10 Women share what it means to be financially independent

We are all looking for the easy road map to financial independence, but this is a journey, not a destination. And financial freedom cannot be achieved overnight.

Every day, through the choices we make, we either move closer to or farther from financial independence.

What I’ve learned is that a big part of both financial and personal success is having the confidence and belief in yourself. That you can achieve things that may sometimes seem a bit overwhelming.

I can’t speak for you or anyone else, but the standard lifestyle doesn’t work for me. Instead of material possessions, I prefer to have freedom. Freedom to change careers, start a business, take some time off, or travel the world. It’s not about what I choose to do, it’s about having the freedom to choose.

Financial independence is about gaining a continuum of enriching life experiences, it is about living your life in an exciting and meaningful way, and perhaps more than anything, it is about having the time and freedom to live your life doing what you love.

I like to think having financial independence gives you some emotional health too. When you are financially independent, you can avoid stress associated with worrying about money. But, none of that is worth it if you have to sacrifice yourself to make that money.

Money can be our starting point toward building wealth, but money alone is not wealth. In fact, money's value decreases over time due to regular inflation. So I asked 10 women what does financial independence mean to them and how they plan to achieve it. This is what they had to say:

Diteboho Moloi - Office Manager and volunteer at Church
"We are working towards being financially independent in a few years. To us it looks like passive income supplying the bulk of our needs so that we can choose when and when not to work. We also like the freedom to work because we want to, not because we have to. We have two teenage boys, and it's a lot. We've taught them to be grateful and appreciate all we give them. We don't spend a lot on their clothes, but we occasionally splurge on holidays.
Financial freedom is also about being able to meet the needs of others. Imagine being able to bless a struggling family by paying for their rent or groceries. My husband and I believe it’s not just about our comfort only it's also about leaving a legacy.
My husband and I plan to be financially independent in seven years. It’s an aggressive goal, but we are working hard towards it. We know that the boys will be at varsity and will have the freedom to spend our however way we want. Our shares portfolio has been doing great, and we haven't been taking out money from it. We are hoping these will finally payoff in a way that helps us to live out our dreams. I've also taken a second job as a consultant. And we also have an investment flat. It has been a messy relationship with the previous tenants, but we finally have the right ones now."

Thando Buthelezi, stay at home mom with a side business
"I’m sure my answer will change as I go through life but right now financial independence is being debt free. We have a home loan and debt on our credit cards. We have two small kids, and it's a lot. We buy essentials like shoes from Woolworths and the rest of their clothes at Pep. This assists us save. Food is really expensive, and it's been a bit of battle. To me, financial independence means having lots of options for wherever life may lead!
So we decided I will be working again as a freelancer. I was a copyright editor before I quit my job because of health issues. But now I can do it again.So far I have had six gigs towards the end of the year, and the money has come in really handy. We've put it in our home loan because that's where we want my money to go. The rest we invest it. My husband has always been good with this money but now I am learning to handle it outside of our home.
We already have savings for our kids school fees and hopefully by the time they are a bit grown, we would be able to pay for their varsity degrees. We have a nice retirement nest, and my husband received an increase so we've also increased those contributions. I look forward when we have it easier than now. I just can’t help but fantasize about the life I know we can have when it happens."

Lerato Nguni - copy editor and leadership coach
"Financial independence, for me, is not having any debt, having a good cushion of savings, and having the flexibility to do things I like to do like travel. Not having limits at least within reason would be my idea of independence. Currently, we are carrying a lot of credit card debt. We have four cards between ourselves. Two years back we decided this is not worth so we cut out two, which we are still paying for and we are only using two cards. Our 12 year is also not very materialistic although she loves books. We spend a lot on that for her. It's really a small prize to pay.
We don’t have a budget in the traditional sense, but we prefer being aware of our purchasing over time. We tend to review our monthly spend and if anything is out of control, we will try to focus on reshaping our spend in that category. We still make lots of mistakes, and we try to stick with it 90% of the time. We don't own any house. It's something we decided long time ago and we are OK with that.
I started the corporate leadership coaching and training programme that pays nice. I launched my own business to obtain financial freedom and choices, but as we had a home loan I had to make sure it was profitable very quickly. I just wish I received more gigs. It's been a slow process, but I know it will grow. I just need to be patient."

Melissa Javan wife, mom, career woman and blogger at www.melissajavan.co.za
"Financial independence to me is to be debt free and being able to save money for my two-year-old's future. It means I'm in charge of my finances, what goes in and out. Financial independence also means being literate on how to use my money wisely and how to stretch it.
Because I have debt and have been living mostly hand to mouth, I've always felt like I'm not in charge of where my money goes to.  I feel like I am far away from financial independence, yet my highlight in 2017 was when I could pay off my R20,000 bank loan. My husband helped me pay it off because he has multiple income streams. I still have other debt on retail accounts, so the plan is to be debt free from this year on. Financial independence to me is to be debt free and being able to save money for my two-year-old's future.
I'm trying to work out how I can get an extra income stream for myself to help me get financially independent. I plan to pay more than my installment on my retail accounts (debt) and then eventually pay off the debt. I'm also on my way to research how I can save or invest money for my child and where."

