Author Archives: thefinancialjourneyman

About thefinancialjourneyman

Deciding to be free: My Journey toward financial independence

Joining a Board of Directors

Have you ever thought about joining a board of directors for an organization that you are interested in serving?  I recently was invited to join the board of directors for a local non-profit organization.  It was flattering to be invited.  Of course, I jumped at this opportunity to be of service.

My wife has always been involved in community and church service.  Slowly, her good nature has rubbed off on me.  Over the past few years, I have volunteered to help the clients at the local chapter of The ARC to prepare for job interviews.  It is such a rewarding experience.  When I finish with a lesion, I feel that I receive back more in gratitude than they receive in development.

By joining this board, I see it as an opportunity to give back more to the community.  The board that I joined is for The Mature Workers Program that is part of the National Council on Aging.  It was a good fit for me since I work in HR for a not-for-profit healthcare organization.

There are many benefits of joining a board of directors:

Career

Joining a board of directors is a smart move for your career.  It looks great on your LinkedIn profile.  It shows that you are service orientated.  By being on a board of directors, it reflects that you are a well-respected individual by people of influence.  It shows that you see the big picture.  When a potential employer sees that you volunteer as an advisor, they interrupt it as that you want to contribute to something that is bigger than yourself.  Those are all great characteristics that might not normally stand out on a standard chronological resume.

People of Influence

Many boards attract people of influence.  It is common for boards to be made up of lawyers, executives, community leaders, business owners, and other financially independent people who are passionate about an organization or cause.  It is an opportunity to meet and interact with these folks.  It is a chance to partner with them and work to improve the organization that you now help to oversee.  It is a networking opportunity that is not readily available to everyone.  By closely interacting with these individuals, there is the potential to develop close relationships with them because you share a common bond.  Work to foster those relationships.  You never know how or when those connections can be helpful in the future.

Community Pride

Do you care about the area where you live, an organization, or a cause?  By joining a board of directors, you are able to have input.  Today, everyone has an opinion, but by being on a board of directors, you have an option that matters.  It is an opportunity to become a community leader and to develop an abundance mindset.  Even if it is on a small level, it is still a trusted role.  It is a position where people care what you have to say.  Everyone might not agree with you, but you still have a voice and a vote when it comes to the management of the organization that you serve.  It is truly a position of respect.

Leadership Skills

Being on a board of directors will help to develop you into a leader.  You will have to review and approve of budgets.  You will have input when it comes to shaping policy.  You will be presented with the goals of the organization and how management is working to reach these goals.  As the member of a board of directors, you are responsible to lead and to present input that shapes the best practices of the organization.  Your negotiation skills will be sharpened.  You will learn true team building skills as you work with other board members to shape the future direction of the organization.

How to Join

In most cases, you must be invited or elected to join a board of directors.  There are organizations, however, that are looking for people to join.  First, do research on organizations that you are interested in.  Try to identify organizations that have a mission, vision, and values that you feel strongly about.  Do some deeper digging and find out if you have any connections to the organization.  Use LinkedIn to identify possible connections.  Share your interest in the organization and look for ways to volunteer.  After you learn if the organization is a fit, make a formal request to join the board or to be nominated if the selection is based on an election.

Conclusion

The organization that I am now on the board of directors for wants to increase the number of clients that they serve.  They have an adequate marketing budget.  They run television ads, radio ads, and attend most community events where people over the age of 55 might attend.

At my first meeting, I suggested that they allocate some of the marketing money towards social media and brought up the idea of creating a blog.  The suggestion went over well.  It is going to be added as a topic for debate and to be voted upon at a future board meeting.

I have truly enjoyed my short experience serving as a board member.  It feels good to be able to give back.  It has been a privilege to volunteer my time.  I am looking forward to future board meetings and for the opportunity to be of service.

Have you ever served on a board of directors?

If yes, please share your experience.

This post might contain affiliate links.

Please be sure to read the Disclaimer page.

Making Retirement Less Complicated

The following is a sponsored post provided by Blueprint Income.

Planning for retirement is challenging. It’s the most complicated time in our lives, financially. When you’re young, all you really need to do is save. But, eventually saving won’t be enough. You have to start figuring out how you’ll actually survive in retirement. And it’s not the same as surviving today for 3 big reasons, which I’ll go through below. Then I’ll tell you about a company I recently discovered that is trying to make retirement less complicated.

Reason 1: You won’t have a steady source of income.

While we’re working, the financial calculus is pretty simple: spend less than you make. Many of us have steady sources of income that dictate our spending ability. We know that each month we’ll get $X dollars, and we spend some amount less than $X so that we don’t go into debt and we save.

But in retirement, unless you’re one of the lucky ones who have a pension, you won’t have a steady source of income. We do have Social Security, which helps a lot, but it only covers 40% of the average retiree’s spending. So the remaining 60% of our spending we’ll have to cover through interest, withdraws from our savings accounts, or finding some other way to generate income. Most of our options out there aren’t as stable as our salaries, so we might not have the security of steady income.

Reason 2: You don’t know how long retirement will last.

There’s a reason why you can’t get a great answer to the question of how much you need to save for retirement. There are so many variables that impact that number, including what happens in the stock/bond markets and how long you live. You might have a retirement that lasts 10 years, or perhaps it’ll last 30 years. A 30-year retirement is wildly more expensive than a 10-year retirement. So which do you prepare for?

This also isn’t as much of a challenge if you have a pension, because a pension provides income no matter how long you live. But if you’re heading into retirement with a finite amount of assets, you need to figure out how much to spend monthly so that you don’t run out, no matter how long you live.

Reason 3: You might not have the same cognitive ability to deal with your finances.

Sometimes we procrastinate — it’s normal! And, often it’s not a huge deal; we’re able to catch up. But only because we’ll have the same level of intelligence and reasoning to get us back on track. Unfortunately, we can’t count on this in retirement. Some of us will start to lose our cognitive abilities. And, if we’ve set our future selves up with the responsibility of making complicated financial decisions (like the one outlined in reason 2), we might not do well.

Again, if we had pensions with paychecks coming in the door every month, then this wouldn’t be as much of a problem. But since most of us will be managing a market portfolio to an unknown end date, there will be no autopilot.

The Blueprint Income Solution

I was recently introduced to Blueprint Income, who are trying to do something about this. They’ve recognized the challenges listed above and created a new type of retirement plan to deal with it. It’s called the Personal Pension. Using annuities (insurance products that provide guaranteed income in retirement), they’re able to help you design your own pension-like plan if you don’t have one from your employer.

You contribute to it on an ongoing basis, alongside your 401(k). But, instead of that money going to buy stocks and bonds, it turns into steady retirement income that continues for as long as you’re alive, and even if the stock market crashes.

