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When Did Financial Freedom Become So Expensive? from Mohammad Daniyal's blog

Financial Freedom. Two words that sound great together but have such a deceptive meaning when actually put together. In reality, the only time you get financial freedom for free is from found money; winning, inheriting, or finding it under a mattress. Usually financial freedom comes from a two step process. First you work hard. Then if you get your money working hard enough, it gives you some freedom. Freedom for what? Or freedom from what is the real question, because there is a big difference between freedom from the obligations of your current lifestyle and striving for a better one. A young person may tell you that its freedom for doing what you want like traveling or trying new things. A person later on in the cycle of life may want "for" some of those same things, but also freedom from day to day financial obligations. My personal belief is that you are truly free Financial freedom is about cash flow there is very little consideration for how you are funding your day to day life, and that life is full of things that you enjoy. Hence, the freedom from obligations and freedom for living life as you want.

Financial freedom has been the rally cry for every motivational speaker, multi-level marketing scheme, and even guys on late night TV promising you that financial freedom is only one book away. We're also now starting to see large financial institutions take a dangerous step with investment portfolios, all in the sake of short term financial freedom for individuals nearing or already in retirement. This is happening in the way of transferring a portfolio based on growth and income to a majority fixed income short-term portfolio with lower returns and asset depletion (aka spending the nest egg). Asset depletion is extremely troubling in a world where the average individual is living longer in an economy that is bubbling with unreported inflation. Yes, I am saying unreported inflation because I also try to ignore the facts to get a good night's "U.S. inflation" sleep on supposed 2.85% for 2007 and 4.1% so far for 2008. The reality that these numbers are much higher is evident on any normal day. Some of you may not know that the Reagan and Clinton administrations changed the way CPI (consumer price index) was calculated, thus giving us inflation numbers that are not relative to history or reality. Dartmouth trained economist and advisor to many Fortune 500 companies, John Williams, places real inflation at somewhere around 9.5 % using the old calculation. Does that sound about right when taking food and heat into consideration which the current CPI calculation does not?

Fixed income plans from the last several years are all but null and void with this kind of inflation if you plan on living the average life span, and also plan on enjoying retirement or even maintaining your current lifestyle. To help paint the picture, let's say you have a nest egg of $1 million dollars ( I realize I am directing this towards our investment community since the 2006 U.S. Census report puts average income in the U.S. below $50,000 a year, making the average egg a lot smaller). If you had that million in one of the major fixed income portfolios like Lehman Brothers or Citigroup that together have averaged about 6.6% over the last 10 years, then you would be looking at about $66,000 per year. Take a federal tax rate of 25% and a low state income tax rate of 3% and now you only have $47,520. If you take the true rate of inflation at 9.5 % this leaves you with $43,480. Does $3,623 a month sound like financial freedom before living expenses with gas over $4 a gallon, rising food costs, and the excessive costs of health care? Keep in mind that, in addition, investing with some of the large fixed income funds comes with management fees; taking some of the free out of your financial freedom. Also, don't expect the uncertain future of Social Security to help you out. Looking at Social Security from healthcare costs alone, in 2007 Fidelity estimated that on average 27% of a couple's social security benefits will go to health care and will continue to rise at about 7% annually. In 16 to 18 years, healthcare is predicted to take up about 50% of social security benefits. Remember, these are the guys that are selling you financial freedom on 6.6% average returns. I wonder if they expect you to live longer than James Dean?

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