What do the words “financial freedom” mean to you? Too many people this is synonymous with the words “debt-free.” For others, it could mean the freedom to quit their jobs, to roam the world on a sailboat or to start their own business. Regardless of what you think of when you hear the term “financial freedom,” there are steps you can take to achieve it.
Define your goals
The first step towards financial freedom is to define your goals. You should have both short- and long-term goals. They should be both specific and achievable. The reason to have short-term goals is to have goals that you can achieve in a reasonable amount of time to help you stay motivated. Let’s suppose that your long-term goal is to retire at age 55 and you’re now 30. That’s a 25-year time span, which is a long time to stay motivated an on track. However, if you add a short-term goal of, say, a two-week trip through Europe, you will be able to see you’re making progress towards that goal every month. Once you achieve your first short-term goal, you will need to create another one, so again you’ll be able to see you’re making progress
Make a plan
Once you have defined your goals, the next step is to determine how you will achieve them. For example, I read recently that if you want to have a good retirement, you should save 8 to 10 times your annual salary. This means if you’re earning $65,000 a year you’ll need to save around $520,000 for a decent retirement. If your long-term goal is to have a happy and stress free retirement, you need to make a plan as to how you will accumulate that $520,000 or whatever.
Create a budget
Step three in achieving financial freedom is to create a budget. To do this you will need to identify all of your spending for probably a month. There are some great software programs and smart phone apps that will track your spending and even divide it into logical categories such as entertainment, healthcare, insurance, food, entertainment, debt payments and especially savings. Next, you will need to allocate a percentage to each category. As an example of this, you might allocate 25% to 35% of your earnings for your housing and 5% to 15% for food. As a final step you will need to scrutinize each category to find areas where you could make cuts. Remember that you’re working towards goals and the more cuts you can make in your spending, the more money you will have and the faster you will realize them.
Pay off your debt
If you’re like most of us, you’re probably now asking the question “How can I put more money into savings when I have so much debt hanging over me?” While it is possible to both save money and pay off debt, most people find this very difficult. A better solution for most of us is to pay off your debts first. It’s nearly impossible these days to get much more than 1% or 2% any kind of secure investment, while you your credit card debts probably have interest rates of 20% or even higher. It doesn’t take a lot of math to figure out you’d be money ahead to pay off your debt, which would free of money you could sock into your savings.
Keep the faith
Making a plan, creating and staying on a budget and paying off your debt is usually not much fun for. However, it’s a bit like weight training. The more you work at it, the easier it will become. Just keep the faith and stick to your plan and you will realize your goals.