How Does Your View of Independence Affect Your Return on Life?

Lee McGowan |

Independence is an important value to all Americans. It's also a value that's central to how we feel about and use our money. When we feel financially free, we can make a wider variety of choices, pursue our passions, and find our ideal version of work-life balance.

As we move past the 4th of July and head into the second half of the year, ask yourself how these three areas of financial independence are affecting your planning and how to get more Return on Life going forward.

1. Career independence.

Very few people can say that they are totally free in their careers. "Independent" contractors and self-employed business owners still answer to customers and creditors. CEOs have to watch stock tickers and keep their boards happy. Nonprofits have missions to fulfill. And corporate workers just starting their climbs or contemplating a series of "jungle gym" swings have to execute the boss' vision to keep the company -- and their careers -- in motion.

What a solid financial plan can provide is an added sense of security as you navigate the ups and downs of your career. Unexpected unemployment won't hit quite as hard if you have emergency savings buckets that you can fall back on. Going on a sabbatical to learn new skills or recharge will be more manageable. Taking a big leap into a new field won't feel quite as scary if you're not weighed down by debt or uncertain how your tax situation, health care, and portfolio will change. And once you reach retirement, your nest egg could give you the support you need to start a second act, whether that means taking a teaching position, working part time for a local charity, or even starting your own company and hiring yourself as CEO.

2. Charitable independence.

Money worries are often one of the biggest obstacles between our best intentions and giving back more. Even if we've read some of the research that's found a strong link between spending on others and happiness, we worry that giving too much could be putting other financial goals at risk. And many folks who do give regularly might be able to give more if they didn’t feel guilty about tax-advantaged moves like making qualified charitable distributions from their IRA accounts.

But while thinking about tax deductions might not feel as good as writing a check when you're so moved, incorporating giving into your financial plan can give you the freedom to do more good longer. By targeting reputable causes and charities, you'll feel more confident that your money is being put to the best possible uses. And by adding up your receipts at tax time or creating a charitable trust, you could create a model of sustained giving that will keep improving and inspiring your community for generations.

3. Recreational independence.

When was the last time you updated your bucket list?

Or, perhaps more importantly, when was the last time you crossed something off your bucket list?

If it's been a while since you took a big vacation or spent a spur-of-the-moment long weekend with your spouse, there's a good chance money was a factor. You might also be so focused on hitting your “retirement number” that you’re delaying the comfort of a home upgrade or taking that extra weekend shift instead of coaching your daughter’s soccer team.

But your financial plan should be providing you enough independence to get more from your money than just more money.

Our Life-Centered Planning process can help give you the freedom to have more of those meaningful experiences at every stage of your life. Let’s meet to discuss what financial independence means to you and how we can help you achieve that goal.