This morning I stumbled upon a TED talk by psychologist and happiness researcher Dan Gilbert. The 6 minute talk is titled “The Psychology of Your Future Self” and can be seen here:
The premise of the talk is simple: As humans, we’re awful at predicting what will make us happy in the future – especially many years down the road.
Intuitively, we know that our interests, hobbies, and personality will change over time. But as Gilbert explains, our personality actually changes far more than we predict it will. The person you think you will be 10 years from now will actually be even more different than you think.
So what’s the big deal?
It means the lifestyle that you think will make you happy in the future might not be so accurate. It means your current preferences- your profession, relationships, living situation, hobbies, interests, etc. – might be vastly different than your future preferences. It means your values might change far more than you expect. The type of life you think will make you happy 10 years from now might not make you happy at all.
Financial Freedom Gives You Flexibility
While it’s incredibly difficult to predict what will bring you happiness in the future, one thing is for certain: the more financial freedom you have, the more flexibility you have to pursue the life you want.
What if you wake up at 35 and realize the career you loved at 25 no longer brings you joy? What if the house you bought 10 years ago no longer suits the needs of your family now? What if you’re no longer in love with location you live in, even though your younger self thought it was perfect?
If you have financial freedom, you have the option to quit that job, move out of that house, relocate to a new city. But if you find yourself in a financial crunch – buried in debt, perhaps – all of a sudden these situations become much more stressful and difficult to deal with.
The future is unpredictable. Even if you love the life you have now, there is no guarantee that you’ll prefer this lifestyle many years down the road.
The unpredictable nature of what will bring your future self happiness is the exact reason you should pursue financial freedom.
When you’re financially free, you have the choice to move across the country (or the world) if you decide that’s what you want. You have the option to start a part-time business if you so choose. You have the option to have no job at all and hang out with your family all day.
And by no means do you need to be completely financially independent to have this flexibility. Sometimes just having a small freedom fund is enough. Any amount of money that allows you to make a lifestyle change that brings you more happiness can be considered a life-changing amount of money.
No matter what your plans are for the future, recognize that your interests, values, and personality will change along the way. By making the choice now to prioritize your finances, you are making the choice to give your future self more flexibility to pursue happiness.
Because even though you can’t predict what will make your future self happy, you can predict that you’ll want the freedom to pursue that happiness.
Feature photo credit: cherries
I strongly suggest using free financial tools like Personal Capital to track your net worth, spending habits, and cash flow to help keep an eye on your money. The more you track your finances, the better you get at growing your wealth!
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