What Does Financial Independence Mean to You?

Good morning all! Today I am blog swapping with John from Frugal Rules who gives us his opinion on financial independence. Please visit his site too, I wrote a guest post about how to learn languages frugally! 

What Does Financial Independence Mean to You?

What Does Financial Independence Mean to You?


We live in a society that tells us we need to have a lot of money and things to be happy. The message is everywhere, from TV ads to products that get hawked at on us the radio to our own inner conscience telling us we need something to feel complete. It’s easy to equate wealth with financial independence. Heck, even I can’t count the number of times I’ve told my wife that I wish we were independently wealthy. Experience tells me that wealth and financial independence are distinct. Many people burn loads of cash each month because they’re not living a disciplined life. Undisciplined individuals, no matter how wealthy, are not financially independent. The key to financial independence is being free from financial obligation to others.


Financial Independence Looks Different For Everyone


What works for one individual will not work for another, and the person with little might have more financial independence than the person rolling in cash. We all have different lives and experience different circumstances, but we all have the responsibility to find the level of financial independence that is right for us. Just because the person next to you desires to be retired by the age of 40 and you don’t does not mean that you’re not financially independent, it just means independence looks differently for you.


Being Obligated to Others Does Not Make Independence


The person who’s jet-setting and living high on the hog but has credit card debt up to his eyeballs is not independent; he’s bankrolling an extravagant lifestyle off the scrupulous lending of others. Those “others” are credit card companies that stand to make a killing from the interest earned on the loans they make to those who cannot stand to live within their means. Independence, by definition and nature, is to be free from others. Free from owing others and free to do as you choose. But, just because you can choose to do something does not mean it should be done. Being financially independent requires discipline and a conscious choice to live a certain way.


Financial Independence is What Helps You Sleep at Night


Ultimately what financial independence looks like is what helps you sleep at night. For some that means absolutely no debt, not even a mortgage. For others, that means they’re ok with some debt, even credit card debt as long as they can keep their heads above water. There is not one cookie cutter approach to financial independence, but simply what helps you be at peace. I used to have a terrible addiction, self-imposed at that, to credit cards and I will never go back to that situation ever again. That is how I sleep at night, knowing that what I have is mine because my wife and I bought it with our own money and is thus wholly ours.

What Does My Financial Independence Look Like?


What my financial independence looks like is being free from virtually all forms of debt. The only debt my wife and I carry is our mortgage debt and if I could, I would get rid of that altogether. We don’t necessarily have dreams of retiring when we’re 40 or rolling in cash, but our independence is one of balance. It’s one that allows us to make choices and know we can do it because we’ve been frugal, lived to a budget and have the funds to do whatever it is we’ve chosen. It’s an independence that allows us to do this on our own, without having to pay someone back. It’s an independence that looks past what we’re doing today with a view to the future.


What does financial independence look like to you? What are you doing to get there?



John is the founder of Frugal Rules, a finance blog that regularly discusses investing, budgeting, and frugal living. John is a father, husband, and veteran of the financial services industry who’s passionate about helping people find freedom through frugality. Visit him at frugalrules.com.






A 30 something French girl embarking on a journey towards Financial Independence. I blog about money, travel, simple and deliberate living, freedom and choices. You can find me on Twitter, Google+, or Reach Financial Independence's Facebook Page

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  1. Financial Independence to me doesn’t necessarily mean being debt free, but having enough in assets to cover all my debts as well and/or a cushion of finances that will help me if I hit hard times. I’m not there yet, but I hope to be sometime in the future.

