Pathway to Financial Freedom

The Middle Way

If it’s okay with you, dear reader, I would like to step back from talking about investing to ask why we invest our money in stock, bond and other financial markets?

A softball question? A naïve question? Absurd? Do I know anything about investing and money, you may ask? Alright, before I have to fend off any more imaginary attacks on myself, I’ll say that, of course, a primary reason we invest is to make money. Sure, but why do we want to use our discretionary income to make more money? Drum roll please:

And The Winner Is … To Fund Retirement, The Sooner The Better. In my informal survey that may very well wobble under scientific scrutiny but is nevertheless supported by the hordes of starry-eyed people who buy weekly lottery tickets in hopes of striking it rich despite the preposterously long odds against winning, the number one reason for wanting to amass a small or large monetary fortune is so you do not have to work anymore.

        Chewy Bit: Lottery ticket purchases are not a savvy retirement plan; and hope is not a strategy.

Still, let’s say you win, um, $15 million bucks. With that kind of dough, you can stick it in a high interest savings account earning 1% and generate $150,000 per year before tax. So you’re done. You quit your job. You’re off the treadmill. You never have another financial concern in your life. Good for you, having achieved financial security, a most worthy goal for you and your family. Mission accomplished, the question arises, now what? What do you do with your life? Before BuddhaMoney tackles this existential gem, consider another scenario, which is unfortunately all too common.

Let’s say 30 year old Professional Man (because this scenario typically applies to men; women seem better able to grasp big picture living) sets his sight on retiring from work at age 55. He makes a six-figure income, lives within his means, and conservatively invests his savings. The years pass on by, Professional Man rounds 40 with financial goals on target. As he approaches 50, he’s confident, knowing his dream will soon become reality; he will be able to quit his job and live a comfortable life, drawing income from dividends and interest earned on his now substantial assets. Happy days indeed! Professional Man gives notice to his employer, and reports his newfound freedom to friends and family. His friend, Wanda, who worked at the same company in a similar position as Professional Man, gives him a hug and a kiss, congratulates him and then asks, “So now what will you do with the rest of your life?” Professional Man pauses, then replies, “That’s a good question. I’ve been so busy all these years working toward my goal of financial freedom that I haven’t thought about what I’ll do now.”

Enter Buddha. The big guy enters, sits on the floor, and meditates for a while before sharing wisdom.

‘The financial industry loves to talk about attaining financial freedom. What does this mean? That you should adopt a mantra of excessive thriftiness, scrimp and save and count and invest every last penny all so you may stop working sooner rather than later? Is this what life is about, not working? No. Early retirement is not the goal. Living a balanced life is the goal, from beginning to end.

Balance means moderation or what its called The Middle Way. Balance means avoiding extremes, such as wanting it all or giving it all up. Balance means finding purpose and satisfaction in activity, whether that activity be paid work or not. Balance means a contented body, mind and spirit. Balance means hiking the Rocky Mountains or taking the kids to Disneyworld, knowing you can afford these vacations, and knowing the life experience is worth more than retiring a year earlier. Balance means not buying a bigger house because the expense would be too much of a stretch, possibly a source of ongoing stress, and you don’t really need it anyway. When you live a balanced life, you have true freedom, no matter what your age.’