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Financial Freedom February 13, 2012

Posted by nrhatch in Books & Movies, Less IS More, Life Balance.

When I stopped practicing law, many of the attorneys I had worked with over the years expressed a desire to do the same.

Around the same time, an ABA (American Bar Association) survey reported that 70% of all attorneys would quit practicing law the next day . . . IF they had the financial means to do so.

But, by living the American Dream, they had mortgaged their future by spending more than they earned and running up debt that chained them to their desks.

In another stellar book, Simplify Your Work Life ~ Ways to Change the Way You Work So You Have More Time to Live, Elaine St. James addresses this issue in the section on Being More Efficient with Your Money:

Unfortunately, our culture has operated on the belief that the appearance of wealth is more important than actual wealth.  As a result, we have a nation of consumers up to their eyeballs in debt for products and services that make them look great but feel poor. [p. 162]

Most people have bought into the popular cultural conditioning that tells us we’re not successful ~ we haven’t achieved the American Dream ~ unless we live in a big house, drive the latest cars, wear the hottest fashions, and own all the other “necessities” credit card debt can buy.  We’re indoctrinated by television, magazines, movies, billboards, and advertising to believe not only that wealth equals worth but also that by appearing wealthy, we are wealthy. [p. 164]

The fear of what one’s neighbors or family or friends might think often keeps us living beyond our means.  . . . Consider the insanity of allowing your financial decisions to be based on the opinions of someone whose regard for you is ruled by the number of square feet you occupy.  [p. 197]

True wealth has nothing to do with the clothes we wear, the car we drive, or the size of our house.

True wealth means having enough money . . . AND TIME . . . to do the things we love . . . with the people we love.

When we spend all (or more than) we earn . . . we can’t get off the  merry-go-round no matter how dizzy we feel.

If your financials are in a shambles, if you are weighed down by a crushing mountain of debt, if you are too busy “making a living” to have a life . . . consider investing in your future by learning to live within your means.

Aah . . . that’s better!

Related posts:  One Mistake People MakeTake Charge *  I Need A ThneedYou Better Stop Shopping Around *  Those Alluring Lures * Annie Leonard & The Story of Stuff  * Between The Wish & The Thing *  How I Found The Courage To Quit My Job (Think Simple Now) * Guest Post (My Light Bag)



1. savorthemomentnow - February 13, 2012

That’s an incredible over generalization. Yes as lot of people over spent and live beyond our means. However, there are a lot of other people (myself included) that did not get to be in a mountain of debt because we were trying to impress our neighbors, but actually because we had a dream of opening our own business, but the dream became a nightmare. Savings had to be spent just to cover day-to-day expenses, medical bills (for lack of health insurance), and husband lost job and then decided to leave leaving behind bills. Husband is MIA. So, please spare me the sanctimonious attitude.

I totally agree with this: True wealth means having enough money . . . AND TIME . . . to do the things we love . . . with the people we love.

And this is what I am working on now that I’m on my way on getting my life back on track.

nrhatch - February 13, 2012

Sanctimonious? Moi? 😉

Of course, it’s an over-generalization . . . it’s a blog post directed at a rather prevalent issue in society today. If it doesn’t apply to you . . . it doesn’t apply to you.

Best of luck getting your life “back on track.”

2. nuvofelt - February 13, 2012

So much truth in this post. Thanks for putting it so well.

nrhatch - February 13, 2012

Thanks, nuvofelt. I’ve found that the best way to feel “wealthy” is not HAVING MORE . . . it’s WANTING LESS.

Over the past 15 years, we made a conscious decision to “downsize” and “declutter” our lives with wonderful results ~ the more STUFF we jettisoned, the happier we became.

Less is more. 😀

nuvofelt - February 13, 2012

I can see how that would be. More room for ‘life’!

nrhatch - February 13, 2012

And, as an added bonus, we spend less time maintaining, cleaning, displaying, and storing STUFF that is only used once in a blue moon.

