Achieving financial independence is not a sprint. It is a marathon, one that begins on your first day of work and continues long after your retirement party has ended. If you want to enjoy a better financial situation tomorrow, you need to plan for that future today.
It is easy to become impatient when working on your finances, expecting things to turn around overnight. But when it comes to saving for your future, patience is definitely your friend. The sooner you get started, the easier it will be to meet your goals. Perhaps even more importantly, getting an early start can reduce the current lifestyle impact of your long-term financial goals.
Here are 17 simple things you can do today to enjoy better finances tomorrow.
1. Open a Separate Savings Account
Establishing a second bank account is a critical first step, one that will help you control your finances and start saving for the future.
2. Set Up an Automatic Transfer
Once you have that savings account in place, put it to good use with an automatic transfer. Whether you split your direct deposit between the two accounts or transfer funds from one to the other, the goal is to build up your savings as fast as possible.
3. Sign up for Your Employer’s 401(K) Plan
Your employer’s 401(k) plan is as close to free money as you can get, especially if your company has a matching program. Even if you can only manage 1%, contributing to your 401(k) can play a vital role in securing your financial future.
4. Work Hard to Consolidate Your Debt
Having a lot of debt will interfere with all your financial plans, from saving for retirement to establishing an emergency fund. Look for ways to consolidate your debt, from zero percent balance transfer offers to personal loans.
5. Create a Household Budget
Until you have a budget in place, you will never truly know where your money is going. Establishing a comprehensive household budget is an essential step toward securing your financial future.
6. Free Up Extra Cash
Once you know where your money is going, it is time to look for extra cash. Whether it is a high-end cable package, a too-generous cell phone plan or something else, cutting back on the frills is a great way to free up extra money.
7. Look For Ways to Make Extra Cash
The side-hustle is becoming more and more popular among people in all age groups. The reason is simple: A side gig offers you a simple way of paying down debt or adding to your savings without a lot of effort. Look for opportunities like freelance writing, paid surveys, or building a blog.
8. Look For Low-Cost Investments
Choosing low-cost investments means your dollars work that much harder, so pay careful attention to investment fees. A low-cost index fund is a great way to invest in the stock market, and there are low-cost alternatives in other investment categories as well.
9. Ramp up Your Savings
As the years go by, ramping up the amount you save can give your financial plan a boost. Increasing your investment percentage on your anniversary date, banking part of your tax refund and transferring more money into your savings account are all great ways to ramp up your finances.
10. Keep Learning
The most financially savvy people are those that keep on learning about money long after they are considered experts. Markets and strategies change over time. Nothing stays the same. Continue to educate yourself on money and refresh your mind on the basics now and again to stay sharp.
11. Bank Half Your Raise
When you get a raise, use that extra cash to jump start your savings plan. Banking half your raise can help you build your savings, and the power of compounding could make those future dollars far more valuable.
12. Make Purchases With an Eye Toward the Future
Whenever possible, consider your purchases (particularly big-ticket items) as an investment in your future. Sure, a cheap mattress will save you money now, but could spending more on a reputable brand mean less money (and less waste) over the long run? Ask this question about everything you buy—from sports equipment to appliances.
13. Think About Where You Live
It’s no secret that the cost of living can vary dramatically depending on where you live. If you are not location dependent (for instance, if your job can be done remotely) consider moving to a more affordable region of the country.
14. Stay Healthy
Health and wealth go hand-in-hand. Financial independence will mean very little to you if you can’t enjoy it due to illness of injury. Take control of your health by making the right choices. Count good nutrition, exercise, and regular trips to the doctor as a long term investment in your physical (and thus, financial) independence.
15. Live Within Your Means
It may sound cliche’, but living within your means is one way of maintaining your financial independence throughout your lifetime. Can you get away with purchasing a late model vehicle instead of a brand new car? Do you really need a four bedroom house when two bedrooms will suit your needs just fine? Living within your means is a painless way of ensuring you maintain financial independence.
16. Have Hard Discussions
Talking about life insurance or your decisions about long term care is not pleasant, but having these conversations with your loved ones is a big part of financial independence. Nobody lives forever. Financial mature individuals provide for their families in case the worst happens.
17. Review the Situation
Assessing your financial situation on an annual basis is a great way to make sure you are on track and ready to meet your goals. Take the time to review your finances, assess your performance and look for more ways to save.
Financial independence will not happen by accident, but if you are willing to work hard, it will happen. When it comes to preparing for the future, the first step is often the hardest one, so use the step-by-step process outlined above to get started.