Must, Should, and Financial Freedom

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mustIf you struggle with your inner compass at times like I do, definitely read this thought-provoking and inspiring article The Crossroads of Should and Must by Elle Luna:

Should is how others want us to show up in the world — how we’re supposed to think, what we ought to say, what we should or shouldn’t do. It’s the vast array of expectations that others layer upon us. When we choose Should the journey is smooth, the risk is small.

Must is who we are, what we believe, and what we do when we are alone with our truest, most authentic self. It’s our instincts, our cravings and longings, the things and places and ideas we burn for, the intuition that swells up from somewhere deep inside of us.

When reading biographies and interviews of notable people, those who made seemingly bold decisions often remark that it really wasn’t. They just did it. It was a Must. I always wonder if it was also scary for them.

Looking back, I wonder if my own moves were by choice or not. Did I choose to quit my stable job with the bi-weekly paycheck and instead go back to school while supporting myself with online projects? Was I scared? Probably. Did I have any other choice? I only remember that I couldn’t do the job anymore.

Whenever I start feeling like others are controlling my destiny instead of me, I start to panic and plan my escape. I believe this fear of losing control is why I like to hoard money. Money gives you time to work towards a Must:

Money can be a bridge to the freedom of exploring Musts. And it often doesn’t require much. But it does require determination. Money can be used to buy you a day, a week, month of time to work on a Must, which may amount to nothing. Or it can be used to buy a sweater, a suit, a car — the value of which is obvious and low risk.

The article speaks of aligning your everyday actions to your dreams. Your job should be your calling. An artist. A tech start-up. A food truck.

That is a worthwhile goal and while it is important for me to like what I do each day (which I do), I feel differently. Not needing money from a job at all and having absolute freedom to do whatever I want (paid or not), that is what I crave. That is what I think about in the shower. Achieving financial freedom is my Must.

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  1. I always slightly worry for Jonathan.

    He craves having his nest egg.

    The problem with this is it all can be taken away.

    What happens if he does all this, works, saves for years, has his “financial freedom” bundle of money and it all gets taken away.

    This is why I feel there is more power in needing very little, than saving. That it’s better to live on next to nothing, do the things you want now while you can.

    Perhaps later, once you have your nest egg, you won’t be able to.

    • @Marie
      “This is why I feel there is more power in needing very little, than saving”

      why does one necessarily exclude the other ?
      You can save & at the same time reduce your needs to the bare minimum.
      This is like a double bonus & you ‘ll almost never run short of resources

    • So your proposal is to need very little, and thus just have to make very little money, and not worry about saving? Just work a little and spend a little? That is indeed an interesting philosophy; low impact and you can reach it faster.

      I’m at the stage where if I was willing to keep working part-time forever I probably could, but I worry more about one day having to work for “The Man” than worry about losing my nest egg. I’m not saying that is necessarily right or wrong, that’s just how I’m wired.

      • If you just have enough money for one nest egg, then it’s scary to think you can lose it all. But once you have enough for several eggs, you can store them in different baskets so that it becomes much less likely that you will lose them all.

        Traditional personal finance advice is to diversify by having stocks and bonds. Sounds like only two baskets to me. Though you can make sure you have stocks from large and small companies and from foreign and domestic companies. And you can have regular bonds and inflation-based bonds.

        You can also have tools. Supplies (such as pantry full of staples). Frugality skills and other skills. A paid-off house. Friends. Side jobs. Health (keep up on dentist visits, take your medicine, etc.)

        You can still lose everything, like if there were nuclear war. But you’re much less likely to be stuck working for the man forever.

        • When Jonathan says nest egg, I don’t think he means only 1 investment class.
          I think nest egg is a terminology for all your assets and investment vehicles put together.

  2. Great Post! I love it.

    I think most often “financial freedom” comes with the philosophy of “living on very little”. Win-win. (Savings grow very large because you are efficient with money and/or do not need a lot). That is my personal experience.

  3. Regardless the discussion surrounding the post, it is still a great post. i wouldn’t know the existence of this article if it wasn’t posted. I like the gist of the concept, “must” which often is blurred among the masses of “should”. There aren’t many Bill Gates, Steve Jobs or Mark Zuckerberg for that matter because we all have our heads wrapped around “should”. Thanks for the post Jonathan!

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