On Wednesday I read “A message of freedom” over at DailyWorth. It pointed out that “happy Independence Day” could also be read as “happy freedom day,” i.e., the freedom to live the way you want if you take responsibility for your finances.
“Happy freedom to dream differently, choose carefully and slow down a little right now day,” wrote site founder and CEO Amanda Steinberg.
“Declare it. What is your freedom?”
Steinberg’s statement jibed pretty well with what I’ve been mulling over for the past few days: Frugality made me independent and it keeps me that way.
Being careful with my money helped me earn a midlife degree. Sheepskin in hand and unencumbered – no student loans, no consumer debt – I realized that there was no urgent need to look for a full-time job. Good thing, since I was pretty overwhelmed.
In the 31 months since leaving the University of Washington I’ve roamed around the country, gone to five conferences (and spoken at two of them), visited family and friends, donated to various causes (including a scholarship fund that helped me), spent a couple of weeks in the United Kingdom, written a lot – and never once thought about a typical 9-to-5 gig.
When I graduated I told myself that I needed time before applying for a full-time job. What I likely knew all along is that I don’t want to take that kind of job.
If I were in my early 20s and looking to start a career, sure. But I’m in my soon-to-be-mid-50s and I’ve had a career (print journalism) that segued into a second, related career (Internet journalism). At this stage of life, freelancing suits me. So does that new catchphrase, “location independent.” As long as my work gets done my editor doesn’t care where the doing takes place, whether it’s my daughter’s spare room or a McDonald’s in Cardiff, Wales.
What is stability?
I’m luckier than many freelancers in that I have an annual contract. As nice as that is it’s still, well, annual. Sometimes I think stability would be nice, but I get over it. (Edited to add: That situation changed quite suddenly in September 2012.)
Besides, ask anyone with a square job how stable he thinks that line of work is. I distinctly remember thinking, “I’m lucky to be a writer – people will always need newspapers.”
Do you know anyone who is completely confident that his job will last for decades? I don’t. If I did, I’d suggest a course of anti-delusion pills.
Life could change at any time, which is why I continue to fund my own retirement, build an emergency fund and add to savings. To do that while living the life I’ve chosen, it’s necessary to be judicious about spending.
Careless use of money would greatly limit my options. Frugality supports them. Happy independence day, indeed.
Readers: I’d love to hear your answers to Steinberg’s challenge. Leave a comment declaring your freedom, or your plans to get yourself there.