Step 57: Life Insurance

Step 57 of the 100 Steps Mission to Financial Independence: Life Insurance
Step 57: Life Insurance

An insurance is essentially a financial protection against the risks of a possible loss that you contract with an insurance company. You might never need some of these (hopefully you won’t in most cases!) but without an insurance you or others around you might not be able to deal with the financial consequences when confronted with certain situations.

Choosing which types of insurance you need, which ones you don’t and making sure that the ones you have are still up-to-date and applicable to your current situation can be a bit of challenge, so in the next few steps we’ll go through the most common types of insurance you might need.We’ll be starting this mini-series with life insurance.

Why Life Insurance

A life insurance covers anybody who might financially rely on you for the financial consequences if you were to pass away. In essence you are not insuring yourself here, but other people around you who would suffer financially if you died. There are different situations in which people might depend on you financially: Continue reading

Step 56: Estate Planning

Step 56 of the 100 Steps to Financial Independence: Estate Planning
Step 56: Estate Planning

Maybe not the nicest step of the 100 we’re covering to think about, but estate planning should be high up your priority list of financial planning. Not only will you feel more at peace knowing that you have made the necessary arrangements for when the time comes, your family will be grateful being able to mourn and deal with the emotional side of your demise, instead of worrying over legalities and finances.

In this step we’ll look at the key parts you should arrange as part of your estate planning, which include:

  1. A will or trust
  2. A health care proxy / health care power of attorney
  3. A power of attorney
  4. Beneficiary designations
  5. Guardianship designations
  6. Letter of intent

A will or trust

A will is a legal document that details what should happen to each of your assets upon your death, providing this is in compliance with local and national legislation. Trusts can furthermore be advantageous in terms of certain tax or legal issues. Continue reading

Step 55: Discuss Finances with your Partner

Step 55 of the 100 steps to financial independence: Discuss Finances with your Partner
Step 55: Discuss Finances with your Partner

I admit that this step should have probably been way earlier on in the list, since if you share your household and finances with your partner, then discussing money matters and making sure you have the same short-term and long-term goals in mind is essential to not only achieving your financial goals but also keeping your relationship healthy and happy. At the end of the day if you are trying to save, invest or grow your capital whilst your partner is more of the “let’s spend it all now” school, you likely both wind up frustrated with each other, meaning both your financial goals and your relationship happiness will take a hit and suffer at some point.

Sad but true: finances and a lack of shared financial goals or financial compatibility are not uncommon reasons for people to end a relationship, so let’s get this sorted once and for all and make sure that you and your partner discuss your individual and joint financial beliefs and goals. You might not have exactly the same ideas about how to spend or save your money, but discussing will at least create more understanding and hopefully pave the way to an agreement that satisfies both and leaves some (financial) room for both to do your own thing.

Of course it might be that your partner is not into finances at all and is happy for you to take control of the (majority) of the money decisions and responsibilities. If that is the case, it might sound easier in the short-term to simply assume that role not inform or even consult your partner, but remember that long-term this might not be in the interest of neither your relationship nor of your finances. Continue reading

Step 54: Bull & Bear Markets

Step 54 of the 100 steps mission to financial independence: Bull & Bear Markets
Step 54: Bull & Bear Markets

Now, as I’ve mentioned a few times before, by no means am I an expert on investing (yet..), but there are a few concepts that I have picked up along the way and that I’d like to share at this stage. These are to do with the practicalities when it comes to investing on a day-to-day (or year-to-year) basis.

As I have said before, I – and with me many others on their way to financial independence -, see index investing as the safest, easiest and surest way to invest. It is boring, but most likely to get decent results. Of course not everybody agrees, there are many who prefer other ways to invest, (or of course to not invest at all), so make sure you choose what is good for you. With that said, I am mainly referring to index investing in this step, so not everything might be applicable to the other ways of investing.

Bull & Bear Markets

Let’s first start with two definitions in the investing world: bull and bear markets. During a bull market, the general market does well: prices are on the rise, investors feel confident, every day more people want to buy shares which pushes the prices further up as demand exceeds supply, people see their portfolio grow and demand increases even further..  Continue reading

Step 53: To invest or not to invest

Step 53 of the 100 Steps mission to financial independence: To invest or not to invest?
Step 53 of the 100 Steps mission: To invest or not to invest?

The big question is of course whether you should or shouldn’t start investing. Ask anybody and you are likely to get very different answers, some saying they can recommend putting in some money monthly, others saying only the really wealthy or dumb invest in the market, whilst still others see it as their main way to (early) retirement.

The truth is, whether or not to invest depends entirely on you, your personal (and financial) situation, and the reasons you might want to invest in the first place. In this step I’ll try to give you some pointers to think about to help you determine whether or not you should invest, but the ultimate decision is yours and you have to feel comfortable and happy with that decision.

My boyfriend at the time (he’s my husband now), suggested we’d start investing in 2009 when the market was at a low. Now I wish we had, as we would have been able to buy lots of really cheap shares, but at the time I didn’t know anything about money and didn’t feel comfortable putting money into something that I didn’t understand. Of course I regret not having bought those cheap shares now, but I don’t regret not putting in money without knowing what I was doing and whether I really wanted to invest. Continue reading

Step 52: Investing through Index Funds / ETFs

Step 52 of the 100 steps to Financial Independence: Investing through Index Funds
Step 52: Investing through Index Funds

It is now time for an introduction to the third main way of investing. As you were able to appreciate in step 50 on handpicking stocks and step 51 on mutual / collective funds, both ways have some very strong advantages, most notably the possibility of making lots of money on the stock market. Yet the opposite unfortunately is also the case and rather more likely than the first scenario… As we’ll see below, the third way of investing aims to find a middle ground between making money on the market and avoiding losses.

Index investing – an overview

Imagine looking at a long list of all the stocks and shares in a particular market – an index (such as the S&P 500) – and buying shares of every single company in that index in the same proportion as their relative size in the market. By buying all the shares of all the companies in the index, you basically copy the market and therefore will almost exactly get the same returns as the market average.  (It will normally be just a fraction below due to the small fees you pay). If the index goes up by 8% your return will be around 7.8%, if it goes up by 13% your returns will be around 12.8% etc. That’s what index investing does. Sounds simple and indeed it is simple.

Of course as a small investor you’ll never have enough money to buy shares of all the companies in the index, which is why index investing – like with mutual funds – pools money of different investors together in order to increase buying power. Continue reading

Step 51: Investing through Mutual Funds

Step 51 of the 100 steps mission to financial independence: Investing through Mutual Funds
Step 51: Investing through Mutual Funds

In the previous step we looked at the advantages and challenges of choosing the shares and bonds to invest in yourself. In this new step we look at an alternative which is designed to help you if you don’t want to choose your own investments, but rather rely on the opinion and experience of somebody else: Investing through collective or mutual funds.

As we’ll see, this type of investing has its own major positives and drawbacks so let’s get started with the details.

Mutual funds – an overview
In the case of collective or mutual funds, the money of small investors in pooled together in order to raise the total amount available to invest. A fund manager is appointed to manage these funds and he or she decides which shares and bonds to add to the portfolio, trying to make as much money as possible. This often means they buy and sell continuously, following the market, aiming to buy shares at a low price, sell them at a high price and rush selling if they see a fall in the market coming, to avoid their clients losing a lot of money. Sounds like a good tactic? On paper yes, but in reality there are two main problems with this type of investing. Continue reading