From United Nation surveys to informal news reports, Canada has always been recognized as one of the best places to live in the world. And that’s no surprise. We have a free and open society that, most of the time, provides a balance between our personal wants and the needs of our greater community.
Many define “their freedom” as the ability to do whatever they want – from the simple decision of choosing what type of car to drive to the more serious of voicing support for a preferred political party or cause, or having the freedom of religion to safely and openly express our beliefs. I can understand wanting the freedom to express your beliefs, but I want to challenge the more simple idea that our ability to buy what we want is also a key factor in defining our freedom.
There is no doubt that having the money to buy what we want feels good. In fact, there are many studies that demonstrate that shopping can create similar feelings within us as certain drugs. Hey, we’ve all experienced the compelling urge to buy something special for ourselves – something to pick up our mood when we’ve had a bad day, or to celebrate when something has gone well.
Like most drugs, the feeling may be wonderful for a short time (so I’ve been told), but when the buzz wears off (or, in the case of a purchase, the newness) it doesn’t feel quite as good, does it?
Over the years of talking to fellow Canadians, I have seen how consumerism has taken away some of our freedom instead of providing the happiness and fulfillment many of us look for in our daily lives. I also want to clarify that I’m not talking about buying the basics needed for your everyday existence such as food, housing and clothing. I am talking about buying items that are beyond our means and that are not critical. For example, having a roof over your head is important. Having a sexy car or that 60 inch flat screen television isn’t.
So what happens when we spend more than we make? Well, research indicates that a major worry for many Canadians is retirement. How much will I need? What should I invest in? How long will I live?
Part of the worry comes from a feeling of lack of control, not feeling confident when trying to plan for the future, and the uncertainty of what could go wrong between now and that day – retirement day.
People used to look forward to retirement and planned for busy times of travelling, visiting family, and maybe even going back to school. But those plans seem less possible these days.
So do we just live in fear and worry? No, I believe that finding that freedom isn’t difficult and that most Canadians are more than capable to make financial decisions on their own. I also believe that when they do, they’ll feel much more confident about their future and a happy retirement.
Picture it like this: consumption and over-spending are like a jail cell that keeps us from our freedom. And our worries about our future – the future of our families – are the bars on the jail cell. We can see through the bars but our fears and worries hold us back from living a beautiful life. Our fears and our worries also stop us from living with a feeling of true freedom.
But there is a way out of the cell and you have the key. The ‘key’ to that door is living a lifestyle that is financially conservative and in control. It means saving today, systematically planning our saving and investing, avoiding high service fees, and no more superfluous spending. Once you take control which you can start today, you’ll begin to feel better about your financial future.
Spend thoughtfully, not impulsively. Keep your debt down and pay it off as soon as you can. Take control, stop worrying and be free.