3 Obstacles Getting in the Way of Your Financial Independence
by Angelica Leicht | Updated July 25, 2021 - First published on April 15, 2021
Struggling to chart a course to financial freedom? These three obstacles may be getting in your way. Here's how you can navigate around them.
Financial independence: the ultimate goal of many an adult on the planet. But while gaining financial independence is high up on the to-do list for a lot of people, the route you need to take to get there isn't always cut and dried.
Financial freedom has a different meaning for each person. For some, it means making enough to support a family. For others, it means a life free of credit card bills and mortgage payments. For others, it could mean a savings account that's flush with cash.
If you're handling a mountain of personal debt or credit card payments, how do you get to a life with a generous disposable income? It's highly dependent on your situation. Your financial independence is a personal journey, and it requires a roadmap only you can create. But while your roadmap may differ from others', the obstacles that impede financial independence are often the same.
As you're mapping out your route to financial freedom, keep an eye out for these three obstacles that can get in the way of your financial independence and steer you toward Financial Frustration Island, a place none of us want to visit.
1. Not understanding what financial independence means
One of the biggest obstacles you can face is not completely understanding what financial independence truly means for you. You can't achieve financial freedom if you don't have a clear idea of what it means to you and your situation.
To avoid this roadblock, start your journey by clearly defining what financial freedom looks like for your unique circumstances. Is your definition of financial freedom getting rid of all your credit card debt? Is it being completely free from all debt obligations? Or is it the ability to invest heavily in retirement to cut out of the daily grind earlier?
None of these definitions is completely wrong -- or right. The only real "right" answer is what financial independence means to you.
Once you've defined what financial freedom looks like for your lifestyle and finances, you'll have a clearer picture of where you need to go, what you need to do, and what goals to set to reach it. And, speaking of goals…
2. Setting unclear or unrealistic financial goals
Another hurdle you may face is the lack of clear or realistic financial goals. Knowing you want to get out of debt or save for retirement is great, but how are you going to get there? What will you have to give up? What can you afford to keep? How will you know you're on the right track?
Personal discipline is crucial in achieving financial freedom, and you can stay disciplined and focused with a set of clearly defined goals. It's hard to stay dedicated to the cause if your goals are too hard to reach. You can end up overwhelmed instead.
As you define your goals for financial freedom, you may want to start with the larger goals, then break them down into more manageable pieces. Let's say you want to pay off all your credit cards. That's a big goal -- one that you can't reach overnight -- so give yourself smaller milestones to reach, like paying off one card balance. Taking it one card at a time is more manageable than paying off all of your cards in one big move.
Or let's say you want to invest heavily in saving for retirement. You may want to take a similar approach. Dumping all your spare cash into retirement each payday can leave you with a low bank balance for necessities, so ease in instead. You can start off small with your retirement investments and increase how much you put in over time. That's usually easier than diving headfirst into the retirement savings pool, but it gets the job done.
While you may not see as big a payoff with these smaller goals, these moves still add up to big things for your finances in the long run.
The bits of progress you make throughout the journey can help you stay dedicated to the cause -- which may not be the case if you try to meet a set of financial milestones that aren't feasible for your current situation.
3. Giving in to lifestyle FOMO
Do you find yourself wanting to one-up the neighbor's new Airstream? Are you constantly checking social media for updates on your friends' fancy lifestyles? It's okay to want to invest in new toys with your hard-earned money, but watch out for the green-eyed monster that wants you to keep up with the Joneses on the 'gram.
The fear of missing out -- FOMO -- can be a dealbreaker for your finances, so avoid this obstacle as much as you can. Ask yourself if you truly need that new, expensive toy, or if you really need to head out to the hottest vacation spots, or buy a bigger house just because someone else did.
Here's the deal: There will always be someone with a lifestyle above your pay grade, and that's okay. FOMO isn't worth busting your budget over, so don't let it keep you from where you're headed.
This FOMO issue doesn't just apply to larger purchases, either. Smaller, spur-of-the-moment splurges -- like expensive dinners out with friends or unnecessary shopping trips -- can be just as devastating to your plan as bigger purchases, especially if you make them on a regular basis.
If you avoid this type of spending whenever you can, it's easier to achieve financial freedom. For some of us, that could mean logging off social media for a while, hiding our credit cards, or taking a break if pricey lunches are busting the budget. Sometimes sacrifice is the only way to stick to your plan.
One last thing…
If you want to reach your definition of financial freedom, it won't always be an easy path. The three obstacles above aren't the only ones that can get in the way of your goals. Other obstacles can pop up from time to time, too.
If that happens, don't panic. Chances are, with a little tenacity and a clear financial plan of attack, you'll find a way to navigate around those roadblocks and get back on the road to financial freedom.
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