Financial Freedom Is All About Your Choices

Financial Freedom Is All About Your Choices

It’s a 1952 Chambolle-Musigny. It’s almost as old as I am.  And it’s in my wine cellar.

“So what?” you say.  What’s so important about an old bottle of French wine when you’re worried about making mortgage payments and you’re being suffocated by accumulated credit card debt?

Well, it’s about financial freedom … and the choices we make.

The more I talk to women who are struggling with their finances, the more I realize that many are fighting a false battle.  The real enemy is hidden beyond what I call the emotional and physical aspects of money.  “Emotional” includes the money gremlins in their heads that keep them anchored in unhealthy money behaviors.  “Physical” is their inability or unwillingness to look their money in the eye … otherwise known as getting honest with their money.

Once those two aspects are addressed and tamed, the logical third one is the spiritual aspect:  the vision or purpose in their lives that drives them to put out the needed energy and to focus on their goals.  It’s the same vision that motivates them to stick to the changes they’ve made in their behaviors.  In short, it’s how they define financial freedom, among other things.

But here’s the flaw:  as they’re fantasizing about where they eventually want to be and what they want their life to look like, far too few look deep enough inside—away from the opinions and expectations of others—to identify what’s truly important to them.

Very rarely is a dollar figure a strong enough motivator in the long term.  (Especially because the figure keeps growing.)  The same holds true for big toys.  The most effective motivator is a soul-deep feeling that comes from relishing in a lifestyle that reflects all your standards of integrity and your values.  What that lifestyle looks like on the outside is irrelevant; it’s how it feels on the inside.  And it’s uniquely yours.

I can’t speak for others because my gauge is different from everyone else’s.  But I can tell you that once I got beneath all the layers of Madison Avenue manipulation and well-intentioned peer pressure—and figured out what I really wanted—wild horses couldn’t keep me from achieving it.

Most of you know my story: at age 53, at the epitome of my apparent success, the economic impact of the 9/11 disaster yanked the support out from under my deck-of-cards business.  Down it fell, taking my house, my business, and my entire outer persona with it.

But in that space of total loss, the minute I understood what was really crucial to me in my gut, there was nothing I wouldn’t do to get it.  I pared back living expenses to where no one thought I’d ever go.  I restructured my life.  I lost the friends who were more interested in my street address than in my values.

No, the turnaround wasn’t immediate.  But it was laser focused.  Slowly, but steadily.  One foot in front of the other.  And, as finances turned around, most of the things I had given up never came back into my life.

What did I want?  I wanted to know that I’d be okay financially for the rest of my life (however I defined ‘okay’).  I wanted to be able to spend time with special people, even if I’d have to wedge them in between long hours of work for some time to come.  I wanted to continue working at what I loved, but more intelligently.  I wanted to travel at will to all the nooks and crannies of the world where I feel comfortable, to stay connected to a vital energy I find out there.

I did not want to fill my life with things:  not with new cars and big houses, flat-screened technological wonders and designer anythings that would be copied in China two weeks later.

But, instead, I wanted to fill it with experiences that made me feel richer.  More connected.  A concert—from blues to Bach—that fits my mood that day.  A long conversation with someone who challenges me intellectually, even if I never met her before or will ever see her again.  A chance to share all I’ve learned.  The serendipitous joy of who I meet on my travels.  An exquisite meal in the least likely place.  A precious piece of Mother Nature.  Quiet time with loved ones and close friends.  Belly laughs as I poke fun at myself in my stories. And, yes, even the explosion of taste in my mouth from an outrageous bottle of wine … when I feel like it.

Last week I opened a 1987 Pouilly-Fuissé to share with friends over a simple meal of steamed bass and vegetables.  No special occasion.  It was enough just to hear one of them utter, again and again, “somptueux,” the most sumptuous white wine he had ever tasted.  It was all about sharing the moment.

So back to my 1952 bottle.  When will I drink it?  Will I save it to drink in celebration of some massive achievement one day?  Probably not, because the achievement itself—whatever it is—is celebration enough.

Instead, one of these days I’ll wonder what wine to open for dinner.  I’ll look at the people around me and if they seem particularly aligned with my standards of integrity and values … we’ll open it and savor it.

Would you like me to call you?

xxxxxxx

Sharon O’Day is an expert in global finance and marketing with an MBA  from the Wharton School. She has worked with governments, corporations,  and individuals … yes, she was the secret ‘weapon,’ if you will, behind  many individuals in high places. At age 53, she lost everything: her  home, her business, everything. Since then, Sharon has interviewed women  and done extensive research to understand how that could have happened,  especially with her strong knowledge of numbers and finance.

