It's IndependenceDay - time for fireworks, parades and picnics. Of course, it'senjoyable to celebrate this national holiday. But why not also use thisoccasion to think about achieving more kinds of freedom in your ownlife? Specifically, why not begin taking the steps necessary to attainyour own financial independence?
What are thesesteps? Consider the following:
- Reduceyour debt load -Try to do whatever you can to pay down your debts - especially thehigh-rate credit card debt. The more you have to pay on your creditcards or other consumer loans, the less you have to invest.
- Buildan emergency fund - Try tocreate an emergency fund consisting of six to twelve months' worth ofliving expenses. Because you may need quick access to these funds,you'll want to put them in a liquid vehicle, such as a money marketaccount. If you don't have an emergency fund, you might constantly endup dipping into your investments to pay for big-ticket items, such as anew appliance or a major car repair. And the more you cash out yourinvestments for short-term needs, the slower your progress toward yourimportant long-term investment goals.
- "Maxout" on retirement plans -Ultimately, your financial independence should culminate in aretirement in which you can do pretty much what you choose. But toreach that point, you will need to accumulate sufficient financialresources. Consequently, you will want to try to contribute the maximumamount each year to a traditional IRA, which provides tax-deferredgrowth of earnings, or a Roth IRA, which offers tax-free earnings,provided you meet certain conditions. Also try to contribute as much aspossible to your 401(k) or other employer-sponsored, tax-advantagedretirement plan.
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- Payyourself first - Afterpaying all your bills, you may find it hard to come up with extra moneyto invest for the future. So, pay yourself first. Consider setting up abank authorization to automatically route a certain amount of moneyeach month into an investment. As you get salary increases, increasethe amount of money you put away.
- Builda diversified investment portfolio - Manypeople think they can become financially independent by buying "hot"stocks and getting rich quick. But, in reality, that hardly everhappens. By the time you buy a hot stock, it may already be coolingoff. Furthermore, if you're constantly selling some types of stocks inpursuit of those big gainers, you'll rack up big commissions and otherfees. We believe in building a diversified portfolio of quality stocks,bonds, and other investment vehicles - and then holding them for thelong-term. Consider selling if your investment goals change or theinvestments consistently fail to meet your needs.
- Tryto protect yourself from large financial risks -Injury, illness and infirmity can rob you of your ability to earnincome and preserve your assets. That's why you may want to purchasethe appropriate protection vehicles, such as disability insurance toreplace lost income or long-term care insurance to cover the enormouscosts of an extended nursing home stay.
Itwill take many years for you to reach the point where you can trulyfeel as if you've reached financial independence. But by following thesuggestions listed above, you may speed up the journey.