This weekend was one of many “firsts” for our 5-year-old. It was the first time she learned to ice skate all by herself with no help, the first time she ate Korean food, the first time she rode an ATV/4-wheeler, and the first time she saw an old friend in over a year (an eternity for a 5-year-old!).

Before each of these events, she had to tackle a fear that ranged from “a little nervous” all the way up to “super-terrified”, and it reminded me how scary it is to attempt anything new and how hard you must work to achieve “independence” of any sort, at any age.

Before going ice skating, Kung Fu Kid was not excited. She was terrified. She did not want to go at all, because she had just been skating with her school a week ago and had found it to be very difficult. Also, several of the other girls already knew how to skate, having taken lessons for months, but our daughter didn’t. She did not want to go skating but she didn’t have much say in the matter (the rest of the family was going) so off we all went to the Winter Lodge.

We gave her the requisite pep talk, reminding her that at one time she had found walking hard, too, and telling her that “the first time you try *anything* it’s really hard, but if you keep working at it you’ll get it and then it’s fun!”. She was completely unimpressed with our little talk, but she dutifully put on her skates and gingerly stepped out onto the ice.

And at first, it was hard for her. She wobbled all over the place (as everyone does when learning) and needed an adult on either side of her holding both of her hands to even stay remotely upright. But she gamely kept on keeping on, and soon she was able to skate while holding just one adult’s hand.

And interestingly, once she started skating, instead of being “super-terrified” she was having the time of her life! She loved being with her friends and family and was having a terrific time trying to figure out how to skate.

Finally, near the end of the night, she took off on her own. She continued to wobble, and fell on her bum a few times, but she did NOT want any help at that point (we offered!)—she wanted to do it herself, and was so proud of the fact that she could! “Look at me, Emily! Look at me! I’m SKATING!!!”, she said to one of her very best friends. At the end of the night, even though she was exhausted, it was all we could do to get her to leave the ice and remove her skates—she wanted to keep practicing her newfound skill!

Watching her overcome her intense fear and progress into a state of confidence and independence was inspiring—it’s moments like these that you treasure as parents.

So What Does This Have to Do With Financial Independence?

Achieving financial independence (or any sort of independence) happens in exactly the steps I laid out above:

  1. You’re afraid of trying something new…it sounds scary, risky, dangerous, or just plain hard.
  2. Somehow you force yourself (or someone helps you) to try anyway.
  3. You discover that it is hard.
  4. You want to quit and give up.
  5. You somehow push through the difficult stage, hopefully with supportive help from someone who cares about you, and begin to figure it out.
  6. You become excited….you’re GETTING it and want to do it all the time and keep practicing!
  7. You achieve it…you’re independent at the skill and can continue to hone and refine it.

What is Financial Independence?

We typically hear that financial independence is “the state of having sufficient personal wealth to live indefinitely without having to work actively for basic necessities”, or “the state of having your assets generate income that is greater than your expenses”.

These are both decent definitions, but I argue that true financial independence is the exact opposite of financial dependence:

It is the state of being completely self-reliant for your personal finances.

This means that you are not financially dependent on your government, your employer, your family, your financial advisor, or anyone else you can think of other than your-own-sweet-self to provide for you financially.

This is hard to achieve. Harder than ice-skating. But it is vital to your quality of life, your freedom, and your future!

The Need for Financial Independence

We didn’t use to need to be “truly” financially independent. It was perfectly acceptable and in fact, common practice, to rely on someone “else” to take care of you in your retirement. For example, many Seniors today depend on Social Security, Medicare, and sometimes a company pension to take care of them once they stop working.

Unfortunately, though, as Bob Dylan famously sang, “The times, they are a changin”, and if you are in my generation (Gen X) or younger, you are committing financial suicide if you decide to depend on a completely bankrupt (morally and financially) Social Security system to take care of you twenty to thirty years from now, or on an employer pension (do any of those still exist for non-government employees, anywhere?).

That old, wobbly “three-legged stool” of retirement has been reduced down to nothing but rubble….there is only one leg left to stand on:

Sad, One-Legged Retirement Stool

Sad, One-Legged Retirement Stool

The Social Security leg is broken, the company pension leg is broken, and that leaves us with none other than…you guessed it, “Personal Savings”.

We no longer have the “luxury” of relying on others to take care of us—we are entering the “Age of Self-Reliance” (America was founded on this very ideal, “individual liberty”!), and it’s no longer wise nor safe to depend on your government or on your employer to take care of you.

I have fantastic news for you, though…it is definitely possible in this “Age of Self-Reliance” to not only survive but to thrive!

You CAN achieve financial independence, but first, you will have to go through each of the seven steps I outlined above. (You might feel stuck somewhere around number 4, but that’s where Kung Fu Finance comes in… the supportive help from someone who cares about you!).

And if you keep on keeping on and push through the difficulties, just like Kung Fu Kid did, you will achieve financial independence.

I guarantee it. And I will help you.

Here is a quick little one-minute Hollywood-style trailer of Kung Fu Kid to inspire you:

To your financial success,
— Kung Fu Girl