What Does Financial Freedom Mean To You?

DailyWorth today has a great feature of stories about how women across U.S define financial freedom and how they achieved it. My favourite highlight of the article is how much our money in the bank says very little about how free or empowering we feel in regards to our finance.

We could be earning RM10,000 a month and feel like we still don’t have enough, or we could be living in a 400 sq. ft. house and feel like we are the luckiest person on earth. It’s all about mind over matter.

How I define personal freedom: A peace of mind, and the ability to live life on my own terms.

I am lucky enough to learn by example from my parents that money is only important as far as it meets our needs. You need to have shelter, clothes, food, and education – and the rest of the stuffs are just frills.

More importantly, what you do with your life and how you live it matters – YOU, not anyone else.

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My mom was ahead of her career when she quit her job from the Central Bank to move across country with our family. 20 years later, a family crises put her loyalty and sacrifice to a test. She got through it with gumption, and on top of it all, she still managed to have her own retirement income and buy her own house.

This was the greatest lesson my mom has taught me, that you have to look after yourself, that you are responsible for your own life, that no matter what happen, own yourself.

How I achieved it:

Like my mom, the family crises we went through made me question my life. At 18, I learned with a terrifying realisation that I can no longer rely on anybody except myself. It’s terrifying, but when I came out of it it’s also the best feeling in the world.

From then on, nothing else matters. Every time I make a decision, I would ask myself: what do you want?

I changed my major from Pre-Pharmacy 1 to Pre-Biology because I want to work in the forest like Simon Jackson. I shunned any thoughts of doing paid internship because I want to work with the wildlife department in the forest, with no mobile or internet coverage for three months. I went on to do a graduate degree in policy analysis because I prefer looking at the big picture instead of working in the lab. Instead of working in the public sector or academia as I thought I would/should, I am now working with a donors project and local companies.

Do you know the best part of it? Deciding for my own education and career has an impact far and beyond what I can imagine.

I am enjoying my work, and I’m rewarded for it (my income has increased 100% since I started). My classmates and I became the best of friends until today, some of them from all corners of the world from my postgraduate stint in Sydney, Australia. I went on a journey of acceptance and forgiveness during my year abroad and I am far better off emotionally today than I was at 18.

I am content driving an 8-year old car, I don’t care about the latest fashion, owning branded handbags or matching shoes and I have no plans to buy an RM400,000 house. I have the comfort of four cats I rescued from the streets, I enjoy spoiling my nieces and nephews with books, and games and trips to water parks and zoos, and I take my friends to hikes when they come visiting. On top of it all, I am saving for my retirement and my overland trip project in 2015.

People often ask themselves, how do you know when you have made it? I didn’t know it then, but that moment when I went to see my course advisor to change my programme from Pre-Pharmacy to Pre-Biology and he exclaimed jokingly, “Everybody who came to see me wants to move up 2, and you want to move down? Well done!”, that was my first step.

What does financial freedom mean to you?

Notes:

  • I didn’t get into the Pre-Medicine programme, so Pre-Pharmacy was the next option. It’s one of the best paid job after medicine! My relatives were saying).
  • Most students who didn’t get to Pre-Medicine programme often try to perform well in their programme and apply to it during the foundation programme.
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