After years of unfulfilling work, Bronnie Ware found herself working in palliative care, caring for patients in the final weeks of their lives. Because of the time she spent tending to those who were dying, Bronnie’s life was transformed.
She recorded in a blog post the regrets she heard from her patients in the final weeks of their lives. After publication, the blog post went viral and was viewed by more than three million readers worldwide in the first year.
At the request of many readers, Bronnie subsequently wrote a book, The Top Five Regrets of the Dying, to share her story.
Let us explore why Financial Freedom could be the answer to minimizing some of our regrets.
What is Financial Freedom and why you should care
Financial Freedom also known as FIRE (Financial Independence Retire Early) has gained a lot of traction, not just in the personal finance space but also in mainstream media. Bloomberg and CNBC have started discussing Financial Freedom.
Unfortunately, most of the traditional media reporters still treat it like a fad rather than a movement.
The pertinent question is why do I need to consider Financial Freedom? Why is status-quo (work, retire at 65, move to Florida) not the best option?
Vicki Robin best summed up the need to achieve Financial Freedom in the title of her book “Your Money or your Life”. In the early part of your life, you are trading time for money; either at a job or in a business.
Unless you are able to figure out a way where you no longer need to work for a living; you continue to deplete your life energy for money. Every decision you make to spend money, is literally the choice between your money or living a free life.
In order to break this vicious cycle; you need to earn more than you spend and invest the difference. This invested money will generate more money for you.
Finally, when the money generated is enough to fund your lifestyle in perpetuity; you achieve Financial Freedom.
Let us now examine if we make the right choices in life; how it is possible for everyone to have minimal regrets.
The five regrets of the dying recorded by Bronnie were
1. I wish I’d had the courage to live a life true to myself, not the life others expected of me.
This was the most common regret when people realize that their life is almost over and look back to see how many dreams have gone unfulfilled. If you are stuck in the hamster wheel of earning, spending, earning, spending; you will soon realize that you need to keep on working for a very long period of time.
Your entire life is a series of days where you wake up to an alarm clock, commute to work in rush hour traffic, head home for a few hours of sleep and start all over again.
Before you realize it; you will be 65 and life will have passed you by.
While needing to work initially is inevitable; you can shorten the time you spend working as we discuss in our post on leveraging Human Capital. Financial Freedom is all about regaining control of your life once you have built your nest egg which will generate passive income.
You can then use your time to fulfill your dreams. If that dream turns out to be your current work; then so be it. At least you would then have made a conscious choice on how you want to live your life, instead of being forced into it.
However I have a sneaking suspicion that for most of us; continuing to work would not be our ideal dream. Define your dreams and use Financial Freedom now to live a life true to yourself.
2. I wish I didn’t work so hard.
All of the men she nursed; deeply regretted spending so much of their lives on the treadmill of a work existence. If you continue spending every paycheck you earn, you will need to keep working hard for the rest of your life.
Instead of trying to keep up with the Joneses; you should make conscious choices based on your priorities in life. Define your core principles and spend based on your defined values.
So often, we see this phenomenon where every raise you get is used to “upgrade” your lifestyle, instead of shoveling that into savings. Most of the money is used to buy stuff which would soon be obsolete.
As a result of hedonistic adaptation; the stuff you bought no longer gives you the same pleasure you received when you initially bought it. Which means that before you know it; you are again back to buying even more stuff.
This will ensure a paycheck to paycheck existence.
To obtain Financial Freedom, you need to create breathing room in your financial life.
You need to increase the gap between earnings and savings; and invest the difference wisely. Once you start doing this, you are no longer stressed out. You can accelerate your countdown to Financial Freedom. Before you know it, you are no longer needing to work to fund your lifestyle.
Even for diligent savers, most of the online retirement calculators perpetuate the myth that you need your entire income in retirement which is not true.
Your nest egg needs to be based on your what you would be spending in retirement and NOT on your income. Start by tracking your current spending which will determine how much you need for Financial Freedom. Based on your comfort factor, you can increase your savings to sock away a little extra compared to what you need. This is fine if it helps you sleep peacefully at night. But don’t keep working just because you are unaware of how much you need. Run your numbers and you might find out that you do not need the income that you think you do.
3. I wish I’d had the courage to express my feelings.
Many people suppressed their feelings in order to keep peace with others. How many times at work have we bit our tongue and never said what was on our mind out of the fear of losing our job or offending our coworkers? When you do not like something and it goes against your values; keeping silent and continuing on will lead to bitterness and resentment which is not healthy in the long run. If your boss wants you to work on Saturday missing your kid’s soccer game, would you have the courage to express your feelings if you are living paycheck to paycheck? Having a large amount of savings will give you the courage to say no.
J.L. Collins in his book The Simple Path to Wealth refers to this kind of money as “F**** you” money. It is not a large sum of money but it is more than your emergency savings. Most likely, when you say you can’t do work late every day; your boss will back down and figure out an alternative solution. Worst case, you get fired and you have savings to fall back on till you find a better job. Having “F**** you” money gives you the courage to express your true feelings. You can chose a much better work environment which would make working bearable.
4. I wish I had stayed in touch with my friends.
Often people do not truly realize the benefits of spending time with friends until their dying weeks. Many become so caught up in their own busy lives and making ends meet, that they let their friendships slip by over the years. When you are caught up in the hamster wheel of working hard Monday to Friday; you just want to be a couch potato on the weekends. Trust me, I have been in that position where my energy is drained by the daily work grind. I also want to highlight that it does not take a lot of money to maintain friendship. The time spent with family and friends would be some of the happiest moments in your life.
5. I wish that I had let myself be happier.
Many do not realize until the end, that happiness is a choice. They stay stuck in old patterns and habits. Money does not buy happiness but it provides you choices for life experiences. You get time back in your life. At the end of the day, time is our most precious resource. You are no longer stressed out with financial emergencies or needing to work to put food on the table. You have the ability to laugh, pursue your hobbies and can do so without worrying about looking silly. Financial Freedom means you do not need to concern yourself about appearances or what others think about you. Happiness is a choice you are free to make.
Rather than waiting till 65 and having regrets, would it not be better to take back control of your life sooner?
After you achieve Financial Freedom, every day of your life is a weekend. No more dreading Mondays!
No longer waking up to an alarm clock or commuting in rush hour, fighting traffic.
More time to spend on your passion projects. The activities that excite you!
More time to spend with your loved ones – family and friends
You can choose to be happy and not worry what others think about you.
Readers, are you convinced that you need to start your Financial Freedom Countdown today? What would be the first step towards Financial Freedom for you?
John came from a third world country to the US with only $1,000 not knowing anyone; guided by an immigrant dream. In 12 years, he achieved his retirement number.
John started Financial Freedom Countdown to help everyone think differently about their financial challenges and live their best lives. He resides in the San Francisco Bay Area enjoying nature trails and weight training.
Here are his recommended tools
M1 Finance: John compared M1 Finance against Vanguard, Schwab, Fidelity, Wealthfront and Betterment to find the perfect investment platform. He uses it due to zero fees, very low minimums, automated investment with automatic rebalancing. The pre-built asset allocations and fractional shares helps one get started right away.
Personal Capital: This is a free tool John uses to track his net worth on a regular basis and as a retirement planner. It also alerts him wrt hidden fees and has a budget tracker included.
Crowdstreet: A real estate investing platform that gives investors direct access to individual commercial real estate investment opportunities, allowing you to review, compare, and personally choose the deals that meet your own investment criteria
Credible: If you have been paying high interest on credit cards, car financing, etc.; check out personal loan rates from up to 10 vetted lenders in 2 minutes for options to lower interest cost.