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Published on September 14, 2018

17 Practical Money Skills that Will Set You Up for Early Retirement

17 Practical Money Skills that Will Set You Up for Early Retirement

One might get excited about the idea of an early retirement, but to actually make it happen requires careful financial planning and some practical money skills.

In this article, I will list down 17 practical money skills that will set you up on path for early retirement and financial independence.

1. Make a written plan

Making a plan only in mind is not the best way to go about retirement planning.

Whether you believe it or not, you cannot simply tread on an unplanned road and expect to reach the right destination. It would just be akin to playing your luck rather than “planning”.

You must remember that financial success is a choice. Each financial decision that you make every single day will determine closer or farther you are going from your goal.

Invest time in writing down your financial goals so that they can materialize over time.

Remember that you are not simply aiming to jot down some words of motivation through this plan. Instead, the aim is to define each and every aspect of your financial goals and give them a shape with exact written words and figures. This includes defining the timeline and quantum of money management to meet the financial goals.

2. Ask yourself: Did you invest in financial literacy?

We slog hours to earn a living but when it comes to managing that money, we fair rather poorly. And it does happen because we are not financial literate.

Therefore the first and foremost thing one needs to do is to invest enough time and resources to become financially educated.

Becoming financially educated doesn’t mean getting a degree but becoming aware of the first principles of money like compounding, ROI, NPV, inflation.

3. Income over lifestyle

In the contemporary era, most people are running after showing off the illusion of being wealthy, instead of actually being wealthy.

Being wealthy is a long term goal, something which materializes only at the later stage of life. This clearly implies that you will have to forego your present day luxuries if you wish to realise financial success in the long run.

Spending money never made anyone rich. This is as simple as anything can ever get. This is also where the importance of written financial goals manifests itself.

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Choose your expenses wisely so that you are able to meet your lifestyle needs but limit your wants which are discretionary expenses in nature.

4. Start right away

Compounding is that Eight wonder of the wonder that stands at the base of the first step that you can possibly take towards financial success. Added to the principal and rate of interest, the element of time can significantly impact how your investment grows.

The earlier you start with your savings, the earlier you are going to be able to meet financial success and plan your early retirement.

Don’t wait out to become a financial genius or seek the advice of a financial guru. Start as quickly as you can. Starting early will also allow you to ample time to grow your savings rate.

5. Wealth building on auto-pilot mode

You cannot possibly expect yourself to be able to manage each and every thing on a daily basis, can you? You can only divert some part of your attention and resources towards your retirement goals but what about the present?

This is where your auto pilot mode should be enabled.

You need to take certain financial decisions which will not only accrue a number of assets in your hand but also make sure that they grow over a period of time; so that your life can sail on smoothly.

The idea here is to allocate monthly income towards paying off money which builds equity assets for you in the long run.

Saving plans and investment clubs ensure that you are forced to invest and save your funds, whether you like it or not. So even if out of compulsion, you still manage to save your funds and build wealth in the process. Remember 401(k), IRAs?

6. Make your money hard to reach

Quite literally, just put your money somewhere so that you have to think twice before you reach out to get it back.

Imagine how different it’d be if you had cash lying in your wallet and if the same cash was stacked and shut closed behind the door of a locker. Which one would be the easiest to reach out to?

Similarly, once your money is invested in some retirement plan or investment scheme, you will have to go through some policies and possibly some penalties as well, before you can lay your hands on that money.

Therefore, define your financial plans to make it hard for you to reach your own money, so that you can resist the temptation to spend it.

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7. Don’t touch your social security

It is called social security for a reason. Stated simply, it is always easy to wash your hands in a running stream but not as easy when the water is stagnant.

The same applies to your earnings as well. No matter how large or important your need is, touching your social security should always be a last resort option.

Social security is meant to be used after your retirement, meaning that you may at the least, meet your daily expenses with the amount of your social security.

Hence, the longer you wait out to claim your social security, the better for your retirement.

Plan your expenses so that you may not need to meet your daily expenses out of your social security at present.

