The Unspoken Problem With Financial Freedom Few People Acknowledge

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Real estate is an incredible wealth building vehicle. You can and should study as much as possible about financing, marketing, property management, maintenance, and finding deals.

But for most of us, these real estate details all point toward a common goal: financial independence.

You want your efforts as an entrepreneur and investor to lead to more autonomy, more freedom, more options, and more living, whatever that means for you.

But lately I’ve realized an unspoken problem in our world of financial independence seekers. This is one of those issues few of us want to acknowledge.

This problem is called the “freedom void.”

What is the Freedom Void?

“With freedom comes responsibility. For the person who is unwilling to grow up, the person who does not want to carry his own weight, this is a frightening prospect.” —Eleanor Roosevelt

The vision most of us have for financial independence or retirement is a fantasy.

Maybe we get the fantasy from a spectacular blog where a 30-year-old retiree travels nonstop around the globe for the rest of his life. Maybe we got it from a mutual fund commercial with a couple walking blissfully on the beach forevermore. Maybe we got it from our unfulfilled childhood dreams.

I’m not saying there is anything wrong with any of these retirement pursuits. The problem is that deep down we know there is more to financial independence than this simple dream.

Beach vacations and travel will be nice, but then what? We know that just retiring from our current lives is not the answer.

Here are some of the questions we begin to ask ourselves behind the scenes:

  • What would I actually do if I had 40-60 free hours per week?
  • What would I do while all of my colleagues are at work?
  • Will I find the same meaning or fulfillment when I don’t have to work a job?
  • What do I really want to do with my life?
  • Will I have an identity crisis when I’m asked the #1 question in America: “What do you do?”
  • I like my job, so why should I sacrifice so much now for something that might not be as fun or fulfilling?

Freedom is a void because suddenly, maybe for the first time, we are completely and solely responsible for the direction of our lives.

Our parents, our friends, our mentors, and our bosses can no longer tell us which path to take. Being busy can no longer hide the reality of the unknown. We are sailing toward uncharted territory, and that is terrifying.

A little (or a lot) of doubt creeps in. We wonder if financial freedom is really worth all of the hassle, struggle, and sacrifice it takes to get there and to stay there.

This doubt, unless acknowledged and addressed, can delay or completely sabotage our paths to financial independence.


Why We Rationalize the Status Quo

In essence, achieving financial independence is just like any other area of growth we experience. We must get out of our comfort zones and go beyond the status quo before we can really grow and improve.

Here are some common status quo refrains:

  • “Frugality and saving money are uncomfortable. Why wait to enjoy life?”
  • “I like my job and I work hard. Why work weekends buying real estate? I’m doing fine.”
  • “The stock market’s uncertain. Interest rates may go up. Politicians are incompetent. I need to keep working two, three, or maybe five more years just to make sure I have enough socked away.”

Growth in our careers and our financial lives has a special problem. Our jobs and our finances just happen to be central to our sense of security and to our identity.

This is a HUGE comfort zone to overcome.

Thousands of years ago, perhaps we humans felt secure in our ability to hunt or to work the land. The best families of hunters or farmers were seen as the most successful.

Related: The Surprisingly Simple “Secret” to Financial Freedom Most 9 to 5-ers Overlook

Today, our ability to make money is a symbol of security. Today if you want to measure how successful someone is, just find out how much he or she earns in their job. In addition, how we see ourselves is also wrapped up in our job and career.

When someone asks, “What do you do?” how do you normally answer?

  • “I AM an engineer.”
  • “I AM a physical therapist.”
  • “I AM a teacher.”

Not “I teach during the day.”

No. I AM. Our job is our identity.

I say all of this for a simple reason: We must acknowledge and overcome the magnetic pull that keeps us in the status quo before we can grow into a new, healthy phase of our life.

An accurate picture of financial independence must be more compelling and more magnetic than the intense gravity of the now and the normal. If it’s not, you’ll easily rationalize why you are not making more progress toward financial independence.

Moving forward into a place you’ve never been requires self honesty and imagination. The rest of the article will help you to use both.

What’s Next? Just Use Your Imagination.

The main point here is to not allow yourself to be fed ideas about your future unconsciously. If you use mutual fund commercials to imagine your life after financial independence, you’ll limit yourself to hanging out on a beach or visiting cathedrals in Europe for the rest of your life.

I love both of those activities, but the actual possibilities are MUCH more varied and MUCH more compelling. What follows are just a few post-financial independence possibilities to whet your appetite. In the comments section below, I hope you’ll share your own vision for a life after financial independence.


Keep Your Career, But Use Your Leverage

Probably the biggest myth about financial independence or retirement is that you have to quit working. Most people I know who have enough money to retire don’t. And that’s ok.

At least for a little while, it’s probably a good idea to keep working.


Because then you can test out a completely different way of working. This new way is all about leverage. You are working, but you don’t have to. That dynamic changes everything.

As an investor, you know that the person in a negotiation who wins is the one who can walk away at any time. As a financially independent person still working a job, you may be able to negotiate better hours, remote work arrangements, more time off, more benefits, more support, etc.

If you’re someone who loves their career in general, the leverage of F-you money, a concept made famous by financial blogger Jlcollins, can help you craft a career that you can still enjoy for years to come.

Test Out Semi-Retirement

While you’re testing your new-found leverage, you might want to consider a life of semi-retirement.

Semi-retirement means you still work, but you have a much more leisurely work schedule. This is often a nice compromise that allows you to contribute and use your professional skills while being able to relax and enjoy your life a little more.

Semi-retirement work arrangements could mean reducing your work days from five to two. It could also mean you work only mornings and take afternoons off. It might mean you find a way to work two seasons of the year and take the other two seasons off.

Anything is possible! Use your imagination here. Remember that the primary benefits of financial independence are autonomy and life options.

You are in control, so create a work schedule that YOU want.

Take a “Passion Job” With Lower (or No) Pay

For some of you, the current job is not a passion. Your soul is calling you to do something else, but the salary and benefits at your old job keep you chained to the status quo.

When you’re financially independent and your personal overhead is covered by investments, you can choose to take a job you love that makes less or no pay.

Some of the most un-glorified and lowest paying jobs make the biggest impact on society. As a parent of young children, stay-at-home moms or dads, teachers, and social workers come to mind as great examples.

But many other high-impact, low-pay careers exist, such as artists, non-profit administrators, peace corp workers, and ministers. It’s a shame that so many people with callings to these professions begrudgingly do something else because it makes more money.

For this reason, financial independence is much more than a selfish pursuit. If you’re called to do one of these important jobs, our society needs your passions and your talents. We need you to get unstuck from simply “making a dying.”

Also keep in mind that if you’re really itching to make a career change, you don’t have to wait to reach full financial independence. If your investments give you 50% of your living expenses, that means you can take a job that makes 50% less and still cover your expenses.

Life is too short to follow unfulfilling paths for decades just because of money. If you have a calling, get your finances in order and go do it!


Take a Mini-Retirement (or Multiple Mini-Retirements)

Rather than perpetually retiring from society, why not break up your life between leisure/exploration and contribution/work?

A mini-retirement is different than a normal vacation. It is as short as a month month or as long as a couple of years where you press pause on your normal life.

The beauty of mini-retirements is that you can test out a certain lifestyle without committing to it for the rest of your life. If you get bored or worn out, you can go back to your prior life or start a completely new path.

I have taken several mini-retirements. The first was a four-month trip where my wife and I began in Spain for six weeks and continued our adventure in South America. We lived with families in order to learn Spanish; we explored floating islands and ancient Maccu Pichu in Peru; we hiked gorgeous, wide-open land in the Patagonia region of Chile and Argentina; and we soaked up the fun and beauty of Buenos Aires, the home of Tango. Now that we have kids, we’ve done more road trips out West to national parks, relaxing beach trips, and explorations of the coast of Mexico.

Create a Social Business

A social business is one of my favorite possibilities for post-financial independent entrepreneurs and investors. I learned more about the concept several years ago when I read a book called Banker to the Poor by Nobel Prize winner Muhammad Yunnus from Bangladesh.

Muhammad Yunnus was an economics professor at a university in Bangladesh during an extreme famine in his country. People were literally starving in the streets, and extreme poverty could be seen everywhere. Yunnus decided he had to do something.

Related: If You Ever Hope to Reach Financial Freedom, Master This Concept

After talking to the most hard-hit people, Yunnus realized that the primary challenge for many of the extremely poor (typically women) was lack of capital. They had skills, like weaving bamboo stools, but they had to borrow money at extremely high rates (sometimes 400-500%) from loan sharks or material suppliers. These loans ate up all of their profit margin, which perpetuated a cycle of poverty and starvation.

For a tiny amount of money (sometimes less than $10), Yunnus began loaning these women money at more reasonable rates so that they could support themselves. Fighting an uphill battle with banks and government officials, Yunnus grew this personal project into a micro-lending business whose primary purpose was to help these women out of poverty.

His social business, called the Grameen Bank, has been wildly successful at its primary purpose, elevating the status of its borrowers. Yunnus and the Grameen Bank won a Noble Peace Prize in 2006. Micro-lending has now taken off around the world.

Most interestingly, Grameen Bank was not organized as a non-profit charity. Their structure was a business that sold something (micro-loans, savings accounts, insurance, etc.) at a profit. The profits, however, were not distributed to owners. Instead they were reinvested to grow and support the primary mission of the social business.

When you reach financial independence, you can also choose to start a business that solves social problems. As the sole shareholder and CEO, you can choose to take money out or you can choose to leave all of the money in so that it helps even more people.

Micro-lending to alleviate poverty is just one of many social business possibilities. Wherever there is a social problem, a business dedicated to that problem could be created.

Mohammad Yunnus now travels the world encouraging entrepreneurs and financially independent individuals to use their skills and capital to create social businesses.

If you want to create your own social business, his book Building Social Business is a good place to start.


Financial Independence Is About Personal Growth

In this article I have tried to identify a problem, the freedom void, and then to provide some suggestions for how to fill that void.

Financial independence is a central topic here on and on other financially-oriented education outlets. How to achieve financial independence is important. Rental property acquisitions, financing, and property management are critical.

But more than anything, this journey toward financial independence is about personal growth. Real estate investing is just a vehicle, and you are the driver.

When you create a compelling, honest, and deeply motivating vision of your life post financial independence, you set your GPS coordinates on a clear destination. You also create an endless supply of fuel for your real estate vehicle that allows it to overcome many of the inevitable obstacles.

I wish you all the best on your personal journey toward financial independence.

[ Editor’s Note: We are republishing this article to help out our newer readers. ]

How do you envision life post financial independence? What do you plan to do? How do you plan to spend your time?

I look forward to reading your comments.

About Author

Chad Carson

Chad Carson is an entrepreneur, writer, and teacher who used real estate investing to reach financial independence before the age of 37. He wrote an Amazon best-selling book Retire Early With Real Estate, and his story has been a featured on Forbes, Yahoo Finance, Business Insider,, the BiggerPockets Podcast, How to Money, ChooseFI, and more. Chad and his business partner currently focus on long-term rental properties and private lending in and around the college town of Clemson, South Carolina. Their portfolio of 90+ units includes houses, small multi-unit apartments, and mobile homes. In 2003, Chad and his business partner began real estate investing from scratch. They started by wholesaling and fixing-and-flipping properties. They also learned to rely on non-conventional financing sources like private lending, seller financing, and lease options, which remains their expertise today. After surviving the 2007-2009 real estate downturn (with scars to prove it!), they transitioned to more of a focus on student rentals. You can find more of Chad's writing (as well as podcast episodes) at


  1. Chad, I love your wisdom here! It’s definitely about the journey and not the destination. When I sold my IT company a few years ago, I definitely spent some time having fun. But, there was also a hole of fulfillment I was missing. Luckily my wife was having our first child right around this time, so this life event quickly filled the void and I became a stay-at-home Dad, and a personal finance blogger by night. I know that once the kids move on to a more regular school schedule I’ll have more free time to pursue other projects and my mini-retirement will be over. I’m okay with that. Life is much more fulfilling when contributing to society and helping others. And, working with leverage will be awesome. 🙂

