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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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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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