Last night, I was watching a PBS special about prison, and prisoners coming out of prison and experiencing freedom, some for the first time in many, many years. It was an extremely interesting show. Some of the ex-prisoners adjusted quickly to their new surroundings, and 2 or 3 really flourished. Others, however, found it too difficult to deal with being away from the “structure” of the prison, and soon, they fell back into their previous illegal practices. What does this have to do with finances? Well, I am experiencing a kind of financial “prison” release. I am not all-the-way out yet, but, I have a great handle on my financial situation: We are living on a budget. We have an emergency fund. I know where every dollar that I make is going to go BEFORE I receive my paycheck. I am on a kind of financial “probation”. I will not consider myself to be “free” until I am out of debt, but I am already enjoying many of the benefits of “pre-” freedom. But, as I was watching the program last night, I realized that there are many pitfalls which face any newly released “prisoner.” What can I do to prepare myself for October 10, 2005, the day that I anticipate my on personal release from financial “jail”. Well, I can plan, I can prepare, and I can anticipate what new challenges will lay ahead. How much will I invest? How much should I spend? Will I reward myself with a vacation, or will I become even tighter with my money? Freedom… wonderful, beautiful, difficult, powerful, scary, and awesome.