  2. Patrick H.

    Awesome article, I quit my full time six figure job in May and am getting still getting my bearings. I took mini vacations every year before I quit. That helped me to know what it would feel like to take a month or more off at a time. There is so many options in life when your not tied to a day to day job! Its overwhelming trying to think of all the possibilities. It will come with time I’m sure. I was so burned out from my job that I stayed at too long that there isn’t any void for me yet 5 months in. For those of you that haven’t made the leap yet, life is to short to be miserable. Make moves and keep working towards this goal of independence! Its totally worth it!!!! (Click on my profile to see what I’m invested in)

    • Chad Carson

      Hey Patrick, inspiring comment. Congrats on making the big move away from a full-time job. I think you’re right – you’ll get your bearings and settle into something. But having options really is a beautiful thing. I hope some of the possibilities I mentioned in the article will help you try some things out going forward.

  3. Jacob Murphy

    Good article, lots of meat to chew on. I think about financial freedom just about everyday. I can’t agree enough with the paragraph stating that you may enjoy your job more if you make enough money that you could quit at any point. All of a sudden you are in the position of power and its your choice to keep working or not. I hope to achieve that by the time I’m 35.

    • Jason Hinton

      Working has a whole new feeling when you are choosing to work instead of having to work. My wife and I got to that point about 4 years ago. It made a huge difference when my wife took a new job in another state. It took me a little more than a year to find a job that I was interested in, with a reasonable commute, and excellent work / life balance. As a result I am much happier on a day-to-day basis. That was only possible because we buckled down 15 years ago and made the decision to get out of debt and build wealth.

      This article hits home because my wife and I could retire today and live a nice but modest lifestyle. If things go as planned we will be able to retire much more comfortably in about 4-6 years. Our question is “what would we do”? Ideally we would like to continue working but at a reduced schedule with more free time to travel.

    • Chad Carson

      Thanks Jerry. These concepts have been on my mind a lot as well. Writing these articles and sharing a summary of my favorite big ideas from business, money, and life books at my website has been a big part of filling the void for me. It’s fun to do the real estate investing myself, and then share insights where I can to help others. I’m sure with your own experience, you have a lot to share as well.

  4. Jay M.

    Great Article. I saved into my Flipboard magazine so I can refer to it anytime when I feel I have to refocus on my goals. Coincidentally, I am reading “your Money or Your Life” and I feel this article re-affirms what the end goal is which is financial independence. The take is the journey there not the end goal because that journey could open up a whole different set of opportunities that you didn’t know were there.

    • Chad Carson

      Thanks Jay! I appreciate you saving it to read later. I agree 100% about the journey opening up so many unknown possibilities. That is the exciting part. You start by shooting for one destination, and a series of others appear out of no where. Keeps it interesting!

      “Your Money or Your Life” is one of my favorite books. It had a BIG impact on my way of thinking about financial independence, money, and life.

  5. Minh Le

    Chad, I like my free time. I get to do whatever I want to do. I get to do stuff that others wish they have time to do. I help my and her families run errands when they’re busy with their W-2 job.

    Now, I’m building a business that my wife has been longing for. Hope to get her off her W-2 by 2017 as well as my little sister. Slowly, I’m lifting my siblings out of the W-2 world. One at a time. Thanks to real estate.

    Fingers crossed.

    • Chad Carson

      I love that, Minh! Free time to do all of those activities you mentioned is amazing. I also love that you’re using your entrepreneurial skills to bring others into FI – like your wife and other family members. Very cool! Keep up the inspiring work. That’s what’s so great about this real estate game.

  6. Anthony Gayden

    Do not wait until you are retired or financially independent to start doing what you enjoy.

    By the way Chad, I truly admire the fact that you decided to learn another language and teach your kids the language as well. I did the same and learned Spanish. Even though I was working full-time, I studied with a Professor in Oaxaca, Mexico.

    I would love to become multilingual and learn Mandarin.

