A few weeks ago, I wrote a post about what was more important to me than financial security. I shared that, for my family, the freedom to come and go as we please has become more valuable than a steady paycheck. The comments on that post surprised me.
I wasn’t surprised to read about different priorities, that was to be expected. What I hadn’t been prepared for, however, were the multiple ways financial security was described.
For some people, financial security means being able to cover major bills and health care expenses. For others, having a certain amount of money equates to security. One commenter mentioned the word self-reliance. I realized there is more than one way to interpret the concept of financial security. It made me take a closer look at my own ideas and examine whether any of them really meant what I thought, what I needed financial security to be.
When I wrote that post, I was thinking about the sense of security that comes from having an employer.
I have often equated having a check waiting for me on a predictable basis, a check that was provided by a company and a boss who maintained both responsibility for and control of my work, with security. Although I realize my income was actually at the mercy of someone else’s decisions, not having those worries made me feel secure.
I’ve learned through multiple experiences that particular version of security is mostly an illusion. Companies fold, offices close, and bosses can make announcements about paychecks disappearing with no warning. Despite feeling secure because of employment, my family’s financial future has been altered in an instant on more than one occasion.
Another idea of financial security that I’ve often used is the idea that having a certain amount of money would keep my family safe. I’ve stockpiled cash in savings accounts, prepared for any imaginable emergency. I rested easier knowing that an unexpected job loss would not lead to hunger or homelessness. In most cases, this seems to be a good plan.
And then the unimaginable happens and expenses for which you could have never planned swallows your savings in large gulps. A bout of unemployment lasts longer than the worst case scenario plan. A tragedy your brain wouldn’t have dared dream up hits you or your loved ones. While there are certainly some people in the world for which no unexpected expense is too large, the majority of us aim for security from the things that we hope don’t go wrong but know could.
Having been surprised by all sorts of changes and heard about still more, I think I’m beginning to settle on a third definition of financial security: the confidence that I’ll figure it out.
Like Nyt, a reader who commented on that post a few weeks ago, my family also values self reliance. I’m working to teach my children that they are capable of finding a solution to any problem. We preach creativity and resourcefulness, as well as confidence and accountability. I’m trying to teach - and learn - how to plan properly, but also how to live knowing that when plans fail, things still almost always end up OK. Perhaps I am naive, but that sounds like a more reliable source of security than the things I’ve counted on in the past.
What does financial security look like to you?