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Want financial independence? Grasp interdependence

Allen Wastler

Posted on July 03, 2023

Allen Wastler is a former financial journalist with over 30-years of experience, including time at CNBC, CNN, and Knight-Ridder Newspapers.
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Point out that financial independence means different things for different people.

Note putting the building blocks of financial wellness into place is usually a group effort.

Show that while the near-term financial outlook tends to be dim, there is a silver lining

A secure retirement…no college debt…a home without a mortgage…a huge credit card line and zero balance… Do any of these notions suggest “financial independence” to you?

The concept means different things to different people. To the more literal minded, it embodies the notion of having enough investments and assets to live off the returns without being part of the paycheck crowd. To the more pragmatic, it can simply mean the ability to pay the bills and maintain a consistent savings and retirement plan. (Related: Financial security and the wellness wheel)

What both visions — and all the visions in-between — tend to overlook is the interdependence it takes to get to independence.

Solid finances are put together through a combination of budgets, savings, and investments. But the success of those endeavors for the individual comes through the cooperation and consideration of family, friends, business partners, and employers.

For example:

  • The family budget. Whether it covers a couple or a large brood, it only works if everyone cooperates, sticks to spending levels, and avoids amassing debt. (Discover more: Budget essentials)
  • Savings plans need that kind of cooperation too, as well as availability and accessibility through institutions and employers.
  • Investments? Many people lean on others there as well, whether it’s friends and family or business connections like a financial professional or wealth manager.

And this doesn’t take into account the many little things people do for one another to help money situations, from car-pooling to co-op groceries to shared vacation homes.

Unfortunately, there is not enough of this type of cooperation. Consumer surveys regularly indicate that a good portion of people don’t have a budget and don’t keep track of their spending. And not all employers offer savings plans and among those that do, only a little more than half of workers, on average, participate.

No wonder, then, that a significant portion of Americans don’t feel close to a financially independent vision.

Indeed, in a recent MassMutual survey, only 14 percent of Americans felt “very optimistic” about their financial situation. And a decisive majority worry about the impact recent and looming changes in the financial world will have on their day-to-day finances – particularly inflation (88 percent) and recession (81 percent).


  • 53 percent of Americans believe current economic conditions will have a negative impact on their finances.
  • 70 percent of Americans are concerned about the impact of increased housing costs and 52 percent believe it will have a negative impact on their personal finances.

But while the survey pointed up concerns about financial security, it also had a silver lining: Only 9 percent of Americans expect to save less in coming months and 60 percent said their retirement contributions will remain the same, even in the face of inflation and higher interest rates.

Such stable saving, of course, doesn’t equate to financially independent for many people. But it’s on the right path. And MassMutual believes more people can get on that path, provided they remember that independence is a group effort.

Discover more from MassMutual....

Setting savings goals

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Your first financial professional meeting

This article was originally published in June 2017. It has been updated.


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The information provided is not written or intended as specific tax or legal advice. MassMutual, its employees and representatives are not authorized to give tax or legal advice. You are encouraged to seek advice from your own tax or legal counsel. Opinions expressed by those interviewed are their own and do not necessarily represent the views of Massachusetts Mutual Life Insurance Company.