8. Focus on savings

While this may sound a very basic and obvious money skill, it is very hard to implement in reality.

The safest way to achieve this goal is to list down your average expenses for the month. You will be surprised at the quantum of your expenses when you undertake this exercise.

Having written them on paper, you will suddenly find the vision to analyse which expenses are wasteful and can be avoided.

9. Develop sources of passive income

It is always a good idea to develop multiple sources of income so that in case one dries up, others are still running and taking care of your financial upkeep.

Do you like to write? Then get yourself freelancing content projects or if you have a spare space, put it on AirBnB.

The idea is to create as many possible avenues to generate income. And once this extra income is generated, care must be taken to save it and invest it rather than spend it.

10. Plan your risks

As the saying goes, the higher the risk the higher are the returns. This however, does not mean that you blatantly enter the rat race and seek higher risk investments without giving them a second thought.

Based on your financial health, the risk that any person can afford to take is different. Hence, you need to evaluate your financial health and your ability to bear a loss, more importantly than the idea of earning a profit. This will perhaps give you a clear image of the risk that you can afford to take in the long run.

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Do remember when you are planning to retire early, capital preservation should be the top goal. Do access your risk profile first before investing in any financial instrument.

For example, cryptocurrency might be a suitable instrument to invest for those who have high risk appetite; whereas for those who are extremely risk averse, even equity seem to be a risky proposition.

11. Plan your taxes

While you juggle between your earnings, expenses and savings, there is one factor which is completely out of your hand but also stands as a compulsion, which is taxes.

As a resident of the country, you must be well aware about the taxation laws and how your earnings are taxed in one way or the other. This is where you need to use the scope of tax planning and try to save as many funds as you can.

Tax planning will also become relevant after retirement, when you will have to be very careful about your investments, which are also liable to be taxed.

12. Stay healthy

You might be wondering how health can take a centre stage when we are discussing about money skills. However, one needs to be healthy to enjoy the benefits of early retirement.

Besides, being healthy also ensures that out of pocket expenses (not covered by health insurance) on health care are at the minimum. Needless to say that you must have a decent health insurance.

13. Always prefer used cars

It’s a well known fact that cars usually lose around 20-30% of the value (depending on the make and the model) within first couple of years due to depreciation. It is a wise decision to always hunt for a used car since it has already taken the depreciation hit.

Besides, car is a liability that requires money for its annual maintenance and loses value with time.

If you are planning to retire early, you would want to invest in building assets rather than buying a liability.

14. Plan your mortgage

While the jury is still out on whether to rent a house or buy one, if at all you decide to buy one, make sure that you plan your mortgages carefully.

Taking a 30 year mortgage on your house will tie you up for the entire life. And with so many vagaries in professional life, chances are that you would find it difficult to maintain the financial discipline that is required for early retirement.

If you are planning to buy a house, try to repay the entire mortgage in 10-15 years. Start by taking a 30 years mortgage and try to increase your monthly payments every year.

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For example, if you are paying $2000 per month this year, try to do $2200 next year. And since this payment will be on auto-pilot, you will adjust to the new normal with time.

15. Vacation in off season

If you are one of those who like to travel, then this one is for you. You could save quite a fortune by vacationing in the off season.

Not only air tickets will be cheaper but also the hotels. And if you are looking for a short sojourn, then try to do it during weekdays rather than weekends.

These savings, over a period of time, would accumulate to become a sizeable portion of your entire savings bank.

16. Apply the 5% rule

This is not a proverbial rule but is practical and very effective. Stated simply, this means cutting down your expenses (by 5%) from top 3 expense categories every year.

To implement this skill, first of all list down your 3 top expense categories. Then break down expenses within those categories. This will show areas of improvement where money can be saved. Now to actually put savings into action, try to develop good habits that automatically do that for you.

For example, if your monthly expense on dining out is substantial and makes to the list, then try to find out reasons not to go outside; probably pack your lunch to office, or make a strict rule to eat only 2 times (say) a month.

