The world we live in today is largely defined by free-market economics and attaining financial freedom really seems to be the holy grail of the salaried. This is perhaps even more applicable to a transitioning economy such as India where there is no social safety net (at least not yet).
But what does ‘financial freedom’ really mean?
If you ask me and on the basis of my own financial history, I’d say financial freedom is really a journey as much as it is a destination and basically means not having to depend on a salary to meet your expenses. And by virtue of that, I believe that it’s not a one-size-fits-all as both the journey and the destination will differ not only from person to person but also from generation to generation.
For many people, financial freedom may simply be about having a financial cushion at the end of their working lives in order to cover their basic living expenses and have some leftover for the simple pleasures of life. Or in other words, being rich. This model of financial freedom certainly applied to the generation before us. But it may mean something completely different to today’s millennials. For them, it could be the intention to live truly free and not be bound to a job as the generations before them.
In my case, my quest for freedom was and continues to remain a journey rather than a destination. As a journey, it has involved many ups and a few downs. My journey started in 2001 when the EMI for my two-wheeler ended and I decided to invest that money in mutual funds through SIP. Short story - I have never skipped an SIP and became financially free in 2015.
The long story...
I wasn’t obsessed about being rich. Neither was I obsessed about a number. For me, financial freedom means having the time and the mind space to do whatever I want while my day-to-day financial obligations were being met without me or my family’s active focus on enabling that.
Two years into the marriage, I realised that I want to be able to travel and pursue my passions without feeling trapped by a 9-to-5. This was really my personal trigger, one that would also resonate with many young people today. To achieve this, I knew that not only do I need to work for money but money also needs to work for me. I realised that I need to invest my money so that my money grows, beats inflation, and I am able to accumulate wealth over the long term.
In the initial years, I took the help of a financial advisor to get started. But the advice that has always been my guiding mantra has been this famous quote from none other than the master of wealth creation, Warren Buffet that says, "Be greedy when others are fearful and be fearful when others are greedy". This outlined the approach I took for my investments. Every time the markets tanked, I continued to invest and even increased my SIP when I could. Additionally, I kept increasing my investments every year, without fail. I treated my investments like an EMI and thus were mandatory.
Case in point, when the markets crashed in 2008-09, I panicked like everyone else and considered withdrawing all my investments. But good sense prevailed and I stayed invested. The markets picked up and the value of my portfolio grew.
What started at the age of 25-26, resulted in financial freedom at 40. I invested for my children’s higher education as soon as they were born so that when they go to college, I don’t need to dip into my retirement funds. For every long or short term goal, I planned early and systematically invested to achieve it.
If I can be financially free, so can others
Scripbox simplifies every single aspect of investing in mutual funds and provides actionable and reliable advice. Scripbox is an investment service that helps you get started, plan for all your life goals, and invest for them. If I can be financially free, so can everyone else and at Scripbox, I do this at scale -- help others become financially free.
Your personal journey to wealth creation can begin with a few lakhs, a few thousands or even a few hundreds. It’s conviction that you need – not a high salary, coupled with the discipline to curb discretionary spending and ensure you have a certain amount to invest regularly.
Investing is no rocket science. Becoming financially free is a definite possibility for most of us. If I could do it then I am sure almost anyone can. And that’s my mission in life as Scripbox’s CEO – help everyone achieve this goal.
Ashok Kumar ER is the CEO of Scripbox.
First Published: IST