In 1776, our nation’s founders declared their independence from the British king, who was out of touch with the needs of the overseas colonists. Today, many Americans are beholden to their jobs and their bills, and they lack many of the financial freedoms that they could enjoy. While you may not be able to quit your job and pay off all of your debts tomorrow, this Independence Day there are several steps that you can take to become more financially free.
How to retire early
There’s no magic formula for early retirement. Instead, the key is a combination of frugality and sound investments. First, you will have to downsize your lifestyle in order to increase your savings. Start with your biggest expenses, such as housing and transportation. To retire early, you will have to minimize these expenses to the greatest extent possible. For example, this can mean living in a smaller, more affordable house or apartment.
When it comes to transportation, you’ll need to select a vehicle based on its ownership cost, not necessarily its size, luxury, or expensive features. In fact, many who plan on retiring early save thousands of dollars a year by forgoing vehicle ownership and relying on alternate forms of transportation. In 2016, the cost of owning and operating an average sedan was $8,558 per year, according to AAA.
Other ways to reduce your expenses include reducing discretionary spending on dining out, entertainment, travel, and shopping. In short, often the more frugal you can be, the earlier you can retire.
The other half of the early retirement equation is a sound investment strategy. Once you’ve achieved the savings available from a more frugal lifestyle, you must invest it in your retirement accounts, rather than redirect the funds to other expenses. Finally, you need the help of a financial advisor to create a plan to achieve your early retirement goals.
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Other ways to become more financially free
The goal of early retirement can be alluring, but it’s not for everyone. Some find their careers especially rewarding, while others would prefer not to make the lifestyle sacrifices necessary to retire early. Thankfully, there are other ways of realizing greater financial independence, without actually retiring.
For example, by reducing your recurring monthly expenses you can free yourself from many of your financial burdens. Sometimes, this can require an upfront cost, such as investing in energy efficiency upgrades to your house.
But there are other ways to immediately reduce your monthly expenses such as cancelling paid television subscriptions or trimming the features of your mobile phone plan. Having a more efficient car, or one that you don’t have a loan on increases your monthly financial independence. And anytime you can pay off other debts, you will find yourself feeling more financially free each month.
Achieving greater employment independence, without actually retiring
There are other ways to enjoy more financial independence, without leaving the workforce altogether. You can start by creating and growing a source of income outside of your full time job. You can do this by leveraging your experience in your current career as a freelance consultant, or you can go in an entirely different direction such as monetizing a hobby.
While you shouldn’t expect to immediately strike it rich, you can keep an eye towards finding a new source of income that could grow into a full-time career that offers additional financial freedom, such as being a freelance worker or a business owner. This seems to be a popular route recently, as a 2016 study showed that 35% of the US workforce is currently freelance. Starting your next career while you already have a full time job has several advantages.
First, you will immediately increase your income, which can further your savings or early retirement goals. And since you already have a day job, you can be free to experiment with different ideas, until you find the one that works best for your needs. In addition, having a backup source of income can make it easier to withstand potential job loss. Also, starting a new career can be liberating feeling for those who are experiencing burnout in their existing jobs.
America was founded by revolutionaries who could not bear to be under the control of others, and that independent spirit is still part of our national fabric. By restructuring your personal finances or your career, you can achieve your own form of financial freedom.
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