Saturday, September 1, 2007

Gimme Financial Freedom, Gimme Bliss

Finding what you're meant to do is one thing. Actually being able to afford it is another. Which is why I think focusing on the financial realities of pursuing your bliss is definitely worth thinking about. After all, this is meant to be a practical guide, no?

I've been mulling this over myself a great deal, especially as I begin to visualize the next steps of my life and decide whether to chuck the stable salary and jump full time into the world of freelancing and multiple income streams. A book I've found extremely useful in this endeavor is Michelle Goodman's funny, helpful, inspiring book, The Anti 9-to-5 Guide. She talks a lot about figuring out what your budget is, figuring out what you can make, how much your business/service will cost you to set up, etc.

The contribution I hope to add here isn't so much practical in terms of accounting, but in a larger attitude shift on how you relate to money. The question here isn't so much, What can I make? but rather, What do I want from money?

Here is where most people say, Well, I'd like to eat, Tiffany, how about you? Yes, eating is good! I'm for eating! And having good shelter, and shoes and enough money to fix the car. Absolutely. This is not where I advocate either living the life of an ascetic, or making terrible sacrifices to your health or welfare.

This is where I advocate taking a long, hard look at what you want from the money you do earn. Do you really want a number, i.e. $60,000, or an experience, i.e. enough money to pay your bills and take a nice vacation once a year? In other words, don't fixate on the dollar figure, but figure out what kind of life is important for you, personally, to live, and how much you really, honestly need to make that happen. Yes, money is nice, but I know too many people who have this idea that if they only made this much, then things would really take shape.

It is my belief that money should represent something to you. For me, having a certain amount represents the freedom to do what I want for a living. Basically, I want that from my money. And as I said earlier, I am in the process of figuring out how much money gets me that freedom. I may be strange, but I've never wanted money just for the sake of having it. Even though I'm incredibly frugal. In fact, I think my frugality comes from this sense that whenever I save something I see it as something I really want--a trip to see a friend, or a cushion for when I do start my freelance career and really need it.

So, here is a list of questions you might want to ask yourself:

1. What do I want from money?
2. What do I see when I see money? Do I see an abstract "wealth," or do I see an image of myself living a certain kind of life?
3. How badly do I want to make money beyond what will pay my bills and allow me to live comfortably? Why is it this amount and why might I want it so badly?
4. Have my feelings toward money ever made me do something I didn't want to do or something I wasn't proud of?
5. What is the minimum figure of income that I need to make to feel secure? What makes that number seem reasonable?
6. Is that minimum number possible in a career that feels more in line with who I am and what I'm meant to do?

In America, it is difficult to talk, and sometimes even think about, what money really means to us, and what we really want from it. There's sort of an assumption that more is better, and that the more you have, the better everything is. If you challenge that, or find that you don't particularly care to give over your life for more and more money, you can find yourself doubting your normalcy or even feeling guilty about your level of ambition. One thing that we should all do, regardless of our current income is to save. Even if we don't know what our relationship toward money is just yet, we can make sure we have a little extra when we do figure it out, and that our dreams don't have to be delayed (or at least delayed as long) because of money.

Something that's important to remember is that when you do something you love, you tend to do it with more enthusiasm. I don't know about you, but it seems like doing an awesome job at something you love instead of a half-hearted effort at something you hate might actually pay off--financially as well as spiritually. One of Joseph Campbell's corollaries to "follow your bliss" was this: "Follow your bliss, and the money will follow."

Good luck as you contemplate these questions; I'll update you on any changes in my own financial outlook as I take the next steps on my journey.

No comments: