Unless one is independently wealthy, financial independence is always, at some level, a concern. I am no different then anyone else. Although I've been an entrepreneurial type since age 12 beginning with my independent newspaper route, I'm by no stretch of the imagination independently (financially) wealthy. But, in my personal living free world I do consider myself financially independent. But, in order to maintain my financial independence, I have to continually generate a stream of income.
Now, since I'm a U.S. citizen and old enough to collect a monthly Social Security stipend, I do. I've contributed to the Social Security and Medicare trust funds for at least 50 years (and since the beginning of Medicare). I should continue receiving my Social Security stipend and my Medicare benefits for as long as those "earned" benefits last based, of course, on our somewhat questionable government projections. I'm also a veteran of the Vietnam War era and registered with the Department of Veteran Affairs for medical care. So, while I don't take these for granted since they could dry up during the remainder of my lifetime, I do have a reasonable expectation of some security for the foreseeable future.
Like so many individuals and families, I was seriously impacted by the economic crisis and financial collapse of the 2007/2008 time frame. My publishing business was already suffering from a downturn due to the ongoing transition from the antiquated publishing model and the new, constantly evolving and developing digital publishing age. The same was true for my recording business. Now, to be fair, I was also aging. I became involved in the recording industry at the tender age of 18 as a freshman in college. It was a very different industry at that time. The technology was all analog, large, heavy, costly and compared to the digital technology of today, somewhat primitive. I migrated to digital editing and recording about 17 years ago, but I could already see the handwriting on the wall. I was no longer the same starry-eyed, idealistic youth that I was in 1963 and the industry was not the same industry all these years later.
I entered the publishing industry at the age of 53 with no prior experience in book publishing and for a reason that I won't expand on here, other than it was entirely the wrong reason. I had never had any interest in book publishing or aspired to be a book publisher. So, I was setting myself up for disaster if anything should happen to the economy. Unfortunately, the negative scenario played out.
So, during 2008 I rapidly accelerated my planning and efforts toward an exit strategy to get out of both the recording business and the publishing business. I did the big downsize, minimalized, became considerably more frugal, changed my lifestyle to my current (evolving) living free lifestyle and reduced my overhead by about 80% between October 31, 2008 and November 1, 2008. I also made plans to liquidate whatever I could and get out of any debt I had. I had very little personal debt. I paid off my credit card charges each month and had no other major outstanding debts - car loans, mortgages, etc. Most of my debt was business debt.
I also have a modest IRA account I started a number of years ago. Unfortunately, I placed the trust for handling that IRA with an investment firm. When the economic crisis was beginning, I didn't see them handling my funds in my best interest. The market dropped like a rock and I lost, like so many others, more then 50% of my IRA. I finally moved it to someone else, I also thought had my best interest at heart (due to a strong, personal relationship), and that was another bad decision. By this time I had changed my state of residence to South Dakota, as explained in another post on the blog, and had to change my auto insurance. Ultimately, I settled on USAA because of my eligibility as an Air Force veteran. I found that USAA also had an excellent investment division and decided to move everything to them. So far, it appears to have been a good decision and my meager IRA is growing again. However, I am not drawing anything from the account until I reach age 70 1/2 to allow it to mature as much as possible before I have to start tapping it by law.
I was 63 at that time. Just before I turned 64 I decided to start collecting my Social Security stipend early. But, this wasn't enough to cover all of my monthly expenses. While I still had the entrepreneurial spirit, I was extremely drained, stressed and, frankly, somewhat depressed. I needed some time "out of the ring," so to speak, to reassess myself, revisit all my dreams, determine which of my many tangible and intangible, professional assets acquired over a 50 year career I wanted to put to work and then begin to mold the next phase of my life.
A Living Free Reality
Of course, all of what I said in the last few paragraphs is nice, but I have to reemphasize that my Social Security stipend is not quite enough to cover all my monthly expenses. I still need to generate some additional revenue during this transitory period. This is where having a broad base of knowledge and experience in several fields is possibly one of the greatest assets one can have.
Since November of 2008 I've used quite a bit of my accumulated knowledge and experience to generate more then enough revenue to sustain myself comfortably. This has allowed me the freedom (along with the graciousness of my friends who have invited me to stay at their homes when I'm not on the road adventuring or earning) to take four years, so far, to really evolve, develop the new dreams and begin the planning phases of a totally nomadic lifestyle while generating a few ongoing revenue streams.