The annuity market is known for being complicated, hard to navigate, and expensive, so they’re dealing with that as well. Their platform only includes the simplest, fully-guaranteed, low-cost annuities, not the more complicated variable and indexed annuities that have a bad rap. And, their plans start at $5,000 with the ability to contribute flexibly over time if desired, much lower than the rest of the market.

Learn more about Blueprint Income and the Personal Pension here.

All of this isn’t to say that retirement is necessarily going to be hard or complicated for you. In fact, it has the potential to be exactly the opposite. But, creating a financially secure retirement for yourself — where you don’t have to stress about money — takes hard work and planning ahead. I hope the resources on this site and companies like Blueprint Income help make it easier for all of you.

The following post might contain affiliate links.

Please be sure to read the Disclaimer page.

The House We Did Not Buy

Buying a house is a major decision.  For most people, it is the largest major financial decision that they will ever make.  There are many aspects to consider when deciding on a house.  Do you want to live in a city, the suburbs, or in a rural area?  Finding your dream house and neighborhood can be a major undertaking.

My wife and I have lived in our current house since we were married.  She bought the house from a relative before I was in her life.  It is nice house and we live close to many of her relatives.

The house did need some upgrades when I moved in.  It was built in 1964 and much of the house was outdated.  After I moved in, we remodeled the kitchen, bathroom, added a deck, as well as many other upgrades.

The house was about 1,200 square feet and we wanted a little more room.  We added a nice 320 square foot addition.  That addition is our sitting room and we spend most of our time in there.

The house is almost paid for.  We only owe about $30,000 on the mortgage.  The house was appraised for $226,000 in 2012, so we have a nice amount of equity in the house.

By staying in this house, my wife and I have avoided lifestyle creep.  Having a small mortgage and low taxes enabled us to have a high savings rate.  If we upgraded to a $500,000 house, we would not have been able to save 50% of our gross earnings over the past 10 years.

We are not planning on retiring until 2028.  After we retire, we are planning on buying a house on a lake because we enjoy kayaking, boating, and fishing.  We are planning on staying in Pennsylvania for 9 months per year.  For the winter months, we plan on becoming snowbirds and head south for the winter.

A major life event caused us to rethink our plan.  A close family member recently passed away following a four-year battle with cancer and other major health issues.  Watching him suffer made us think about living more in the present and not focusing on what our life will be like in retirement.

We decided to look at some houses that were for sale on the lakes that are close to where we currently live.  The nice thing about living in the Pocono Mountains is that there are many nice lakefront homes.  The region is also known for private gated communities that attract people from New York City, Philadelphia, and Boston who buy weekend homes in these developments.

We started by looking online.  What I found did not surprise me.  Most of the lakefront houses were very expensive.  Older houses that were lakefront cost $400,000 and needed upgrades.  The newer houses are much more expensive.

Our next move was to look for a house that was not lakefront but had lake rights.  This was a more modest priced market.  Houses that were only 5-years old were less than $350,000.  That was more in our price range because we would be putting about 60% down on the house.

We found a few that we really liked and decided to spend a Sunday looking at these houses.  The first few were nice but way too big.  We do not need or want 4,000 square feet of living space.

After looking at 5 houses we were starting to get tired.  It is fun to look at these houses, but also overwhelming.  Before we called it quits for the afternoon, I wanted to look at one last house.

The last house was a little less expensive.  It was listed at $258,000.  This house was in a private community that is only 8 miles from where we currently live.  It also comes with lake rights to a private 150-acre lake.  It is a serene lake that does not allow outboard motors.  Only sailboats, kayaks, or boats with electric motors are allowed.  It is also a catch-and-release lake that is stocked with bass, trout, catfish, and walleye.

For me, it was love at first sight.  For my wife, she really liked the house, but more legwork was needed before we decided.  We both agreed that we needed to do our due diligence and not buy a house after our first visit.

The next day, I called the realtor to set-up an appointment to tour the house.  The realtor was nice as well as transparent.  She gave me some interesting details about the house.  In 2010, the house sold for $389,000 and is now listed for $259,000.  I did not want to admit it, but that was the first red flag.

I asked why there was such a deep discount on a 10-year old house?  She said that the taxes doubled because of a county reassessment.  There is also a homeowners association (HOA) that charges $2,500 per year.  The total annual cost of the taxes and home owner’s association fees would be $8,200.  We now pay $2,700.

I was not happy about the major jump in taxes and fees.  It was, however, not a deal breaker.  I was smitten with the privately stocked lake.

The next evening, my wife and I decided to take a ride over to see our potential new house.  We were excited.  Our excitement, however, did not last.

We pulled into the driveway and got out to walk around the house.  It was not currently occupied by the owners.  We only took about two or three steps and we saw the neighbors Doberman Pincher as he came barreling towards us.  Luckily, the dog’s owner was in his yard and called the dog back.

The Doberman caused me great concern.  I am not afraid of big dogs, but my wife and I have a little dog.  His safety trumps everything.

I was happy that the neighbor was outside.  He came over and spoke with us.  He seemed like a nice guy.  He was young.  I would guess in his early 30’s.  We spoke about the house and of course what the fishing was like at the lake.  I asked him about the homeowners association.  He said they are not too bad to deal with, but he gets in trouble with them often.  He said that he gets in trouble with the homeowners association for driving his ATV and snowmobile at night.

On our drive home, I was still thinking about fishing on a private lake every evening after work.  At this point, my wife decided that she did not want to buy the house.  She did not say anything to me on our drive home because she did not want to bust my bubble.

That evening, I could not sleep.  My anxiety was out of control.  I did not fall asleep until after midnight.  The house was very nice, and I loved the lake.  Deep down, I knew that it was not a good fit.  All those red flags would not go away.  They kept running around in my mind.  I could not justify all of these issues.

As a member of the financial independence community, I do not like to pay taxes.  I love fishing but hate taxes.  Having my taxes go up almost 200% did not sit well with me.

The second source of anxiety was our dog.  We don’t have children, so our dog is our baby.  He currently has his own two-acre field to enjoy without worrying about being eaten by a Doberman.  I would never do anything to put him in an unsafe situation.

The third warning sign was the neighbor.  He did seem like a nice young man.  However, I am not willing to put up with him driving his ATV at night.

When I awoke, my wife said that she wanted to talk.  She told me that she loved me and wanted me to have a lake house.  I worked and saved for over two decades and she wanted me to be happy.  She just felt that this house was not for us.

I told her that I agreed with her.  There are many reasons why my wife and I have a happy and successful marriage.  We love each other, communicate well, and think alike.  If a situation is not right, it is wrong.  The house was not the right fit for us.

We could have afforded the house.  It might have caused our saving rate to go from over 50% to 40%.  That does not sound like a big deal, but I am more interested in saving and reaching early retirement than owning a lake house at this point in my life.

We have not since looked at any other houses.  It was too emotional of a process for me.  At this point, I think that we are going to stay in our current house until we retire.  I have said this before, once you become a saver, you will never be a spender.  As a saver, I will have to settle for fishing at our local state parks and public lakes instead of a private lake until we retire.  Life can be much worse.

