If you're struggling with debt, following the steps below can help you get back on the road to financial independence.
Create a budget. Calculate your total debt and determine your monthly income and expenses. Create a budget that eliminates unnecessary spending, meets expenses and pays down debt.
Develop a debt reduction plan. Carefully analyze your spending habits and set realistic payment amounts and timeframes for paying off your debt. (A deadline often helps you stay on track.)
Review and adjust plans periodically. When income and/or expenses change, adjust your budget and debt reduction plans accordingly. Use salary increases, bonuses and tax refunds to help pay down debt faster.
Reward yourself. Celebrate your progress toward financial independence with occasional small rewards (e.g., going out to dinner, upgrading an electronic device). Incentives help you stay on track.
Achieve Financial Independence
Financial independence means different things to different people. Some believe it's making ends meet without assistance from others. Some believe it's meeting today's financial obligations while saving enough to comfortably retire. Still others believe both are necessary to achieve true financial independence.
Whichever belief holds true for you, there are habits you can adopt now to help you achieve financial independence.
Break the paycheck-to-paycheck cycle.
Review what you're spending money on each month (e.g., dining out, movies, even that daily cup of coffee can add up.). Ask yourself, "Where can I cut back?" Reducing expenses helps free up cash to pay off debts, save and invest.
If reducing expenses isn't enough to break the cycle, consider finding an additional source of income – even for a short time. A part-time job, for example, can help get your finances back on track and may even help you get ahead.
Leave your egg in the nest.
Financial independence includes enjoying some of your hard-earned money today while designating a portion of your earnings for your future happiness. Once you've created a nest egg, resist all temptation to borrow from it. You don't want to postpone or prevent future plans such as buying a home or retirement.
Make your money work for you.
If you've broken the paycheck-to-paycheck cycle and you've built a small nest egg, consider adding investments to your financial plan.
Investments include the purchase of something you believe will increase in value, or produce a positive return, over time. Examples include, but are not limited to, stocks, bonds, Certificates of Deposit (CDs) and mutual funds.
Investments may help your money grow more than regular savings accounts, but there is no guarantee. Diversification (i.e., spreading your money over many types of investments) can help increase the likelihood of positive returns and minimize the impact of both poor performance and inflation.
In short, these habits can help you spend wisely and save with a purpose. Make financial independence an ongoing priority; you're worth it.
Adult Financial Education Seminar – "Breaking the Paycheck to Paycheck Cycle"
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This article is based on information available in June 2012. It is for general informational purposes only. It is not intended to provide specific financial, investment, tax, legal, accounting, or other advice and should not be acted or relied upon without the advice of a professional advisor. A professional advisor will recommend action based on your personal circumstances and the most recent information available.