Finding Financial Freedom

One of the most difficult things for me when I quit competing as a cyclist was staying motivated to exercise.  

I quit competing when I was 20 and continued to work at a fitness center for the next five years, yet I had so much trouble finding the motivation to work out.  

There really should’ve been no excuses – I had a free gym membership, and I could’ve worked out before work, during lunch, after work, or really any time – the gym was open 24 hours.  No excuses, yet I wasn’t inspired to stick to a workout regimen.  

It took hindsight to realize that (1) I always hated exercise and (2) I always loved winning my cycling competitions.  That’s the thing, my desire to win outweighed my despise for exercise.  When cycling was out of the picture, I just never could stick with working out.    

I tried all sorts of things – organized classes, fitness challenges, personal goals, personal trainers, and everything else you could imagine.  

There was a good life lesson here – strong desires and goals can fuel discipline and endurance.  Just the way competitive cycling impacted my exercise routine.  

Do you know what reminds me a lot of exercise? Saving.  It’s good for you and yields great benefits in the long run, but it takes sacrifice, and the results in the short run can be hard to notice.  To be a good saver, you first need to establish a clear goal that will fuel that discipline and endurance I mentioned earlier.  

Setting goals can be tough because you need to be able to identify something that will motivate you.  For me, I know the financial marketing community wanted me to be energized and enthused about retirement.  Advertisements featuring highlights of spending time with grandkids and tropical beach vacations were seeking to stoke that fire in me, but honestly, it just didn’t really feel that inspiring.  

I remember a friend from church – quite a successful man, very well-respected in our community – asked a group of us at church, “What would you do with your time if money was no issue?”  An interesting inquiry because it removed the connection between your work and your income needs.  I remember another wise sage – a personal training client from my days at the gym – had a word of encouragement, she said I should aspire to “Do what makes my heart sing.”  Again, this sense of a deeper calling and meaning to your productivity.  

Meditating further on these tidbits of wisdom, a financial goal for me began to surface – something that I could get behind, and that would fuel a desire in me to save.  I didn’t coin this term, and nor did I borrow it (well, not intentionally so), but I began to aspire toward this idea of “financial freedom.”

Many of us work primarily in exchange for a paycheck to support the lifestyle we desire to live.  Sure, some of us found careers that are well suited for our God-given talents, and many do derive joy from what they do, myself included.  Yet, financial

freedom for me means that one would build up a large enough nest egg (savings) that would produce a sufficient amount of investment income to support their lifestyle.  

The savings would be well diversified and produce a growing income source to combat both the financial surprises of life and the inflating annual costs of goods and services.  

Financial freedom, this concept and framing, is what I needed to inspire me to save.  Otherwise, just like exercise, I’d opt out and find some fun toys and memorable experiences to digest my surplus monies.  

You may laugh, but I’m being honest, it took me a long time to figure out how to get myself in the gym on a regular basis.  You know what ended up doing it for me? Basketball.  The competition and camaraderie of the sport have had me in the gym a few days a week for the last decade or so.  People always get a kick out of the truth that the basketball court really is the only piece of equipment I’ve used at my gym.  

Saving for financial freedom doesn’t provide that same camaraderie and competition I referenced above, but I do believe there are some parallels.  For me, the competition relates to my desire to be the best I can at my craft.  To look to my peers who are having success and sleuthing out the clues and best practices that I can apply to my own process.  Again, for me, camaraderie is steeped in this deep desire I have for fellowship.  Fellowship with family, friends, and sometimes even strangers.  One of the key ingredients here is time, which is a primary byproduct of financial freedom.  

Some of my fondest memories are from the time I spent at L’abri, a Christian study center tucked away in the Swiss Alps.  Beyond the breathtaking beauty of the surrounding mountain range, I was enthralled by the deep and meaningful conversations I had with my peers at L’abri and the daily dedicated time I had to reading and thinking.  If I had financial freedom today, I think life would look a lot like L’abri.  

Now, this next comment may surprise you, but I’m glad that financial freedom for me is still a goal, not an achievement.  I’m young, I learn a ton every day, I love the people I work with – colleagues and clients, and I greatly enjoy my day-to-day work.  I’ve seen firsthand, and I’ve read too many stories of what happens when an achievement comes in a windfall versus earned with hard work – lottery winners, trust fund babies, and the like.  So much of the joy is derived from the journey; the blood, sweat, and tears behind the accomplishment.  

I competed in cycling for nearly ten years, and for probably 7.5 of those years, I was a nobody.  In the end, my work paid off, I built up the trophy collection to justify all the broken bones, disappointment, and hours at the gym.  The work outweighed the success in one sense, but the taste of that success was oh-so-sweet and well worth it.  

So, perhaps you’ve struggled to save.  Maybe you’ve been in search of the inspiration to keep you on track.  Tell me this, what does it cost to live the lifestyle you want to live? Have you ever calculated how much you’d need to save to produce that much investment income?  I think you are starting to get the idea.  If you are anything like me, and those piña colada sunset retirement adds just didn’t do it for you, I’d encourage you to explore what financial freedom looks like for you and what exactly your life would look like if you had that financial freedom.  

Next… start working towards those goals – one dollar at a time. 

With regards,

Trevor Cummings

PWA Group Director, Partner

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About the Author

Trevor Cummings

Private Wealth Advisor, Partner

Trevor is a Partner and Director of our Private Wealth Advisor Group.

As the author of TOM [Thoughts On Money], Trevor endeavors to write and speak about financial concepts and principles in a kind of “straight” talk demeanor and posture.

He received his Bachelor’s degree in Organizational Leadership from Biola University and his MBA from California State University, Fullerton.