This post might contain affiliate links.

Please be sure to read the Disclaimer page.

Travel Hacking: Round One

Until recently, I have never tried travel hacking.  As a member of the financial independence community, I have not looked favorably at credit cards.  I saw them as a way for undisciplined people to spend more than they earn.  In my opinion, I saw them as tools that banks use to hack high fees and interest payments out people who have fallen victim to materialism.

My view on credit was to only borrow when it was a must and to pay it back as quickly as possible.  Since I started working full-time, I only used credit when I needed it.  However, I knew that having a high credit score was important.

My wife and I both have high credit scores but have not borrowed much.  I once had a car loan that I paid off in my early 20’s.  When I went to college, I paid cash for my first two years and took out student loans for my Junior and Senior years.  My wife and I also took out a home equity loan to remodel our house.  That is currently our only debt.

For years, my wife and I only had one credit card.  We used it for travel, shopping on Amazon, and for other purchases when a credit card was more convenient than cash.  We have always just used a basic bank card that paid 1% cash back.

I did not know if 1% was good or not.  I was more interested in using the card when it was required and just paid off the balance every month.  At the end of the year, I would get $500 back and just use the rewards money for holiday bills.

The focus of my personal finance management and writing has been saving and investing.  My approach has been to focus on career growth, saving as much as possible, and capture average market returns by investing in index funds.  Hacking has not been on my radar.

Over the past year, I have started reading more and more blogs about people who are taking two or more vacations per year for free.  Since some of the most trusted bloggers promote it, I decided to read more about it.  It was not until I attended a meet-up in New York City where a group of bloggers from Rockstar Finance got together.  At this event, I got turned on to travel hacking and decided to give it a shot.

The idea of taking a vacation or two per year for free excited me.  We travel anyway, so why not enjoy our trips for free.  I started to do some research.  I also took the Travel Miles 101 online course.  Travel Miles 101 is a comprehensive course that explains all that a person needs to start travel hacking.  I recommend it to anyone who wants to learn more about travel hacking.

After taking the travel miles 101 class and reading many other blogs, the consensus card to start with is the Chase Sapphire Preferred credit card.  The Chase Sapphire Preferred card has a $0 introductory annual fee for the first year.  The annual fee after that is $95 per year, but as part of the hack, you set it up to never pay that fee.

So, what do you get with the Chase Sapphire Preferred credit card?  If you spend $4,000 in 3 months, you earn 50,000 bonus points.  Those 50,000 bonus points add up to some nice rewards. The redemption value is worth $625 in airfare, $625 towards hotels, or $300 in cash.

There are other nice benefits With the Chase Sapphire Preferred credit card.  A cardholder will receive 2X points on travel purchases.  When you dine out, a cardholder receives 2X points on restaurant purchases worldwide.  Every other purchase equals 1 point per $1 spent.

Based on all of the suggestions, I opened a Chase Sapphire Preferred credit card.   In order to hit the target of $4,000 to earn the points, I set up all of our monthly household bills to be charged to this card. Since it was November, it did not take long to hit the $4,000 with all of the extra holiday spending.

After I reached the $4,000, my wife opened a Chase Sapphire Preferred credit card.  We followed the same plan and used the card for all of our bills and spending.  It took us less than two months for us to hit $4,000 on her card.

Now for the fun stuff.  It was time to redeem our points.  We decided that we wanted to visit Dublin, Ireland this summer.  To redeem the points, there is a portal to access the travel section on the Chase Dashboard.  It is as easy as booking a flight on any other travel website.

We decided to fly out of Philadelphia (PHL) and wanted a non-stop flight.  Based on the value of our points, these tickets were going to only cost us about $150 in out of pocket expenses.  Before we booked our flight, I decided to check if there was a cheaper flight out of the Newark Airport (EWR).  I typed in our travel dates and a round-trip ticket from Newark to Dublin on Air Lingus was only $605 per ticket.  We booked our flights and had points to spare.  It was that easy.

I do not know if travel hacking is for everyone.  If you are not good at paying your bills every month, travel hacking might not be for you.  If you end up with a balance and have to pay the high interest, the credit card company is actually hacking you.  You also need to have the required spend to earn the points.  If you do not spend enough to qualify, you should not just spend money you otherwise would not spend to just earn points.

Does travel hacking hurt your credit score?  I have only opened two cards, so I do not have any personal evidence to share with you.  Based on many other blogs, there is minimal change and most credit scores increase over time.  The most important thing is paying your balance every month.

If you are responsible for paying your monthly bills and enjoy traveling, you should look into travel hacking.  Travel hacking also requires a person to be structured and to know when to close a card before the annual fees will be charged.  There are many great travel websites and points tracking tools like awards wallet to make the process easier.

I hope you found this post useful.  Moving forward, I will share our experience with every new card we open and hack.  Please keep your eye out for round two in the next few months.

This post might contain affiliate links.

Please be sure to read the Disclaimer page.

Long-Term Care: An Overview

As the saying goes, there are two guarantees in life.  The first promise is that you will die.  The second promise is that you will pay taxes.  There is also a third guarantee that should be mentioned.  If you are fortunate to live to old age, you are most likely going to need someone to care for you.

When people think of aging, they often fear the type of care that they are most likely going to need at some point.  While it is not as fun as planning for a trip around the world, long-term care should not be forgotten about.  It is much better to add long-term care in your financial plan than to hope you will never need it.  Long-term care is just another variable to be added and managed on the journey toward financial independence.

What is Long-Term Care

Long-term care is different from other types of healthcare and not covered by traditional health insurance.  The objective of long-term care is not to cure an illness or disease.  The main purpose of long-term care is to allow an individual to attain and maintain an optimal level of functioning as they age.

What do the average statistics look like for people who will need long-term care? Someone turning age 65 today has almost a 70% chance of needing some type of long-term service and support.  Women need care longer than men.  On average, women need 3.7 years of care and men need 2.2 years of care.  The difference in time is based on women living longer than men.  Based on today’s population of 65-year-olds, 20 percent will need it for longer than 5 years.

Where is Long-Term Care Provided

Most long-term care is provided at home.  Long-term care is changing.  As part of the Triple-Aim, along with being cost-effective, and high-quality, the focus needs to be community-based.

Of older people with disabilities who receive LTSS at home, 66% get all their care exclusively from their family caregiver.  This care is mostly given by wives and daughters.  Another 26% receive some combination of family care and paid help.  Only 9% of people who receive LTSS at home receive paid help.

