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Attaining Financial Independence In 9 Simple Steps

MM Note: This is a guest post from 29-year-old Millennial Money reader Todd Kunsman, sharing the steps to financial freedom. To learn more about achieving financial freedom, check out the Financial Freedom Podcast, and my book Financial Freedom: A Proven Path To All The Money You Will Ever Need.

I was living in an apartment that I could barely afford, with student loans and a car loan. It felt like a never-ending cycle of debt when I was working two jobs to make ends meet. After all my bills were paid, I would have about $50 left in my checking account. I tried to stretch that $50 so it would last me until the end of the month. Not good.

I wanted to not have an emergency expense come up every day, that is a terrible feeling to have. It was a heavy burden to live in fear of the next expense, and I felt like I was constantly living in fear. It sucks to worry about money. It can be overwhelming.

I had a small company 401(k) started, but I didn’t know much about it and only contributed 2%, not enough for the company match. I also did have about $900 in my bank savings account, but still not where I wanted to be financially.)

I was not completely ignorant to understanding finances. I understood the value of a savings account and building good credit (thanks Dad for the knowledge when I was a young buck), but I was definitely not making the best choices to ensure I would escape living paycheck to paycheck.

I knew I needed to take charge after changing my perspective and figuring out how I could improve my financial situation. I started researching budgeting, investing, and saving money to become financially independent.

While I am not completely financially free (yet), I’ve been able to:

  1. reduce over $50,000 of debt (student loan debt + car loan) down to less than $8,500, with the plan is to be fully paid off by 2018,
  2. build a Vanguard account with over $35,000 (Brokerage + Roth IRa + Rollover IRA),
  3. and still have additional savings in the bank for an emergency fund.
Track your net worth
I take screenshots of my bank account like Grant did to visualize my progress!

It may not seem like much, but a majority of my friends are younger than me, and many of them have very little in savings. It’s important to remember that financial stability isn’t something that happens overnight, and it can take a lot of hard work to build up savings. I’m proud of how much I’ve accomplished so far. I will strive for success in the future. With the path I have set for myself, I’m planning to achieve financial freedom and pursue early retirement in less than five years.

9 Steps to Financial Freedom

“Financial freedom means not having to worry about money.”

9 steps to financial freedom are for anyone who wants to turn their financial life around. You will be glad you put forth the effort to achieve financial freedom because it may take work and dedication. Further reading of each step in the process is included in the links and resources I have included. Additional insight and a comprehensive understanding of the process are provided by these resources.

1. Calculate Your Net Worth

While your income, savings rate, investment returns, debt to income ratio, and all those other numbers are important, the single most important metric that you should be tracking is your net-worth. Your net worth is a reflection of your financial progress and should be monitored regularly to ensure that you are making the best decisions for your money.

Your net-worth is calculated by subtracting your debts from your assets. You can gain a better understanding of your financial situation by subtracting your liabilities from your assets. If your net-worth isn’t increasing year over year, it doesn’t matter how much money you make or how much money you save. It’s important to focus on increasing your net-worth rather than accumulating money.

One of the best financial tools to help track your net worth is called Personal Capital. It is easy to use and keep track of your financial goals. I strongly recommend

Personal Capital logo

Personal Capital

Price: FREE

With Personal Capital, you can see your net worth, analyze investments, and discover any hidden fees, as well as set spending and saving goals. You can get a better understanding of where your money is going with the help of Personal Capital.

3. Keep building skills and growing career value

I didn’t have a lot of skills other than what I learned in my classes when I first started working after college. I was determined to learn and develop the skills I needed to thrive in my new position, so I worked hard and made sure to take advantage of any learning opportunities available. Most degrees are not going to give you a six-figure salary right away, in fact, in 2017, the average salary for a recent college graduate is just under $50,000.

It’s not bad, right? I don’t know a lot of people that make close to that right after college, but environmental factors, type of degree, etc. When setting expectations for your post-college salary, it is important to do research and be realistic. It can affect that number. Human activities such as overhunting or habitat destruction can affect the number of people in a population. In 2010 I was lucky to get a job about a month after graduating, but my starting salary was $30,000. I was determined to make the most of my opportunities, even though it wasn’t easy to make ends meet.

It was just a few weeks before Christmas when I was let go from my job. I used the opportunity to pursue a new career path that I had been dreaming about for a long time after I was devastated. I was making some money on the side even though I was looking for more side income. I’m thankful that I was able to make ends meet during this difficult time.

