After setting your goals to Financial Independence, the next part of your journey is to determine your current starting point. With those two things together, i.e. where you want to get to and where you currently are, it’ll be a lot easier to plan out how to achieve your goals.
Part 2: Define your Starting Point
One common obstacle to achieving financial independence is consumer debt. Most people have some type of debt they have to deal with and pay off, such as student loans, credit card debt, car loan and / or a mortgage. The first step in determining your starting point is to list all of your debts with their current outstanding amounts (i.e. what you still owe) and then total those amounts to get an overall amount.
While debts represent the negative side of a financial picture, most people also have a positive side: their assets or possessions that are worth something. This can include anything from a house to a savings or investment account as well as antique or art of a certain value. Do the same as what you did with your debts: list anything you own along with its estimated value and total those amounts.
With these two numbers you can now calculate your net worth: a very useful indicator of how healthy your personal financial situation is. Simply take the total value of all your assets, then subtract the total amount of debts you have to find your current net worth. Note that this might be a negative number!
Lastly as part of determining your starting point, it’s a good idea to get a solid overview of your current expense patterns. Not only does this help to see where your money is going, it will also come in useful when you start setting goals later on in your journey for the various financial areas we’ll be looking at. Start logging your expenses on a daily basis to get a good idea of what you spend your money on.
Find some time today to look at the tasks above to complete to keep progressing on your path to Financial Independence!
Today’s challenge is to put in a plan of action to start paying off your debts. Now that you have seen how much a debt costs you and how much extra you are paying in interest in yesterday’s challenge, this is probably the best moment to kick those wretched loans to the curb as soon as possible.
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 55: Discuss Finances with your Partner”→
Becoming debt free might or might not have been a goal you identified when you put together your principal financial goals in step 2. Whether this was the case or not, you hopefully have realized that becoming debt free is possible with some extra effort and money, and in your interest (no pun intended) if you want to avoid paying the extra costs of oustanding loans. It might take you three years, 10 years or 20 years, but being able to say you have finally paid down all your debts is a huge achievement. And as we saw in the last few steps, the time it takes to pay off a debt can be sped up incredibly by making extra payments.
The next part of your mission and the main focus of this current step is for you to set yourself goals to pay off your debts. You will set yourself a target date to pay off the first debt that you have already started working on, then for each and every other debt you will do the very same, all the way to the very last debt you will be attacking. That will be your target date to becoming completely debt free. Continue reading “Step 24: Become debt free”→
From the previous step you are now up to speed about the positive effect of extra payments on outstanding debts. That leads us to the current step: start paying off a debt. You might think you are already paying off a debt, or several of your debts, but the point here is that you are going to pay off a debt faster by making higher monthly contributions than the minimum required.
When you pay off a debt faster than scheduled, a few amazing things happen:
You end up paying less interest, resulting in a lower amount of money paid back overall;
It takes less time to pay back the loan, meaning you can tick it off your list a lot sooner;
Psychologically it is a great relief to have paid off a debt: one less thing to worry about;
It increases your motivation by showing you that you can achieve your goals;
And here’s a great thing: once you’ve paid off a debt, that monthly amount you poured into this debt suddenly becomes available, which you can then use in its entirety to pay off another debt, meaning it keeps up that momentum!
After some rather depressing news to do with debt and interest, it is again time for some uplifting information. In this step we are going to look at how powerful it can be to put extra money towards paying off a loan and how much it reduces not just the time spent on paying back the money, but also the total amount paid back.
This information will hopefully inspire you to find ways of making extra payments towards reducing your debts. As even if they are small extra payments, in the long run, thanks to that friend of ours called compound interest, it will have a huge effect.
Let’s go back to the same example as the one I used in step 21 to illustrate how credit cards work, in which we looked at an outstanding debt of $1000, at a 1,5% monthly interest rate and a payback rate of 3% with a minimum of $10. But this time you make an effort each month to pay the minimum amount (3% of the outstanding debt) and an EXTRA $25 on top of the minimum amount. Let’s see how this works out. Continue reading “Step 22: The impact of extra debt payments”→
It’s time to start looking at an area of your finances that makes many people nervous, scared and / or depressed, leaving them ignoring rather than analyzing and planning how to deal with that very same area: debts.
Yet in order to become financially independent and in total control of your finances, it is important to understand how debts work and how even seemingly small debts or amounts can make a tremendous difference to your long-term finances.
In step 4, you listed all of your debts, so you should have a good idea of how much debt you have and how much you are paying towards amortizing these loans. In this current step we are going to look at the effects of debt and how much extra you end up paying on any long-term debts. Continue reading “Step 21: Stop accumulating debt”→
Our next step of the 100 steps mission to financial independence is to set yourself a goal for what you would like your net worth to be in six months. This gives you an excellent target to work towards to during the mission. Although you’ll probably find that your net worth doesn’t change dramatically in this half a year, 6 months is a good time frame to start with as it is long enough to see substantial changes and the effects of goal setting, yet short enough not to forget about it or lose track.
You can set yourself a goal for your net worth by either stating a specific amount, or alternatively by setting a percentage by which to increase your income. If you set a specific amount as your target and keep that the same every six months, with time as your net worth increases and as it should become easier to achieve the same target, you might not be achieving as much as you could. Alternatively, if you set yourself a target of certain percentage increase it means that your net worth target increases more as your net worth itself increases.
In this 6th step, you are going to determine your overall financial starting point by calculating your net worth. I know the words “calculate” and “net worth” might be putting you off, but this step is a lot easier than it might sound, as we have already done all the preparation work in the last few steps by digging up financial statements and creating our assets and liabilities lists in step 4 and 5.
Your net worth basically indicates what would happen if you decided to sell all of your possessions and pay off all of your debts today: would you any have money left over or would you still be in debt? How much money would you have left over or how much money would you still owe? Your net worth is an easy sum of your total amount of assets minus your total amount of liabilities. Continue reading “Step 6: Calculate your Net Worth”→
Now that you’re happily (?) tracking away your expenses, which we know will take a while to keep doing before we have a solid, reliable list, we are going to continue with other steps we can take in the meantime. To start with, we are going to pull up an overview of any outstanding debts – also known as liabilities – you have. Sounds like fun? No I didn’t think so, thinking about your debts is usually not a lot of fun, but since your debts are probably also one of your biggest worries or financial strains anyway, we need to find out how bad (or not) the situation is to begin with.
Borrowing money is a relatively common thing in our current society and although it might sound like a great way to finance big purchases, the problem is that as long as you have debts, you are not only tied to paying back money all the time, you are furthermore consistently losing money. Borrowing money comes at a high price: the interest that you are charged can been enormous and in later steps we’ll look at how quickly this interest can add up to massive extra charges. Yet we seem to always be borrowing money these days, first to get through college, then to buy a car, a house, that fancy holiday and it becomes more and more of a habit to buy first and finance later. And kid yourself not: unless you are paying off your credit cards in full at the end of each month, the overdraft on any of these cards are loans too! Continue reading “Step 4: List your Debts”→