Financial Independence vs. Financial Freedom — Is There a Difference Between the Two?

by Vinaya HS on April 7, 2011

in Finance

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I believe there is.

The more I read-up on financial independence and financial freedom, the more I’m beginning to appreciate the subtle differences between these two terms — or rather, phases in one’s personal finance journey.

Here’s what I have learned.

Financial Independence =

Zero-debt

plus Adequate Emergency Funds

plus Adequate Health Insurance Cover

plus Income excluding Salary and Investments >= Average Monthly Expenses

So, when you’re financially independent, you don’t owe a dime to anyone and you’ve got your risks covered, but you still need to do something, but not work as we know it, to put the bread on the table. In this phase, however, you might still be trading some of your time for money.


Now, moving on to financial freedom,

Financial Freedom =

Zero-debt

plus Adequate Emergency Funds

plus Adequate Health Insurance Cover

plus Income from Investments >= Average Monthly Expenses

So, when you’ve achieved financial freedom, you still don’t owe a dime to anyone and you’ve still got your risks covered. However, you don’t need to do even that something to put the bread on the table. In other words, you simply don’t trade your time for money. You’re paid interest to live rather than you paying interest to live.


What’s common between these two phases is quite clear. Get rid of your debt, sock away for a rainy day, and buy as much health insurance cover as you can and you’ll be well set for the journey towards financial independence and financial freedom. And they’re not sequential. Because you can inch towards financial freedom while you strive for financial independence.

That’s what I am doing.

Do neither though and you’ll continue to trade your time for money — and that’s a bad thing!

What do you think? I’d love to hear your thoughts.




Thanks for reading this article. I'd love to hear your opinion. Please use the comments section below to share your thoughts. I frequently write new articles that also cover several other aspects of personal finance including credit cards, financial goals, health insurance, income tax, life insurance, mutual funds, retirement planning, and much more. You can Subscribe through Email and receive new articles directly in your Inbox or you can Subscribe through the RSS Feed and receive new articles in your feed reader.

{ 9 comments… read them below or add one }

herge April 9, 2011 at 12:50 PM

‘Income excluding Salary and Investments >= Average Monthly Expenses’

Doesn’t make sense. Most people wont have this .

If its
Income excluding Investments >= Average Monthly Expenses
then its makes much better sense.

Dont see what the fuss is all about.One need to be FI during employment and must have FF after retirement. Simple as that. Simplicity is integral to personal finance. Your post appears appears a little too convoluted.

Vinaya H S April 11, 2011 at 9:58 AM

@herge:

Thanks for sharing your thoughts. :-) Interesting perspective. But how can you be financially independent when you still “need” your job to meet your monthly expenses? Agreed that you might have an emergency fund, but how long can that last? I personally know people who’ve been out of work for more than a year!

herge April 11, 2011 at 4:32 PM

When I don’t depend on any other cash source except that which I earn, I am independent. When I stop depending on even that, I am finally free.

So I am not referring to the emergency fund at all. Speaking of which:
“How long can that last?”!
What do your (laid off?) friends say to that?

Such dangers reminds us how important it is do something which one loves and how important to be so good at it that you are indispensable come what may!
FI and FF are intimately linked to this.

herge April 11, 2011 at 5:15 PM

To add: You seem to think way too much about when you don’t have to work. That is a sign that you don’t truly enjoy what you are doing for a living. as you once mentioned about vocation, I suppose given a choice you would just go off on one everlasting trek!!

Vinaya H S April 11, 2011 at 10:57 PM

@herge:

Indispensable in today’s corporate world?

And… :-) :-) :-) at “given a choice you would just go off on one everlasting trek.”

SF Vicente December 13, 2011 at 5:15 PM

@Vinaya & Herge,

Loved the post and I think the comments are invaluable.

I agree with the definitions but Herge did make a very important point. I sometimes think about how great it would be to stop working. I hadn’t really though about it but if I really want to stop, isn’t it because I no longer like what I’m doing?

Guys, you’ve helped me, by forcing me to think about what I want and what I should plan for in the future, so thanks for that. :)

Vinaya H S December 14, 2011 at 9:22 AM

@SF Vicente:

Glad to be of help. :-)

As with everything else in life, taking that one next step is what’s most important.

Shekhar January 3, 2012 at 10:21 AM

Hi Folks,

Very interesting perspective. I am 32 years old and work as a middle level manager in Mumbai. I have been thinking of financial freedom for the last 10 years and the recent stock market boom (well, not so recent actually) helped me a great deal. Today, I can comfortably say I am financially independent. My investment returns (note the word returns, not capital) far exceed my monthly expenses. All fine and well. I can tick all the relevant boxes for financial freedom. The biggest challenge for us is inflation. We must ensure our capital is protected from inflation at all costs. However, this brings me to a very important issue raised by Herge. Why would we want to be financially independent? Why do I stop myself from buying that latest SUV I am lusting after and continue to run my trusted 7 year old santro? Is it because I want to save more money? Save for what? The answer, I’ve figured out is that I don’t truly enjoy what I am doing. It could be the 9 to 9 routine, it could be the commute, it could be the work or even the boss. Fact is, most of us who are so tied down to financial freedom actually are not so bullish about our future and hence want to prepare in some way for the ‘worst case scenario’ – probably not the best way to live.

Vinaya HS January 4, 2012 at 2:44 PM

@Shekhar:

It’s seriously wonderful to hear that your investment returns far exceed your monthly expenses. Could you perhaps share details on how you went about accomplishing this (specific steps that you took/investments that you made, how long it took you to get there, any pitfalls along the way, etc.)?

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