The surprising answers will be shared in her upcoming book “Money  After Menopause.” Today her focus is to show women how to reach  financial security for the long term. She has developed a step-by-step  plan to get past all the obstacles that keep women broke and scared …  and from reaching the financial peace of mind they so deserve.

  • Denny

    Through the ages women have been conditioned to watch out for and take care of others, putting themselves last. Through your brilliant writing and leading example you are providing what many women need…a wake-up call to the need to live and act in a way that reflects what lives in their soul that will nurture and please them. Great article!

  • Such a rich life in all the right ways!!!!!! Keep up the good work Sharon! I can’t wait for your book to be released! 🙂

    • Thanks, Sandi. I don’t know about you, but I can see traces of our Friday conversation all over this piece!

  • Mary Ellen Lapp

    I am relating to your starting over and with different priorities. Aren’t we like your fine vintage wine? Here’s to savoring the moment!

    • Mary Ellen, you’re right in comparing us to fine vintage wines. We get more defined, more evocative and more valuable with age. In fact, that’s one reason I keep sneaking off to Europe. Once you’re over 40 or 50, you realize how obsessed the U.S. is with everyone pretending they’re 22. Don’t get me wrong: 22 was a fabulous age. But so is 62 … 😉

  • Working towards my “own” financial freedom. I “detest” explaining or trying to explain to someone who accepts crumbs of government assistance, but grateful it comes, but as a “drip” only. Financial freedom is what I am working towards and not going to play “low” in life as being a giver crumbs help a little, but I want to make a massive difference.

  • Sharon, I feel like you’re writing my story, the way you’ve penned this article! It’s all about sharing the moment and treasuring the true wealth that freedom brings to pursue what is most valuable… that is abundant life!

  • Jim Rodante

    Wow Sharon, that is some story, and a great article & message. I can relate, although the hurdles you’ve evidently overcome were much higher than mine were. Thanks for sharing, look forward to connecting.

    • Glad you found it, Jim! As for hurdles, we each get different sized ones in different arenas in our lives. And I appreciate your comment on Sandi’s FB wall that the message isn’t only for women, although that’s the tighter focus of my mentoring. But you’re right, learning what life’s about is not gender specific!

  • Hallie Thompson

    Awesome post Sharon~ I loved it!

  • Dominique Letellier

    Génial !!! Et c est vrai que ce vin était exceptionnel. Merci encore. Phil et do

  • Want my number? Sharon, this is awesome. I find it ironic that my life and desires are aligning with your articles. What is up with that? Must be my age. Anyway, as I continue in my pursuit of business achievement, life’s adventures and my relationship development with those I love I find that “things” are not necessary. You hit the nail on the head when you said being with those you want to, doing things that have meaning, enjoying the moment. Those are the things I am enjoying now and want to in the future. I think with maturity these realizations come if we are honest with ourselves and not pay so much attention to those wanting to run our lives and make our choices for us. Thanks for asking if you can call me, the pleasure and honor would be all mine:)

  • Nancy

    Yes, please call me. Chambolle-Musigny. Good stuff! Thank you for helping acknowledge what I value, truly.

  • Yes, please call. I can bring over a bottle of Ken’s home made wine too. He made a batch one year that was extremely difficult, but turned out to be his best wine ever. Finally one evening with friends we opened and drank the last bottle. You don’t want to wait too long, in case it turns to vinegar.

  • Yes, please call. I can bring over a bottle of Ken’s home made wine too. He made a batch one year that was extremely difficult, but turned out to be his best wine ever. Finally one evening with friends we opened and drank the last bottle. You don’t want to wait too long, in case it turns to vinegar.

  • Yes, please call. I can bring over a bottle of Ken’s home made wine too. He made a batch one year that was extremely difficult, but turned out to be his best wine ever. Finally one evening with friends we opened and drank the last bottle. You don’t want to wait too long, in case it turns to vinegar.

  • Yes, please call. I can bring over a bottle of Ken’s home made wine too. He made a batch one year that was extremely difficult, but turned out to be his best wine ever. Finally one evening with friends we opened and drank the last bottle. You don’t want to wait too long, in case it turns to vinegar.

  • Beau Henderson

    Sharon, I love this post because you are sharing from experience and the heart how to really be rich and fulfilled. I so appreciate your willingness to be real when it comes to money and life… so refreshing.

  • Oh, Sharon, did you hear me laughing coming from your recent post from which you kindly invited me to a bottle of Chambolle-Musigny (quite close to my age as well)? This is a wonderful post, coming from the heart and going to the heart, laser focused, what a pleasure to know you and who knows: maybe one day we will sit together and share wine, food and laughter and some good stories in between! Santé!

    • I figured you’d enjoy it, Barbara! And I fully expect to have that visit one day; we have too much in common not to. Add to that the fact that I do come to Europe regularly and voilà!