Growing up, I could never resonate with many other peers in school that had fancy name-brand clothes, the newest cell phone on the market, or what seemed to be an endless supply of video game consoles and games to with them. By no means was my family poor, but we did have some tough times to weather as I was becoming a young adult. In my earlier years, I remember asking myself why my family was different and why we couldn’t have the same things as the other kids on the block. I discovered the answer to that many years later…
My parents got divorced when I was 14, which subsequently, was the same year I started high school. I remember absolutely hating my first day of 9th grade. I was already upset after having to move to my Uncle’s house with my mom and my sister due to the divorce and selling the family home. Adding the stress of attending a new school just didn’t make it any better. Over the next several months, my mom, my sister and me, went through the motions every day making the best of the situation. I knew my mom was having a difficult time dealing with the divorce proceedings and the overall headache it caused. I didn’t understand at the time to what extent the burden actually was until I found a document on our shared computer.
My mom had bought a computer after the divorce for the three of us since my dad essentially “owned” all of our family’s electronics, and we didn’t end up taking all of our old data. On this new computer was a spreadsheet my mom had created outlining all of our monthly expenses including all the essentials and some small extras that my sister or I wanted here or there. As I worked my way to the end of the expense sheet, I noticed a couple figures that were preceded by the titles “Credit Card 1”, “Credit Card 2”, etc…. Come to find out, my mother was paying down over $40,000 in credit card debt that my dad had racked up over the years incessantly buying things that we could not afford. My mom did not approve of a single charge that was made. What made an even stronger impact on me, was the last line on the expense sheet. The last line indicated what was left over after everything was paid. It was 5 dollars… and I cried when I saw that figure. Not because we didn’t have any money left over to buy things, but because despite the fact my mother having overwhelming financial odds against her, she was diligent with her money habits enough to still save the slightest amount. This was right before the financial crash in 2008/2009….
Getting Out Alive
After the financial crisis hit, nothing really changed for my family. Luckily, we had sold our house right before the market crashed, and we were only paying a small rent amount to my uncle while we lived with him. My mother to this day is the lynchpin at her company, so there wasn’t really any reason to worry that she would lose her job back then either. She didn’t have much in her retirement accounts due to paying down debt, so she didn’t end up losing much in those. My sister and I continued to go to school as normal. All in all, we were doing pretty good when, to others, it seemed like the world was falling apart.
What’s important in this story is that my mother did everything she could to educate me in understanding personal finance and how money is a tool rather than just something you accumulate and save over time. My father was the complete opposite in regards to how he handled money and it scared the absolute shit out of me. My mother got stuck in a massive bind because she trusted that someone else could handle money the same way she could. Obviously, that was not the case and she paid the price. My father eventually filed for bankruptcy which completely relieved him of any credit card debt he had. Meanwhile, my mother carried that debt for the next 8 years of her life. She is the reason why I have become so involved in personal finance and the real estate community. What happened to her is unfair, and it was completely avoidable. Someday I hope to pay her back for everything she’s done for me.
Attaining Your Goals
So what exactly is financial freedom? Well to me, it’s the point at which you are able to forgo the daily grind of showing up to a 9-5 job and live on your own terms doing what you want to do. It’s sharing time with family and friends without having to worry about deadlines. It’s working on a start up project or investing in a community organization because your passion for it is what wakes you up in the morning, not an alarm clock.
It doesn’t stop there either. You have unlimited options once you are financially free. Passive income is what drives your ability to do what you care about in almost every aspect of life. You just have to be disciplined to get there. Compound interest is a powerful tool if you can start saving and investing at a young age. For me, real estate is a major part of my plan to achieve financial freedom. It’s an asset class that I am most interested in and can prove to be incredibly lucrative if done effectively. Whatever type of investing you do, just make sure to start as early as you can. Whether it’s simply saving a million dollars and living off the dividends, or selling off a new company you create, hustle to the very end.
I’ve been lucky enough to meet individuals over the past couple years who have truly made it in life. These people never have to succumb to another second of working for someone else. They can do as they please for the rest of their lives. They have learned the fundamentals that allow them to preserve this state perpetually and even pass it on to their children. If you want it bad enough, and learn all that you can. You too, will succeed in your mission of financial freedom and I’ll be right there with you.