Based on a 2013 report from the CDC, about 8 million people receive support from the 5 main paid regulated long-term care service providers:

  • 57% – Home Health Care Providers
  • 17% – Skilled Nursing Facilities
  • 15% – Hospice Care Units
  • 9% – Independent Care Communizes
  • 3% – Adult Day Services

What is the Cost of Long-Term Care

The cost of long-term care varies by region.  Long-term care is more expensive in the northeast than in the south.  Along with cost, quality standards also need to be considered.  Below are the median annual costs for my home state Pennsylvania:

  • Private room in a skilled nursing facility is $120,000
  • Private one bedroom in an assisted living facility is $41,000
  • Home Health Aide (44 hours of care) is $50,000

Who Pays for Long-Term Care

The total national LTSS spending in the U.S. is $310 billion.  On average, the retirement savings of families between the ages of 56 and 61 is $164,000.  The median for this population is only $17,000.  With the savings rates being so low and the costs so high, where does the funding come from?  Based on the CMS, the breakdown is as follows:

  • 8% – Private Insurance Providers
  • 19% – Private pay or out-of-pocket
  • 51% – Medicaid
  • 21% – Other Public sources

What is Long-Term Care Insurance

Long-term care insurance pays for care in your home, assisted living facility, community-based care center, and skilled nursing home.  The policies begin coverage wan an individual is unable to perform two of the six activities of daily living (ADLs) or are cognitively impaired (Dementia or Alzheimer’s).  The six basic ADSs are eating, bathing, dressing, toileting, transferring (walking), and continence.

Individual policies are commonly sold to individuals by insurance agents.  Employees policies are employer-sponsored benefits that might be offered as a group long-term care insurance plan.  Association policies are group insurance policies that are offered by associations such as AAA or AARP.

Some states have long-term care insurance partnership programs.  When you buy a federally qualified partnership policy, you will receive partial protection against the normal Medicaid requirements to spend down your assets to become eligible.

Some federal income tax advantages are available to people who buy certain long-term care insurance policies.

Sales of traditional long-term care policies have fallen sharply, but life insurance policies and annuities that carry long-term care benefits are growing in popularity.

Most people who buy long-term care insurance do so between the ages of 55 – 65.

Who sells Long-Term Care Insurance

According to Consumersadvocate.org, the top 5 providers of long-term care for 2018 are:

  • Golden Care
  • LTC
  • CLTC Insurance Services
  • Mutual of Omaha
  • Mass Mutual

Conclusion

Most people would like to pretend that long-term care is not a fact of life.  Unfortunately, it is something that most people will have to deal with.  While it is not a light-hearted topic, it is a good idea to discuss it with those who you might have to care for as well as with those who might have to care for you.   As with every other aspect of personal finance, long-term care is another issue that needs to be part of a financial plan.  It is always better to have a plan and not need it than to be faced with a life-altering situation and not have a plan.

This post might contain affiliate links.

Please be sure to read the Disclaimer page.

What Stage of Financial Change Are You In?

If you choose to pursue financial independence and an early retirement, you will need to reject many of the popular, preconceived mindsets and behaviors that you’ve been taught about your relationship with money.

Over the past two decades, the average age at retirement has been increasing. Studies predict the average age of retirement for Millennials may reach 75 due to the growing costs of rent and prevalence of student loan debt.

The good news?

You don’t need to follow the same financial path as your peers (no matter what generation you were born in).

The “bad” news?

To reach retirement earlier than your peers, you will need to handle your money in a different way as well.

Pursuing financial independence will require self-education, practice, and persistence. You may or may not have the support of your friends, co-workers, and even family members… but you will need to make financial changes in your own life regardless of their own money habits.

In this post, you’ll learn more about the five stages behind every major life change, how these stages apply to your personal finances, and how you can use this model to stay committed on your journey toward financial independence.

The 5 Stages of Financial Change

In the academic world, the stages of change are more formally recognized as the “transtheoretical model of behavior change.”

This model was first proposed by psychology professors in 1977. The model is often applied to health-related changes, such as quitting smoking, starting a new exercise or diet plan, and managing anxiety and depression.

Here are the five stages:

    1. Precontemplation (not ready to change)
    2. Contemplation (considering change)
    3. Preparation (getting ready for the change)
    4. Action (making the change)
    5. Maintenance (reinforcing the change)

While you typically progress sequentially through the first four stages, it’s possible to “backslide” and revert to an earlier stage if maintenance is unsuccessful (breaking your diet during the holidays, for example).

This model not only applies to physical behavior changes but can also be applied to belief changes or decision-making as well.

Let’s take at how you may journey throughout these stages as you make significant changes in your financial habits.

Precontemplation

During the precontemplation stage, an individual is not seriously considering making a change. In fact, they may not realize that a change is necessary at all.

In the context of a health-related issue, a person in the precontemplation stage may assume they are totally healthy – perhaps unaware that their high cholesterol or blood sugar may already have them on a trajectory for a heart attack or diabetes down the road.

If you have just started your professional career, you may find yourself in the precontemplation stage of your retirement planning.

Perhaps you are contributing a small percentage of your 401k toward retirement each month. What you may not realize is that contributing just 5% of your salary is going to place you squarely in the “retire at 75” club.

To move out of the precontemplation stage may require a “financial epiphany.” This could be saving up to buy a house, preparing to have a child, or earning a salary for the first time. At this point, you’ll realize it’s time to make peace with your financial past so you can reach your goals.

Contemplation

The same year that psychology professors created the “model of behavior change,” film director Woody Allen was attributed in the New York Times for his popular quote, “Showing up is 80 percent of life.”

Just by “showing up” to read this post, you may have already progressed out of precontemplation into the next stage of behavior change: contemplation (surprise!).

During the contemplation stage, an individual is aware of their problematic behavior but are still weighing the pros and cons of change: Can I make time to exercise without hurting my career? Will my friends support me in my decision to quit smoking or drinking?

In a stage of financial contemplation, an individual may be considering their financial goals and the associated trade-offs.

  • Should we be focused on saving up a down payment for a home or paying down student loans instead?
  • Is it worth the inconvenience of downsizing our home or moving in with roommates to save additional money?
  • Can we commit to meal prepping for a few hours each Sunday night to reduce spending on lunch during the work week?

Preparation

An individual in the preparation stage has determined the pros of change outweigh the cons. At this stage, they may start performing research, creating a plan, or making small steps toward their improved for behavior.

If you are someone who wants to lose weight, your preparation might be purchasing a healthy cookbook, grocery shopping for nutritious foods, or signing up for a gym membership.

Many times, it’s tempting to skip from the contemplation stage directly into action (which we’ll discuss below). It’s important to spend time in the preparation stage to lay a framework for success.

You may have to remove barriers from your financial goals as well. This could involve learning more about debt payoff strategies, calculating your net worth to understand your current situation, or building a solid budget that organizes your finances.

Action

In this stage, individuals begin to actively change their behavior. This decision is often one of the shortest stages of change – most of the effort is either exerted in (1) building motivation during the contemplation the stage, or (2) maintaining and reinforcing change.