3. Rufus' Food and Spirits Guide - February 13, 2012

There’s a great SNL skit. Basically it’s called something like stop spending money you don’t have. I know things are expensive these days and it’s more complicated than that. Lots of folks out of work. But still it was a good skit.

nrhatch - February 13, 2012

Yup, it’s complicated.

This post is not directed at people who are temporarily “down on their luck” from job loss or unexpected medical bills . . . it’s directed at people who are earning a good living and drowning in debt because they never learned to “live within their means.”

Sounds like they would benefit from watching that SNL skit.

Thanks, Greg.

nrhatch - February 13, 2012
Rufus' Food and Spirits Guide - February 13, 2012

I love Steve Martin’s face.

nrhatch - February 13, 2012

He is a W~I~L~D and C~R~A~Z~Y guy! 😆

4. suzicate - February 13, 2012

Not having more but wanting less…is that ever the truth! We all WANT, but how much do we really NEED?

nrhatch - February 13, 2012

When we visit historic homesteads, and wander through one room cabins, I’m impressed by the simplicity ~ a bed, a table and chairs, a couple of books, and a fireplace for cooking.

How gloriously uncluttered.

5. granny1947 - February 13, 2012

Such true words…I felt so liberated when I paid off my last debt.
This evening I started decluttering by giving my younger son a whole heap of wall plates.
It feels good.

nrhatch - February 13, 2012

Yay, you! 😀

Being debt free is incredibly liberating. Instead of working TODAY to pay for YESTERDAY’S indulgences . . . we work today and put something aside for TOMORROW.

To paraphrase a quote on diets: Nothing tastes as good as . . . being debt free feels!

Glad you are finding new homes for stuff you no longer need.

6. BrainRants - February 13, 2012

Very astute advice, Nancy. Stuff does not equal happy. Everyone knows bacon = happy.

nrhatch - February 13, 2012

Exactly! 😆

7. SidevieW - February 13, 2012

savng first and then buying is necessary to maintain balance.

nrhatch - February 13, 2012

Failing to follow that simple truth is how the US Government got so out-of-kilter . . . now we’ve run up a GINORMOUS debt that has mortgaged our future.

8. sufilight - February 13, 2012

I wish I had read this when I was in my 30’s when I incurred debt to travel, dress very well, socialize and give the appearance of being more well off than I really was. Never again, I like my simplified life. 😉

My s/o says when he graduated from college and went straight to an engineering job, he was suddenly earning $30,000 more, so with that extra money he saved and brought his very first home at age 21. From then on when he had raises, he would save, and yes, have some fun too, but never felt the need to impress, so debt did not become a way of life for him – that is until two years ago, when we purchased a business and got over our heads, but we are okay at the same time as we have our needs met, and a large portion was paid off.

nrhatch - February 13, 2012

Thanks, Marie. Your s/o sounds like us when we first finished school. We “paid ourselves first,” regularly putting money in a retirement account rather than spending everything we earned. We saved for a modest first home and fixed it up as money became available. We rarely felt the need to impress people with cars or clothes.

And, even so, we bought many things we didn’t need . . . that eventually just cluttered up our lives.

Making a conscious decision to downsize (about 15 years ago) was the BEST decision we ever made. We love having less STUFF to maintain and, these days, rarely make impulse purchases. We do NOT miss being “mall babies.” 😉

9. kateshrewsday - February 13, 2012

Another cracker of a post, Nancy. Simplifying to get the time we need to live is so important.

nrhatch - February 13, 2012

Elaine St. James’ books are TERRIFIC. The first, Simplify Your Life, changed our lives for the better in so many ways:


10. souldipper - February 13, 2012

Simplicity is an attitude and it does not come naturally to many folks anymore.

I’m amazed at how difficult it is for friends to really “get” that I will not be imprisoned by consumerism.

This last Christmas, we finally exchanged recycled gifts or things we made ourselves. It takes effort to pull it off, but WOW were the gifts ever meaningful.

