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The Art of Smart Spending: 7 Basic Steps to Financial Freedom

The Art of Smart Spending: 7 Basic Steps to Financial Freedom

Modern life has its fair share of stresses and pressures and the fast life we lead tends to put a strain on us. Life can have a lot of sources of stress, but one of the things that can really impact all aspects of your life is having financial problems. This is especially problematic for young people who have just started to earn their own paycheck and still don’t have control over their spending habits.

If you are having difficulty stretching your budget till the end of the month, you might find these tips helpful. We are going to give you basic advice so that you can apply and create some financial breathing space for yourself. It is amazing what you can accomplish when you remove stressing out about money from your daily routine.

1. Track your spending

First thing’s first, you need to know exactly how and what you spend your money on. Most of us develop a lot of, let’s say hedonistic and impulsive spending habits. In most cases these individual purchases are not a big deal, but they tend to rack up to a substantial amount. By analysing your spending, you will be able to identify unnecessary expenses and neutralize them.

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You can use your smartphone or tablet to write down your purchases and make it easy to keep track of your spending. Once you go through one month of tracking your spending, categorize your expenses and pinpoint those that you consider to be excessive and damaging to your monthly budget.

2. Manage your bills right away

One of the biggest financial complications that you can create for yourself on a monthly basis is to miscalculate your spending capabilities, go on a shopping spree and then end up not having enough money to resolve your bills.

This is why it is a good practice to avoid spending money before your manage your bills and actually have an idea how much money you can spend without going over your monthly budget. Keep in mind that not managing your bills properly will transfer into the next month and can create long-term trouble.

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3. Play mind games with yourself

    One of the basic approaches you can take is to actually convince yourself that you are outright broke. Whenever that little voice inside your head goes: “You’ve had a hard day, you should treat yourself”; add a big voice that goes: “You are as poor as they come, start meditating for stress relief.”

    This may seem as a bit harsh, but it is necessary and you need to work on your self-control. Once we start earning our own money, we tend to start spoiling ourselves and the mentality that it’s our money and that we can do whatever we want with it is all well and good until debts come knocking.

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    4. Getting things done with a bad credit score

    Usually, being under financial strain means that you also have a bad credit score. This can create problems for you when you want to take care of something that you sorely need, but your options are limited due to your inability to get a bank loan. In some cases, there are banks that specialize in giving credit to people who others consider incapable of taking up credit.

    Sometimes they specialize in a particular type of credit, but you’ll need to be very careful when you do this, since there are both good and bad sides to this, and since you are taking up more financial obligations in an already strain situation, you want to make sure that the good outweighs the bad. Furthermore, if you take the time to get your self-control, well, under control you’ll be able to improve your credit score, just be sure to avoid drastic measures that can hurt you in the long run,like payday loans and similar offers.

    5. Change can be a lifesaver

    Ok, so you went to work, took a stroll through town, got some coffee and finally got home. Now, pull out a jar, a bowl or something and drop all that change that you have left into it. Most cynics are probably going “Yeah right, some loose change is going to save my budget”, but you’d be amazed at how much money you can save like this. Furthermore, you are not strictly relying on change to save you, it is a cumulative effect and every little bit counts.

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    6. Tax deduction is an art

      It is a bit difficult to address this money saving option because the benefits and laws vary from country to country, but there are always ways to pay less taxes and save money. This requires extensive research and complicates your paperwork a bit, but once you get past these initial difficulties the amount of money you save is well worth the effort. Charitable donations are a good example of doing something good and getting a tax deduction, but there are many more options out there.

      7. Forgetting about extra cash to boost your savings

      If you get a raise, pay off a loan or get some other influx into your budget, you might want to keep “paying” for it a bit longer. Think about it, the habit is already there and all you need to do is transfer that extra cash into your savings account. This is probably the easiest way to build up your credit score and boost your savings account without really having to change anything. You’ll still need that cash influx though.

      Don’t let things spiral out of control, act fast and get things in order before things become too much for you to handle by yourself. It might sound stupid, but the bigger your debt, the faster it grows. It’s far better to tighten up your belt and take a couple of months to get things in order than to constantly stress about being in the red.