    • Chad Carson

      I agree, Anthony! Don’t wait. Do what you love now and later. For me, it’s been possible by living a little bit differently than the average – which means building a RE business for income and then not spending money on all the average stuff (cable, big houses, new cars, etc).

      Awesome that you studied in Oaxaca and share my love of travel and languages. My wife and I visited there once and loved it (especially the Pollo con Mole!). Travel and learning languages is such an important part of what we hope to instill in our children. It had opened up our own minds to so many things.

      Mandarin would be cool, too.

  7. Jeff S.

    Interesting topics Chad. Saying “topics” because there are so many layers to this onion when you start living a life w/o W2 income. The genius comes when you are living a life of meaning and this is where things get complicated. Potential FI (having the ability to quit but continuing to work) and actually living off the grid (no job) are 2 different animals. For me the sacrifice of continuing to work gave the value of knowing there is a solid foundation where running out of money is not a concern. Was it worth trading the potential quitting could have given? Don’t know. Just know that having been so broke for an extended period of time that the most important ingrained desire is security.

    What I have learned in the 3 years of (retirement?) not showing up for work is that there is still a need to accomplish, to grow and to push. Finding the balance between these endeavors is harder than it would seem. Learning new things still feels uncomfortable and doing things part-time feels lazy. Bottom line is we don’t change who we are when we make shifts in our lifestyles. At the same time we can continue to change who we are for the better and grow.

    • Chad Carson

      Thanks for the comments, Jeff. You make really good points. I think you explained the difficult balance of post “retirement” very well.

      Security is such an ingrained desire in so many of us. I think it makes it hard to know exactly when the right time to let go is. But it sure makes it easier to let go when you find something else you enjoy and that gives as much fulfillment, growth, and challenge as the previous job. That is the tricky part. It’s like starting all over again.

  8. Justin Jocewicz

    I know EXACTLY what I will do. Develop a program with online resources primarily focusing on developing self-esteem in children ages 10-16. Secondary goals would be modeling healthy relationships, communication skills and financial literacy! I can’t wait…but need to get there. Only 60% there at this point!

  9. David White

    Thanks for your insight and actually writing this article. It serves as motivation to one day be able to walk away from a w2 job. I’m not sure what exactly I’ll do when I get to that point. I love fitness, music, traveling, and i want to have a family. So whatever it is I do I know it’ll revolve around those things.

    • Chad Carson

      Thanks for commenting, David. I think those are good places to start. I think one of the points I wanted to make with this article is that we have to set clear goals, but we also have to realize that once we get closer those goals may no longer excite or serve us. Having values like you described – fitness, music, traveling, and family – give you a wide range of options. Go after it!

  10. Sandeep S.

    What a beautiful article, Chad! Is there a way to mark/save one’s favorite articles on BP? 🙂

    This comes at just the right time for me. After 6-7 years of RE investing – I am now at a point where I consider myself FI and secure. I still haven’t left my W2 job but I am close to pulling the trigger. And I can’t wait to get all those hours back to me. I want to be doing so many things that I hope I will never feel the void.

    I guess, we’ll see 🙂

    • Chad Carson

      Thank you for the compliment, Sandeep! Good question about marking favorite articles. I’ll have to ask the BP crew. It would be cool to vote on articles like we do forum posts.

      Congrats on your own REI journey. 6-7 years and you’re at a point of FI. That’s awesome!! Pat yourself on the back first of all.

      Whatever you decide to do, I’m sure you find your way. Feeling a void for a period of time may be part of a healthy growth process, even if it does come. Life seems to ebb and flow.

      Best of luck!

  11. NA P.

    Sandeep, one way you can save is to go up to file at the top of your browser, select print preview, and either save the entire article and threads, or just the page you want. By selecting “XPS document writer” as your printer option, it’ll save the print job as an xps word file in whatever folder you choose to put it in.
    …I haven’t tried the “save page as” option in file, but that may work also.
    Hope this helps.

  12. Noah Scott

    Chad, such a great write up!

    As a person just starting out on their REI journey, your first podcast with the BP crew was the first of the podcasts to really resonate with me. This article did just the same.

