Why you shouldn’t be striving to get rich

By Rebecca Lake

Reviewed by Kimberly Rotter

Apr 26, 2024

Read time: 3 min

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There’s so much noise out there about money. It’s easy to notice all the things we don’t have. Here’s the thing. More money could relieve stress and improve your quality of life, but only up to a point. Once people hit middle-middle-class, money doesn’t pay more happiness dividends. 

If the last 4 years have shown us anything, it’s that the American Dream of living a lavish lifestyle with a large home, expensive cars, and even luxury vacations has become out of reach and out of touch. The price for basic necessities like food, gas, and even housing has skyrocketed due to inflation since 2022. 

So if it’s becoming more expensive to live, how can any one of us strive for the “rich” lifestyle that we grew up buying into? 

It might be time to explore what money goals we should be focusing on, if it’s not Aladdin’s cave full of jewels.

What does financial freedom mean to you?

Coming up with an answer to this question might be difficult if you're living paycheck-to-paycheck, dealing with debt, or just feeling overwhelmed by how expensive day-to-day life seems to be these days. A lot of people might say that the only way to be financially free is to be rich. 

But is it really? 

A mental shift is happening that's causing people to rethink what it means to live the American Dream. And getting rich is increasingly on the back burner. 

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Redefining financial freedom in today’s terms

We’re all feeling the impacts of things like inflation, skyrocketing housing prices, and wages that just don’t keep up. That's affecting our ability to pay down debt and save for emergencies—and it's changing the way we think about the future. 

A recent Achieve survey polled Americans to gauge their money mindset. Here's what we found:

  • 54% of Americans are focused on living debt-free

  • 50% say they want to live comfortably, but don't necessarily need to be rich

  • 49% would like to be able to meet all of their financial obligations and still have money left over each month

  • 46% want to never have to worry about money

The numbers show that people are turning their focus to how they can manage their money better while still enjoying life. 

Essentially, they're opting out of the pressure to make getting rich their only goal. 

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Carving your path to financial freedom

You can't change housing prices or force the government to bump the minimum wage. But you can do other things to move toward a financially free lifestyle.

The first step is figuring out what that means to you. And it helps to be specific.

For example, your vision might look something like this:

I want to pay off $30,000 in credit card debt and student loans in the next three years. I also want to save $20,000 in a rainy-day fund over that same period. Once my debts are paid off, I want to put the money that was going to those bills into a retirement account so I can retire by 62. 

That's the big picture. The next step is breaking it down into bite-sized steps so it feels manageable instead of overwhelming. 

Here are some ways to get on track with your financial freedom goals for the long term, even if you're living paycheck-to-paycheck right now. 

  • Prioritize, and get specific. Every expense is a choice. For most of us, it’s a no-brainer to say, “I choose to pay for a roof over my head this month.” It’s harder to say, “I choose to give this $5 coffee money to my future debt-free self.” But it’s really that simple. Decide what’s most important, and keep it front and center.

  • Review your budget. Your budget represents your spending choices. If funds are tight, look for areas where you might spend less. Even canceling one subscription service could free up dollars for your goals.

  • Automate savings. Saving money is a habit that's easier to cultivate when you do it automatically. Scheduling a regular savings deposit every payday is a simple way to build up a cushion over time. It doesn't matter if the amount is small. Consistency is what counts. 

  • Rethink your debt. Debt can be a roadblock to financial freedom. It's to your advantage to think about the best way to get rid of debt. Debt management plans, debt consolidation, and debt resolution are some of the debt solutions you might consider. 

  • Choose abundance. Focusing on things that reward you emotionally, mentally, or physically can give you a sense of abundance instead of scarcity, no matter how much money is in your bank account. Spending time with friends and family, cultivating meaningful hobbies, and taking care of your physical health can help you live a more abundant life. 

What if you've tried these tips but are still struggling to find direction? It might benefit you to talk to a debt expert. A professional could help you figure out what financial freedom means to you so you can put together a plan for getting there. 

Rebecca Lake - Author

Rebecca is a senior contributing writer and debt expert. She's a Certified Educator in Personal Finance and a banking expert for Forbes Advisor. In addition to writing for online publications, Rebecca owns a personal finance website dedicated to teaching women how to take control of their money.

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Kimberly is Achieve’s senior editor. She is a financial counselor accredited by the Association for Financial Counseling & Planning Education®, and a mortgage expert for The Motley Fool. She owns and manages a 350-writer content agency.

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