Nelly Singh - Talent Sourcing Specialist:
"Financial Independence to me doesn’t inevitably mean being debt free, but having enough in assets to cover all my debts. This also means having a cushion of finances that will assist me if I hit hard times. I’m not there yet, but dreaming and striving!
I realised several years ago when I was on the verge of foreclosure, that creating a budget and living below your means is the path to becoming financially independent. Luckily, I changed my thinking and today I still have that house as a rental, and have money in the bank. I’m still not where I want to be financially, but I’m working on it!
Several years ago I used a spreadsheet to map out how my credit card payments would work over time. After the first was paid off, that amount was rolled into the other payment. And sure enough over the course of a couple of years I made tremendous progress. Creating that road map helped to stay focused on my goals.  I have liquid cash because stuff happens and I don’t want to go into additional debt to handle it when it does."

Thato Sithole - Freelancer
"Financial independence, for me, is having some form of control over our financial future. I want to be able to have choices in life. I may want to quit my job one day and start working for a non-profit organisation because I love helping others. I want the ability to have this freedom. Balancing my life with my needs and wants and living life to the fullest to what I value is most important. Despite my low income, I’ve opted to take my chances, travel indefinitely and do freelance work on the road, rather than go on the dole or find a job, both of which would require me to stop moving and comply with someone else’s agenda. I'm still young, but I'm also aware I'm not going to be young forever so I've been really very cheaply, putting my money into some investments and savings. I also have an emergency fund. I've recently bought myself an unemployment insurance. I hope this will help me to continue to live a lifestyle that’s comfortable for me."

Olga Ngidi - IT specialist 
"Being financially independent means exactly what it says: You are not dependent on anyone or anything to pay your bills.It means having real that is created from assets that generate regular positive cash-flow. I have worked my butt off since graduating with a Masters Degree but somehow managed to keep myself in debt. In fact, even though I earn a very nice salary as an IT specialist, I find myself in even more debt after seven years of full time work. I still remember those nights when I spent hundreds of rand on going out with friends, all the while going further into debt. It wasn't only the money I squandered, but also the time and energy I could have spent on wealth creation.
Last year, I decided to start focusing on wealth creation and financial independence. To make my commitment even stronger I considered all of the cash-flow options. I went to real-estate seminars, read books about commodity and stock exchange trading, but I finally settled for passive income. It just makes sense with the kind of job I have."

Zodwa Ngubeni - Production Assistant
"Financial independence for means making enough money each month that I don't have to worry about how I’m going to pay my bills. It also means having enough money saved up in case of an emergency, for retirement and enough money left over to do the leisure things I enjoy. Perhaps even own property someday. Currently, I barely have any of those.
I just started my first job at 23, transitioning from under my parents’ care to being self-supporting. It's been quite a journey. I have a credit card but barely use it. And my current bills are my rent and car. I'm currently investing in shares through ETFs. I find them very easy to buy into. I have also taken an RA from work. I am also part of a stokvel at work. We contribute a R 1000 every month. When I receive the money, it goes out straight to my 32 day notice deposit. I'm now working on my having an emergency fund. So far, I haven't needed it, but I know with the car and all I might just need. As young as I am, I try to plan as much as I can to be financially independent in the next 10 years. It's a BIG dream but I know I will accomplish it."

Mampho Khunou - Communications Specialist 
"I've just gone through a divorce, and navigating my way through the financial maze of divorce isn’t easy. We were married for almost 12 years, two young children (9 and 14). This journey has not just emotionally challenging but there are financial challenges as well. I am ashamed to admit I was not 100% involved in our finances and I let him take care of everything. Establishing financial security again seems like a massive task. A simple signature on my divorce decree cut my net worth in half. I relied way too much on my husband this has come at a price. I got the house because we have kids but I have to pay it down, pay off my car and all other debt. Every month I'm very challenged financially.
I am viewing being independent in a new way. I realise now that being financially independent gives me a personal safety net and to be able to sustain a decent quality of life or standard of living. I now handle my finances and investments. Yes, I had to downgrade my lifestyle. But I'm sort of okay with that. I have an extraordinary family who help me out from time to time. I have learned to focus on what I can control and not really trying hard to not be paralyzed by fear. Paying off my home loan debt and survival is all I can muster at this time.
If you are going through a divorce, sensible planning may help to lessen the financial stress associated with the transition from marriage to divorce."

Thando Peters - Nurse
"Financial independence is very important to me. Growing up, I observed at an early age how important it was to have your own money and pay 50/50. My mom was overly dependent on my dad. He was a control freak and my mom didn't leave him for our sake.She was not in a happy marriage but she stayed because she had no other options. When I started dating, I was extremely uncomfortable accepting gifts and having my way paid. I have dated men who made a lot of money, but I could not afford their lifestyle so from the get go we were not compatible. And it seems to me that their values were skewed or could be I could not get comfortable with them. My girlfriends could not understand my discomfort.
I believe that financial independence to me means to have my basic needs taken care of. I live within my means and I able to save for what I need. This is really comforting and makes me feel at one with myself. When my boyfriend and I moved in together we didn’t split things 50/50. He makes way more than me but I always wanted to pay my portion. So we split things on a ratio closer to our incomes. So far it has been working out well. We view every contribution to the relationship as having value and, as long as both parties are giving, it tends to work well."

Times are harder and everyone is looking to get out of a rut so we also would like to know what does Financial  Independence mean to you? Comment below or join the conversation on social media with the hashtag: ##financiallyindependentwomen.