If quitting smoking is your health-related behavioral change, then the action stage would be the first few weeks of cessation. The behavior change requires consistent, active effort to make. You may be using aggressive strategies like substituting a new behavior in its place, rewarding yourself for the proper behavior, and avoiding any scenarios that trigger the old behavior.

There are many ways to take action and improve your personal finances. You may start scheduling recurring payments on your debt, setting aside an additional portion of your income with direct deposit, or creating a budget to keep yourself living within your means.

Maintenance

In a successful behavioral change, the maintenance stage will have the longest duration. The goal of the maintenance stage is to reinforce the new behavior to minimize the chances of a relapse. With time, the new behavior will become second nature.

It is not uncommon for individuals to relapse back to a previous stage. A successful behavior change will depend on how an individual responds to this situation:

Do you prepare yourself to eat healthily by going grocery shopping and planning your upcoming meals – or do you tell yourself that you’ll try again next New Year’s?

Financial independence is a long-term objective that requires maintenance as well. You may have to dip into your emergency fund to cover an unexpected expense. You might splurge and make an impulse purchase that falls outside your budget.

It’s important to avoid letting one setback justify additional bad behavior. Even if you aren’t perfect with your money, you can find ways to improve your finances each and every day.

How can you maintain your positive personal finance habits to minimize the impact of a setback?

  • Continue learning new financial principles with personal finance blogs and books
  • Surround yourself with like-minded individuals who share your goals and values
  • Be publicly accountable for your goals by sharing them with family and friends
  • Automate your behaviors with recurring transfers, payments, and direct deposits

Conclusion

To do something spectacular with your personal finances, you will need to adopt different beliefs and behaviors about money that may be different than your peers.

You can make this financial change easier by understanding the how the “stages of change” model applies to you and your personal finances, assessing your current status in the model, and finding ways to reinforce the right behaviors until our reach your goal.

No matter how long you’ve been focused on your personal finances – whether you’re just contemplating your goals or maintaining your progress – there are strategies you can use to make good financial behavior easier.

How do you stay committed to maintaining the positive financial changes in your life? 

Author Bio:

Aaron is a lifelong entrepreneur and internet marketer who started Personal Finance for Beginners to share experiences and insights from his own financial journey as he pays down student loan debt, sticks to a deliberate budget, and saves and invests for the future. You can find him at Personal Finance for Beginners or on Twitter @PFforBeginners.

My First Year as a Personal Finance Blogger

My blog just celebrated its first birthday.  The Financial Journeyman was launched on April 8, 2017.  Time sure does go by quickly when you are having fun and interacting with great people.

When I launched this blog, I had very low expectations.  My expectations were low because I never created a blog before.  After I decided to create this blog, I did some research on how other blogs performed during their first year.

Many of the general posts that I read about initial blog traffic stated that traffic will be slow in the beginning.  Some bloggers wrote that they received zero traffic for months.  For some, the only person who read their blog was their Mom.  That had me worried because I knew that I would be in trouble if I had to rely on my Mom to read this blog.  Joking aside, I knew that creating a blog was going to take a great amount of time, effort, and some money.

Before I created The Financial Journeyman I never interacted on blogs or forums.  They have always been useful sources of information.  My approach was just to visit, read, and move on.

That approach had to change.  I did not know anyone in the Financial Independence Community.  To meet people and make connections, I had to start interacting with people who were sharing about their personal financial situations on various online platforms.

In a sense, I felt like the personal financial blogger who came in from the cold.  This blog was not about tracking a transformation that followed a psyche change about money.  I was already saving and investing for 20 years, close to being financially independent, and planning on retiring in 2028.

The Financial Journeyman was created to share what I have learned along this journey.  It is written for those who want to achieve financial independence first and then plan for an early retirement.  The content is for both beginners as well as for those how are already taking the required actions to make their own financial goals a reality.

Social Media

Since my blog is anonymous, Twitter seemed to be the best option to start with.  I keep my blog anonymous because I talk openly about my financial situation.  There are some people like my boss and extended family who I do not want to know about the details of my financial situation.  The other reason is that I do not want to be robbed.  I read the book In Cold Blood by Truman Capote at a young age and I suggest it to anyone who has considered sharing about their wealth without protecting their identity.  Twitter has been a great tool for growing traffic and interacting with other bloggers.  In my first year, my list of followers has grown to over 2,700 people.

The Financial Independence Community

Rockstar Finance has been an invaluable resource.  I have had three posts featured in the past year:

How the Mob Influenced My Asset Allocation

Keep Your Hands Off My 401K

Funding Retirement with the Bucket Approach

J. Money was kind to me and greatly helped to get my blog some traction.  ESI who now owns Rockstar Finance is also a good guy and featured me as M25 in his interview series about millionaires. Being featured on those sites truly helped to get my blog some needed exposure among 1,500 other personal finance blogs.

Guest posting is also important for new blogs.  It is a way to get introduced to new readers.  My first guest post was on My Millennial Guide.  Over the past 12 months, I have written guest posts on several websites including Chief Mom Officer, Keep Thrifty, Abandoned Cubicle, and for Michael Dinich.  All those posts have helped introduce me to new followers.

It is fun to meet people and chat online.  For me, however, I like to meet people in person.  It is fun to hang out and talk with people who share the same passion for financial independence.

In the past year, I have started attending my local Bogleheads Chapter Meeting in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania (120 miles away).  At that group, I have had the opportunity to meet some nice people who welcomed me to the group.  At the most recent meeting, I had the opportunity to meet Erin Arvedlund from the Philadelphia Inquirer.  Erin Arvedlund might not be a familiar name, but she was the original journalist who broke the Bernie Madoff Ponzi Scheme story while working for Barron’s Magazine.  Yes, she is the real deal.

In November, there was a Rockstar Finance Meet-up in New York City.  This was a chance to meet some of the best personal finance bloggers who live on the East Coast.  At this event, I had the opportunity to meet Stefanie O’Connell, Josh Holt from Big Law Investor, The Luxe Strategist, and Liz from Chief Mom Officer.  At that event, I also met another Pennsylvania Guy named Church who blogs at My Mattress Money.  Like myself, Church is a big Philadelphia Eagles fan.  He and I frequently chat about the Eagles and message each other during the games.  It was fun to root for the eagles together on their way to a Super Bowl victory.

It seems like I am making new friends every week.  A short while ago I was able to meet a financial blogger who lives near me.  I had the opportunity to have dinner With Michael Dinich.  Michael is a financial professional as well as a blogger.  He is a generous guy.  He and I are currently working on a few collaborations together.

My most recent financial meet-up was the ChooseFI meet-up in Philadelphia.  There are many outstanding financial podcasts, but ChooseFI is one that I tune into almost every week.  It was fun to expand my circle of friends even more.  I had the pleasure of meeting Kait who blogs at Not Your Average Millennials. This was a very friendly and welcoming group of people who are working hard to reach financial independence.  I am looking forward to hanging out with this group again.

