If you retired tomorrow, what would you do?
For most, the answer is simple: I would travel the world!
At the age of twenty-seven, I retired from the corporate world and immediately did exactly that: I traveled around the world.
For 8 months, I covered fifty-six stops across five countries taking my total count up to twenty-five countries. Along the way I’ve covered some of the richest countries in the world, as well as some of the poorest.
What I’ve learned is that it doesn’t matter where you go, everyone in the world really wants the same thing, and it isn’t what you may think.
In the United States and other developed countries, we have it made. Safe water and food, good education system and highways, fast internet connections, etc. – we can very easily have the needs met. But in this environment of so much, it’s easy to lose track of what actually matters.
It’s proven that an abundance of things doesn’t equate to happiness.
Studies show that 70% of people hate what they spend the majority of their life doing.
The problem starts with how money, retirement and work are represented in society. Work is “supposed to suck,” and retirement (which is a made up word from the 1960’s) is a period where we can finally do what we want, but we have to wait until we’re sixty-five to do so. So we continually chase money in pursuit of happiness, often putting this chase at the center of our lives.
But what is wealth after all? When you look at the definition of wealth in the dictionary, it says:
wealth – noun \’welth also ‘weltth\
a large amount of money and possessions
Yet when you ask people who are actually wealthy what wealth really is, you get a completely different answer. I interviewed seventy-five successful entrepreneurs for my book Make Money, Live Wealthy, and their answers were far from the definition. True wealth is so much more than money and possessions, but we aren’t taught this growing up.
One word repeatedly came up again and again from the interviews. That word is freedom.
“True wealth is being able to do what I want, when I want. If I can do that, I am wealthy”. – JD Roth, Founder of GetRichSlowly.org
Think about it. If you can do whatever you want, when you want, don’t you think that would consider you wealthy?
“Wealth is the freedom to choose. It is when your money works for you, and you have the choice to do what you want with your time and money”. – Steve Burns, professional trader, author of New Trader, Rich Trader
The two happiest countries that I’ve been to are Laos and Cambodia. These are also the two poorest countries I’ve visited, and by a wide margin. Put it this way: the average earnings for a family in Cambodia are only 1.4% of what the average American family earns. 1.4%! Yet, many other travelers agreed that these poor countries were without a doubt some of the happiest people any of us have ever met.
If it isn’t money, then what is the reason why they are so happy?
It’s because they understand exactly what it is that they want, and what they want is the same thing that I believe everyone really wants: freedom.
Money is a very important tool for most, but it is only that: a tool. It is a means to an end. Freedom is the goal. Freedom is true wealth.
From my experience, everyone in Cambodia and Laos worked enough to get their freedom. They centered their life on their freedom. Their goal, just like many of the successful entrepreneurs I talked to, was to do the least amount of things they didn’t want to do. Or put another way, their goal is to have as much freedom to do what they want.
When you are clear on what it is that you truly desire, you can then live in a way that gets you headed straight towards that goal and avoid the many dead-ends in life.
From a business standpoint, begin with the end in mind. Create a business that gives you the lifestyle and freedom that you dream of. That is how you’ll build the most wealth.
“Don’t create a job. If you want to build wealth, build a business.”- Josh Brown, attorney and entrepreneur
When you have this clarity, you also have a better perspective for how to spend your money. Buying something that will give you short-term satisfaction becomes less appealing.
“I want my money to buy my freedom. The most important thing it can buy—more than a fancy car or clothes or a vacation—is the freedom to do what I love to do.” – Rob Berger, Founder of DoughRoller.net
Chase freedom if you want to be wealthy. Find it, and I guarantee you will be richer than rich.
Austin Netzley is an athlete turned engineer, investor, entrepreneur and now author. He is the founder of YoProWealth.com blog and podcast, as well as the author of the new book, Make Money, Live Wealthy: 75 Successful Entrepreneurs Share the 10 Simple Steps to True Wealth.
Image credit: CC by Ian Burt