The road to financial hell is paved with good intentions. And, conversely, for most of us the path to financial independence or wealth is all about action - simple, consistent action. However, simple doesn’t always mean easy. Experts claim that financial independence and prosperity is within the reach of most people... if they cultivate sound financial habits. Most people don’t. Numbers vary, but in the U.S. it is estimated that a whopping 90 percent of the population will never reach financial independence. This means that retirement for most people will be fraught with financial worries and debt. The sooner you start to take control over your financial future, the better.
Here’s a quick run-though of the traits that separate the financially prudent from the perennially debt-ridden:
- Have a written financial plan. Don’t only define your goals but outline what financial independence means to you. Calculate the income you will need to make it happen and look at the investment and savings options that you will use as part of your plan. Putting your ideas, game plan and timetable on paper forces you to be realistic and to develop a truly workable plan.
- Use credit cards sparingly. Get rid of all cards except for two at the most. The need for instant gratification is the destructive urge that keeps most Americans in debt for decades. Avoid using credit cards for goods that you cannot pay off in a couple of months. Credit card debt cripples your ability to invest and save... which leads us to our next step to financial independence.
- Explore the savings options offered by your employer or develop your own retirement funds. Build a special fund for "rainy day" expenses so you won’t have to raid long-term investments. Get in the habit of saving most - if not all - of any pay raises or bonuses you receive.
- Adopt a modest lifestyle. Live within your means. Do you have to buy a new luxury car with crippling monthly payments? Don’t buy more house than you can comfortably afford. Buy quality, but avoid over-priced designer, apparel, shoes and cosmetics. Avoid the conspicuous consumption that is part of our culture.
- Invest in your future. Make your money work hard for you. Build a diverse stock portfolio; look at other investment options including mutual funds and foreign funds. Seek advice from a professional financial planning expert and your tax consultant. Develop a working relationship with advisors who will look out for your interests in changing economic times. You will still be in the driver’s seat but you will receive the benefit of professional expertise when it comes to diversifying a stock portfolio, minimizing risk and tackling complicated tax issues.
One final thought to ponder: according to recent studies, the majority of people who reach self-described financial independence own and operate their own businesses.