People might think I am crazy to dedicate a whole Saturday to drive to these big cities to talk money with strangers.  If I was not passionate about it, I would not do it.  If I want to make new friends and expanded my reach, I need to put forth the effort and go to them.  It is not different from any other personal or professional relationship.

Writing

This post is about a blog, so I guess I should touch on writing.  My advice is simple.  The first post is the hardest.  I thought about creating a blog for a very long time.  I decided that I did not want to one day reach old age and look back and wish that I had written.

It is a craft.  It takes practice.  It is difficult, but I am striving for progress.

Reading makes writing easier.  You might be a personal finance blogger, or you might blog about something entirely different.  Read other bloggers that are in your space.  Read books, journals, and forums too.

Just keep writing.  Dedicate some time to write every day.  The more you do it, the easier it becomes.

Blog posts are short.  Even longer 3,000-word blog posts are short compared to a book.  I have found that diction is super important in blog posts. It is crucial to be as clear as possible.  As a personal finance blogger, the logic is the easy part.  The difficult part is capturing the ethos and pathos.

Finding Balance

I post about 5 times per month.  This is a part-time blog.  On top of managing this blog, I have a full-time HR job where I manage the Recruiting for four different healthcare campuses in two different states.  That job eats up a good chunk of my time and energy.

Every morning, I try to dedicate about 45 minutes for reading before work.  Every evening, I dedicate at least one hour for writing and editing posts.  My time is limited, so I need to be efficient.

Blog Performance Metrics

So, how has this blog performed over the past year?  The Financial Journeyman was raked as the 15th fastest growing personal finance blogs over the past year.  That statistic truly humbled me.

This is the third post about performance metrics that I have written.  If you want to see some of the early stats, I wrote a six-month as well as a nine-month review.  Below are some of the metrics for the 1st quarter of 2018 as well as my total metrics for the past 12 months:

January 2018

  • Sessions – 1,050
  • Users – 724
  • Page views – 1,859
  • Pages/Sessions – 1.77
  • Average session Duration – 1:23
  • Bounce Rate – 71.14%
  • Number of Sessions per User – 1.32

February 2018

  • Sessions – 980
  • Users – 753
  • Page views – 1,699
  • Pages/Sessions – 1.73
  • Average session Duration – 1:38
  • Bounce Rate – 69.59%
  • Number of Sessions per User – 1.30

March 2018

  • Sessions – 3,956
  • Users – 3,289
  • Page views – 5,370
  • Pages/Sessions – 1:36
  • Average session Duration – 1:09
  • Bounce Rate – 84%
  • Number of Sessions per User – 1.20

April 2017 – March 2018

  • Sessions – 16, 537
  • Users – 12,300
  • Page views – 25,454
  • Pages/Sessions – 1.54
  • Average session Duration – 1:17
  • Bounce Rate – 76.74%
  • Number of Sessions per User – 1.36

Conclusion

There you have it.  That was what it is like to be a blogger for one year.  It is now easier than ever to create a blog.  If there is a subject that you are passionate about, you owe it to yourself to write.  You also owe it to others.  People want to read about what you have to offer.  It is a therapeutic process.  It is hard but rewarding.  It is your opportunity to share with the world. People want to read about an experience, direction, and what is possible for them to achieve.

It has been a pleasure to share this year with all my readers.  I am looking forward to an even more exciting second year of blogging.  When it comes to personal finance and especially investing, we do not know what is coming next.  That is why it is important to have a plan and find trusted resources that you can stick with.  My goal is to be one of those trusted resources for you.

This post might contain affiliate links.

Please read the Disclaimer page.

 

Should Millennials Contribute to a 401K?

No, that is not a rhetorical question.  I was having lunch the other day with my co-worker Jill.  Jill is an exceptional young woman.  Jill’s parents divorced when she was young, so she grew up in a broken home.  That did not stand in the way of her excelling in school.  She went on to earn a BA in Psychology from one of the best state universities in the country.  She is also considering going back to graduate school for a Master’s Degree in Public Administration.

Jill and I have worked together for almost one year.  Jill was lucky because she was hired just a few months after she graduated from college.  She is a great employee, person, and is highly ambitious.

She told me that she developed her work ethic as a young teenager.  She said that growing up without a dad around, she had to work to help her mom pay the bills.  Jill started working at age 14 and has always had a job during high school and while in college.

When we were talking, she told me that when her parents divorced they had an agreement to give each child $40,000 towards their college education.  Her brother went to Notre Dame and the money he received from his parents covered about one year of his education.  Jill opted for a state university that was only a 2-hour drive away from her Mother.

Jill’s education cost her parents $30,000.  Her parents tried to be fair about the dollar amount.  After graduating college, her parents also bought her a used car for $10,000.  Even though she did not get to watch the Fighting Irish play football in South Bend, she still made out well.

During our lunch, she told me that she feels bad for her current roommates.  Most come from families that are more affluent than her family. However, they all have student loan payments that cost $700 or more every month.

She asked me my opinion about her situation.  Should she feel bad?  What should she do with the extra money she has compared to what her roommates have?  She said that she did not grow up with much and does not want to waste it.

I told her that she is in a fortunate situation.  She has a unique opportunity to save a great amount of money since she does not have any debt and her only large bill is her monthly rent.  I suggested that she pretends that she has as much student loan debt as her roommates and to contribute $700 per month to our employer’s retirement plan.

She asked me “Should Millennials contribute to a 401K”?

I told her that millennials should absolutely contribute to a 401K.  I said that she especially should because she does not have any debt to pay back or major bills.  These are the reasons why she should start contributing:

  • She is 22 years old and by starting at that age, she can be well on her way toward financial independence (FI) in 15 years or less
  • Our plan offers low-cost index funds
  • Our employer matches 100% up to the first 5% an employee contributes
  • The contributions lower her taxable income
  • The money grows tax-free and is not taxed until she withdraws it at retirement
  • She can take advantage of dollar-cost-averaging
  • She can enjoy the benefit of compound interest
  • If she gets a different job, she can take the money with her and roll it over into an IRA
  • Even though I would advise against it, she can borrow against her account if need be

I explained to her that time goes by very quickly and she has a golden opportunity to build some serious wealth for herself.  Unless she lands a government job, she will not have a pension.  She will need this money to support herself in the future.

Jill has a unique situation.  She is a young millennial without any debt.  What makes her even more unique is that she is a new college graduate without any student loan debt.

If you have student loans, you should still contribute to your employers 401K account.  Even if it is just enough to get the match.  After you pay down your debt, take the dollar amount that you were paying towards your loans and direct it to your 401K.

You might not get to Financial Independence as quickly as Jill does.  You will, however, get there if you take a few steps.  If you have debt, pay off your debt and don’t create new debt.  Save as much as possible.  Sign up for your employers 401K plan as soon as you are eligible.

This post might contain affiliate links.

Please be sure to read the Disclaimer page.

