What’s Your Big Why?

What's your big why? What motivates you to build wealth and strive for financial freedom? It's not the money -- money is just a tool. It's your life.

Happy Holidays from Afford AnythingHave you been taking it slow these past few days? Enjoying more family time? Checking your email a little bit less?

Pretty nice, right?

Whenever the holiday season happens — or whenever I “check out” for awhile, snowboarding down some snowy mountain or lounging on some tropical island — I’m reminded of why I’m committed to money management.

It’s not (just) because it would be cool to have a 7-figure net worth. It goes beyond that. It’s because wealth lets us spend our time lingering with friends and family a little longer.

Wealth gives us the flexibility to make our own hours, choose our life’s work, and say “no” to projects that don’t interest us.

Wealth buys us the ability to manage a team of people who can help us reach our dreams (because no one can achieve great things alone.)

Wealth lets us enjoy life at our own pace. Hop on an airplane more often. Hang out with our family more.

It’s Not About Tactics; It’s About Your Big Why

Many people struggle to save. They tell me that they too frequently cave into the temptation to buy the next fancy gizmo or doodad or whatchamacallit. Then they ask me about TACTICS.

“Should I be using budgeting software?”
“Should I try the envelope-cash tracking method?”
“Should I keep X and Y in separate accounts?”

They’re asking the wrong questions. Tactics, details and minutia can come later, once you’ve committed yourself — heart and soul — into your quest for financial freedom.

But let’s not put the cart before the horse. All the strategies and maneuvers in the world won’t help unless you know your Big Why.

WHY do you want wealth? WHY do you want to be financially free?

Do you want to travel the world indefinitely? Do you want to quit your cubicle job? Do you want to contribute to causes? Do you want to become a stay-at-home parent? Do you want BOTH parents to be able to stay-at-home?

Tactics are 20 percent of the equation. Tactics will help you fine-tune and optimize. But 80 percent of the journey is remembering your Big Why.

And the holidays — when we’re all taking things a little bit slower, lingering a little longer over dessert and wine — are a great time to remember why “sacrificing” the fancy gizmos and doodads, well, isn’t really a sacrifice at all. In fact, its a joy. Because if you’re anything like me, you’d rather use your money to buy back your life.


  1. says

    Great post, Paula! I made a comment earlier today about how nice it has been to step away from the inbox for a little while and just live. I definitely don’t do it enough – while I do all right financially, becoming self-employed was definitely a hit to my savings account at first. I haven’t rebuilt enough savings to feel comfortable, so I spend a lot of time working when I’d rather be doing something else. Which is funny because the whole point of quitting my job was to spend LESS time working! I need to work harder in 2013 to get my savings back to a comfortable level so I can regain some balance.

    • says

      @Andrea — Well-said. I know that a lot of self-employed people, myself included, struggle with finding a “dividing line” between working and stepping away from the computer. I try to commit to myself that I’ll strictly work from 9-to-5 and take the rest of the night off (which is funny, because the whole point of going this route was to avoid being in a 9-to-5 role! But its different when you choose to do it, vs. when a boss tells you that you have to do it).

      I think you’re making the right decision to save up first, before you return to a more normal schedule. Sometimes it’s necessary to become out-of-balance temporarily in order to accomplish the things that you want. When you do return to a more normal, balanced work schedule, you’ll be able to relax even more because you’ll have the peace-of-mind of knowing that your savings is rebuilt.

  2. Serena @ Thrift Diving says

    You have hit the nail on the head! I used to be good at saving and moving towards my financial goal of building a savings, because I HAD A GOAL. Now, I have no clear, specific goal in mind, so it’s no wonder I find myself struggling to resist temptation, struggling to stop eating out, struggling to just save any money coming in. Thank you for making me realize that come 2013, I need some clear, specific WHY.

    Thrift Diving

  3. says

    I totally agree! Yesterday I was thinking why spend so much time working when other things are more important but I do realize I have to build up wealth some how. Work at a traditional way is just by base.

  4. says

    Definitely a post to add to my Reader for future reference. While I do try to keep your “forget debt, you are free” post front and centre, it is vital to keep the macro view as well.

