A couple of days ago I received a letter from the
Belgian French – damn you debt crisis of 2008 – bank BNP Paribas Fortis. Since I’m not a customer of Fortis, I was pretty sure it contained some cheap marketing ploy to get me to transfer my funds to one of their exciting brand-new accounts. As it turns out, I was right.
After almost throwing the letter away two words caught my eye: “financial freedom” (obviously the letter wasn’t in English). Whoa, their data mining team must have been doing overtime to pick up on my interest in financial freedom!
The full first paragraph of the letter read as follows:
Hello totally awesome No More Waffles,
You’re young and you want… financial freedom? You want to handle all your banking needs wherever, whenever and however you like? That’s possible with Hello4You!
Major let-down, right? The rest of the letter continues about how Fortis’ service is free until you turn 28 and how cool it is to be able to pay your bills with your smartphone. Oh, and yes, that’s a llama. I have no idea what it’s doing there, but there you have it.
As you can imagine I was quite disappointed, but still I couldn’t shake the feeling there was something important about the llama’s message about financial freedom. How could a bank promote such a basic service with a tagline on financial freedom and hope to make some customers in the progress?
After a couple of days I still hadn’t figured it out, but that’s probably on me. What was clear to me, however, was the fact that financial freedom meant something completely different to the good people at BNP Paribas’ marketing department than it did to me and most likely the vast majority of the NMW readers.
For most of you financial freedom or independence probably entails some sort of passive income streams or savings that cover your basic needs. In other words, you don’t have to work anymore to sustain your lifestyle. A large part of financial freedom is indeed about having a steady income for life from something other than a job.
Even though I talk about financial independence in almost every post on this blog, it wasn’t until this letter hit my mailbox that I actually started thinking about my definition of financial freedom. Yes, it’s about covering my basic needs with invested savings. Yes, it’s about not having to work. Yes, it’s about being able to do whatever I want, within reason of course.
However, that still doesn’t explain why I want financial freedom. Why do I want enough money to cover my basic living expenses for the rest of my life when BNP Paribas Fortis thinks all I want is to be able to take care of my bank accounts on the go?
As it turns out, the answer was pretty obvious. Both my desire for financial freedom and the logic behind Fortis’ service boil down to choice. When you’re financially free you have the choice to explore any opportunity that presents itself to you. The difference between Fortis and me is that I try to pursue choice in the long run, whereas Fortis tries to lure customers with immediate gratification.
Fortis basically asks, “You want to buy a llama right here and now? Here are our services to make that happen.” They offer you the freedom to do so, but that doesn’t make it true financial freedom. Financial freedom is about reaching a point in your life when you can make any choice you like for every opportunity or decision that presents itself to you.
If you’re bored of your llama tomorrow, good luck getting rid of it. If I decide to quit my current job to start my own llama wool business after hitting my financial independence target, I can close that business at any given time and move on to bigger and better things. No bank account or service will help you achieve that level of freedom or independence, only a freedom fund can.
Long-term, sustainable choice is the thing I’m looking forward to the most in reaching financial freedom. That’s why I don’t give in to the type of instant gratification that BNP Paribas Fortis would have you believe is financial freedom. They offer now over tomorrow even though true gratification comes from fullfilling a long-term goal or desire.
Would you rather buy a llama now through your smartphone or have the choice to become an ex-llama wool farmer later?