Step 70: Pay off your mortgage

Step 70 of the 100 steps mission to financial independence: Pay off your mortgage
Step 70 : Pay off your mortgage

Now that you’ve been through the various steps on expenses and budgeting, saving, pensions, investing and planning for your future, it’s time to go back again to the bit on debts with one debt in particular which is probably your biggest debt: your mortgage (providing you have one – otherwise you can skip this step). We of course spoke about paying off debt at the start of our mission, but as we said there, since your mortgage has a lower interest rate than most of your other debts, chances are you haven’t yet started paying it down faster.

As commented before many people would argue that a mortgage is a different type of debt and therefore not to worry about as much as they see having a mortgage as an investment. At the end of the day they say, your house is an asset that will probably increase in value over time. I disagree for several reasons:

  •  first of all it isn’t the same type of assets such as stocks and bond that you can just sell to generate some extra money. The only situations in which you can argue that your house is an asset like any other is when you don’t need it anymore for example because you decide to:
    • travel
    • move in with somebody else
    • live in another house that you already own or rent
    • scale down and don’t need a mortgage on a new house
    • live on the streets
  • secondly, you never know when you can sell your house. Some houses are on the market for years, so liquidating that asset isn’t as easy as with other assets.
  • thirdly nothing guarantees your house will truly increase in value or have increased in value by the time you need or want to sell. During the recent house market crash, many houses were sold below their original purchase price.
  • fourthly you are still losing money by having a mortgage in the form of interest payments and you are tied to paying back regularly so until you pay off your mortgage in my eyes this is a debt that takes a big toll on your monthly finances.

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Step 64: Tax Planning

Step 64 of the 100 steps to financial independence: Tax Planning
Step 64 of the 100 steps: Tax Planning

Wow okay, I know, tax planning might sound even more boring or complicated than our previous “introduction to taxes”. But what’s the point knowing about taxes if you don’t use that information to your advantage? And if you think that tax planning is again for the rich and famous only, you’re wrong … Most legislations are designed is such a way to even give the ordinary man and woman some tax relief in certain areas. You should use those as that is what they are for.

Now let’s start with the single most important first requirement for this step: never, ever, not in a million years avoid paying taxes or try to mislead the tax authorities. Don’t ever even think of it. The tax authorities are smarter than you and you’ll end up in jail and that is NOT worth the extra money you might be getting or think you might be getting. Besides that, it’s morally wrong. Just don’t do it.

Good, now that is sorted, let’s have a look at some very basic tax planning principles you might be able to apply to your own life, that might help you save some bucks.  Just keep an eye on that fine line between tax planning and tax evasion though as if you get carried away with it too much, you might end up on the wrong side of that line. Continue reading

Step 61: Disability Insurance

Step 61 of the 100 Steps to Financial Independence: Disability Insurance
Step 61 of the 100 Steps: Disability Insurance

A disability insurance provides you with financial compensation in the event of a disability that stops you from going back to work. It covers your future wage by paying a certain percentage of your wage, often around 60-70%,  either until you are able to go back to work again or for as long as the policy contracted states that you are entitled to the compensation.

There could be several reasons for somebody being unable to work, including illness, medical conditions or after an accident. The difference with a medical insurance is that the latter only covers your medical bills, not the fact that you no longer have an income to support you financially. In some cases and countries social security might offer a disability coverage, but conditions vary greatly and it might not kick in until after a certain time, sometimes not even til after a year.

Do you need disability insurance?

The chances of becoming disabled before retirement age can be 2 – 3 times higher than the odds of dying before retirement age so there is a relatively big chance you might become disabled at some point. Due to this high chance, disability insurance tends to be fairly expensive. There are several situations in which you might not need disability insurance, including: Continue reading

Step 60: Car Insurance

Step 60 of the 100 steps mission to financial independence: Car Insurance
Step 60: Car Insurance

Car insurance, also known as motor or auto insurance, is often obligatory to have in order to use a public road. Most countries distinguish between insuring a driver and insuring a vehicle, and in some you insure a car regardless of its drivers (as long as the driver has the car owner’s permission to drive it), whereas in other countries you might insure the driver regardless of which car they drive.

Characteristics of car insurance:

A car insurance generally has different parts to it and whilst the terms used for these coverages can vary from one country to the next, most insurances use a similar classification system. 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 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