According to a recent poll of 2,000 U.S. adults, “financial independence” equates to earning $94,000 per year, or about $20,000 more than the median income in 2023.

Some folks might feel like they’re just a promotion or two away from achieving that kind of independence. Others might not feel like $94,000 isn’t enough to feel truly free. And still others might wonder how they’d ever spend that much money in the first place.

 That’s because true financial independence isn’t a number. So if it’s not a number, then what is financial independence?   

It’s feeling confident enough in your money to do things that will improve your Return on Life, such as:

1. Spend without worrying

In our experience, it’s true that money can’t buy happiness. But it’s also true that being able to treat yourself and your family without worrying about paying your credit card bill at the end of the month is a pretty great feeling as well.

No matter how much you’re earning, setting a monthly spending budget can help you cover your necessities, contributes to your retirement goals, and have a little fun along the way. A budget can also help you plan ahead for responsible “big ticket” splurges, like a dream vacation or adding a pool to the backyard.

2. Enrich your children

Unless your kids love spending a lot of time at the local library, enrichment isn’t free. According to Lending Tree, parents spent an average of $731 per child per year on extracurriculars. You might spend thousands of dollars every year on a good athlete or ballerina through their teenage years … which is when the bills really start rolling in. The average cost of a year of college for the 2023-24 school year is $10,662 at an in-state public school, and $42,162 at a private school. This is for tuition ONLY…room and board will be in addition, and if you haven’t noticed, rent cost is much higher now than it used to be!

Parents might not feel truly free until they’ve passed that big COLLEGE goal until the last payment has been made. But with that goal in sight, we can help you start planning a combination of savings and investments that will reduce some of the sticker shock when the time comes. And by including some of your children’s activities in your budgeting and long-term plans, you might be able to sign them up for a few extra classes that round out their development or allow them to dig more deeply into their passions.

3. Change careers

Once upon a time, your high school guidance counselor might have challenged you to imagine what you’d do for a job if you didn’t need money. Setting aside your teenage dreams of being a rock singer or astronaut, do you have the means to make that switch right now?

Well, if money isn’t stopping you, then what is?  Is it time to re-train and re-tool for Career 2.0 or 3.0?

Taking a lower-paying job at a company or charitable organization that does work you admire could give you an opportunity to put your professional skills to their highest uses. Rather than trying to climb a ladder or earn a bigger paycheck, you can focus on the mission at hand and the people and causes you’ll be impacting.

4. Retire

Or maybe you’re feeling independent enough to stop working all together.

Folks who plan their retirement around hitting some arbitrary financial number often put off retirement longer than they need to. Remember, financial independence isn’t a number. 

Seeing how your plan can make your retirement possible while also providing for long-term goals like vacationing or relocating could give you the security you need to feel financially independent. Want to discuss this further?  Reach out to me and let’s start planning to earn more Return on Life (ROL) and more freedom from your money.