A goal is pretty easy to achieve if it can be broken down into habits. Therefore cultivate good savings habits.

17. Track the progress

Last but not the least, track the progress:

Progress of savings, progress of investments and progress of how close you have reached to your goal.

Tracking the progress provides positive feedback to the tough financial discipline life you have been living. And that in turns provides more motivation to stay the course.

It also helps to benchmark the situation and take corrective measures if required.

The bottom line

Planning for early retirement is not that hard. All it requires is financial discipline (over long period of time); discipline to save as much as possible and invest wisely.

The path to (successful) early retirement lies not in the maths behind it (maths is easy) but cultivating good habits and the right mindset. So start now!

Featured photo credit: Unsplash via unsplash.com

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Ankit Garg

Serial entrepreneur and working towards Early Retirement

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Last Updated on January 2, 2019

How Personal Finance Software Helps You Get More Out of Your Money

How Personal Finance Software Helps You Get More Out of Your Money

Do you know what mental health experts point to as the biggest cause of stress in the United States today? If you said “money,” then ding, ding, we have a winner!

Three out of four adults today report feeling stressed out about money at least part of the time. People are either worried about not having enough money or whether they’re putting the money they do have to use in the best possible way.

Your money is either in charge of you or you’re in charge of it, there’s no middle ground. Using some type of personal finance software can help alleviate some of that money stress and better allow you to manage your money effectively. Without it, you may just be setting yourself up for constant financial worry. Life is already tough enough and there’s no need to make it more difficult by simply hoping your money issues will all work out in your favor. Hint: they won’t.

This guide will help you to understand how personal finance software can better assist with both accomplishing long term financial goals and managing day-to-day aspects of life.

Whether it’s tracking the savings plan for your child’s college fund or making sure you won’t be in the red with the month’s grocery budget, personal finance software keeps all this information in one convenient place.

What Exactly is Personal Finance Software?

Think of it like the dashboard in your car. You have a speedometer to tell you how fast you’re going, an odometer to tell you how far you’ve traveled, and then other gauges to tell you things like how much gas is in the tank and your engine temperature. Personal finance software is essentially the same thing for your money.

When you install this software on your computer, tablet, or smartphone, it helps to track your money — how much is going in, how much is going out, and its growth. Most personal finance software programs will display your budget, spending, investments, bills, savings accounts, and even retirement plans, levels of debt, and credit score.

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How It Leads to Financial Improvement

It shouldn’t come as a surprise, but people who regularly monitor their finances end up wealthier than those who don’t. When you were a kid, keeping track of all of your money in a porcelain piggy bank was pretty easy. As we get older, though, our money becomes spread out across things like car payments, mortgages, retirement funds, taxes, and other investments and debts. All of these things make keeping track of our money a lot more complicated.

Some types of personal finance software can help make things a little less complicated, setting you up to meet financial goals and taking away some of the stress associated with money.

Even if you already have a Certified Financial Planner (CFP) some type of personal finance software can be of great benefit. Whereas CFPs focus on the big picture of your money, they don’t handle the day-to-day aspects that determine your overall financial health.

It’s also not nearly as complicated as you might think and can take out a lot of the tedium that comes with doing everything on an Excel spreadsheet or with a pad and pencil.

Types of Personal Finance Software

When it comes to personal finance software, it generally fits into two categories: tax preparation and money management.

Tax preparation software such as Turbo Tax and H&R Block’s software can help with everything from filing income taxes to IRS rules and regulations and even estate plans. Plus, there’s the benefit of filing online and getting your refund check a lot faster than if you were to mail off your forms after waiting in line at the post office.

For the purpose of this article, however, will be focusing more on the personal finance software that aids with money management.

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Money management personal finance software will help you to see the health of your cash flow, pay down debt, forecast for expenses and savings, track investments, pay bills, and do a host of other things that 30 years ago would have practically required a team of accountants.

When to Use Personal Finance Software

So far we’ve gone over what exactly personal finance software is and how it can be a benefit to your money. The next logical step in this whole equation is determining when it should be used and how is the best way to go about getting started using it.

