In Congress, July 4, 1776, the unanimous Declaration of the 13 United States of America, “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.”
As we celebrate Independence Day, 2018, what does freedom and independence mean?
Seth Godin is a serial entrepreneur, author of 17 bestselling books and founder of several companies. In his 2014 tome, “What To Do When It’s Your Turn (And It’s Always Your Turn),” Godin highlighted the opportunity that is freedom. The freedom to “connect, lead, initiate, learn, work, create, choose, to do what matters.”
He also noted, “The problem is freedom.”
Some people can’t handle freedom. “Or more accurately, we believe we can’t handle it. Freedom brings the appearance of risk, freedom brings responsibility, freedom means we must make a choice.”
In her landmark hit, “Me and Bobby McGee,” gravely-voiced Janis Joplin sang, “Freedom’s just another word for nothin’ left to lose.” The song was released in January, 1971, four months after Janis died at age 27 of an accidental drug overdose.
As Seth Godin opined, freedom is both “our problem and our opportunity.” It was for our nascent nation in 1776, and is today. It is for our children and grandchildren as minors and as adults. It is for us throughout our lifetime. God gave us the freedom to choose, both an opportunity and a burden that impacts our life now and for eternity. What we do with the gift of freedom is up to us.
One of the goals of financial life planning is to promote freedom, free enterprise, and individual freedom and confidence. That points to the quest for financial freedom, but it goes beyond that. An experienced financial advisor is smart enough to know that financial planning is about far more than money. Our role is not to tell you what to do.
Our role is to take what we have learned and facilitate your decision making as to what’s best for you and the people you love and care for. It’s to ask good questions and help you to envision what’s possible given life’s myriad transitions, to identify alternatives, find or create resources, frame expectations, and monitor progress.
Seth Godin acknowledges freedom begets fear...fear of the unknown, fear of change, fear of stupidity. One way some cope, he says, is to avoid change, to avoid freedom. Traveling in Russia, I learned that some older folks missed the Soviet Union, where they were told what to do.
Freedom means you may be wrong. Godin counsels, “Liberate yourself from the need to be right.” You will go down rabbit trails and make mistakes, seed corn for wisdom and the learning curve leading to success. Money is not independence per se.
Once you get past basic survival and move toward what Abraham Maslow called “self-actualization,” money can expand choices, choices good and rewarding or choices sadly destructive. Addiction, for example, corrodes the power of choice.
Independence is a state of mind more than anything else. It means one can conquer fear, deal with the unknown, and still move ahead. It’s a willingness to take a chance, accept a new job or career change, relocate to a new place, pursue education, grow an enterprise, get married, start a family, buy a house, quit a debilitating job before you have a new position, innovate with no certainty as to outcome, fly halfway around the world to a strange and new country, stand up for what’s right even when the crowd is against you, tell the truth.
Seth Godin asks, “Who will you help? What connection will you make? What will you dare to care about?” Avoid the trap of saying, “I had no choice.” You always have a choice. Freedom is about being your own man or woman, and that’s not always easy.
Outside of winning the lottery or garnering an inheritance or gift, money must be earned. You may be perfectly happy with simple living and the wages of the predictable. But for many, financial accumulation means taking risks of some kind. A goal of financial planning is to put risk/reward in perspective. Writer Godin suggests, “Dance with fear. Be paranoid about mediocrity. See the world as it is. Be the boss of you.”
May God bless you, yours, and “the land of the free and the home of the brave!”
Lewis Walker, CFP®, is a financial life planning strategist at Capital Insight Group; 770-441-2603. Securities and advisory services offered through The Strategic Financial Alliance, Inc. (SFA). Lewis Walker is a registered representative and investment adviser representative of SFA which is otherwise unaffiliated with Capital Insight Group. He is a Gallup Certified Strengths Coach and a Certified Exit Planning Advisor (CEPA®).