The Gift of Financial Freedom
By Jennifer Leighton
As the holidays quickly approach, gifts will likely be in the forefront of our minds – both the gifts we want to give and the gifts we want to receive. We’ll obsess about finding the perfect gift for that hard-to-buy-for family member or friend. We’ll hope we get that gift we’ve really, really been wanting – and are disappointed if we don’t. Our children will excitedly rip open the wrapping paper on their gifts, only to abandon them an hour later. Gifts often seem to be the focus of the season, don’t they?
I’m not suggesting gifts are a bad thing. They’re not. And many times – the ugly sweater or tie aside – they’re wonderful. However, I’d like to challenge you to think about giving yourself a completely different type of gift this year – namely, the gift of financial freedom and peace of mind. It’s not a gift you can order online and have delivered within 24 hours. It may take a while to be able to enjoy it. Unlike a new pair of shoes or 70” television, you may not feel a sense of instant gratification. But it is one of the most meaningful and significant gifts you can ever give to yourself and your loved ones.
So how do we begin giving ourselves this precious gift? Here are five important steps to help you get started.
Change Your Mindset
For many of us, money stirs up negative and uneasy feelings. Maybe we dwell on what we don’t have instead of what we do have. Maybe we focus on unproductive thoughts and approach our finances from a scarcity mentality. Maybe we overspend and then feel guilty about it. But something amazing happens when we begin to look at money in a healthy and positive way: our actions tend to follow suit. Over time, we start to make better financial decisions and money becomes our friend and not our foe.
You won’t get far if you don’t know where you want to go. Sure, you may see some interesting scenery along the way, but you’ll probably find yourself stuck in a location you never intended to be. Setting financial goals is key to achieving financial success. So what’s important to you? A secure retirement? Funding your children’s college? Once you figure out your destination, you can start planning your trip to get there.
Budget and Track
Unless you control your money, it will end up controlling you. I know plenty of people who shudder at the thought of creating a budget or – worse still – sticking to it. But without a firm grasp on what’s coming in and where it’s going out, you won’t be able to experience financial peace of mind.
Pay Off Debt
Debt is a huge roadblock to experiencing financial freedom. In fact, being in debt usually feels like you’re in a prison. If you’re carrying around the weight of credit card debt, one of your first priorities should be to free yourself from it. Resolve to pay off your consumer debt as soon as possible, even if it means making some short-term sacrifices.
Fund Your Retirement
Retirement doesn’t have to mean never working again and, for many of us, it probably shouldn’t. So while you may keep working later in life, you’ll probably want more choices when it comes to how you work. And what do more choices mean if not greater liberty? Planning for those years as soon as you possibly can, will ensure a higher likelihood of experiencing financial freedom during the time you’ll want it the most.