  5. says

    Agree 100%!! When I was in the military one the leadership courses I attended started out with a quote from Colin Powell that has stuck with me ever since.

    “Organization doesn’t really accomplish anything. Plans don’t accomplish anything, either. Theories of management don’t much matter. Endeavours succeed or fail because of the people involved. Only by attracting the best people will you accomplish great deeds.”

    If your heart isn’t into something nothing else matters…

  6. says

    That’s so absolutely true. The “tools” are the easy part, but if you don’t know what your motivation is it’s pointless, and agonizing because it feels like too much work. My big why is to have less stress and worry, then in the long run to be able to not stress about the things I would like in my life…more travel, better health care, possibly a house, retirement. Pretty practical I’d say, but important!

  7. says

    For me, the “big WHY” is more about knowing yourself. As in “why am I spending so much and investing so little?” Or “why are my plans so lacking ambition?” Or even “why don’t I have a long term plan?” I believe that most people are slaves to our subconscious, because we do not acknowledge that we’re so heavily influenced by it. When we start to understand who we are, and why we are who we are, we can make a lot of progress. Otherwise we are attacking the symptoms and not the disease.

    For me it has come in steps, and each brings with it some new realizations and some new goals that I can reach because I no longer obstruct myself subconsciously (well, I still DO, but I can identify those blocks and work to overcome and/or eliminate them). I think that in order to improve ourselves, we need to understand ourselves at the subconscious level, the level that works off of strange and random influences instead of rational desires. It has many more applications than just finances, too!

  8. says

    Paula you’ve done a great job giving us something to really consider heading into the New Year. For Derek (FreeAt33) and I we’re really trying to get to a place where work is a choice not a necessity. Unfortunately lately it means lots of hours which isn’t ideal when you have young children.

  9. says

    Why do I do it? Because I enjoy building wealth. It’s sort of like a game to me. I like to learn about it, apply it, and teach it. I’m a bit of a junkie I suppose. Here’s to another year!

  10. says

    Defining your purpose, you why, is the first step to establishing any financial goal. It’s your motivation. But if the “why” isn’t big enough, it will not be effective. Give some thought to it.

    Awesome post! 2013 here I come!

  11. says

    I don’t know if why is the best questions to ask in my case and the only reason I say this is lately I’ve been thinking that maybe I need to ask the “what” question instead. What am I going to do to change my outcomes each year? Yes, it’s the tactics and budgeting that ultimately answer the what-type question, but sometimes I think I get so wrapped up in the why, I never get to the what! Perhaps I’m just not disciplined enough.

    • says

      @Little House — It sounds like you already know your “why.” Congratulations on knowing it! Once you’ve mastered the “why,” the tactical “what/how” is the next question — it sounds like you’re at that stage now.

  12. says

    I’m at a crossroad. I just finished my study and now I’m thinking should I go for a master degree or pursue a career and settle down. The way my parents would like to see me do. Actually I don’t want either of them at the moment. I would like to see the world and do the things I like to do.

    Why do I want wealth? I don’t really care?! Money… It’s just convenient to have. It makes things easier. It is not my incentive in this life. But how else can you pay your monthly rent, health insurance, clothes etcetera?

    You could say wealth gives you the freedom of choice you want. But before you can reach that point of ‘I can do whatever I want ’. You will have to carry a freakishly lot of responsibility, dedication and spend your time in that manner to leave the things you want to do aside to reach that point. For example: How long will it take you to get a 7-figure net worth? What I just want to say is, is it worth it?

  13. says

    Why do I do it? I want to be independent to work with people I like and respect, to inspire people to achieve all their wishes, to build products which evoke curiosity and wisdom and to make a significant positive impact and create a secured future for my family, my friends and large amount of people!

  14. says

    So love this!! I work online and think i have become programmed to keep checking my email facebook ect…I get to spend time with my son and stay home but im still chained to my computer. I can’t wait for spring so i have no excuses to go do something…but then again theres the smart phone. Seems like we are chained in or out of the house/office. Thankx for makeing me more aware of what I do. Great post!!!

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