I am so sorry for those who really thought it was okay to squeeze themselves into choking debt. As an ex-banker, my opinion is that the banks were greedy in giving loans to people already burdened and stressed financially.

nrhatch - February 13, 2012

Thanks, Amy! I’m with you 100%.

Developing the attitude of “Voluntary Simplicity” has ADDED so much to the quality of our life. I’m always surprised when people are resistant to the concept. Instead of living within their means, they overspend on baubles, trinkets, and doodads and justify their unnecessary purchases by saying “I’m worth it.”

Of course, they say the same thing when they overeat. 😉

If they really thought they were “worth it” . . . they would emulate your lead and refuse to be “imprisoned by consumerism.”

11. Pseu - February 13, 2012

‘Earn, Save, and Invest’

in the old fashioned way 🙂

nrhatch - February 13, 2012

Thanks, Pseu! For many, the idea of saving money (i.e, delayed gratification) is a foreign concept ~ they feel deprived if they don’t SPEND, SPEND, SPEND. I’m glad we never got in the habit of living paycheck to paycheck.

Making do with less is worth it . . . our FREEDOM is at stake.

Pseu - February 14, 2012

my mother always quoted her grandfather

‘look after pennies and the pounds look after themselves’ – and he was also the advocate of getting off the bus the stop before to save the increment of the next price band and to get the exercise!

nrhatch - February 14, 2012

Wise man! “A penny saved is a penny earned.” 😀

12. jeanne - February 13, 2012

I jumped off the corporate merry go round almost 6 years ago…less stress and yes less money, but I have never been happier or more content.

nrhatch - February 13, 2012

That’s wonderful, Jeanne. Waking up to the happy realization that “success” is something we must define for ourselves allows us to stop looking to others for approval. We begin to walk to the beat of our own drum . . . as the path unfolds before us.

Aah . . . that’s better!

jeanne - February 13, 2012

Nancy sometimes my beat is a little off but it’s mine!

nrhatch - February 13, 2012

Thanks for the laugh! My beat sounds a bit “off” at times too.

13. Patricia - February 13, 2012

My life got so much better when I learned to want what I need and not need what I want.

nrhatch - February 13, 2012

Yup! Happiness isn’t contingent on getting all our “wants” met. If we have what we need . . . we have ENOUGH.

14. JannatWrites - February 14, 2012

I agree with the sentiment of this post. I’ve seen a lot of what I consider ridiculous spending. I don’t like the commercials on TV with Bankruptcy lawyers encouraging people to give them a call and erase their debt. Seems to me it encourages the bad habits by removing the consequences.

Less is definitely more:)

nrhatch - February 14, 2012

Thanks, Janna. What many do not realize . . . the stigma of bankruptcy sticks around on your credit report (like sour milk) for SEVEN YEARS.

Definitely not a “solution” to the growing problem of “buy now, pay later.”

15. bluebee - February 14, 2012

Good post, Nancy! Couldn’t agree more!

nrhatch - February 14, 2012

Here’s to the financial FREEDOM which arises when we FREE ourselves from marketing manipulation. 😀

16. Crowing Crone Joss - February 14, 2012

I dream of a world where we don’t own more than what we need. I’m working on that ever so slowly but nevertheless moving in the direction of not having things around that we don’t use. I hate shopping so not buying things is the easy part for me. There is something liberating about de-cluttering and not holding on to “things”. having combined two lives when I remarried, we seem to still have “stuff” though. But we’re working on it. Sometimes I just shake my head at the latest gadget or the newest pair of shoes someone who already owns 20 pairs needs to have. of course, it’s always easy to see how others are not simplifying.

nrhatch - February 14, 2012

You’re right, Joss. It is ALWAYS easy to see the mistakes other people make. 😉

My “favorite” is watching people push the limit on their housing budget because they HAVE to HAVE double sinks in the bathroom, granite countertops and stainless steel appliances in the kitchen, etc.

What they don’t take into consideration (in their effort to impress friends) is that both granite and stainless steel are MUCH HARDER to maintain than other surfaces. So, they’re not just wasting money . . . they are wasting time.

