I use the terms freedom and liberty somewhat
interchangeably, as do most people.
I have seen it pointed out that there is a difference. Liberty means that you are free from
others (including government) encroaching on your person or your property. In this sense, liberty is a political
Freedom on the other hand can be more personal. You may have the right to do something,
but it doesn’t mean you can do it.
You may have the liberty to sail around the world, but you don’t really
have the freedom to do it because you lack the money and time.
This all depends upon definitions, but it makes a point for
this piece. Many people are at
liberty to do many things in life, but they may not have the means to do
them. We do live in a world with
scarce resources. In our world
today, a mark of wealth is not necessarily to accumulate resources, but to
accumulate money, which can be used to buy resources.
This brings me to the topic of accumulating money. There are some people in this world who
actually look down on it. They
think it is a bad thing to accumulate money. While many Americans have this attitude, I think Americans
tend to have a much better appreciation for wealth accumulation than most other
places in the world. There are a
lot of cultures that take an attitude that is negative towards accumulating
wealth and even just being successful.
This is one of the reasons parts of the world are so poor.
What amazes me though is that many people, including
Americans, do not see a point in saving money. They want to live for today. That is why about half of Americans live paycheck to
paycheck, or at least one of the reasons.
It is funny to me when I hear someone accuse others of being
greedy simply because they save money.
If anything, wouldn’t it be the opposite? The saver is delaying gratification and is not spending his
money on unnecessary things that only bring short-term happiness.
But it is especially strange to me that so many people don’t
understand why others would save so much.
They don’t understand that it can bring a person security and freedom,
all at the same time. Of course,
people who tend to be critical of savers tend to be people who don’t have any
money themselves, and are also very short-term oriented. They cannot delay gratification for the
Having money can give you security for various reasons. Obviously, if you lose your job or main
source of income, having money means having a cushion. You aren’t going to starve. You may not even have to cut back on
your lifestyle if you have enough in reserves.
There are even more extreme examples where having money
provides security. If you get sick
and need the best treatment in the world, don’t count on your health insurance
to cover it for you. If you have
money, you have the means to try an alternative doctor halfway around the
world. You have the means to try
special therapies that may be expensive.
But the biggest thing that shocks me about those who are
critical of savers is that they don’t understand the huge benefit of freedom.
If you ask most people what they would do first if they won
the lotto, what is the number one answer you would hear? The first thing most people would do
with the money is use it to support themselves so that they can quit their
job. That is the number one reason
people want to win the lotto. They
want to say goodbye to their job.
This is freedom.
If you accumulate a lot of money, it allows you to do things that others
simply cannot do. Even if you
don’t have enough to retire, you can always quit a stressful job and find
something easier, even if it means less pay. And having money also means that you can pursue work that is
more meaningful to you.
I think the reason that this doesn’t occur to the saving
critics is because they can’t fathom the idea. They live paycheck to paycheck and they have absolutely no
hope of retiring before the age of 65 (or even later) unless they do win the
lottery, especially since big pensions are becoming a thing of the past. They cannot understand someone
accumulating enough capital to actually have the freedom to walk away from a
In terms of the distinct definitions of freedom and liberty,
it is clear that money doesn’t buy you liberty, unless you count hiring good
lawyers and accountants to help you legally avoid taxes and other government
But having money does give you freedom, as long as there is
still some degree of liberty. Even
if you are not anywhere close to being able to retire, having at least some
money gives you a cushion and some peace of mind. It certainly doesn’t make you greedy. It means you can somewhat prepare for
an uncertain future and it means you have a little more freedom in reserve for
when you may need it.