Financial Planning

5 Tips to Help You Achieve Financial Independence

When you're just starting out, taking these easy first steps to take control of your finances can set you up for great success.

According to a survey conducted by the Pew Research Center, the national unemployment rate for adults ages 18 to 34 has declined to 7.7%. However, despite a 6% increase in weekly earnings over the last four years, 26% of Millennials are still living at home with their parents.

As young professionals work toward financial security and independence, below are my recommendations on what you can do to put yourselves in the best financial position:

1. Write Down Your Goals

It's been said that a goal without a plan is just a dream. So, what better way to start realizing your goals than identifying them, writing them down and creating a plan for achieving them?

Ask yourself where you'd like to be in five or even ten years from today. Then, create a plan that helps give you a baseline for measuring your goals. Remember, financial success doesn't happen overnight. Along with proper planning, it takes patience, dedication and consistency. Writing down your goals will help bring the vision of your future to life and give you something tangible to review.

2. Cut Expenses

Whether you're currently employed or not, you're likely to have expenses. Consider creating a budget as a way to benchmark incoming revenues and outgoing expenses. By continuously reviewing spending, you can easily identify opportunities to reduce fees or cut expenses altogether. Maybe you don't need the premium cable channels or the highest speed of internet. Cutting those costs are a quick and easy way to find dollars to pay down debt or reinvest into a savings plan.

3. Automate Savings

Automating a savings plan is one of the best ways to succeed at saving. If you have to manually log in to your bank account and transfer funds into a savings account weekly or monthly, you are less likely to do it. I recommend working with a bank or financial planner to automate the process so you don't have to think about it. Start out with a small amount—even if it is just $20 per month—and increase it as you get more comfortable with the process.

4. Plan for Retirement

Yes, retirement. Even though it may be decades away, it's never too early to starting thinking about it. In fact, the sooner you start, the better the outcome. Retirement accounts provide tax-deferred growth, a powerful feature to help boost your long-term returns and income years from now when you stop working.

If you are working, and your company offers a 401(k) plan, see if your employer matches a portion of your contributions. At the very least, contribute enough to receive the full company match (often around 5% of your pay annually, though percentages vary). Otherwise, contribute monthly to an individual retirement account such as a Roth IRA. Just be sure to read up on the latest Roth IRA rules for 2016, and consult with your trusted financial professionals. As with savings, you can start with small, monthly contributions, and increase as you get more comfortable with regularly putting away money and, with luck, make more income.

5. Consider a Side Hustle

Working part-time or in a freelance position is a great way to supplement your income. Whether it's signing up to be an outside consultant through sites such as HourlyNerd, driving for Uber or Lyft or even bartending at a local restaurant, a side hustle can give you extra income you need, with that flexibility you enjoy.

Regardless of which tip or tips you may follow, remember to take control of your current financial situation and prepare for the future while time is on your side. By making small changes to the way you view and manage your finances, you're taking the steps needed to gain financial freedom and be successful for years to come.

Taylor Schulte, CFP® is founder and CEO of Define Financial, a San Diego-based fee-only firm. He is passionate about helping clients accumulate wealth and plan for retirement.

About the Author

Taylor Schulte, CFP

Founder and CEO, Define Financial

Taylor Schulte, CFP®, is founder and CEO of Define Financial, a fee-only wealth management firm in San Diego. In addition, Schulte hosts The Stay Wealthy Retirement Podcast, teaching people how to reduce taxes, invest smarter, and make work optional. He has been recognized as a top 40 Under 40 adviser by InvestmentNews and one of the top 100 most influential advisers by Investopedia.

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