Whether you are stepping into your first job or figuring out what you want to be when you grow up having a good money plan in place will be a crucial tenet in any success story.
Financial freedom is having the ability and choice to make a life decision that suits you without overly worrying about the financial side. It is having enough net worth built up that if you lose your job, you have the time and comfort to pick a new position of your choosing and not be forced to take whatever is on offer. It is the ability not to worry about what is around the corner because you have a financial cushion to lean on in tough times. Ultimately, financial freedom leads to financial independence, which is the ability to live off passive income without going to an actual job. Now, who doesn’t want that?
However, to reach financial freedom, the groundwork needs to be put in place, the earlier, the better.
Earning a paycheck is important. However, it is equally important to optimise that same money and make it work as hard for you as you had to work to get it in the first place. Even if your salary isn’t through the roof, there are ways to make it last longer and truly justify all your life’s efforts.
Here are the principles to help you get your hard-earned money to work as hard for you as you do for it. Follow these, and you will give yourself a great chance of winning the game of life.
1. Rainy Day Fund
A rainy day fund is a must. When it comes to weather, you know that it is going to rain. You don’t know when it will rain or how heavy that rain will be, or how long it will last; you know that it’s going to rain.
Just like the weather, life also brings its challenges. You don’t know when something will break down or surprise from left field and you won’t know how bad it will be until it happens. However, I can guarantee you that it will happen. A rainy day fund lets you focus on getting your life back on track without the need for loans, overdrafts, or extra debt.
I recommend a rainy day fund of 3 to 6-month expenses, but even a small one of €500 to €1000 can be a great help for most of life’s surprises, especially in the early stages.
2. Make A Budget
Understanding where your money is going will help to figure out where the leaks are so you can plug them and channel your money in the right direction. It will show you how to loosen up wasted money and send it towards saving, paying down debt and building your net worth.
When it comes to creating a budget:
Firstly, please keep it simple. There is no need for hundreds of categories and heavily detailed breakdowns. A few simple line items will suffice, for example, fixed bills, grocery, savings, fuel, etc.
Secondly, allow it to be flexible, don’t beat yourself up if one area for your budget goes over. Simply re-jig your numbers for that month and try to make it easier for the next month. No-one gets it right-first-time.
Thirdly, this is just as important as the rest. Ensure that there is a certain amount of money put aside just for you. This is your fun money; it is the money that you can fritter away without guilt, fuss or care. Fun money is essential because we are all human, and we need to enjoy our lives. If you give yourself this outlet for indulgence, you will be more likely to keep the rest of the budget intact. Be kind to yourself in your budget if you want it to work over the longer term.
3. Pay Yourself First
Pay yourself firsts is critical for financial freedom. Setting up automatic savings is one of the easiest and most effective ways to save. Create a standing order to transfer money into a savings and investing every pay period, right after payday. Pay yourself first not only guarantees that you save each month, but it also puts that cash out of sight and out of mind. Automatic savings means you have a process in place to save at regular intervals, whether that’s monthly, weekly, or daily.
If you do not do this, then you’re drastically hampering your chance of reaching financial freedom.
4. Get rid of debt, better still never take it on in the first place
Debt is nothing more than a millstone around your neck, indenturing you and future you. It needs to be removed from your cash flow as soon as possible and never introduced back in. The most expensive kind of debt here is consumer debt. This debt usually comes in the form of an overdraft, credit card debt or loan. They tend to have high-interest rates and claim a significant chunk of your income that would be better spent on building a life that you love rather than paying off something most likely long forgotten.
The only exception here is potentially a mortgage.
5. Pension, Pension, Pension
As far off at it may seem, retirement for most of us will last for decades. It is essential to have money put aside for those years when you might not earn an income. One of the nice things about a pension in Ireland is that it is one of the only ways to get free money from the government.
Currently, any money put aside for and pension is tax-free, and if you are lucky enough to have additional money added by your employer, you ride that gravy train. Don’t leave free money on the table. Max it out every year, you can’t afford not to. Putting even a small amount aside regularly will build up over time to create a cushion that could be the difference between a comfortable or tough retirement.
Future you will thank you, I promise.
6. Windfalls and bonuses supercharge your path to financial freedom.
Do not underestimate the power of windfalls and bonuses. You might be lucky for the last few years and get a consistent bonus, but that can change at any time. This is magic money, money that you can to use to supercharge your journey. Put it towards the rainy-day fund, pension, or aggressively pay down debt.
Bonus money not for wasting on some material goods that will end up o landfill in no time. What’s the point in that? Make this money count.
7. Save Even The Small Stuff.
No amount of money is too small to make a difference. Putting aside 50¢ a day over a year will get you almost halfway to that rainy day fund that I mentioned earlier. Saving all those small amounts of change can over time and create a decent chunk of money. Don’t underestimate the power of all those little steps forward.
8. No Spend Days.
Try to have one day a week to being a No Spend Day.
A No Spend day is any day you do not spend any money besides grocery and essential bills. This can be any day of the week. However, try to keep it consistent so that you have a chance of creating a habit out of it. The lovely thing about a no-spend day is that it does not have to be a day where you hide under the duvet and pray for morning. Make it something to look forward to, invite friends over, cook at home, and plan out free activities such as game night, watching a movie, or going to the park.
Once you have the basic building blocks in place like a pension, rainy day fund and loans eliminated. It is time to focus on investing. Be it in the real estate, the stock market or other assets. Investing in financial freedom needs to have a long term mindset. This means that once money goes, it is left there for years, ideally decades to grow and compound. A pension is at its core and investment fund. So chances are if you have a pension you are already an investor.
There you go, nine straight forward principles that can supercharge your hard-earned money and set you on a path to financial freedom. It is essential to respect all those hours that you spend away from your family and loved ones. Take care of future you by working towards financial freedom. Do this by making your money work hard for you; you work hard for it, let it return the favour.
Most of all, enjoy the journey.
About the Author:
In 2018 Kel Galavan was living and working at breakneck speed, spending endless hours commuting, and felt like she saw more of her children asleep than awake. Realising this wasn’t the life she wanted for herself or her family, she quit her 16-year career, and, with the family income slashed, embarked on a No-Spend Year in 2019. Her journey through self-doubt and hard-won life lessons culminated in savings of over €27,000 and changed the life of her family for the better in ways she could never have imagined.
She brings these lessons to life in her new book Mindful Money, more money, more freedom, more happiness. Mindful Money is about building good spending habits and a positive money mindset to create a fulfilling, happy life no matter your income. She is a money mentor and can be found regularly hanging out on Instagram @mrssmartmoneyhq. Be sure to check out the most recent Legal Diaries podcast feat. Kel.