soon.

Best wishes to you and your new phase of freedom exploration. 🙂

bobj
bobj
8 years ago

if i had enough money i would have the freedom to tell my boss where to go.

Becky+P.
Becky+P.
8 years ago

I wish you would read the book of Ecclesiastes in the Bible, JD. Solomon had it all (money, women, etc.). And he wrote about it.

His conclusion is in the last chapter. It is certainly worth your time–even if just as literature and not as something you actually believe in.

Louisa
Louisa
8 years ago

I too have enough money that I no longer have to worry about paying bills or other necessities, and freedom from that kind of worry has lightened my soul.

But I don’t believe freedom exists in a vacuum. If I’m free, and most others aren’t, I don’t think my freedom is going to mean much. Our society is increasingly fraught, and I believe the more I use my time, energy and resources to do what I can to heal the divisions that I see everyday around me, the more freedom I will have.

Elyn Tromey
Elyn Tromey
8 years ago

In my life, I’ve been both broke and wealthy. The broke part of my life taught me something valuable that frees me from a lot of fear that other wealthy people have: I know that I can survive being broke. Having money gives me more mobility, but if I didn’t have the emotional freedom from fear first, money would only ratchet those fears up. Freedom is an internal state of mind. If you aren’t internally free and you get a windfall, you will feel even less free. If you are internally free and you get a windfall, then you can… Read more »

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