Whether it’s through a blunt comment online, a gentle reminder in person, or just by the look on their face, people tell me the same thing all the time.
“David,” they say, ” I already know everything you’re saying to me right now. I want to be financially free. I don’t need someone to rehash the basics to me.”
The hard truth is that financial freedom is an incredibly simple thing — it’s just basic math, after all. On the other hand, achieving it can still be extremely difficult. Or in other words…
It’s Simple (But Not Easy)
It’s a paradox, but it’s still true. Most of personal finance is fairly simple. However, plenty of us are still struggling to reach the promised land. That’s because no matter how simple a concept may be, the execution isn’t always easy. So while many of the best money management tips are relatively straightforward, it’s not actually that easy to find financial success.
That’s why I talk about these tips often. I find myself repeating them again and again. After all, the more I discuss these concepts, the more likely people will actually start making to commitment to a better financial future.
So sure, go ahead and tell me that you’ve heard it all before. I’m used to it. In fact, I don’t even mind. But guess what? Once in a while, you do learn something new. So here are some simple tips for financial success. How many of these do you already do on a regular basis? And how many are you willing to start?
Rethink Your Lifestyle
Too often, we get caught up in “looking” wealthy and successful, without stopping to think about how much that stuff is costing us. Look at your lifestyle, and consider whether or not it makes sense to downsize, clear out the clutter, and stop buying so much stuff.
Remake your lifestyle to focus on experiences rather than accumulating things. Don’t forget the beauty of simplicity. You’ll be surprised at how much you can save each month.
Earn More Than You Spend
The first rule of personal finance is to spend less than you earn. When you live within your means, you avoid debt while paying for the things that you need.
However, this is often easier said than done. It’s a pretty basic reality that you have to earn more money than you spend each month if you want financial success. While the concept is simple, actually translating the concept into practice is a little more difficult.
Living Within Your Means Isn’t Easy
Many people have trouble living within their means due to low income or to high expenses. It’s not so easy to live within your means when you have a minimum wage job that barely (if it even) covers the necessities of life – much less any sort of pleasure. Or, if you have an expensive medical condition or an unexpected financial catastrophe, it’s hard to keep to a budget that results in spending less than you earn.
In these cases, solutions can be hard to come by. Should you get another job or start a side gig to earn more? Can you work out a payment plan so that your obligations are more affordable? Could getting more education (and incurring even more expense) help you get a higher-paying job later?
Working out these issues is difficult and far from easy no matter how often someone tells you that the key to financial success is living within your means.
Set Aside Money For Emergencies
Build an emergency fund. If you don’t want to rely on debt to get you out of a tight financial spot, you need to have an emergency fund. The right emergency fund can help you avoid complete financial devastation when the unexpected happens. Figure out what makes sense for you in terms of liquid cash and other assets.
I have a small amount in a savings account as well as a larger taxable investment account that can take care of any emergencies. And because I can comfortably pay off my credit cards even if I max all of them out, I can use the credit card to pay for immediate expenses should they arise without ending up drowning in debt.
If I don’t have the larger investment account, then it would be best if I keep the entire emergency fund in a liquid FDIC insured savings account because I don’t have the ability to weather volatility in the emergency fund.
Look For Ways To Save
Now that you are living a simpler lifestyle, it should be easier to find ways to save money. And saving money isn’t just about clipping coupons and pinching pennies.
You might get more out of your savings efforts by focusing on the bigger things. Premium cable, expensive gym memberships, big gas-guzzling cars, refinancing your home to a lower rate, or even shopping around for better insurance rates can be good ways to save big each month.
Pay Down Debt
Another piece of simple advice is to pay down debt. Get rid of debt and you are no longer paying someone else interest. With that freed up cash, you can use the money for something else, like investing.
Unfortunately, paying down debt is not always easy. First of all, if you have high interest debt, each payment you make sees a good chunk going to pay interest rather than actually reducing your balance. If you only pay the minimum, reducing your debt is an exercise in futility. And, of course, where do you get the money to pay down your debt if you are already struggling with living within your means?
Once again, this simple concept is far from easy to put into practice. You will need to make a debt reduction plan, look for ways to come up with the extra money (but cutting spending, earning more money through other means, or both), and then try to pay more than the minimum due.
Invest For The Future
The wealthy know how to use money to make money. When you invest, your money is at work for you, improving your situation and building up wealth for the future.
This sounds so simple: You should invest for your best shot of growing long-term wealth. But it’s not always easy. You have to research investments and then try to not panic when you are scared about what’s happening in the markets.
Make Investing a Bit Easier
The good news is that it is often possible to make investing a little easier. By choosing index funds and using an employer’s retirement plan to invest, it’s possible to get started fairly easily. You still have to come up with the money though.
Don’t forget that this can take place in a tax-advantaged retirement account or in a taxable account as well. Try to max out your tax-advantage accounts first, though, so that you can make the most of your finances.
And remember that investing in yourself is also an extremely important part of investing for the future too.
Improve Your Health
Finally, take steps to improve your health. Poor health is expensive even if you have a good insurance plan. Make the effort to live healthier by getting regular exercise and eating right. You won’t see immediate results but this may be the single best way to save money in the long run. Plus, you’ll be healthy enough to enjoy your riches.
So go out for a run or join a yoga class. Even short sessions can help. I started doing pushups and planks while I watch TV lately. It takes all of three minutes and I don’t miss anything on my favorite episodes. I suggest you give this a try if you aren’t a workout buff.
Everyone Wants More Money
Many of us like the idea of being rich. It doesn’t have to mean that you have a huge pile of cash that you can spend lavishly on expensive cars and clothes either. For many “regular” folks, being rich is about having enough money to cover needs and some of the wants.
Rich is about having the money to do what you need to do (including saving for retirement) and perhaps enjoying a little bit left over at the end of the month.
The Bottom Line
So, how can you get rich? People want me to tell them there’s a secret sauce and I’m going to spill the beans on it. The reality is that there IS something I’m not telling them because the secret sauce is them. It doesn’t have to be complicated. It’s just that what’s simple isn’t always the easiest thing to do. If you aren’t in the promise land or at least well on your way, it’s not because you don’t know what to do. It’s that you haven’t committed to doing them.
The good news for those who are behind is that they already know what to do. They just have to make an effort to make it happen.