It’s sometimes thought that financial independence is about reaching the point of not having to work again for the rest of your life, and being free to do whatever you want, wherever you want to be. But that actually better describes either early retirement or becoming wealthy.
But what if neither of those are really your goal, or perhaps you don’t believe either can be achieved in the near-term? It is possible that career skills can create a real version of financial independence. It really comes down to how it is that you define financial independence.
Financial Independence Isn’t Just a Certain Amount of Money
You can have a goal of declaring financial independence when you reach the point where you have say, $1 million in savings and investments. But is accumulating such a large fortune really necessary to reach financial independence?
The better course – rather than assigning a certain dollar value – is to give serious consideration to what you hope financial independence will do for you.
Here are some considerations along that line, though there can be many more depending upon your own personal circumstances and preferences. Financial independence might include:
- Being debt free
- Having more than enough income to pay for your desired lifestyle
- Having a certain amount of geographic mobility
- Having reasonable control over your time
- The ability to live a relatively stress-free life (realizing of course that there’s no such thing as a completely stress-free existence)
- Being able to do the things in your life that you want, within reason
- Being on track with your long-term financial goals – which may include retirement, and even eventually being wealthy
The point is, being wealthy isn’t a prerequisite to financial independence. You may even decide, early in your life, that becoming wealthy is a journey that you’re not interested in taking on. Financial independence however is a common goal, and one that most of us hope to achieve.
Certain Career Skills are Better at Providing Financial Independence than Others
It is entirely possible that you can achieve financial independence through your career or occupation. Some career fields are better at providing a level of financial independence than others. This is because they are higher demand occupations, that offer both better compensation and more flexibility. Here are some careers that can help you become wealthy.
In most cases, it will be difficult (but not impossible) to achieve financial independence in typical salaried jobs. That’s because there is usually an income ceiling on the position, limited mobility, and often fierce competition for jobs within the field.
This is common in occupations that are relatively low risk. For example, in common occupations like teaching, accounting, and many types of government jobs, there’s a good deal of job security, but usually a strict ceiling on how much you can earn. They’re also the types of positions that are difficult to customize to fit your lifestyle.
But there are other occupations that lend themselves better to achieving financial independence. Typical factors that make this the case include:
- Careers that include a large measure of self-direction
- Occupations that are less rigid, in terms of compensation, location, and work style
- Careers that have unlimited earnings potential
- Occupations that offer a high degree of personal creativity
- Careers that are either unique, or in very high demand
- Occupations that have either a broad client/customer base, or an unusually large number of potential employers
- Critical fields, the kind that society can’t do without
Those are just some characteristics of the career types that are likely to provide the greatest measure of financial independence, even if you never become rich. They offer an above average amount of career stability – as opposed to job stability – an opportunity to expand both the job and the compensation, and a high level of personal satisfaction.
Is a Certain College Degree a Requirement to Build Wealth?
It’s easy to use your college degree, or lack of a degree, as a counterargument to any of the career fields mentioned in this article. Don’t fall into that trap. A college degree is helpful in your career search, but a college degree is not always necessary; education and experience are.
Yes, many high-paying jobs require a specific degree. This is very common professional fields such as doctors, lawyers, nursing, engineering, etc. However, there are many career paths that rely more upon skills than a specific college degree.
Here are some broad category examples of the types of occupations that are likely to lead to financial independence.
Entrepreneurship / Self-Employment
A person who can create and run his or her own business isn’t dependent upon a job, or the job market in general. Entrepreneurialism offers the opportunity to “build a better mousetrap” – to create that product or service that is new and different, and can’t be purchased elsewhere. That not only has the potential to generate high income, but also the foster creativity.
Self-employment often provides more career flexibility than will be the case in a typical job situation. For example, though the self-employed may actually work more hours than jobholders, they typically have more control over the time that they work. This enables a better mix between your personal and professional lives. As a self-employed person myself, I can attest to this.
It’s also true that certain types of businesses, for example Internet-based businesses, provide the owner with more geographic mobility. That’s true if it’s the type of business that can be performed either in midtown Manhattan, or an island in the Caribbean. The business owner may never retired to that island, but he has a real opportunity to live on that island anyway, and run his business from that idyllic location.
Though people often have a low opinion of those who work in sales, the reality is that no business can function without them. While everyone on the inside is busy crunching numbers, answering phones, and move a product forward in the chain, it’s the salesperson who brings in the business that keeps everyone else employed.
For that reason, people with strong sales skills are usually in high demand. That not only gives them more income potential, but also greater career flexibility and mobility.
The fact is, nearly every business in existence needs good salespeople. If you are good at sales, you’ll always have a job somewhere. And as is often the case, strong salespeople often work with very little supervision. In a real way, it’s as if they are self-employed agents working for a large organization. In some cases, such as manufacturers representatives, they may even represent several organizations.
It’s easy to see how this type of career can generate an above average income, as well as create a lot of perks that are commonly associated with financial independence. You can enjoy those benefits, without ever having a large bankroll.
High Technical Skills
Whether it’s cars, homes, computers, or the human body, everything breaks down at some point. If you have a significant ability to create, modify, or repair any of the major components of human existence, you’re more likely to achieve financial independence, even if you are never rich.
This is the case in occupations such as homebuilders and remodelers, IT specialists, and medical careers. Any of these can be hard work/high stress occupations, but they also come with many of the benefits that are typically associated with financial independence.
As just a single example, let’s consider a nurse. True, it’s high stress work, and you’ll probably never get rich. But it’s also an occupation that features rock solid career stability, geographic mobility, and a high level of personal satisfaction. In addition, since nurses are in such high demand, practitioners are often able to work flexible schedules. This can include shift work, part-time, reduced hours (say 32 hours at full-time pay), or a move from one area of nursing to another (say surgical nurse, to working in a general practitioner’s office).
It’s also true that high demand for the field enables the practitioner to choose a geographic location. Much like the Internet business owner, a nurse can typically find a job either in a big city, or at a tropical beach resort.
The point is, there are career skills for financial independence that can help you get there, even without ever being wealthy. At the same time, the combination of career stability and high income often enables you to accumulate wealth at a higher rate than other occupations.
So if you’re serious about achieving financial independence, put the calculator aside, and give your career choice some serious consideration. If there is an entrepreneur or a salesperson hidden somewhere inside of you, the prospect of achieving financial independence might motivate you to bring it out. After all, financial independence isn’t all about how much money you have, but rather your ability to create and maintain the lifestyle of your choice.