The 100 steps mission to financial independence has hopefully propelled you into the world of money savviness and wisdom. Every step has taught you a new skill or raised your awareness on a specific personal finance concept and has thereby expanded your knowledge on money-related issues. I sincerely hope that you have been completing every single step along the way and that your efforts are paying off and that you see your debt decreasing, your income increasing, your net worth improving or your financial security in the form of insurance or pensions getting better. The plethora of topics that have been covered in the many steps has made you an insider on saving, investing, pensions, income and much more!
Although we’re getting to the end of this mission, it is certainly not the end of your own financial journey. In order to now stay on top of your finances and to keep putting your financial situation as one of the main focus areas of your life, it is of major importance to keep expanding your knowledge about money and personal finance. Reading books is a great way to do this and offers you all of the following:
Provides more (specific) information and teaches you new or more specific skills or habits to implement.
Allows you to keep up with the latest developments as new knowledge, information or practices emerge.
Keeps your motivation up – the more you know about a topic, the more enjoyable it becomes to put it into practice, the more likely you are to keep budgeting, saving and investing.
With this in mind, I believe reading personal finance books is a key part of achieving financial independence. To start you off, below is my own personal top-5 books on money: Continue reading →
A difficult question that many people on their mission to financial independence quickly encounter is “where they should get their money to work for them”: You’ve managed to cut down a little on your expenses, or to up your income or earnings from a side hustle. But the question as to what to do with the extra money you now have remains. Let’s review some of the avenues on how to “make money with your money” that we have looked at on this mission:
Paying off debt – saves you money on interest and compounded interested paid over the years.
Saving – generates money due to interest received and the power of compounding interest over the years.
Investing – generates money due to capital gains, interest received or dividends.
Pensions – builds up the income you’ll receive after your retirement age
Personal capital – increases your earning potential as a professional or entrepreneur.
These are the most common strategies to pursue in order to leverage what your money can do for you.
But where to start? Say you saved $100 this month and that you are happy to invest this money into your future and future earnings, where do you actually put this money? Which of the above options do you choose? And how do you mix these strategies?
If you haven’t yet fully read the previous steps on the above mentioned strategies, I invite you to read those first before continuing reading this step, to better understand all the pros and cons of each strategy. Just come back once you’re done!
The question of where to allocate your money doesn’t have to imply an “either …or…” situation. You can start investing whilst still having a mortgage. You’ll want to save an emergency fund together whilst still paying off credit card debt. And once you start investing in your personal capital, you’ll likely want to keep that up on a fairly regular basis and the fact that you are investing in the market doesn’t rule out this option. Continue reading →
Children cost money of course, even just their day-to-day expenses seem endless: clothes, food, extra activities and birthday parties to name just a few. But I take it for granted that if you have children, grandchildren or nieces / nephews (even if they are “adopted” and your friends’ children), that these expenses are covered in your budget, either in your regular categories, or under ‘presents’ if they aren’t your own children. If you haven’t yet got children, but are planning to have children, I again assume that by now you are financially savvy enough to have set up a savings account in order to pay for the initial “start up costs” for children: baby room decoration, push chair, car seats, clothes and all other assecories you’ll need.
But what about “later”? This might sound like a long time away still, but those children will at some point reach their 18th birthday and will go and try their luck in the real world, whether that is at college, travelling or trying a “real” job, there will come a time when they no longer depend on you (at least not officially – they might still come back home from time to time to ask for some extra money).
Wouldn’t it be nice to be able to give them something more than just a $50 bill when they leave the house, to get them set up? Or what about giving them something when they get married, buy their first house or have their first child.. Whatever it is that you decide, think about what you can do now to help them later. And remember that if you start on time you have the advantage to look ahead and use that best friend of ours: compounding interest to create a small fortune for your (grand)child(ren).
What and how to save
Let’s just calculate through some different scenarios to give you an idea on how to get started. For all of these we assume that you start contributing to these saving plans from the moment the baby is born (or let’s be realistic and say you do it as soon as your (grand)child is a month old).
Scenario 1: Open a savings account and set aside $10 a month. Assume an average return of 5% (which unfortunatley is not likely at the moment though!), an inflation rate of 2% and that you keep contributing $10 a month until you give the child the full amount. Your (grand)child would then receive the following amount: (numbers in 3rd and 4th column rounded to $50).
Total paid in
Nominal value at end
Adjusted for inflation
Not at all bad if you could give your (grand) child some $3550 when they turn 18 or even $6000 when they are 25.
Scenario 2: What about instead of opening a savings account (which is unlikely to give you anything close to 5% for a while), you put that money in an investment accout, assuming a 7% return and 2% inflation rate? That works out as follows:
Adjusted for inflation
As you can see, by just putting away $10 a month, even if you held it only til they were 18, you’d be able to give them more than $4300 or the equivalent of $3000 in today’s money.
