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Seeking Financial Independence

Meridian Points

Seeking Financial Independence

We can be sure that when the Founding Fathers declared “the pursuit of happiness” to be an inalienable right 239 years ago, they weren’t thinking about 401(k) balances, credit scores, or Social Security claiming strategies.

I have been through the fifth grade five times, once as a child and four other times with my children. One thing they stressed in the fifth grade is that July 4th celebrates our country’s adoption of the Declaration of Independence.

I do not remember any of the fifth grade teachers explaining what Financial Independence means or how to achieve it.  Somehow we all come to the conclusion that Financial Independence means having enough income to pay living expenses for the rest of your life without having to work. Some people achieve this through saving and investing over many years, while others build successful businesses that can generate income without daily supervision. There are many ways to reach Financial Independence, and it’s not just for the wealthy.

A surprising number of people aren’t sure how much they spend, how much they have saved, the exact details of their debt, or the rate at which they are adding to their retirement accounts. It’s tough to have confidence in your financial journey when you don’t know much about where it begins or ends. For couples, this always starts with communication. Fidelity’s 2015 Couples Retirement Study found that in 43% of couples surveyed, partners did not know how much each other earned! Additionally, about half of couples surveyed disagreed about how much they spend, when they will retire, and how much they need to save to meet their retirement goals.

I am certain that Financial Independence is something that we must all create for ourselves. The first step is to take charge of your financial life. And like most important things in life, that requires knowledge of where we are, a sense of where we would like to go, and an openness to change the ways that we do things. Start today by taking a financial inventory and make a plan. Take the initiative to determine how to align your actions with your priorities. This may involve buying a stack of personal finance books, reading articles and blogs on the internet, or hiring a financial planner. Although there are many paths you can take, it all starts with taking charge.

While few people believe that money alone can make us happy, we do know that people who are confident about their abilities to realize their financial goals report higher levels of life satisfaction than those who aren’t.

You don’t need millions to declare Financial Independence Day for yourself. Rather, saving enough to cover your living expenses without having to work full time can free you up to actually enjoy your life instead of remaining on the treadmill of working and spending.

Email me if you have questions or need assistance…

Meet the Author

Tom Coulter, CPA


Tom is the President and a founder of Meridian Trust. Tom graduated from The University of Tennessee, Knoxville, in accounting with honors, in 1978. Tom previously worked for the international accounting firm, Deloitte. He later joined the financial medical advising firm, FIS Associates, before founding Meridian Trust in 1997. Tom has worked extensively in retirement planning, taxation, estate and financial planning and investment management. He is a Certified Public Accountant, a member of the American Institute of CPAs (AICPA), and the Tennessee Society of CPAs (TSCPA).

Tom is also credentialed as a Personal Financial Specialist (PFS) by the AICPA.