The Baltimore Project
I spent most of last week in Baltimore, Maryland or traveling to and from Baltimore. I was on a revenue generating project at the Baltimore Convention Center. An interesting side note is that I exhibited at the Baltimore Convention Center for one of my earlier businesses back when it was virtually a new facility around 1980. I was also there two years ago for the same client I was working with last week. On this project I used my audio, video, multi-media and live staging skills. It was three long days and short hours of sleep. Too bad, too, because my client provided me with a beautiful room in the Baltimore Hilton that just happened to be attached to the convention center by glass enclosed bridges. But, I wasn't there to sleep or recreate, I was there to generate revenue for my living free lifestyle.
Now, this was tiring and exhausting work. Setting up the gear, running the necessary cabling, checking everything out, running sound, shooting some "wild" video footage for later use in YouTube videos, rehearsing for a special program on the second day of the two day program. There were times of frustration when we discovered that we needed one video adapter that was absolutely necessary, but it was almost 9 PM on Wednesday night and we needed it for the program that kicked off at 8:30 on Thursday morning. Again, using other skills acquired over the years of experience, the absolutely necessary adapter magically appeared 20 minutes before "show time." And, once again, another spectacular success and very happy client.
On To Chicago
Next week I'll be in Chicago recording a financial planning conference. Once again, I'll be staying at a luxury hotel on the Chicago Miracle Mile overlooking the Chicago River. I've worked with my client on this same conference for the past three years. It's definitely less stressful and exhausting then the Baltimore project.
Do What You Love And The Money Will Follow
So, how much revenue will these two projects produce? Well, this is the best part. Between these two projects I'll generate enough to carry me through early to mid spring of 2013. Thus, for tying up about two weeks of total time, I'll generate enough income to enjoy my living free lifestyle for approximately six months. Of course, it's important to remember that since November 1, 2008 I have been living on overhead that is at least 20% of what it cost for me to exist on prior to that date. There is also a great side benefit, too. Each of the revenue generating projects is based on doing something that I know, have experience with, enjoy and in many cases I'm passionate about. "Do what you love and the money will follow."
Lesson For You
Okay! What's the lesson for you? Broaden your horizons. Assess your tangible and intangible assets regarding things you own, things you have knowledge and experience with and things you enjoy or love to do. This goes back to Steps 2, 3 and 7 of the 12 Steps for Living Free that you'll find in earlier blog posts. Look for and take every opportunity to learn things you have interest in and work at as a helper, assistant or apprentice. Make sure they are all things that fit into your plan for living free. Remember, you're not looking for full-time work or a job as a "wage-slave." You're looking for opportunities to generate revenue streams that make it possible for you to spend as much of your time living the living free lifestyle you've created for yourself.
I'm sure you know many people who tell you that work is what they love to do. And, that may be true, if they have no other dreams, are addicted to accumulating "stuff" and debt and overhead or have no idea of the joy and happiness that having personal freedom brings. Many people and you know some of them and may even be one of them are addicted to money and accumulating financial wealth. But, there are two old sayings. One states, "he who dies with all the toys, wins." The other one states, "he who dies with all the toys, is still dead." In other words, there is so much to experience in this very brief gift of life we are given, it seems a shame to waste so much of this limited time on one pursuit, accumulating money, or worse yet, paying off debt.
My Ongoing Revenue Streams - How About Yours?
Between now and next spring, other projects will come along. They always do. I know what I enjoy and love doing and I know what I don't want to do any longer. Accordingly, I look out for opportunities to do what I love.
I have a client I'll be working with to restore his old master tapes and create new masters for CD and download releases. I may pick up an audio book production project or two. I may be contracted to provide various kinds of voice-overs. I may take on a consulting project or two on a variety of areas I'm well versed in. I may provide a variety of services for a conference or symposium. The list goes on.
The potential projects I accept will depend on how much revenue I'll require to enjoy my living free lifestyle, how much revenue each project will generate towards my living free lifestyle requirements and how much time I'll have to commit to each project. I do my level best to never take on more then one or two projects at the same time. So, Goodbye Baltimore and hello Chicago.
What do you love to do that you can generate revenue from? What tangible and intangible assets do you possess that you can put to work for yourself doing what you love and watching the money follow? What would you like to be able to do to generate revenue that you're not currently prepared to do and what will it take for you to become capable of doing whatever it is? Enquiring minds want to know. What questions do you have that I or other blog readers may be able to assist you with in preparing to generate your living free revenue? Comment! Email! Join the Live Free and Happy forum on Yahoo and post your question there. You must ask to receive the information you seek.