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7 Steps For Achieving Financial Independence

Jun 27 2015 - 8:00am

Being on your own as an adult has tons of perks, but one thing that takes time is learning how to live within your budget and become completely financially independent. Getting there doesn't happen in a snap — take the smoothest path by checking off all of these seven steps.

Make a Commitment to Yourself

You're making the move toward greater financial independence for you and nobody else. Take a look in the mirror, and imagine the person you want to be, particularly that person who has total control of her money. Commit yourself to becoming that person and don't look back!

Do this: Start off your new financial independence resolve by educating yourself on what you need to do to get your personal finances into good shape. I recommend reading Ramit Sethi's I Will Teach You to Be Rich [1] to start with!

Ask For Help

Nobody said you had to do this on your own. Find your starting ground by asking for help from people that know a thing or two about personal finance. Reach out to anyone in your support system or speak to a professional about how to approach your situation. Your lack of independence might be something other than not knowing how to deal with money — you might have other connected issues that deserve attention so you'll have better success at cutting the cord from that person, credit card company, paycheck-to-paycheck lifestyle that you're trying to shed.

Do this: Don't be afraid to ask questions! Talk to people who have been in your shoes before, like your parents, older friends, and co-workers.

Set Goals

Declaring that you desire to become financially independent is a broad statement. Set smaller goals that will help you reach that final destination. Wherever you are on the road to your big picture goal — maybe it's tracking your spending for a month, creating and sticking to a budget, saving a certain amount for your emergency fund, or paying off a certain amount of credit card debt per month — continually write down new goals when you're ready for a new challenge.

Do this: Figure out your "style." Pick a system for budgeting [2] your bucks, then figure out what debt or loan you would like to pay off first as your first two baby steps.

Know Your Worth

If you don't know how much you should be earning, how will you ever negotiate a salary and make more money? Understand your earning potential by doing research about your position — salary.com [3] is a good place to get estimates, but asking industry insiders is even better. According to Linda Babcock, author of Ask For It [4], "Everything at work is up for grabs — projects, raises, salaries, hours, more responsibility — everything can be negotiated."

Do this: Start your salary research by tapping into the resources at the career center of the college you graduated from, because they usually keep data on how much past students are making. Then start using web tools such as Indeed's salary tool [5] and Glassdoor.com [6].

Make Yourself More Marketable

You're not out of luck if your earning potential isn't as much as you'd like it to be. You just have to become more creative and find ways to make yourself more marketable. You have to take an active role in finding financial independence.

Do this: Take courses to boost your skill-set or volunteering with an organization that coincides with your career interests.

Be Great at Your Job

Your ability to earn an income is your greatest asset. Become indispensable at work by excelling at your job and exceeding expectations. When an opportunity for promotion arises, you'll have a great case for getting the job, and if the time has come for you to part ways with your company, you'll have reliable references to back up your job search.

Do this: Write down your big wins as they happen over the year. It doesn't matter if it's in Excel, Google Docs, or a plain notebook, just start keeping track of your accomplishments. That way when you're pushing career progression, you'll be able to easily whip out the detailed facts and be able to make a stronger case of why you deserve one. After all, memories can fail, and it's easy to forget certain achievements over the course of a year.

Live Within Your Means

In order to be truly independent, it's imperative to live within your means. Your freedom is limited by owing money to anyone, whether it's a credit card company or a family member, so set yourself up for an unrestricted life by saving for the things you want and spending with a plan.

Do this: Assess your lifestyle and start looking at areas in which you can slash costs. Make some changes in your spending and saving so you can be more aggressive when paying off your debt or padding your savings. For budget cuts, the most efficient saving method is the top-down strategy [7]. This means you should start cutting down on your biggest expenditures, such as rent and transportation, before you work your way down to the less costly ones.

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