5 Obstacles That Can Derail Your Journey to Financial Independence

Summer is right around the corner, and what I love about the warm weather is being able to deep clean and organize my house. On one of those cleaning days a few years ago, I came across a box of books I had planned to donate. Inside those boxes were journals and old planners I had saved.  As I thumb through the pages of my journals I realized how far I had drifted from the financial goals I had set for myself, and my journey to financial independence. 

I realized that financial independence is still something I look toward but it can often seem like a far-off thing. As I worked on cleaning my house, I became inspired to clean up my finances and renew my motivation to reach some of my goals. 

But before I could get back on track, I had to identify and avoid some of the most common obstacles that derailed my goals. By getting your finances in order, you can set the stage for a stronger, more successful future. 

What’s Stopping You From Becoming a Quiet Millionaire?

Bret Wilder in his book  The Quiet Millionaire gave us a glimpse of a few solid, practical pieces of advice for those who want to grow their wealth. One of my favorite quotes from Wilder is this: “If you want to become and stay a quiet millionaire, you must plan and manage your financial way of life. … You must be proactive in order to obtain the financial life you want.”

Let’s take a look at five common obstacles that can derail your journey to financial independence.

1. Lack of Discipline

Without discipline, it’s difficult to build wealth. In fact, it’s impossible to get rich slowly or otherwise if you spend more than you earn. The math just doesn’t work. Wilder also warns against compulsive spending, and he urges readers to track where their money is going.

The desire to overspend doesn’t always come from external influences. It sometimes comes from within and the desire to “keep up with the Joneses”. It is important to be content with what you have and to say no to yourself and your urges to spend. Stick to a budget when spending. A budget is a foundational piece of a financial plan. I assure you a budget can help you live within your means when you use it to set clear boundaries for your spending.

RELATED: How to Stop Comparing Your Financial Journey to Other People’s Path

2. Materialism

Things will not enrich your life. It’s so very easy to find yourself again “keeping up with the Joneses,” succumbing to lifestyle inflation. But materialism breeds discontent. Instead, Wilder says, focus on intellectual and spiritual pursuits to obtain fulfillment.

How can we become less materialistic:

  • Consider upcycling. Getting creative with what you use is important.
  • Buy local! Something as simple as going to farmer’s markets for gifts and foods will help reduce the degrading environmental impact of the resources and energy that goes into the transporting and manufacturing of an item.
  • Downsizing, if possible, will have a significant impact on reducing your possessions and will encourage donating the stuff you no longer have a purpose or space for. 
  • If you do need to purchase, consider buying it used first and foremost! Whether you are in need of new clothes from the thrift store or even bigger, buying a used car.

3. Debt

Not all debt is bad, of course. A reasonable mortgage on a sensible home is fine. But consumer debt — or a bad mortgage on a big house — is an enemy to financial success. In fact, bad debt may be the biggest enemy to financial success. These debts may carry very high-interest rates or have unrealistic payment schedules. 

These include:

  • Payday loans: When you’re in a cash crunch, these emergency loans can offer a way to tide you over until payday. But they have extremely high-interest rates and fees, and you typically have to pay back the loan in full on your next payday. If you can’t do that, interest on the loan keeps accruing. 
  • Car title loans: Title lenders use your paid-off car as collateral. You’ll get cash fast, but you’ll have to sign over your car title to the lender and you won’t get it back until the loan is paid in full. Because title loans charge high fees and interest rates, you can easily find yourself getting deeper and deeper in debt and never be able to get your car back. 

RELATED: How Being in Debt Affects Your Mental Health

4. Investment Mistakes

As many investors have learned recently, poorly structured investment portfolios can be a killer. This obstacle is overcome through education, through an understanding of diversification and asset allocation, by taking the emotion out of investing.

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5. Not Having an Emergency Fund

The final barrier to financial success is the unexpected: unemployment, death, illness, and legal complications. Without a plan for emergencies, you leave yourself at the mercy of the fickle fates. Carry adequate insurance and maintain an emergency fund!

RELATED: 4 Reasons to Have a Large Emergency Fund


To succeed in our journey to financial independence, whether it is to retire earlier, buy a new house, go on that dream vacation or get out of debt. Whatever your financial goals, knowing exactly where you are will help to keep you on track and accomplish this. 

We have all struggled with all of these obstacles at one time or another. I personally have overcome a few, but still have some ways to go. It is therefore important to always remain vigilant and remember you are fully responsible for all your financial affairs. Some financial setbacks are inevitable, while others can be avoided with proper discipline and planning. By following the steps outlined above, you can minimize the damage of the unavoidable setbacks and steer clear of those that are unnecessary. 

What are some of the common obstacles that have derailed your journey to financial independence?