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Why aren’t we financially free?

/ 04:04 AM February 10, 2020

Last week, I had the privilege of attending a talk by Dr. Bobby Guevarra of the Ateneo de Manila (who was coincidentally one of my theology professors when I was studying in the university). In his talk, he related lessons from the Israelites’ journey toward freedom from slavery in the book of Exodus to the circumstances in our lives that enslave us today.

This made me reflect on our own journey toward financial freedom. Although many of us have stable jobs and profitable businesses that generate income, only a few of us can confidently say the we are financially free or are on our way there.

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A lot of things enslave us, preventing us from attaining financial freedom. We might be stuck in a low-paying dead end job. Or we might have a high-paying job that we hate but can’t give up because we need it to pay the bills. We might also have some bad habits that sabotage our ability to save and invest, like constantly buying expensive designer shoes and bags and the latest gadgets, or eating in the trendiest restaurants, or constantly traveling. Or we might have a lot of debts that we can’t bring down because we constantly spend more than what we earn.

Unfortunately, although we don’t like our situation, many of us remain in financial slavery because we don’t want to change. This prevents us from even starting our journey toward financial freedom.

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Sometimes it is difficult for us to admit that we are responsible for our own suffering. This could be due to the feeling of entitlement.

“How can I be spending too much? If all my friends have an iPhone 11, I also deserve to have one. After all, I have a higher rank in my company compared to them.”

Although we don’t like the insecurity of not having enough, we choose to live with it, just like the Israelites who got used to being slaves for hundreds of years.

Sometimes, we recognize that we are responsible for our own suffering. However, we are too scared to change or do anything about it.

We might not like our job, but to get a better job, we might need to accept a more challenging role, retool ourselves or learn something new. The idea of change is scary because we might fail. Or, if we live less lavishly, we might lose people’s respect because they might think that we are no longer rich or belong to the same circle and are not worth knowing.

Because of fear, we end up returning to financial slavery or practicing bad habits that prevent us from being financially free, similar to the Israelites who wanted to return to slavery in the Egypt when they encountered difficulties in the desert.

However, to escape these chains that keep us from being financially free, we need to recognize that God wants us to be free. We also need to see things in a new light. Remember that God will provide us a way to escape financial slavery in the same way he allowed the Israelites to cross the Red Sea when it seemed impossible for them to escape certain death.

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Also remember how God was with the Israelites all the way in their journey from slavery in Egypt to freedom in the Promised Land, protecting them from harm and providing for all their needs. It was a tough journey that took several years, but God equipped them with all they needed to survive and make it to the end.

Personally, I saw how God provided a way for me to attain financial freedom despite the challenges I encountered in my life. A year after I began working as an analyst, the Philippines suffered from the Asian Financial Crisis. Because of this, the Philippine stock market suffered from a bear market that lasted for more than five years, making it difficult for anyone who worked in the industry to earn a good salary.

Nevertheless, this gave me ample time to increase my knowledge and skills, which proved to be important when the stock market began to turn. The difficult times also taught me how to be frugal and how to be content with a simple life, which is a very important value to pursue financial freedom. Finally, it made me realize the importance of saving and investing, and looking for ways to increase passive income, which is why my husband and I began to invest in properties.

When I graduated from the university, my dream was to have a high-paying job in a prestigious company, and I did not mind leaving the country if that was what it would take for me to reach my dream. However, God had other plans for me, preventing me from leaving the country every time there was an opportunity. Although I’d probably be earning more if I were working abroad, I realize that being financially free is not simply about having the most money. It also means being able to spend time with family and doing the things I love. And in that respect, God has been faithful.

To end his talk, Dr. Bobby Guevara said “change happens only when we are willing to leave the familiar behind.” If we want to be financially free, we need to leave behind the bad habits that prevent us from earning, saving and investing more. Although it’s hard, remember that God wants us to be free and he will be faithful in helping us get there. INQ

April Lee-Tan, CFA, is the chief equity strategist of COL Financial, the Philippines’ leading online stockbroker. She has over 20 years of experience covering the Philippine stock market. She heads the COL research team. For her market insights, follow @AprilLeeTan and @colfinancial on Twitter. For comments and suggestions, email [email protected]

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