I started looking into digital marketing and how I could improve my career worth while I was nervous and scrambling to figure out what to do for full-time work. I wanted to find a job that I could enjoy and improve my salary options. I decided to pursue a career in the tech industry because it offered me a lot of exciting opportunities. Here are the best skills to learn for the future.

This led me to learn and acquire free certifications for Google Adwords, Google Analytics, and HubSpot’s Inbound Marketing Certification. It required studying and using the programs on my own, but once I passed everything, I was able to significantly boost my employment credibility.

I found remote work with start-ups that were willing to give me a chance because you aren’t going to make huge money overnight. I was able to overcome many of the obstacles that come with finding a job in an unfamiliar industry by putting in the effort. Experience and knowledge will add a lot to your resume, even if you have to be an intern or even work for free. This experience can be used to network with professionals in your field.

Within 3 months of being let go, I was working for three different companies remotely in digital marketing that paid my bills, but allowed me to build a network of new contacts, and lead to a new career path. I’m thankful that I was able to work with these companies and develop my skills in digital marketing, which has helped me launch a successful career. In those three years since I’m now a Digital Marketing Senior Manager at a great software company called EveryoneSocial and I provide digital marketing consulting for other companies and startups that improved my career worth. I’m proud to say that my digital marketing strategies have helped my clients.

You don’t have to do digital marketing. There are many career changes you can make that will lead to advancement in your career and salary, but you have to do it yourself. It is important to research your options before making a decision. With so many free resources online, you can improve your career without going back to school. There are many ways to gain knowledge without spending a dime.

4. Diversify your income streams

Financial freedom will be achieved faster if you have more than one income stream. Your journey to financial freedom can be accelerated by making smart investments. If your primary source of income is disrupted, it provides you with a safety net. Even when times are tough, the safety net can help keep your financial obligations current.

Being that we are in the 21st century, it’s so easy to pick up a new side hustle, build a business, or start growing small passive income streams. If you haven’t yet checked out Gary Vaynerchuck, you definitely should. If you watch some of his videos about creating side income, you will be inspired. He can motivate people to make changes in their lives.

We want to help you grow side income no matter your background or expeirence level. We believe that anyone can make money online, and our goal is to provide the tools and resources to help you do that. Here are some of our top posts you can check out to help pick the right money making activity for you:

5. Automate Your Savings

Paying yourself first is one of the most important steps to financial freedom. It was a concept I first read about in Rich Dad Poor Dad and I thought it was really interesting. The author stated that he would leave just enough to make sure he had no late payments on his bills, and that he would save as much as possible before the bills were due. He was able to stay out of debt because he encouraged others to do the same.

10% of my paycheck was taken out for my savings accounts. I began to increase the percentage that I was saving so that I could reach my financial goals faster. Half went to my savings emergency fund and the other half went to my retirement account. I diversified where the money went after increasing it. I was able to build a portfolio that gave me a steady income. As soon as I make a raise or make a side hustle, I would do the same thing. I would save 20%, invest 10%, and then use 70% for living expenses or something fun.

Paying yourself first gets you 2 goals. It helps you set aside money for your future and encourages good savings habits. Investing is the foundation of your retirement funds. Saving for retirement early on will maximize your gains. Since there is less money in your account, you spend less overall. Extra money in your savings account can be used to invest or save for a large purchase.

Since everyone has a different situation, the amount you save should be tailored to you. It’s important to create a budget that works for you. You will achieve financial freedom if you save and invest more. It is important to save and invest in order to build wealth over time. Any savings is better than no savings if you start with small amounts.

Further reading to help pay yourself first:

6. Create an Investment Strategy

A majority of people in this world are consumers. But investing is essential to building wealth. While there are many great investing strategies, I am a huge fan of index fund investing. I believe that index fund investing is one of the best ways to build wealth.

We buy things that aren’t going to add much to our wealth when we get a raise or have more money. It’s important to invest in things that will add value over time. Money is spent on fancy cars, boats, clothes and many other things. Money can’t buy you happiness. While consumer spending is not necessarily a bad thing, you have to narrow this down, be selective, and ask yourself, “Will this purchase add value to my financial freedom?” Most likely, the answer will be no. I often get the urge to buy something that I don’t need at the time. I was able to free up hundreds of dollars a month that I could put to better use and in places that could provide me with some additional income. I was able to reduce my stress by knowing how much money I had coming in and out each month.

