When I envision my future, I picture myself sitting on the porch of a Rocky Mountain lodge with a cup of black coffee in my hand and a beautiful woman by my side. Ahhhh, that’s the dream.
I have all the time in the world to do whatever I want. There’s lots of land and space to do whatever I please. Maybe I’ll go work in my workshop one day and build a new rocking chair. Maybe I’ll get my bow and arrow out and hunt down some elk. Or I could just sit by the river all day and watch the fish swim.
If that ever gets boring, I could take a short drive into town and visit with the residents or go shopping. I could even jump on a plane with my wife and go travel the world without having to worry about work restrictions or other responsibilities.
In other words, freedom is my number one goal. And to be truly free–to be able to do whatever I want, whenever I want–I’m going to need a lot of money.
If this sounds like your dream, you’re going to need a lot of money, too. And that’s okay. There are a million ways to make money and many of those ways don’t require you to go into the office. That’s what I’m working towards.
If your dream sounds completely different, that’s perfectly fine. Nobody gets to define your success except you.
But it is important that you know what you’re shooting for.
Where are you going?
Before you start on your journey to increase your wealth, it’s important to know what you’re trying to achieve. It doesn’t matter what the goal is just as long as it’s true to you.
If money was no concern, what do you want to do with your life?
Stay where I’m at
If you said that you’d work at your current job because you love it so much, that’s great! You’re in the rare minority of people that found their life’s purpose.
If your bills are currently being paid, and you can see yourself doing this for the rest of your life, perfect! Your money goals are already being fulfilled. Done.
For those, like myself, that value freedom and the ability to switch gears, being tied down to one job can be rather deflating.
Money goals for this group will be on the higher end, especially if you want to retire ASAP. That needs to be factored into your retirement planning. Since this happens to be the group I’m in, allow me to expand a bit.
When I’m planning for my retirement, I make a few assumptions. I use my retirement calculator to determine my number.
- Salary and expenses will only increase with inflation (2%)
- A savings rate of 40%
- A return before retirement of 15%
- A return after retirement of 5%
- $0 income after retirement
I’m conservative on the salary increases and aggressive with the expense increases. For me, the savings rate of 40% and a return of 15% is also aggressive. This causes me to push myself to do better every year. If I’m going to hit my target retirement date, I will have to make more money and work for a higher return. Tough, but achievable.
Then I’m extremely conservative on the return after retirement. Most of my portfolio is in stocks which has a historical average of 10% a year. By making my return after retirement lower and my income $0, I make my retirement number higher. This is my added buffer for additional spending in retirement. If my spending ends up higher or my return ends up lower, I can always get a job to get more income.
Climb out of a hole
These people might have low-paying jobs that they really hate. They also might be crumbling under a massive pile of debt. I’ve been there, and it sucks. If you’re a part of this group, your money goals are going to be very different.
Retirement is no longer the goal–at least to start. The goal is to get to even. An astonishing 16.6 million U.S. households have a net worth lower than $0. Getting back to a $0 net worth would be a huge step up.
First, your spending needs to be dialed in. Start tracking your spending with an app like Mint, and start cutting out anything you don’t need until you have at least $1,000 in the bank.
And I mean cut anything. If you have to cut TV and internet for a few months, do it. If you have to eat only beans and rice, do it. Saving up for this $1,000 will be very difficult, but it will be one of the most rewarding ventures of your life.
Once you have at least $1,000, start paying off your high interest debt (anything over 6%). Start by paying off the one with the highest interest rate and work your way down.
Key: you don’t have to pay off all your debts at this point, just the high interest ones. They hold you back the most.
Once you pay off all of your high interest debts, start adding to your $1,000 emergency fund. The goal is to get this account to 3-6 months worth of expenses. This money is your insurance policy. Most of the time, it’s going to just sit there, and that’s perfectly fine. Because when/if a surprise expense comes out of the blue, you’ll be able to pay for it without batting an eye.
Your emergency fund buys you peace of mind.
Once that’s built up, you have a choice: continue paying off your debt or start investing. I personally would start investing instead. Paying off all your debt early can slow down how fast your wealth grows.
On the other hand, it also has the ability to reduce some financial anxiety.
You have to decide which one is best for you.
Work towards your goal
Maybe you fit into one of these groups, and maybe you don’t. The important thing is that you know your money goals and have a plan to achieve them.
And don’t sell your goals short. If you’re currently making $15 an hour, but you want to retire in Jackson Hole in 10 years, that’s awesome. You have the ability to do it, you just have to do the right things. Stop saying you can’t do it, and start asking how you can do it.
Thanks for reading!