7 Steps to Financial Independence You Should Be Taking Right Now
Financial independence means different things to different people. It really depends on what your expenses are, what your goals are, and how much money you’re making. One thing financial independence does not mean, however, is rich.
You don’t have to be in the top one percent to be considered independent financially. You just have to have control over your destiny. (Or as much control as possible.)
In the following article, we’ll be discussing the steps that you can take to achieve financial independence as a student. That’s not to say that you’ll be earning more than you’ll ever earn while still in college. But it does mean you can set a course for success now that’s hard to stray from later.
Before we get to the tips, though, it’s important that we start with the potential roadblocks. What follows are the things that trip you up financially and keep you down for a long time to come.
Lamenting is feeling sorrow for something you’ve lost or perhaps never had. It can trip you up financially because it’s what causes you to kick yourself over missed opportunities, not take the calculated risks necessary to earn or keep more of your money, and to covet what someone else has to the point that it controls your happiness.
As a general rule, do not compare yourself to other people. Don’t fret if you have a tenth of what they have. You’re only competing against yourself. The more you realize that, the stronger your foundation will be.
Expecting the world to work out a certain way based on what someone told you is always a bad idea. Don’t take anyone’s word for the way that things are supposed to work. View your situation, particularly the age you’re living in, as unique. Because it is!
The more you expect things to happen for you, the less work you’ll do to actually make those things happen. You’ll be less engaged with your money, less attuned to opportunities, and unwilling to step out of your comfort zone.
Sometimes it’s easy to get complacent with your money situation. That’s particularly true when you’re living in the moment and are actually happy with where you are. Being happy is good until you have an unexpected major expense and haven’t saved a dime in emergency funds.
One major catastrophe, either medically or with your possessions, can set you back for years to come. It can also lead to you being required to make significant sacrifices that you otherwise wouldn’t.
Refusing to Invest
As a student, it can feel like you’ve got your whole life to start investing. Unfortunately, it ends up taking your whole life to get started! Many students wonder when they should start investing. The answer is NOW!
The act of investing in a stock market index fund or a diverse assortment of stocks and mutual funds will yield, in general, a 7 percent return each year. That’s compounding interest that not only compounds by the year but also by the day. Save as much and as frequently as you can to take advantage!
Starting while you’re still in college will give you a head-start when preparing for retirement. And if you start really early, retirement can come a lot sooner than you are expecting.
Another big mistake that students can make to set upon shaky financial ground is over-borrowing. It can feel irresistible to get your hands on as much “free money” as possible when it’s being offered. The reality is that you will have to pay it back later with an interest rate attached to it. Grant it, government rates tend to be much better than standard credit cards, but it’s still extra money you’re out.
For each dollar you pay in interest, that’s a dollar less that goes toward retirement or a home or any number of things that are or will be important to you. Rule of thumb: borrow only what you need to pay for tuition. No more.
Now that you know the money regrets to which you are vulnerable, it is time to consider the primary ways to make the most of your financial independence efforts. These seven tips will set you up for success before you have any chance to fall behind.
1. Make Extra Money While in School
There are so many earning opportunities available to Generation Z and upcoming generations thinking of heading to college. For starters, you can learn a trade in high school, acquire an associate’s degree before ever stepping foot on a college campus full-time, and then earn as you go.
If you’re more the work-from-home type, you can take surveys, write articles, design graphics for social media and other publishers, or get a part-time job. However you earn money, make sure you balance it with your school work and don’t take on more than you can handle. Your education should come first, but it also shouldn’t get in the way of picking up some extra cash on the side.
2. Limit What You Borrow
Some students will borrow money to live on. That’s a mistake. College is already expensive enough, and the price isn’t going down any time soon. Borrowing for books, off-campus apartments, entertainment, and anything beyond tuition is a bad idea. It will ensure that you keep paying for the stuff you enjoy now years into the future.
3. Get a Foundation Job
A foundation job fresh out of college is a great way to set yourself up for success from the outset. Any job with benefits to include 401k (or equivalent) and health insurance is one that will allow you to save and invest money while earning enough to pay your bills and live, provided you haven’t racked up a lot of credit card debt or borrowed more than you should have for college.
One last thing about a foundation job: it should not prevent you from side hustling. It should enable you to. Creating multiple streams of income is the only way to guard against future job loss, so make it a part of your life.
4. Keep Adding Skills
We live in an age of life-long learning. Many of the jobs that will be here 10 years from now haven’t even been created yet. Take cryptocurrency, for example. How much Bitcoin did you own in 2010? Probably zippo. Now, if you’re like us, you’re playing with it all the time. As the cryptocurrency market develops, all sorts of jobs will rise up around it.
Fund managers, crypto-journalists, new currency creators, and broker/experts, to name a few. You might even be one of them, but you’ll need to learn about this new form of exchange before you go there. It’s just one of the many examples of future-work and the skills required to attain it that you need to consider. Ignore new skills at your own risk.
5. Apply for Gigs
Gigs are all over the place. You can find them on Craigslist, Fiverr, Upwork, and a variety of apps that are floating around the mobile marketplaces for Android and Apple. Gigs often do not pay top dollar, but they can be a cheap and quick way to pick up extra money. They can also give you ideas for businesses that you can start on your own.
6. Graduate to Side Hustle
As you dip your toes into the gig economy, you’ll start to notice opportunities for business ideas. Many of these business ideas can be started before you even get out of college. There are numerous stories in the GenX, Millennial, and GenZ generations of students who quit school to pursue their business or who were at least able to make great money on the side while attending classes.
Bill Gates and Mark Zuckerberg are two such people whose eyes were more on their businesses than their studies. That can be you, too. Just keep in mind that guys like Gates and Zuckerberg are rare, and you will want to do the best you can not to sabotage your efforts by refusing to take school as seriously as you should while you’re in it.
7. Start Investing As Early As Possible
As we’ve already mentioned, the miracle of compounding returns can turn your money into more money rapidly, though it might not seem that way at first. The way it typically works is this: it takes what seems like forever to save $100,000. Once you do, however, you start seeing the numbers rapidly increase, provided you have the right investments.
It’s possible to start saving at 40 and get to $1 million by retirement age. Imagine if you started much sooner, as in while you’re still in college. The trick is not allowing yourself to take the money out of an account for any excuse. Save what you save, and leave it where you put it until you can legally pull it out without paying exorbitant taxes and penalties.
In other words, set it and forget it.
Financial Independence Opens Many Doors to the Life You Deserve
The road to financial independence should not begin when you’re a full-fledged working adult. It should start now with every dollar you’re able to scrape together, every gig, every part-time job. Spend your money wisely, save as much as you can, and let Father Time take care of the rest. Best of luck as you work toward your financial independence! What are some of the things you do to earn extra money? Share along with your top savings tips in the comments section below!
[Featured Image by Flickr Creative Commons]