Note: This post was originally published as a guest post.  The post was moved here because it was not available to be read on dollardiligence.com. That site is no longer active.

Your Money or Your Life: Chapter 2 Review

Your Money or Your Life is a classic personal finance book.  Vicki Robin and the late Joe Dominguez wrote this book in 1992.  Your Money or Your Life is not the first personal finance book.  It was, however, one of the first personal finance books that started to explore the topic of Financial Independence.  It is a book that introduced the concept of examining and ultimately transforming your relationship with money.

This post is part 3 in a series of posts by a group of popular personal finance bloggers who are reviewing each chapter of the completely revised and updated edition of Your Money or Your Life.  The introduction to this series was launched on Rockstar Finance.  The review of Chapter 1 was written by Aaron at Personal Finance for Beginners.  That leads us up to this post.  Below is my review of Chapter 2.

Previous Reviews:

Rockstar Finance – Introduction

Personal Finance for Beginners – Chapter 1

Chapter 2 – MONEY AIN’t What It USED TO BE – AND NEVER WAS

As with many books, chapter 2 is where the author starts to get into the thick of things.  The narrative of Chapter 2 follows that natural flow.  In chapter 2, the reader is introduced to money.  What does money mean to you?  Do you have money problems?  How do you earn it?  How do you spend it?  Do you save money?  How should money be invested?  Do you love money, or do you resent it?  Is money good or evil?  To better understand what money is, Vicki and Joe suggest that it needs to be looked at on the material level as well as the nonmaterial level.

THE FOUR PERSPECTIVES OF MONEY

In the first edition, there was a major section of chapter 2 that broke down the four perspectives of money.  That was not included in the updated edition.  The updated edition is more streamlined.  It is rumored that Joe would get animated when presenting the four perspectives at their original seminars.  I feel the four perspectives of money are still relevant and will break them down in case you have not read the original edition.

The Street-Level Perspective of Money – The Practical, Physical Realm

The street-level is where the day-to-day transactions occur.  This is where people are introduced to money in their youth.  The street-level is why people work to earn money and advance their education to earn more money.  This is the level where the masses learn how to earn money, spend money, and hopefully save money.

The street level is also where many people get into trouble with money.  This is the level where people fall victim to the concept of more.  To buy more stuff, people go into debt.  To pay off debt, more work is required.  To make more money, more risk is taken.  The street-level is where most people get off on the wrong footing.

The Neighborhood Perspective of Money – The Emotional/Psychological Realm

The neighborhood perspective is an examination of the emotional perspective of money.  Were you born on the wrong side of the tracks?  Did you grow up rich, poor, or somewhere in the middle?  Do you base your security on money?  Should you?  Do you see money as power?  Does having money enable you to get what you want from others?  Does money truly make people more socially acceptable?  Is money evil or does it just bring out shortcomings in people?

The Citywide Perspective of Money – The cultural Realm

The citywide perspective is a view from above.  This is where individuals blend together.  It is where different neighborhoods are connected by streets that flow from the rich to the poor part of town.  The citywide perspective is the view where the individual and their own relationship with money is lost.  General norms and assumptions are made on this level.  This is the big picture perspective of money.  It is rooted in history, economics, and sociology.  This is the level where financial fear is distributed to the masses.

The Jet Plane Perspective of Money – Personal Responsibility and Transformation

The jet plane perspective is where the transformation occurs.  This is where you let go of your old ideas about money.  The jet plane view is where people become honest with themselves and start to accept the truth about money.  This is where money and spirituality converge.

Money is life energy.  We trade energy for money.  People work for money, worry about money, spend money, and plan their whole life around money.  Most people will not admit it, but money truly is the center of their universe.  Once a person can accept that fact, they can decide how to better channel their energy and break away from the bondage that money has over them.  The jet plane level is where people start to think about how they truly want to live when money is not the motivation.

A Simple Summary of What is – and is Not

The updated edition replaces the four perspectives of money with a simple summary of what money is and is not.  Vicki briefly touches on the four perspectives and reflects on Joe’s past performances.  In this edition, Vicki gets to the point quicker than Joe did in the previous editions.

Money = life energy, but having money is not a magic wand that changes your past relationship with money.  Money flows in and out of our lives.  Our relationship with money needs to be examined.  Where does it improve our lives and where do we get the most pleasure or use from it?

Money is simply a reflection of who we are.  Do we use it to buy things to display status?  Do we spend it in an environmentally conscious way?  Do we pay our bills on time?  Do we have a healthy or unhealthy relationship with money?

There are people who want to take your money.  Marketers have a job to market their products.  Marketers are paid to make people believe whatever it takes to sell a product or service.  I used to work in Marketing.  That is 100% true.

To prevent them from taking your energy, just don’t buy what they are selling.  To do that, a person needs to act.  Chapter 2 breaks down a course of action to follow.

Your Life Energy 

Vicki asks the reader “what does money = life energy mean to them”?  The reader is free to decide how they want to spend their time.  Do you want to spend your limited amount of time living or do you want to spend that time working to spend more on things that do not add meaning or happiness to your life?

Financial Independence 

The second half of chapter 2 is where the concept of financial independence is broken down.  Vicki does not deviate much from the original edition but just freshens it up.  The focus is still based on having limited time on this planet.  Should we spend our energy making money or living and enjoying life?  If a person decides that they want to live more and work less, they need to achieve financial independence.

Financial independence simply means that a person has enough.  Enough does not mean that you are rich.  Enough must be defined by the individual.

Financial and Psychological Freedom

Once an individual determines what enough is for them, they can change their relationship with money.  This is where the bondage from your past relationship with money is broken.  This is the level where you break free from the lies that surround your relationship with money.

Being in the Present – Tracking your Life Energy

To be successful, an inventory is needed.  It is important to track your life energy.  To better practice the art of living in the present, it is vital to take a deep dive into where all your energy is being exerted.

In this section of both editions, the authors get into actual costs.  How much energy is spent on commuting, clothing, and meals?  As the result of expending energy, a person needs to recharge.  As people attempt to recharge, they just spend more energy trying to decompress with substances, spend money on entertainment, and take expensive vacations or buy toys.  As the result of wasting energy on trying to gain energy people get ill and must spend more energy on getting well.

At this point, people start to realize that they are spending more energy than they are being compensated for.  Their salary ends up being much lower than they ever realized.  They are exerting far more in the untracked exertion of energy than they could ever be compensated for.  Their real hourly wage is much lower than they ever could imagine.

The authors understand that this process is life changing.  When people are faced with a change they tend to balk and not want to escape their emotional comfort zone.  This is purely a spiritual process.  There is no need or room for shame.  There is no reason to look for someone to blame.

The next step is to take positive action.  It will require some work.  The final step requires a simple writing exercise.  It is suggested to track energy spent vs salary earned.  It is a writing exercise to gain perspective on what you are truly earning from your employment.  In this step, the number of hours of energy that is put out is measured against actual earnings.  I did it.  It is an eye-opening exercise.

