Why Financial Flexibility is the Next Best Thing to Financial Independence

I’ve been quiet on the blog because I’ve been uninspired, feeling like I have very little to say about money that I haven’t already said. And I’ve been preoccupied with lots of other things that, to be honest, have made personal finance seem like a trite and irrelevant topic. Of course, I can only say that because we’ve achieved a good measure of financial flexibility. And so I guess that means personal finance is very relevant—what a blessing and privilege not to be worrying about money in the midst of so much else going on.

What’s been going on? Our closest friends and neighbors moved. I got pregnant, and that of course comes with symptoms, appointments, and preparations.  My family of origin is going through some challenges. We’re busy with regular life–work, kids, volunteer ministry, continuing ed, etc.  Plus our bathroom remodeling goal has gone from “probably should” to “high priority” after we discovered the subfloor was water damaged.

Financial flexibility is an accounting term that describes “a company’s ability to react to unexpected expenses and investment opportunities.” We find this concept useful for personal finance as well. What options would open up if you could live on half your current income? How easily could you weather a job loss or unexpected illness? Could you say “yes” to travel, moving, or giving opportunities that come along? In other words, can you touch your financial toes?

Financial flexibility has afforded us the privilege of not thinking much about money during this less than low-key season. We can complete a DIY (with help) bathroom remodel without going into debt. I’ve been able to take care of myself instead of stressing about side hustling to make our financial plans work. We can weather the extra expenses of adding to our family. And our systems of auto-withdrawal for giving and investing can mostly steer our financial goals during a time when we’re not devoting much thought to money.

Our deeply ingrained “frugal” habits also allow us to just continue on autopilot. I suppose it would be easy to start ordering more take-out, shopping for stress relief, or spending more on conveniences or entertainment for our kids. We’ve certainly increased our expenses a bit to accommodate our growing family, but overall our lifestyle remains similar in the day-to-day. And it’s not through some super-human effort, but the sheer power of habit.

We’re far from financial independence–and totally content with that. We’ll get there when we get there, and we won’t sacrifice our values or purpose for it at all. I’ll be home with the little ones, Neil will be turning down work that would take him away from family and friends too much, and we’ll continue devoting nights and weekends to fellowship and volunteering rather than paid side gigs.

We’ll also keep spending on giving, hosting, date nights, and travel.

We will happily “sacrifice” what we don’t deem worthwhile uses of our money: car payments, eating out frequently, gym memberships, new furniture, or the latest fashions.

Everyone’s got their things that they’re willing to spend on, and those they aren’t. Our are just examples. The key is trying to sort out what’s really worth it to you, and limiting that list. Because everything doesn’t have to be your favorite.

If you’re still nowhere near FI, take heart: financial flexibility is a continuum you can make constant progress along. And as you do, you’ll experience real, growing benefits even while you’re still very tied to the day job. Our decisions have become less and less influenced by money, and increasingly tied to our values and purpose. We can say yes more and more. Another mission trip to India? Sure. Another baby? Yes. Home upgrades as needed? Fine. Sponsor another child in need? Absolutely.

And that feels like freedom in many ways.

What the next step along your financial flexibility continuum? What benefits have you experienced from growing financially?

14 Responses to “Why Financial Flexibility is the Next Best Thing to Financial Independence”

  1. CarolineRSA says :

    Thank you! I have been lacking motivation and this is just what I have needed.

  2. Oldster says :

    I think we all battle that from time to time. Nothing wrong with taking some time to yourself. Thanks for sharing and I’m glad to be reading your thoughts again.

  3. Kim says :

    Thank you for making your children a priority over earning more income. Children do so much better when mama is not distracted 9+ hours per day. Great reminders of what is important.

  4. Tonya says :

    Financial flexibility give me the opportunity to take care of my aging cat with medication and appointments without feeling too stressed about it! Missed seeing you around here!

    • Kalie says :

      Your cat is a good example! I’m sure the situation would be more sad and stressful it would be if you couldn’t afford the care.

  5. Daniel says :

    Thanks for the post. I think materialism is still going strong (I thought we were past the 80’s?) but those of us who read blogs like this are changing our mindset day by day, questioning the importance of all that “important” stuff. Can’t take it with us and it doesn’t really add to fulfilment , personal value etc. I’d rather focus on investing in other pepole and causes, because there is a permanence that is not available in “material stuff”.

    • Kalie says :

      I agree that other people and causes that help them are so much more lasting than “stuff” and therefore more worthy of our time, effort, and money.

  6. Prudence Debtfree says :

    I’m sorry to hear that your family of origin is going through a tough time. It’s amazing how life can be blossoming in one are – as in your pregnancy – and suffering in another. Hard to reconcile. (And perhaps the “blossoming” feels more like morning sickness at this point anyway?) It is very true that financial freedom runs on a continuum. As you know, we recognize a freedom for worry that is ours now that are debt-level is so low and our cushion of savings and investments is more and more healthy. I can’t put a price tag on that kind of freedom.

    • Kalie says :

      Thanks, Ruth. Fortunately I’m past the morning sickness now. It’s awesome that you’ve achieved so much more flexibility and relative freedom!

  7. emarah says :

    This is an excellent financial situation, I congratulate you, I hope to be in a financial position like him.

  8. Rosalie Flores-Bernardo says :

    Thank you for this post! I am still nowhere near financial independence but I hope even with little progress we can eventually. It’s a relief that there is an in between “financial flexibility” that I can aim as a milestone.

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