    Nice to see you two do a blog swap, definitely enjoyed both the posts.
    DC @ Young Adult Money recently posted..The Cost of Dog OwnershipMy Profile

  2. That’s a great way to look at it DC! Having enough to cover you when or if you hit a rough patch is key to financial independence. That way you might not have to depend on debt to get through it.
    John S @ Frugal Rules recently posted..Tips on Learning Languages FrugallyMy Profile

  3. For us, financial independence is being debt free. That way we are not obligated to anybody but ourselves. It gives us so many more options with what we wish to do with our lives. We may start our own business. We definitely will be able to do more traveling. Being financially independent means that we will be able to take more risk.
    Greg@ClubThrifty recently posted..I Am a Cheap-Ass Santa: A Christmas Shopping RantMy Profile

  4. That’s basically how I feel Greg. Being free of that debt and being able to have more control over your future is key for me as well.
    John recently posted..Tips on Learning Languages FrugallyMy Profile

  5. I agree with DC, being financially independent is not the same thing as debt-free to me. It means being able to cover all my current expenses using my current income (not credit) but also having a plan to cover emergency expenses (which may include credit).

    Technically, I already consider myself financially independent because I don’t have anyone else to rely on for financial assistance. Debt has made what I have today possible (student loans) and I have a set plan for paying it off, so it is not out of my control.
    Leslie recently posted..Budgeting & Economics 101 with Scrooge McDuckMy Profile

  6. I would agree Leslie that not having to depend or rely on others for support is a big part of being financially independent. That’s a great way of looking at your debt though, in your student loans, in that it can put you in a better position to further yourself financially.
    John recently posted..Tips on Learning Languages FrugallyMy Profile

  7. Independence for me is not having any debt, having a good cushion of savings, and having the flexibility to do things I like to do like travel. Not having limits at least within reason would be my idea of independence.
    Miss T @ Prairie Eco-Thrifter recently posted..Heat Yourself Not Your Home This WinterMy Profile

  8. Sounds like you and I are on the same page Miss T! I don’t need millions of dollars, but being debt free and not having to worry about if I can do something is a key part to being financially independent.
    John recently posted..Tips on Learning Languages FrugallyMy Profile

  9. Jennifer Lynn @ Broke-Ass Mommy says:

    Being financially independent is not being indebted, or enslaved, to another person(s) in such a way that they are siphoning off my life energy. The most precious commodity is time, and how I choose to utilize that limited quantity of time essentially is then left up to me.
    Jennifer Lynn @ Broke-Ass Mommy recently posted..Cripes. Nearly Our Entire Family Emergency Savings Got Gobbled UpMy Profile

  10. I could not agree more Jennifer. Time is the most precious commodity we have. I don’t want to be held back on my usage of it because I’ve been wasteful with my money.
    John recently posted..Tips on Learning Languages FrugallyMy Profile

  11. I’m sure my answer will change as I go through life but right now financial independence is being debt free (minus our mortgage). I just can’t help but fantasize about the life I know we can have when it happens (maybe become a stay at home momma?!!). good post john!
    Catherine recently posted..Do You Really Need Dental Insurance?My Profile

  12. Thanks Catherine! It looks like you’re the same as others, which I whole heartedly agree with.
    John recently posted..Tips on Learning Languages FrugallyMy Profile

  13. It’s so funny, because a lot of times I think financial freedom would be making a certain dollar amount. When I look at that number, I realize a lot of PF bloggers are already there and striving for more. Good habits go a long way to making sure you can live on whatever you make for sure. But debt-free, comfortable, and ability to travel and retire at a reasonable age would be my criteria.
    femmefrugality recently posted..Help me earn a $10,000 scholarship!My Profile

  14. I agree that it does not really matter on how much you make which determines your financial independence, it’s how you manage whats you have. If you manage it right, you can get farther on less as opposed to those who make plenty.
    John recently posted..Tips on Learning Languages FrugallyMy Profile

  15. Mandy @ MoneyMasterMom says:

    We’re working towards being Financially independent in a few years. To us it looks like passive income supplying the bulk of our needs so that we can choose when and when not to work. We don’t want to retire to video gaming the rest of our days, but we’d like the Freedom to work because we want to, not because we have to.
    Mandy @ MoneyMasterMom recently posted..My First GiveawayMy Profile

  16. Passive income is a great way to achieve Financial independence Mandy! I think that’s something many can overlook, but it’s quite a useful tool. I also want to have the ability of choosing to work as opposed to having to.
    John recently posted..Tips on Learning Languages FrugallyMy Profile