17. aawwa - February 14, 2012

great post! I made the decision nearly two years ago to give up working full time and move to a smaller house in the country, I now have 2 days a week at work and 5 days a week to do all the other things I enjoy. I haven’t regretted it for a moment.


nrhatch - February 14, 2012

Yay, you! How absolutely fabulous that you have created such a wonderful work ~ LIFE balance. Instead of two day week~ends . . . you have two day work weeks!!! That is AWESOME.

When we scale back on our perceived “needs” and ignore idle desires . . . we have less need to work, work, work to buy stuff that just sits in our closets and looks “pretty.”

Here’s to living life without regret . . . or debt.

18. Victoria-writes - February 14, 2012

Great post, well said. I’m leaving my full time job soon to write and be happy so yay!!

nrhatch - February 14, 2012

Best of luck to you on the transition, Vix!

Remember to toss the catalogs and stay out of the stores to avoid “temptation.” 😀

19. Tammy - February 14, 2012

I feel so fortunate to have been raised by depression era grandparents. I want for not and it is such a blessing.

nrhatch - February 14, 2012

My parents also instilled in us the practice of “delayed gratification” instead of fostering a sense of “constant entitlement.”

We got a few gifts for Birthdays and Christmas . . . everything else had to come out of our $1 a week allowance.

If we wanted something that cost $10 . . . we had to save for 2 1/2 months to buy it. Usually, by then, we realized that it wasn’t worth the purchase price. 😀

20. William D'Andrea - February 14, 2012

I’ve never tried to impress anyone with anything I possessed. I’ve mostly tried to impress people with what I had to say; which doesn’t cost a penny.

I’ve gone further than that, and tried to impress people with the words I write. In the almost 7 years that I’ve been posting my original and fanfiction writings on the internet, I have received a considerable amount of favorable reviews and feedback; and none of that cost me a penny either.

Now I’ve self published two novels, which have received no feedback, and for which I haven’t received a penny. It’s extremely frustrating, but I’m doing my best to wait patiently; and waiting patiently doesn’t cost a penny either.

nrhatch - February 14, 2012

Have you considered making a book trailer to market and promote the books?

If so, you might be interested in this post:

The Dinosaur Mardi Gras trailer is AWESOME . . . laissez les bon mots FLOW!

William D'Andrea - February 15, 2012

My entire income consists of monthly social security payments and food stamp credits, so I cannot afford to make a book trailer. Even if I could, I am a writer not a movie maker, and I wouldn’t have the slightest idea what to do.

I’ll just have to keep on adding my book titles to book promotion sites, and organizations that are concerned with the books’ subject matters; and continue to be patient.

Thank you anyway.

nrhatch - February 15, 2012

Maybe you could start a FREE WP Blog and use it to promote your work and words?

In today’s world, without an author platform as a marketing arm, you’re apt to be in for a L~O~N~G wait.

William D'Andrea - February 16, 2012

If I did start a free blog, I’d still have the same problem of letting people know it’s there.

Here’s something else. Children today are taught all about using computers and the internet in school. I, on the other hand, am 66 years old, and people my age have to figure these things out on our own. Now I consider that good mental exercise; but I still hardly know what I’m doing. For me, using the internet is like moving through a foreign country, with a very difficult language to learn; and no good maps.

If I tried to create a free blog, I’d just be blundering through the wilderness, and totally wasting my time.

I still thank you anyway.

nrhatch - February 16, 2012

WordPress makes is EASY . . . even for those of us are cyber challenged. But I know your access to the internet is limited, so it may not be a good use of your time.

21. winsomebella - February 14, 2012

Wise words, yet again. Appreciate the book tip 🙂

nrhatch - February 14, 2012

Her books are easy to read and FILLED with great ideas from which to pick and choose.

