The voice on the other end was female and had a heavy accent. She was speaking in Urdu. Very to the point. No formalities. No run offs. “You said this on your application, please confirm,” type of questions. Felt as if she was reading from a script.
I had applied for a UK visa a few weeks back, and I got this call out of the blue. Then, she asked, “given the monthly income that you have showed, please explain to me why are you spending so much to run just a race!?”
Last year, I went to Thailand. This year, I have the money lined up to go anywhere I want in the world. By God’s Grace, this is a dream come true as far as I am concerned; being able to travel, for as long as I want, and to anywhere I want, at least once a year. The catch is not that I am able to earn the money, the real trick is to also earn the time!
Mobility is the cornerstone of financial freedom. And you do not need to be rich to pull it off.
I am not rich. And I keep saying that, “I am not rich” because someone reading these articles on living an adventurous, wholesome life may think that this is reserved only for the rich, people who have lots and lots of money. That is why the UK Visa officer asked me that question, “why are you spending so much money when your income doesn’t seem to indicate that you should be doing such things?”.
I am not rich. But I do think that I have financial freedom. And attaining financial freedom is a learnable “skill”.
For me, it starts with the basic concept that life is not about accumulation, it is about doing. Do stuff rather than accumulate stuff. All your goals and plans that have “buy” or “get” in them, try to replace that with “do” or “be”.
Know Thy Money
Then there is the tricky business of money. It’s amazing how little we know of money, although we spend our lives fighting for and over it.
Money is a slippery concept. But there are lots of good opinions on money out there as well. Each one may or may not work.
If you want to take a practical approach towards money, I highly recommend the book Rich Dad, Poor Dad by Robert Kiyosaki. The name is the only thing bad about the book.
Also, a recent article by Josh Kaufman (author of the bestselling “Personal MBA”), on the “billionaire formula” starts with the lines, “Let’s assume you want to become a billionaire. Let’s also assume that you choose to ignore the evidence that having a billion dollars won’t make you happier or more satisfied with your life. Becoming a billionaire is your only goal. How would you go about doing it?” (Emphasis added).
Putting money in its place is essential. Here’s what seems to be working for me, by God’s Grace: As a rule, one should earn only when he or she knows where they’ll be spending that money.
Now couple that with the fact that I want to do things more than accumulate things, most of my ‘financial targets’ are automatically reduced. These rules are, like so many others, not set in stone. It’s a matter of convenience as far as I am concerned but it has been my ticket out of the rat race.
Budget Your Income
For example, when I see that my monthly requirements, stuff like groceries, utilities and the like are covered, I can afford to take bigger risks. I started my online business(es) with a very clear, almost-strict purpose: I will travel once a year, anywhere in the world, with the money I earn from online means. Even if my other businesses and projects (like agri, dairy farming, marketing consultancy etc) are generating surplus income, I will not use that income to spend on travel. This purpose lead me to start a few affiliate sites, make the money I required, and make a 11 day visit to the serene beaches of Koh Phangan and Phuket in Thailand. This was last year. This year, it’s London (if I get the visa) with a bigger adventure of Triathlon thrown in the mix.
Also, I consider going to London to run a triathlon as “work”. This is not “vacation” per se. This is work. I am going there so I can report back on the blog, which in turn will help the readers, like you, plan their own adventure. This will hopefully get the blog a larger audience, and hopefully generate enough goodwill that the community will keep buying products that I have in store. Like I say, I give away most of the information for free, in hopes that maybe you will buy a more detailed approach. The transparency is liberating. And I thank you.
Also note that all of this was not possible hardly 16 months ago. This is a learnable, doable skill. Starting micro businesses, either offline or online, to supplement your current income, finance your lifestyle, your own adventure, may it be traveling once every few months, earning enough to finally quit your job, or buying your next smartphone, this is doable.
We need to unchain ourselves from the money.
So, to attain your financial freedom, here is the general-level strategy that we’d need to consider:
- Financial Freedom is different than being rich, and the two have nothing in common. You can be either or both or neither.
- Life is not about accumulation, it is about doing. Of course, like everything here, this is not a rule, this is just what helps me pursue projects that I think are important. This approach is also very spiritual for me
- Mobility is essential. Heard of “being at the right place at the right time”? The right place and the right time is afforded to people who are not bound by their businesses/jobs/lifestyles. They are mobile.
- Work to build assets instead of earning money.
- Your income should be as defined and as “budgeted” as possible. Having a budget for your expenses is normal, having a budget for your income is awesome.
Take a look at what you are doing right now, does it fit the above definitions? How can you change to improve the situation?
I tried my best to explain to the UK visa officer that I believe that one can plan even the most expensive adventures, save for it, start (really) small businesses to finance those adventures. I told her to refer to the section in my application that refers to my online income which started a few months ago. That income’s sole purpose was to finance this adventure. I told her that I had a blog, and I write about what I do, and do what I write about.
There was a brief silence. Then a few more quick, confirmatory questions. In the end, I asked “Will I get the UK visa?”. Please wait about 7 days, I was told.
I already have a few other places lined up, if the UK visa doesn’t come through. Freedom comes in many forms indeed.