The authors also suggest that you track all of the money that comes into your life as well as the money that goes out of your life.  They refer to it a spiritual discipline.  This is much easier today with tools like Personal Capital.  You no longer need to write down with pencil and paper like most people who followed this approach did back in 1992.

Conclusion

It was fun to read the updated edition of Your Money or Your Life.  A few decades have passed since the first edition was published.  It was nice to catch up on how she views money today compared to the early 1990’s.  The updated edition of chapter 2 had a fresh feel to the narrative.  Even though it was revised, it still contained the same spiritual principles of honesty, vigilance, and willingness to change that was in the original edition.

If you were a fan of the original edition, you are sure to enjoy the updated edition of Your Money or Your Life and the new website yourmoneyoryourlife.com.

This post might contain affiliate links.

Please be sure to read the Disclaimer page.

 

Early Retirement: Removing Barriers

Many people dream of reaching early retirement.  Few people, however, are willing to do what it takes to make it a reality.  In most cases, to reach early retirement, a person must live differently from how the masses live.  People generally don’t want to be viewed as being different from their fellows.

The masses are living for the day, spending most of what they earn, landing in debt, and are in denial about their personal finances.  They have high hopes that their financial future will be secure.  Hope, however, is not a strategy.

To reach early retirement, a strategy is needed.  That strategy will require action and more action.  The primary objective of that strategy will be to first reach financial independence.  Financial independence is what enables people to retire early.  If a person is no longer working, the money to sustain their lifestyle needs to come from somewhere.  For most early retirees, that somewhere is their passive investments.

The path to being able to retire early is full of barriers.  Many are external like being able to maintain a budget while marketers are doing everything they can to get you to break your budget and buy whatever it is they are selling.  Some barriers are mental.  The purpose of this post is to identify a few of these barriers and to establish a plan of action to avoid them.

Ignorance

Most people are unaware of what is required when it comes to planning for an early retirement.  That is even true for those who have attended college.  People who hold a 4-year degree or beyond still struggle with doing what is required to escape having to work for a living.

When it comes to establishing a financial plan, many people truly do not understand what is required.  They feel that things will just work out like they have in other areas of their life like landing a good job or getting a mortgage to buy a house.  They are generally in denial about what is required to build a large enough net worth to sustain their desired lifestyle once they are no longer working.

The good news is that once a person decides to learn more about personal finance, there is an abundance of great information.  Once a person takes that first step towards learning about budgeting, saving, and investing, they have removed one barrier.  Once that barrier has been removed, they will discover that the basics can carry a person a long way.  The basics alone might be enough to carry some people to financial independence.

Procrastinating

Procrastinating is another barrier that stands in the way of reaching early retirement.  Not knowing about a topic is one thing.  Knowing and not doing anything is another.  To reach early retirement, it takes many years of earning a salary, saving a large percentage of that income, and investing it wisely.

The longer a person waits to start this process, the harder it becomes.  That is based on compound interest.  Let’s assume that an investor needs to have $1,000,000 saved to declare financial independence.  They also want to reach this milestone by age 50.

Based on an 8% percent return, if an investor starts to save $1,800 per month at age 30, it will take 20 years to reach their goal.   If they wait until age 40 to start saving, they will have to save almost $6,000 per month.  If they started at age 22, however, they would only have to save $900 per month.

When you are young, time is on your side.  The older you get, the harder it becomes.  Don’t procrastinate if your goal is to reach early retirement.

Not investing in stocks

To receive a return close to 8%, an investor will need to have a large percentage of stocks in their asset allocation.  Based on how investments are projected to perform for the next 10 years, an 8% return might not be reasonable.  Large-cap stocks are projected to earn 6.7% threw 2026.  For that same period, investment grade bonds are projected to earn 3.1%.

The average person has the tendency to shy away from stocks.  In the short-term, they are volatile.  Over long periods of time, they are one of the best wealth building investments for individual investors.

Instead of parking your money in a money market that returns 1%, consider adding stocks to your asset allocation.  A good place to start is to look at a balanced portfolio of 60% stocks and 40% in bonds.  This allocation is popular because it provides growth from the stock allocation and the bond allocation reduces volatility when the stock market has a correction.  Another general rule of thumb is to invest (110 minus your age in stocks).  If you are age 25, you might want to consider having around 85% of your asset allocation in stocks.

Lifestyle Creep

Lifestyle creep is a form of inflation.   As a person advances in their career and their earnings increase, it is natural for their spending to increase.  As raises and promotions pile up, people have the tendency to upgrade their lifestyle.  Instead of saving more of their earnings, people buy bigger houses, fancier cars, and go on expensive vacations.

If there is lifestyle creep in your life, it is a major barrier between reaching early retirement and being stuck as a wage earner.  Lifestyle creep inflates how much money you need in your retirement account before you can retire.  In contrast, if you keep your monthly expenses low, the less you will need to be able to retire.

If you plan on withdrawing 4% from your retirement account, have $100,000 in annual expenses, you will need $2,500,000 in retirement savings.  For those who only have $40,000 in annual expenses, they just need to save $1,000,000.  The higher your annual expenses are, the more you need to have in retirement savings.

To avoid lifestyle creep, some management is required.  A solid budget is needed.  A financial plan is also a vital tool.  First, focus on the big expenses.  Keep your housing, transportation, taxes, and education costs low.  For example, live in your starter house forever, buy an economical car, live in an area that does not have high taxes, and take advantage of public schools and state universities.

If you can avoid lifestyle creep on the major expenses, you will have more money for savings.  This will also lead to less financial stress.  Instead of stressing to cover your bills that are always increasing, you will be able to better enjoy your life because there will be less demand for having to earn more and more.

Conclusion

For most people, the road to early retirement takes a long time.  It generally takes a couple decades of solid earnings, a high savings rate, and compound interest.  To achieve this ambitus goal, there are barriers that need to be identified and managed.

To be successful with personal finance, education is required.  The great news is that there is an abundance of good books, blogs, and forums that provide unlimited information.  A good place to start is the Resources page on this blog.

There is no such thing as an overnight success.  Most overnight success stories have been a fifteen-year work in progress.  If you want to be financially successful and retire early, start today.  It is not an overnight endeavor.

Without some risk, there will only be a little return.  Identify the correct mix of stocks and bonds for your situation.  Be sure to take your age and risk tolerance into consideration.

Manage your expenses.  The greater your expenses, the more money you must save and grow.  By keeping your expenses low, the less money you will need in retirement.

There will always be barriers that stand in the way of reaching early retirement.  Once they are identified, they can be managed and overcome.  Keep your eyes open for other barriers that might pop-up.  Be vigilant and stay focused and you will be sure to reach financial independence and retire early.

This post might contain affiliate links.

Please be sure to read the Disclaimer page.