22. viviankirkfield - February 15, 2012

Nancy…”SIMPLY” wonderful post!
A Reasonable Life by Ferenc Mate…we read that many years ago…and I wish we had paid attention then. 🙂
Every Christmas, when I see the overbuying and overaccumulating by some, I’m reminded of the episode on Little House on the Prairie where the children get an orange, a penny and a tin cup of their own and feel quite rich.
But we are simplifying now…downsized several years ago…and this year, one of my goals is to declutter (as in THROW or GIVE AWAY), one closet, drawer and shelf at a time. 🙂

nrhatch - February 15, 2012

I even like the name of that book ~ A Reasonable Life. I’m going to check it out.

I feel the same when I see young children being buried alive in STUFF. They have SO MANY TOYS that they don’t even know where to begin . . . and their imagination is not tested as it would be if they were given, say, a BOX.

So many people put off decluttering because they are as overwhelmed as their kids. Your goal of one closet, drawer, or shelf at a time is PERFECT. We always have a box sitting in a closet to gather STUFF we no longer want or need. When it is full, we take it to Goodwill and start with a new box.

23. l0ve0utl0ud - February 15, 2012

As a European, the concept of the ‘American Dream’ is very new to me. In Europe, success is still an obsession with most people, but it shows itself through status and/or reputation – what job you have, who you know etc. I haven’t come across many people here who ‘showed’ their success through material possessions. Interesting to compare the different mentalities across the Atlantic 😉

nrhatch - February 15, 2012

I love a quote that Rik Scott (Uphill Writing) shared with me a time or two: “If who you are is WHAT you do . . . WHO are you when you don’t?”

I expect it’s why so many people go through an identity crisis when they retire or get laid off from a job they viewed as a source of their status.

l0ve0utl0ud - February 16, 2012

That’s a really great quote, thank you for sharing! It really does make me think about choosing a career for fulfillment, not for ‘status’.

nrhatch - February 16, 2012

Exactly. If we LOVE what we do . . . we’re less concerned with what others think of us as we do it. 😀

24. sweetdaysundertheoaks - February 15, 2012

Declutter=less dusting 🙂
Less stuff, less housecleaning and more time playing. At 60 I just want to play! Well, and snap pictures 🙂

nrhatch - February 15, 2012

Well put, Pix! Less stuff does leave more time for things that matter to us. Snap away!

25. Perfecting Motherhood - February 16, 2012

I know so many people who fit into this model… and yet they don’t see the hole they dig. They think everything’s fine since they have “good” credit and the banks keep lending them money.

We really live within our means and don’t buy stuff we don’t mean. My goal is to pay down our 30-year mortgage way before the 30 years but I know it will take extra effort. It’s very worthwhile for me but we’ll have to see how things go. It’s also a great lesson to teach kids early on. I always tell my kids, it’s not because you want it that you should buy it.

nrhatch - February 16, 2012

Good on you!!! Accepting responsibility for the choices we make is a very important lesson to learn. Early on.

When people don’t realize that they need to evaluate their desire for immediate gratification against the longer term goal of financial well-being . . . they have no reason to say “no” to impulse purchases.

The same is true when they eat . . . if they always satisfy the desire for immediate gratifaction, they end up eating too much of the wrong thing which leads to obesity, diabetes, and heart disease.

Learning to rein in our impulses is key to our financial and physical well-being.

26. Team Oyeniyi - February 16, 2012

So very, very true. That is all I have to say – I agree!

nrhatch - February 16, 2012

Good! And I know that you will instill the right message in the other members of Team O. 😀

27. Julie - February 16, 2012

Love the SNL skit and the first quote especially. We’re not mortgaging our futures by overspending, we’re mortgaging our lives in the present time!

nrhatch - February 16, 2012

Indeed, Julie! The SNL skit cracked me up . . . so “spot on.” Glad Greg pointed it out to me. Here’s to spending LESS and saving MORE!

28. eof737 - February 20, 2012

True… 😦

nrhatch - February 21, 2012

Realizing how little we need is very liberating. We no longer long for expensive artwork or cars as symbols of status ~ we let go of ALL the external trappings of “success” and hone in on real success.

We are happy to be FREE of the merry-go-round. 😀

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