Scenario 3: Of course, you might be able to set aside more than $10 a month. Let’s assume you’re lucky enough to live in a country that has a child benefit scheme in which you get some financial support from the government to help with the expenses for raising children. Imagine you were able to set all that money aside and invest it for your child? Child benefit varies greatly per country but let’s take the average of about $75 per month. Let’s assume we’ve still got an average of 7% return and 2% inflation rate. This is how much you’d have if you keep investing that child support:
Adjusted for inflation
By their 18th birthday you’d be able to give your child $32,500 (with a current value of $22,000)! That’s a small fortune to me and it for sure would be to most 18 year olds!
That said, child support is generally likely to adjust for inflation, meaning that you get $75 this year, but $76 next year and $77.50 the year after. As long as you keep adjusting your investments along with this, remember that you would then end up close to the nominal value anyway. In that case your child would receive around $32.500 on their 18th birthday.
Of course the above are just some examples of have careful financial planning might give your child a nice head start when they turn 18 or 21 or whatever age you decide. Maybe you can’t survive without the extra child benefit that you are receiviving and therefore can’t invest all of that money. But what about half of it? Or even just $25 a month? $10? Go back to the budgetting steps to read more about how to budget and to build in priorities to decide whether you really can’t or whether you decide to prioritize other goals for your money. Even just the $10 will still give your child a nice pot of money to start their adult life that not everybody gets.
Step 68 – Set aside Money for Children – in detail:
Let’s start with how many children, grandchildren, nieces / nephews or other children in your life you (might) have and who you’d like to help financially when they come of age.
Investigate and decide how much you can invest either monthly or yearly. Remember that if you have several children (or might have several children) or grandchildren, you probably want to set it up equally, so that you don’t invest $100 per month for child one and only $20 for child two. Plan ahead and try and keep it equal!
Open an investing account for each child but carefully check how to do the legal side: make sure you can open it in their name (in some cases only parents can do this). If you are a grandparent and you can’t open it in your grandchild’s name, consider opening it in your name, but stipulate the child as the beneficiary and make sure to include conditions in your will that the money is to go to the child when they turn 18 and not to your heirs.
Set up automatic payments into this investing account.
Remember that the earlier your start, the more time the interest can compound, but even if your (grand)child is a little or a lot older, that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t still open it.
Decide when you want to give the money or the original investing account to your child. Instead of giving them the money, consider that your child could just continue to grow the money. Tell you child beforehand so they can start planning on what to do with the money, as otherwise they might be tempted to take it all out and spend it in just one crazy weekend.
Remember to open a new account for any additional children
Saving / investing and seeing your money grow can be really rewarding, but there’s an extra sense of satisfaction you can get from setting money aside for somebody else, and seeing their fortune grow even before they are aware of it.
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 →
Although it is nearly impossible to predict how your pension will develop over time and how much pension schemes will change, especially if you are still many years, if not decades, away from your retirement, calculating your pension regularly and setting pension goals is a key habit to develop and establish if you don’t want to be taken by surprise when you finally get to retirement age and start needing to rely on your pension.
It’s easy to think that our pensions will work their way out for us and that we will be able to retire comfortably after 40 or 45 or even 50 years of working. Yet with fewer and fewer young people carrying the burden of paying for an ever-increasing aging population, not just in numbers but also in years living after retirement as saw in step 42, we don’t know exactly how the pensions will develop. Already many countries are increasing retirement age and this might happen again in a decade a two. Continue reading →
If you aren’t enrolled in a workplace pension and don’t have the option to join one, it is worth considering setting up your own personal pension. And even if you have an occupational pension, you might still want to look into personal pensions either as an alternative, or in addition to your workplace pension. Of course, you don’t have to if your workplace pension offers you exactly what you need and how much you need anyway., but as with anything it is worth considering the different options, to know for sure you have chosen the option(s) that are most relevant to you.
A personal pension works in very much the same way as a workplace pension, with the exception that your employer usually won’t be required to make a contribution. Another difference is that you need to make more decisions. Not only do you have to choose a pension provider (whereas in the case of occupational pensions your employer would have already done this for you), you often also need to choose from different packages, conditions and investment options. Continue reading →
As we saw before, a workplace pension is often offered by your employer or work sector and contributions are usually made monthly directly from your paycheck. Although many of the characteristics discussed in step 42 on state pensions are also applicable to workplace pensions, the latter often have many additional advantages or characteristics, including some of the following:
It is often (though not always!) automatic, meaning in many workplace pensions employees are automatically enrolled. If you don’t take action to opt-out you are systematically making monthly payments into your pension scheme.
You can determine your monthly contribution. There is usually both a minimum and maximum contribution you are allowed to make, and although many people might just pay the bare minimum, if you budget well and set aside enough money, you can obviously pay in more. The more you contribute (i.e. save) now, the more you’ll again have by the time you retire, not just from your monthly paymentsbut also from the compounded interest. Continue reading →