Before I was exposed to world of FIRE and 4% withdrawal rules, financial independence had a significant and different meaning for me. It wasn’t a label just for the independently wealthy. It was a label for anyone who could function financially without assistance.
Functioning on my own financially is important to me not just because of pride, but also because it means that no matter what happens, I can take care of myself.
This sounds basic. Like a given.
But it’s not.
Up until very recent history, as a woman I would not have been able to hold a job, or if I did, it would be one in my father’s or husband’s business. If I ventured out to start a business on my own, I may be labelled a witch.
Even if I did start my own business, there’s a strong probability that I would have been required to hand it over to my father or husband to manage. Today, we’d call that financial abuse. But not so long ago, it was just what you did.
Financial independence means that I can make my own decisions about my work, my own property, my family and my relationships. Without the ability to achieve economic autonomy, none of these things would be possible.
There will be times in all of our lives where we’re not financially independent. Where we need help from others. That’s nothing to be ashamed of. In these moments of need, we should reach out and get help so that we can recover and become independent again as quickly as possible. If we don’t get the help we need today, we won’t be able to extend help to others tomorrow.
When we’re back on the track to economic independence, we’re able to not only manage our lives as they currently are, but we’re also capable of building big, beautiful dreams. Want to own a beach house someday? If it’s a priority, you can totally start saving for that. Wanted to go to the Outback since you were a kid? Save up some cash and make it happen.
You can do all that because you’re allowed to bring in and manage those dollars independently.
As I mused on my great luck of being born into such a time when all this was possible, I couldn’t help but think of those for whom it is not. I have friends, acquaintances and family members in various disability communities. Contrary to common perception, having a disability does not always mean that you can’t work; it just means you can’t work in a traditional manner without accommodations. You can make valid and important contributions to this world. In fact, sometimes you wouldn’t be able to make those contributions without your disability.
When you’re collecting government benefits–sometimes even something as direly important as your state’s Medicaid plan–you’re not allowed to work past a certain amount. At one point in the past few years, the most you were allowed to bring in monthly was somewhere between $700 and $800. Again, in some states, if you earn more than that, you’ll lose the health insurance that in some cases is literally keeping you alive.
So you’re forced into poverty. You learn to get by on what little you have–a few hundred in income, Social Security benefits, maybe insurance payouts depending on if you had a disability policy or not.
There is no pathway to financial independence.
And that’s not okay.
As a woman, there are still hurdles in my pathway. But there is a road to pursue. As we work to take down the barriers we face as female residents of this country, like the wage gap, investment gap, and the unfair distribution of both domestic and financial responsibilities based on gender, let us also remember to make sure everyone has access to the road.What does Financial Independence mean to me? #InternationalWomen'sDay2019 Click To Tweet