      Featured photo credit: https://www.pexels.com/u/paul-kunitsky-12238/ via pexels.com

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      Ivan Dimitrijevic

      Ivan is the CEO and founder of a digital marketing company. He has years of experiences in team management, entrepreneurship and productivity.

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      Published on May 7, 2019

      How to Invest for Retirement (The Smart and Stress-Free Way)

      How to Invest for Retirement (The Smart and Stress-Free Way)

      When it comes to stocks, I bet you feel like you have no idea what you’re doing.

      Everyone who’s not a financial expert has been there. I’ve been there. But, time is passing and you need to be crystal clear with how you’re investing for your retirement.

      Otherwise, it’s back to work until you can afford not to. So, how can you invest for retirement when you’re not a financial expert?

      You take the time to learn the fundamentals well. If you do, you can grow your wealth and retire happy. The best part is that you don’t need to be a financial expert to make smart investment decisions.

      Here’s how to invest for retirement the smart and stress-free way:

      1. Know Clearly Why You Invest

      Odds are you already know why should invest for retirement.

      But, maybe you know the wrong reasons. It’s time you get clear on why you’d like to retire. Here are some questions to help you get started:

      • Will you spend more time with your family?
      • What does retirement mean to you?
      • Are you looking to launch that business you’ve been holding off for years?

      Everyone wants to retire but not for the same reasons. Once you’re clear for why retirement is important for you, you’ll focus on making it happen.

      Investing in the stock market allows you to take advantage of compound interest.[1] All this means is that your money earns money on top of its interest. A reason why investment in the stock market is one of the best ways to plan for retirement.

      2. Figure out When to Invest

      “The best time to plant a tree was 20 years ago. The second best time is now.”– Chinese Proverb

      It’s true if you’d had started investing when you were 10 years old, you’d have a lot more money than you do today.

      The reality is that most people don’t start investing until it’s too late. So, if you’re currently waiting for the perfect time to start an investment, it would be today. Open your calendar and block out 2 to 3 hours to choose how you’ll invest for retirement.

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      A quick way to get a snapshot of where you stand is to use Personal Capital. Input all your personal information and spend some time setting your retirement goals. Once completed, you’ll know where you stand with your retirement.

      Having a savings account for retirement isn’t planning for retirement. Why? Your money loses value when you factor in US inflation.[2]

      3. Evaluate Your Risk Tolerance to Create the Perfect Portfolio

      Investing your money well depends on your emotions.

      Why?

      Because when the market drops most people panic and withdraw their money. On average, the US stock market yields an annual 6% to 7% ROI (return on your investment.) But, this won’t happen if you’re worried about short-term loses.

      Before you invest your next dollar, know your risk tolerance.[3] Your risk tolerance determines the number of risky and safe investments you’d have.

      Regardless of your investing style, you need to view investing for retirement as a long term game. Know that some years you’ll lose money but recoup this in the long-term.

      Avoid watching market-related new. Also, create a double authentication to log in your investment account. This way you’re less likely to withdraw your money.

      4. Open a Reliable Retirement Account

      Depending on your circumstance, you may need to open a new brokerage account. This is the account is where you’ll invest your money.

      If you’re currently working for a company, odds are that they offer a 410K investing account. If so, here’s where you’ll invest most of your money. The only problem with this is that you’re limited to the stock options that are available.

      You do have the option to open a separate IRA (individual retirement account.) Here are some of the best brokers:

      1. Vanguard
      2. TD Ameritrade
      3. Charles Schwab

      5. Challenge Yourself to Invest Consistently

      Committing to invest for retirement is hard, but continuing to do so is harder.

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      Once you’ve started investment for your retirement, you run at risk from stopping. Often you’ll want to contribute less, so you’d have more money in your pocket.

      That’s why it’s important that you create a budget that allows you to invest each month. If you’re working for a company, you can set a percentage for the amount you’d like to contribute each month. Most people by default contribute 1% but aim to contribute 10% to 15%.

      Be the judge for how much you can afford to contribute after covering important expenses. To stay motivated, use Personal Capital to view your net worth.

      A benefit to contributing money to your retirement account is not taxed. For example, if you earn $100 and invest 10%, you’d contribute $10, then get taxed on the remaining $90. As of 2019, the most you’re able to contribute towards your 401K is 19K but this can change.