Below are four of the most common and practical ways to use personal finance software. If all or any of these apply to you and your money, then downloading some type of personal finance software is going to be a smart move.

1. You Have Multiple Accounts

There’s a good chance that when it comes to your money, it’s in more than one place. Sure, you probably have a checking account, but you may also have a savings account, money market account, and retirement accounts such as an IRA or 401k.

If you’re like the average American, you probably have two to three credit cards as well. Fifty percent of Americans also don’t have loyalty to just one bank and spread their money across multiple banks.

Rather than spending hours typing in every detail of every account you have into a spreadsheet, many programs allow you to easily import your account information. This will help to eliminate any mistakes and give you a bird’s eye view of everything at once.

2. You Want to Automate Some or All of Your Payments

Please don’t say that you’re still writing out paper checks and dropping each bill in the mailbox. While it’s noble that you’re doing your part to keep postal workers employed, we’re 18 years into the 21st century and you can literally pay every bill online now.

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There’s no need to log into every account you have and type in your routing number either.

With personal finance software you can schedule automatic payments and transfers between all of your imported accounts. Automatic transfers will help to make sure you have the necessary funds in the right account to ensure all bills are paid on the appropriate date. Late fees are annoying and do nothing but cost you money. It’s time that you said goodbye to them once and for all.

3. You Need to Streamline Your Budget

Perhaps the best feature of personal finance software is that it allows you track everything going in and out of your virtual wallet.

Nearly every brand of personal finance software out there has easy-to-read graphs and charts that allow you track every cent you spend or earn, should you choose. You might be pretty amazed when you see just how much you spent on eating out last month or if you splurged a little more than you should have on Christmas gifts last year.

Every successful business on the planet has a budget and using personal finance software can help you trim the fat on your spending in ways that affect your everyday life.

4. You Have Specific Goals to Meet

Maybe it’s paying off debt or saving for up something like a European vacation. Whatever your financial goal is, whether it’s long-term or short-term, personal finance software programs are one of the savviest ways to go about reaching those goals.

You can do everything from set spending alerts to notify you when you’re over budget to automating what percentage of your paycheck goes to things like retirement investments. The personal finance software that you choose should show you exactly how close you are to hitting those goals at any given time.

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How to Get Started

From AceMoney to Mint and Quicken, there ’s no shortage of personal finance software apps out there. Many of these programs are free to download and will allow you to pay bills, invest, monitor your net worth and credit profile, and even get a loan with the swipe of a finger.

Other programs may only offer you limited services and will require a one-time fee or subscription to unlock all that they offer. These fees can often vary from as little as two dollars to 50 bucks a month.

It’s best to start off with the free version and then gauge whether you’re able to accomplish everything you’d like or if it’s worth exploring one of the paid options. Often times the subscription programs come with assistance from financial planning and investment experts — so that can be a real benefit.

When deciding which personal finance software program to use, it’s also important to look at how many accounts you wish to monitor. Certain programs limit the number of accounts you can add. Be sure that if you have checking, credit card, and investment accounts to monitor, that you choose a service that can monitor them all.

Finally, when looking around for the right personal finance software that meets your needs, make sure that you’re comfortable with the program’s interface. It shouldn’t be expected that you recognize every single feature instantly, but if the features don’t seem readable and manageable to you, then you’re not as likely to use it and get the full benefits.

Final Thoughts

Personal finance software can go a long way in helping you to take control of your money and meeting your financial goals. It’s important to note, however, that some focus more on budgeting and expense tracking while others prioritize investing portfolios and income taxes. Explore several different programs and read reviews to find the one that’s right for you.

In this day and age, managing one’s personal finances in a secure manner that allows the user to have a real-time visual representation of their money is easier than ever before. With the numerous applications that are out there — both free and subscription-based — there’s no reason that every person can’t take control of their money and ensure they’re making smart money moves.

Featured photo credit: rawpixel via unsplash.com

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