    I feel that I have had a different path towards financial independence and what I would do with my life if finances were not an issue. Whereas I see most people going: W2 job –> finding their FI vehicle –> reaching their point of FI –> the Freedom Void —> discovering purpose and fulfillment.

    For a variety of different reasons, I find that my path has gone: W2 job and college –> Spend a year exploring my passions (while still working) –> Finding purpose and my why –> Searching for my vehicle towards FI –> Finding REI —> Exploring and Learning –> Present.

    I am still learning, but am taking actionable steps to secure my future. I am taking my RE salesperson license exam in October (entering into a job that is scalable and works with my personality), working with a brokerage who’s team is filled with investors themselves, and searching for my first deal. I look forward to seeing where this part of my journey takes me.

    I just wanted to say thank you Chad. The content you have provided the BP community has been of great service to me personally, as I know it has for many others.

    • Chad Carson

      Thank you so much, Noah! I loved this comment:
      “For a variety of different reasons, I find that my path has gone: W2 job and college –> Spend a year exploring my passions (while still working) –> Finding purpose and my why –> Searching for my vehicle towards FI –> Finding REI —> Exploring and Learning –> Present.”

      What an awesome distinction! I can tell you’ve really thought hard about what you want to do in your life, and you’re building your business and real estate pursuits around it. Very cool!

      Good luck with your next steps. It sounds like you’re on the right track!

  13. Cindy Larsen


    EXcellent article. Usually, reading your posts, I am impressed, so reading the beginning of this article I was surprised to find a number of statements that were from a fairly narrow mindset: the “Freedom Void” doubts, the “Status Quo” questions, the statement “Our job is our identity” were not what I expected from you.
    What a relief to find that you were simply setting a context for the rest of the article, which was a masterful overview of potential directions for people to explore to makr their lives more fullfilling.

    Of course, there is no reason NOT to do these things before achieving financial freedom. Yes, a full time job and a family is time consuming, but you CAN spend time exploring your passions with your family along for the ride, you CAN sacrifice TV time to do something fullfilling, you can change W-2 careers to do something you find fullfilling, and work at something meaningful. People who do things are far less likely to have problems meaningfully filling their time once they are financially independent.

    My career was in the software industry. I also have a master’s degree as a Children’s librarian, tutor math, teach English Country Dance, perform at Rennaisance Faires, remodel houses, invest in real estate, and do a whole list of hobbies and fun activities.

    I am financially independant. I am making additional income in real estate, and in my math tutoring business so that I can be financially independent without ever needing to live on any of my capital when I retire. I plan to grow my capital instead, and pass it on to my children. I am mentoring my young adult children, their cousins and friends in financial concepts and have already got three of them interested in partnering with me in real estate. I also hope to make an impact on the children I tutor, and within ten years I will be able to go back to the very low paying job of a children’s librarian so I can make an impact on children there. For me, financial independence is the ability to make positive difference in our future, wherever that leads me.

    • Chad Carson

      How inspiring, Cindy! You are a person of many talents, and I love how you’re using your time and wealth to make an impact on those inside your family and in the bigger community. Everyone’s got their own path, but I personly find your approach very satisfying. My own writing and teaching here on and are for the same motivations.

      And I’m glad I pulled the article back around for you after a rough start:) Ha, Ha.

      Best of luck with your future endeavors!

  14. Michael King

    Great article!! I love the idea of the Social Business.. I am not yet investing but am on the road to it with the goal of buying my first property by the end of next year. I do think a lot about what I will do with the extra 40+ hours a week and this article, to me anyway, says that you can do what ever you want.. DO NOT LIMIT YOURSELF.

    Thanks for the article!!

  15. Kyle Rutz

    Thanks for the article that was great. Working toward FI I have had some of these thoughts. I also think the book LIfeonaire by Steve Cook helps put some perspective on what we really want this to look like.


  16. Andrew Lee


    As a college professor, I tell my students about THE Question they’ll be asked the rest of their lives: “So, what do you do?” Then I advise them to try answering like this:

    I care. I love. I serve. I forgive. I mediate. I contribute. I inspire. I encourage. Etc.

    Isn’t this who you really “are”, rather than your career or vocation? They usually begin to smile and nod.

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