  17. Financial independence for us is having some form of control over our financial future. We want to be able to have choices in life. I may want to quit my job one day and start working for Home Depot because I might love helping others design kitchens (example). I want the ability to have this freedom. You are right everyone values their money differently and for the most part I respect that. I think we as individuals need to come to terms with what we want and strive to meet those goals in a realistic fashion. Balancing our life with our wants and needs and living life to the fullest to what we value is most important. Great post!!! Mr.CBB
    Canadian Budget Binder recently posted..CBB Family Net Worth Update~October 2012My Profile

  18. Thanks! Great points Mr. CBB. I think the majority of it does come down to being able to make choices in life. I want to have the abiility to have freedom as well and make the choices I want and the ones I have to because I’ve lived an undisciplined life previously.
    John recently posted..Tips on Learning Languages FrugallyMy Profile

  19. Financial independence means making enough money each month that I a) don’t have to worry about how I’m going to pay my bills, b) have money saved up in case of an emergency, c) plenty of money saved for retirement, and d) enough money left over to do the leisure thins I enjoy. Perhaps even own property someday. Currently, I barely have any of those.
    Budget & the Beach recently posted..Financial ConfidenceMy Profile

  20. I can relate TL. It can be difficult to meet those things when income can fluctuate. I think key to moving out of that is having a vision, which I can definitely tell you have. I find that having a vision is what keeps me going when the going gets tough.
    John recently posted..Tips on Learning Languages FrugallyMy Profile

  21. My idea is much like Mandy and Mr. CBB. I want to have no debt, passive income, and be able to work because I choose, not because I am a slave to the grind. I might change careers and become a dog sitter or own a laundromat or do eye exams for free.
    Kim@Eyesonthedollar recently posted..Can Once a Month Cooking Help Your Grocery Budget?My Profile

  22. Well, it looks like you’re in good company Kim! I am much the same way and would much rather work because I want to and not because I have to.
    John recently posted..Tips on Learning Languages FrugallyMy Profile

  23. Veronica @ Pelican on Money says:

    For me, financial independence is having enough money to afford anything I want. And I don’t want expensive things… no fancy house, no fancy cars, just be able to go on vacation whenever I want, retire happily without worries and have something to pass onto kids (someday).
    Veronica @ Pelican on Money recently posted..“Secret” Forumla for Living ComfortablyMy Profile

  24. That’s a great way of looking at it Veronica…I look at it much of the same way. I really don’t want anything high priced, but the ability to do something when I want and not have to worry about where the money is going to come from.
    John recently posted..Are Large Companies Immune to the Fiscal Cliff?My Profile

  25. Financial independence to me is having enough money coming in to not have to go to work everyday, or go to work doing something that I like doing.

    I’ve got a number of different irons in the fire. Hopefully one day I can live the dream
    Glen @ Monster Piggy Bank recently posted..Opportunity to earn money on your blogMy Profile

  26. Sounds like you’re like many of the others Glen. :) I feel the same way.
    John recently posted..Are Large Companies Immune to the Fiscal Cliff?My Profile

  27. To me financial independence means being able to do what I want.
    My managerial professor said that to her being financially independent is being able to write a check for her church to buy a new roof if the time ever comes, which really stuck with me.
    Justin@thefrugalpath recently posted..The Saver’s Tax Credit 2012My Profile

  28. I would agree Justin. Being able to do what you want without regard to being obligated to someone or something is pretty independent in my books.
    John recently posted..Frugal Friday: Posts That Ruled This Week, Thanksgiving is NEXT Week Edition!?My Profile

  29. I don’t have a definition, really. I think the goalposts are always moving. I guess the key tenet is ‘not worrying about money’ – having a buffer in case of income loss, the freedom to travel, etc.
    eemusings recently posted..Link love (Powered by sugar cookies and new faces)My Profile

  30. That’s an interesting take. I can see your point, especially with the view of not worrying about money. That’s key in having independence I think and can be hard to do if living financially undisciplined.
    John S @ Frugal Rules recently posted..Be an Advocate For Your Own Health CareMy Profile

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