It is important to create an investment strategy that works for you. Changing market conditions should make your strategy flexible. Here are some excellent resources to help:

7. Find Mentors (Or Talk With a Financial Advisor)

It might be one of the most important tips when it comes to financial success. It is important to create a budget and stick to it. Pay attention to everything the mentor or mentor does. Even if you don’t know if they will work with you, ask as many questions as you can. Don’t be afraid to take the leap because you never know what will happen. You will be surprised by how much older people are willing to help you. Valuable advice and mentorship can be provided by these people, not only for the knowledge they can share but also for the connections they can make on your behalf.

If you don’t have any friends or family that are mentor worthy in your eyes, look online for experts and even if you don’t reach out to them, always do your own research on top of what you are learning. It is important to remember that not all online advice is trustworthy, so be sure to research and double-check sources before taking any suggestions to heart.

I have two friends who have been financially free since their mid-twenties and have been with me for a long time. Hearing their stories and learning from them how they achieved this success has been an amazing experience. I learned from them how they put their money to work and how they make income other than running their business. We still talk about how to make money. There are no guarantees when it comes to investing.

8. Invest In Your Knowledge

Being able to choose a new book from the library was one of the highlights of my childhood. I used to spend a lot of time looking for the perfect book to take home with me. I got to high school and college and reading became more of a chore. I was no longer reading for pleasure, but rather to pass a test. I didn’t read much except for a required textbook for school. I have never been much of a reader, until I discovered the joys of exploring different genres and stories. I never picked up a book about finances after graduating.

I realized how important reading was to my financial IQ as I started this journey. I learned quickly that reading books, articles, and other financial literature is necessary for gaining a deeper understanding of the subject. I think reading a book has a higher return on investment than any other investment. You will benefit from reading books for the rest of your life. 8 financial books have given me ideas that I am confident will make me a ton of money over time, and I have already read them all.

I want to improve my finances and generate more income by reading books about business and real estate. I’ll be able to apply the new information in my own life.

Some of the best books on money can be found here. You should check out these resources to learn how to make smart decisions with your money. I am also now starting to read through Grant’s Best Financial Independence Retire Early Books.

If you’d prefer podcasts or listening to audiobooks, check out the best investing podcasts here to start increasing your knowledge. Increasing your knowledge will help you achieve financial freedom.

9. Set and Forget

Being patient has been difficult, but I know that I am on the right path and the more I save and invest the quicker I will reach financial independence. Many of you may be wondering why I only have $35,000 in savings when I have been at this for almost 3 years. I owe over $50,000, but I have come in just 3 years. I created a plan to pay off my debt after taking control of my finances. I had to invest time building my knowledge and improve my career so that I could make money and invest it. It is all about patience.

With compound interest and continuing to invest like I am, the growth of my account is just starting to have an exponential curve, where the rate of my investing returns are starting to accelerate. The idea of exponential growth gives me hope that I will be able to reach my financial goals sooner rather than later. It will be worth it when I see more of my efforts coming together. The hard work I’m putting in will eventually pay off, and I’m looking forward to seeing the rewards of my labor.

Even if you only save a few dollars a month, it all adds up and in a few years you will be proud of your accomplishments. As you work towards your financial goals, start small and celebrate each milestone. I can’t believe how far I’ve come. I’m very proud of the progress I’ve made in a short period of time. This stuff works. I’m glad I tried it.

Final Thoughts on Achieving Financial Freedom

The more you learn, the less time it takes to achieve financial freedom. You can create a secure financial future for yourself and those you care about by taking control of your finances. I read about money at least 20 minutes a day and have learned a lot in the past year. I am confident that I will be able to make better decisions with my money in the future.

The amount of content may seem overwhelming at first, but once you see the bigger picture, everything will make sense. Asking questions if you don’t understand something is the best way to learn. The industry wants you to think that finances are as complicated as well. The stigma can make people feel like they don’t have the knowledge or resources to manage their finances. It is not complicated when you get to it. The key is to keep it simple. There are tried and true methods. These tried and true methods are the best way to ensure success.

I wish I knew all this when I was younger because I am glad I started looking at it when I was in my mid-twenties. I would have had an advantage in preparing for my future. Don’t put it off, start right now. Begin your journey towards success by taking the first step today. I may not be able to retire next year or even in five years, but I am well on my way to being financially free before the average retirement age. The steps I have taken to secure my financial future have given me confidence that I will be able to retire comfortably when the time is right. Let’s do it!

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