      6. Consider Where to Invest Your Money

      The most common way to invest your money is in stocks, but it’s not the only way. Here are other ways to invest:

      Robo Advisors

      Robo-advisors[4] are fancy algorithms that’ll choose the best investments for you. Sites like Wealthfront make it easy for first-time investors to invest their money. You’d input information about yourself and set your risk tolerance.

      Then, set your monthly contribution amount and your robo-advisor would do the rest. Robo-advisors charge a fee to manage your money, but less than regular advisors.

      Bonds

      Think of bonds as “IOUs” to whomever you buy them from.

      Essentially, you’re lending money and charging interest. Like stocks, not all bonds are equal. Some will be riskier than others depending on their rating.

      Here are the different types of bond categories:[5]

      1. Treasury bonds
      2. Government bonds
      3. Corporate bonds
      4. Foreign bonds
      5. Mortgage-backed bonds
      6. Municipal bonds

      Mutual Funds

      Picture a group of people dumping all their money in a jar that’s managed by a professional. This is how mutual funds work. The fund manager manages the money looking to earn capital gains (interest.)

      One of the best types of mutual funds is index funds. Since these funds don’t try to beat the market and instead follow it, they need less research. Because of this they often charge the lowest fees and yield the best long-term results.

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      Real Estate

      Yes, buying a home is an investment when done correctly.

      Imagine buying a home and using it as a rental property. After repairing it, you receive a monthly surplus check of $100 to $200.

      This may not sound like a lot, but repeat this process enough times and you’d earn a large amount of passive income. That’s why real estate is one of the best investments to not only retire but become wealthy.

      But, it requires a lot of money to start and you should expect losing money along the way as you learn the process.

      Savings Accounts

      Your money can still grow in a savings account. Nowadays most online banks offer a 2% annual return. Although the average inflation is higher your money will be available when you need it.

      7. Master Disincline to Dodge Short Success

      Investing for retirement is a long-term strategy. That’s why you need to master delayed gratification. All this means is delaying short-term pleasure for something bigger in the future. Research shows that those who have delayed gratification are more successful.[6]

      So how can you master delayed gratification?

      By building your discipline.

      Think back to what retirement means to you. A clear purpose will help you avoid withdrawing your money during a market downturn. It’ll help you contribute more towards retirement when you’d want to waste it instead.

      Your journey towards retirement will be long, so reward yourself along the way. Choose a reward that’s relevant and meaningful, so that you reinforce positive behavior. For example, after contributing more towards retirement, treat yourself to dinner.

      8. Aggressively Invest on This One Investment

      I’ve mentioned several types of investments but haven’t covered the most important one.

      It sounds cliche but here’s why you’re your best investment towards retirement. The more you know, the more money you’ll be able to make. The more good habits you adopt, the more secure your retirement will be.

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      More importantly, investing in yourself is an investment that no one can take away. There’s no market downturn nor tragic circumstance that’ll wipe your knowledge and experience.

      But, how can you invest yourself?

      Reading books, blogs, and anything that’ll help you learn new topics daily. Listen to podcasts and audiobooks on your commute to/from work.

      Save money to buy courses and hire coaches. I used to believe hiring coaches was a waste of money when I could learn the subject alone.

      But, coaches see your blind spots and hold you accountable. Hiring the right coach will help you achieve your goals faster than you would’ve alone.

      Retire Happy with Excess Money

      The key to a secure financial future doesn’t only belong to financial experts.

      It’s possible for you and I. What if you were able to retire earlier than most people and weren’t a financial planner? What if you were able to focus on what you enjoy doing the most while your money was working hard for you?

      I know this sounds impossible now, but the truth is you’re capable of taking charge of your retirement. I’m not a financial expert but I’ve learned how to invest my money by reading books and learning from others.

      Investing your money is scary. So start small and invest a small amount of your money with a robo-advisor. Feel your money drop and rise for a month or two. Then, invest more and keep this up until you’re aggressively saving for retirement.

      One day, you’ll wake up with a net worth you’re proud of – confident about your retirement. You now know a few strategies you can use to invest in your retirement. Will you take action to retire happy?

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      Featured photo credit: Matthew Bennett via unsplash.com

      Reference

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