Yesterday was, of course, Independence Day. We did the usual hot dogs, watermelon, fireworks. Then I came home and read Chris Brogan’s blog post A Day of Independence. He talks about how important independence is to us as Americans, with the exception of our financial independence. We seem to expect all of our financial security to come from one company, he notes. He says, “The most peace and content and happiness I’ve yet felt on this earth comes from the fact that I choose every project I work on, and that my future is firmly held in my hands.” He goes on to talk about how his life has changed from worrying about where money was coming from to sharing with others, all because of this independence he has exercised as an entrepreneur.

His post made me think about this book I’m reading. Last week I picked up a copy of Smart Women Finish Rich” (affiliate link) by David Bach. I’m not that interested in getting rich, to be honest. But I have been thinking a lot about money lately because I know so many people who are having serious trouble with it. Some are unemployed or changing jobs; others are going through bankruptcy, which has had a serious impact on their independence. When I saw this book in the library, I just felt like I needed to see what an expert would recommend. (Honestly, I felt like I needed to make sure I wasn’t making big money mistakes!)

I’m not in the habit of reading books about money, so I’m not sure where this one sits in comparison with other personal finance books, but I’m finding Bach’s book very helpful. What I like about the book is that it encourages the reader to start thinking about money by relating it to your values. He recommends that you ask yourself the question, “What’s important about money to you?” By thinking about what money means to you, you start to think about your spending and saving in a whole new way.

For example, I have been self-employed since 1997, and for most of that time I’ve only worked part time (I’ve also been the full-time, stay-at-home parent for most of those years). My husband’s job has supported us and provided us with health insurance, giving our family the security that has allowed me the independence to start two businesses. I realized as I was reading Bach’s book that I would like to be able to return the favor, to provide financial security so my husband could become an entrepreneur, too. Having more money—by spending it differently, working more hours, saving in different ways—could offer him the opportunity to enjoy career independence. For me, it seems, money is all about independence.

I agree with Chris Brogan’s assessment of self-employment: real contentment and happiness can come from being your own boss, feeling in control of your fate instead of being at the mercy of your employer and a victim of the next downsizing. But of course true independence can’t come unless you are financially successful as an entrepreneur. And I think that understanding your relationship to money, what it means to you, and what you value, is important (if not absolutely necessary) to gaining that success and independence. I recommend David Bach’s book if only as a place to start that conversation with yourself about what is most important to you and how money fits into your plans for achieving your goals.

I want my kids to grow up and be independent, and we don’t often say it this bluntly, but so much of that depends on money! A friend who’s going through bankruptcy told me that the mandatory class she was taking “should be taught in high schools.” Why isn’t it? Why don’t we talk and think more about money? Or maybe I should ask, why don’t we talk and think more about money in more productive, helpful ways? What do you think?

Photo by PIKSEL