Very powerful words, and having an opinion about it matters! What would you define as financial freedom for yourself?
Growing up in a traditional household, observing grandparents, parents, uncles, relatives and family friends and the variety of financial comfort each of the families enjoyed, I realized that the head of the household holds the power when it comes to the financial freedom enjoyed by the family.
Now, the household could be large or small. Head of the household could be from any generation – great grandparent, grandparent, parent or from our generation as well! Gender mattered for one generation and stopped mattering at some point.
I observed my great grandmother – She lived with my great grandfather, who used to be a priest in a temple. Whatever he earns, she used to run the family with the same. We now try to be minimalists. They lived as minimalists! What did financial freedom mean to them? Being able to afford the next meal without having to think twice or worry meant a great deal! So, being able to save money for expenses next month, save a sweet/savory dish to share with friends and families who came to visit meant the world! Those who were able to do it, were amazing role-models!
I observed my grandmother – Being the wife of an entrepreneur, and having a large family to support, she drew the line when it came to financial freedom very nicely! She asked for minimum monthly expenses to run the family and tried to save within the same. Everything gets cooked in bulk, processes were setup to run for a large household, accommodating breakfast, lunch, snacks and dinner, ensuring healthcare expenses were minimal and everyone retained good health, and got a decent education. Work got distributed across family members to reduce external help! She even found it possible to save money and buy assets. She participated in all family functions and conducted them with ease. By taking care of the family affairs, she was able to support my grandfather in his journey! From cleaning the household, utensils, bathrooms, feeding kids, she slept for only a few hours everyday. How much ever I try, I seem to fall short of living up to her standards! What was financial freedom to her? Being able to manage and save within the monthly expenses given to her with no micro managing and being able to buy assets for long term meant financial freedom to her!
I observed my mother – Having a voice of her own and being able to get skilled to step out to work & support my father to aid towards leading a better life was what she chose for herself! She has an identity beyond being a mother of the household! She chose that for herself! She was there for us whenever we needed her! She used to take us to work with her, and that gave us a whole new experience while growing up! She divided the responsibilities of running the household with my father very beautifully. He was responsible for buying groceries, snacks and taking care of monthly budgets and expenses. She was responsible for cooking, household chores, and sitting with us to study. It took me quite a long time to understand how this would have helped both of them retain their sanity and bring out the best for the family 🙂 What did financial freedom mean to her? Being able to just stay at home and spend lots of time with family without having to worry about finances and get stressed out meant financial freedom to her!
I observe my friends – Having grown up in households like the above, even though their parents did not have a son, they chose to have their parents live with them after marriage, going against the societal norms! In a day and age when this mattered, being able to stand up for what they believed was right, and building relationships with in-laws to be able to extend the same across households meant a lot! With a single person working (irrespective of whether it is the man or woman), it becomes difficult to sustain larger expectations when everyone tries to cut down. Financial freedom meant being able to make choices in an inclusive manner and not taking anyone for granted!
When I observe everyone around, I realize it is not just about earning money and focusing on the top line (more we earn, the better it is), nor it is the bottom line (how much can we save), it is our ability to save for a rainy day, for ourselves – to give us that space to choose how we want to spend it. It might be for something we care about, or for ourselves, or for our satisfaction. The ability to choose to spend money the way we want it, and have it when we want it, to do what we want to do with it, without having to ask for it, whether it be buying groceries to make sweets, buy assets, or giving it to our children or community in need. Not having to be in a position to have to ask for that, and be able to earn it ourselves (or save it ourselves) is where lies our pride.
Being able to have the skills needed to enjoy this sense of financial freedom is priceless!
Observe women in your circle and give them that space & freedom of choice. It means a lot!
When you find women succeed in this space, take some time and observe their support system; Admire the way they would have setup their support systems to help them scale. There would be a lot to learn from it!