Make Financial Independence a Part of Your Future
Whether you are a young adult just starting out or a senior citizen looking for a fresh start, there´s no time like the present to start working towards financial independence. All you need is an idea of what financial independence means to you, and a flexible plan to help you reach your goals.
Define Financial Independence
Depending who you ask, financial independence can be defined in a variety of ways. For some people financial independence means never having to work again; while for others it can mean being able to meet monthly financial obligations and still have a little extra left over. How you define the term is not important. What matters most is that you have a clear understanding of what financial independence means to you, so you can develop a plan that will help you achieve your goals.
Look at the Big Picture
Once you have determined exactly what financial independence means to you, you´ll need to look inward before turning outward to survey the big picture. If you don´t know where you are, you can´t see where you´re going so it´s important to figure out exactly where you stand-financially speaking.
Are you the type of person who has made it a habit to pay all of your bills early or on time? Then you may not have as far to go as someone who has a habit of paying bills late or not at all.
Take an honest look at yourself: your lifestyle, your spending and saving habits, your immediate and future goals. What do you see? What you find within will determine what you need to do in order to achieve your goals.
Do Sweat the Small Stuff
By focusing on your financial habits, you´ll be able to determine what you need to do to move forward. This is the most challenging part of gaining financial independence since you may need to significantly modify your lifestyle, including your spending and saving habits.
Everyone would be financially independent if this was a simple goal to achieve. If you´re serious about achieving financial independence, you´ll need to examine the details of your daily life to ensure that your habitual behavior is in line with your goals.
No matter how you define financial independence, you´ll need to learn how to sweat the small stuff. It´s easy to spend frivolously without thinking about how all those café lattes add up; but once you realize you are spending $100 per month just to enjoy one coffee drink per day, you might not be as eager to indulge in your daily dose of caffeine. Instead of drinking those dollars, why not invest them in your company-sponsored 401k or a Roth IRA, or just sock them away for a rainy day?
Now is the time to scrutinize everything in your life: Do you really need the flashy car, the designer duds, or the fancy furniture? Perhaps you´ll discover that a 38-inch flat screen TV is every bit as good as a 52-inch. The idea is to question everything you do, and all the ways in which you spend money.
This is also the perfect time to start trading old habits for new. When dining out with loved ones, why not try sharing dishes? Instead of purchasing an entrée for each person, how about sharing an entrée and a salad? You´ll save money and your waistline will thank you for it!
You might also consider scaling back on some not-so-necessary luxuries-such as cable TV, lawn care and house cleaning services, magazine subscriptions, manicures and pedicures, cell phone plans with all the bells and whistles-you might even be might be surprised at how little you miss them.
Keep Your Eyes on the Prize
By now, you should have a pretty clear idea of what you´ll need to do in order to achieve your vision of financial independence. Changing habitual behavior can be a challenge, but if you stick to it, you´ll replace bad habits with good ones.
It´s also a good idea to carry a reminder of your goals with you at all times to help fend off temptation. If your idea of financial independence is to retire early, you might want to keep a photo in your wallet that embodies this dream. Or if financial independence means being debt-free, you could create a chart that tracks how your debt decreases each month, so you can feel good about your progress. Being a little disciplined now can help you reap great rewards in the future, so tighten your purse strings and get ready to enjoy the sweet smell of success.