Pretty much everywhere you look, you’ll see in the literature, in the culture, some reference to an end goal of being financially independent. You can achieve this by acquiring enough money to then live without having to earn more through active work. The problem however with this is that, while one CAN have enough money to meet their needs, the idea that we should all become independent means in effect, walling ourselves off from each other. Let’s just ask ourselves – objectively – is anyone truly financially independent? Those who have any level of wealth are very much dependent still on institutions to enable them to amass that wealth (say, by providing tax incentives). Or, those who are blessed to inherit wealth are not independent, but dependent upon their elders to transfer that wealth. My point here is that financial independence is a chimera.
Instead, we need to consciously recognize, accept, and learn to strengthen what is in effect, financial interdependence. Once we hit age 65, we’re dependent upon the government for health care insurance. We’re dependent upon everyone putting in their fair share of taxes so when it’s our turn, we can take out our social security income. We’re dependent upon our parents for providing a home and education. Every person in business is dependent upon a customer willing to pay for the provided good or service. So, it may be best to leave this idea of independence behind us. Behind every “self-made” man stand plenty of people who generously provided time, energy, and money that helped him achieve all that he may now deem “his”.
Embracing financial interdependence helps us instead to, at a minimum, see the reality as it is. But to appreciate and strive to advance this idea of interdependence means that we can proactively collaborate, think through the implications of pooling our resources, realizing how much greater the benefit will be for us all.
Achieving financial stability is another of these goals that’s bandied about. To be sure, a desire for stability is innate to our human condition. It’s easier to budget your money when you have a stable income, upon which to plan your expenses. But when change is the reality of our lives, trying to control and keep things stable becomes a continual exercise in adjusting, responding, and achieving. I’m sorry to say that financial stability really isn’t achievable, nor is it that desirable. Because it means that you’re aiming for a life in which you’re not equipped to adapt to changing realities. So either you are going to be losing ground, battered by the forces of change that, frankly do exist around every corner, or you’re learning how to be proactive, to anticipate and forecast, to grow and develop. This is, in a word, to prosper. Prosperity is life affirming and life giving. Prosperity isn’t about just meeting basic needs, when we have all kinds of crazy desires to create in this world. It’s about living out our dreams and goals, for both ourselves, our families, and the world around us. Prosperity is inclusive, not achieved at the expense of someone else’s loss, but through mutual benefit. Prosperity means you can hit all of Maslow’s levels in the hierarchy of needs, from the most basic physical needs to self-actualization. Prosperity is more fun and less stressful, because it means we have time, energy, and money to enjoy life. Definitely a better goal.
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