We’ve all heard about it; on television current affairs programs and in esteemed finance magazines such as Money, but, how exactly, do start our first steps about achieving financial independence?
We live in unusual times. A unique set of challenges faces the West which many societies have been totally unprepared for. Over the past 30 years there has been a discernible retreat by the state from activities we all thought were the job of government. This is posing difficulties for societies around the globe as there is apparently nothing, in many cases, to fill the vacuum left by retreating government economic policies.
In particular, governments around the world have been disassembling the welfare state, selling off hospitals, closing public schools, limiting free access to healthcare and education, and in many cases abandoning people who need help because there is no longer ‘political support’ for intervening.
The shock in all of this is that many people signed-up to a model of society which was predicated on an interventionist state that would supply education, healthcare and welfare. Having worked for 40 years they have reached the end of their working life to discover there is no pension – or it is too little to live on – and there is no access to healthcare should they need treatment for a serious condition quickly.
The idea behind privatization, deregulation, reducing government spending, and introducing a user-pays system of access to healthcare, education and welfare, is to spark an explosion of economic activity that is so large, all-encompassing and profound, that no one is left behind and all have access to so much wealth and income that the state needn’t bother getting involved.
For most it simply doesn’t work that way. It is a utopian ideal beyond the reach of all but an absolute minority.
In recent decades there has been a consumer-led push to increase the financial literacy of people from the bottom-up; urging people to start to learn how to effectively manage their own resources. The ultimate goal of this has been to help people to learn how to be self-sufficient.
Financial Independence has become a term that has taken over public opinion. It is short-hand for being able to manage one’s own financial life. Knowing how to budget, how to buy smart, and how to plan for all incoming flows of money and outgoing expenses over a lifetime, is core knowledge to be able to really get a financial head-start in life.
There are, firstly, two aspects to Financial Independence that a person needs to address. The most commonly dealt with part is expense control and reduction. This is done through setting a rigorous budget that has targets for income, all classes and categories of expenditure, and savings. As someone becomes more financially stable the budget will also collect information and statistics on the purchases of assets for investment and the flows in and out of the budget for these.
A large part of budgeting is all about expense reduction and debt reduction. Debt reduction is where a person systematically organizes their financial affairs in order to eliminate debt from their life as quickly as possible. This is the ‘Debt Snowball’ that Dave Ramsey, author of Total Money Makeover, has popularized, and which has inspired many fan videos like this one.
What is so inspiring about seeing people like Jackie and Chris (from the above linked video) tackle their finances and wrestle their debt down to manageable levels is being a witness to ordinary, everyday people actually succeeding. It can be done!
The other aspect of Financial Independence is the end result. Achieving Financial Independence is where you are able to live without actively working to pay for your living expenses. Very often this is able to happen because of passive income sourced from investments that produce steady income, or businesses that don’t need you to be working in the business and generate income as you sleep.
A key feature of Financial Independence relates to income. To achieve Financial Independence you need to not only focus on controlling and reducing expenses and eliminating debt, but you will also need to find out how to increases your income. Saving as much as you can and investing for passive income has a huge role to play in reaching Financial Independence.
For those who are prepared to take calculated risks it may also be possible for you to create passive income from business. Every little bit extra counts.
Take a look at where you can sharpen your financial discipline. Your Financial Freedom is just around the corner.
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Your First Steps To Achieving Financial Independence