Handling money means more than balancing your checkbook or paying off your student loans. Create true financial independence with a few simple steps.
One of the most difficult skills for a young professional is handling money. It’s not about balancing your checkbook or keeping up on student loan payments, but about strategically setting up your assets to get somewhere.
Most of us get out of college, find a “real-world” job and figure out a way to cover our costs while remaining as comfortable as possible.
This type of stagnant attitude is what left our parents waking up at 45 and going to the same old job with little to show for their time. It’s not what our generation is about. We’re reaching for financial independence and the freedom to pursue our real interests full-time.
To do that, we have to figure out how to get there. Here are a few actions you can take today to get ahead tomorrow:
1. Earn money
Think of your job as a startup capital-generating engine. Every extra penny you can make or save today can mean dollars in your pocket down the road. (Click here to tweet this thought.) Life can be expensive, but for most of us, it doesn’t have to be.
Making a habit of taking small side jobs can also add up quickly. That can be as simple as house-sitting or as involved as launching a freelance writing career or a small business. Whatever you choose to do, an extra $100 per week means thousands of dollars in your pocket every year.
Work hard, amass savings and learn about how to make your money grow on its own. At the end of the day, what gives you real independence is passive income.
2. Learn to grow money
The only way to be financially free is to use your money to make more money. Do this by investing in assets that grow in value over time. But the problem with investing is that if you want to make a significant profit, you have to take on a certain amount of risk, which is greatly exacerbated if you don’t know what you’re doing.
Learning how to invest intelligently takes a lot of study and experience. The solution? Invest fake money. The best time to learn how to invest your money is before you have money to lose.
Getting started is pretty easy; read up on how stocks and currency markets work and get a theoretical understanding of what happens to your money when it’s out in the mysterious, money-making ether.
Then go and open a free practice account on one of the sites for that purpose. It won’t make sense until you’ve spent time staring at the numbers, even if you know what’s going on in theory.
Spending months or years watching those markets and learning how to grow a fake investment portfolio will make you much more likely to succeed down the road when you’re using real money. Put time in now to reduce your risk later and make your success more secure.
3. Figure out your goals
You could quit your job as soon as your money grows faster than you spend it, but that’s assuming your goal is retirement. We like to talk a lot about getting a great job and building wealth, but we won’t have any satisfaction if we don’t have anywhere to go or anything to do with it. What can you do with your life once your job doesn’t have to come first anymore?
Anything. It’s a scary word, but you can do it. Financial freedom, besides relieving the stress of getting your bills paid, also gives you a lot of time in your day.
Figuring out what to do with it is tricky, and it’ll seem a lot like it did back in high school when you were trying to figure out what to do with your life. Resist the temptation to avoid doing anything and instead think about what matters to you and what you’ve dreamed of doing in the past.
Being financially independent means you don’t have a strict time limit you need to meet, which makes it much more attractive to start a new business. Not being tied to your profit margin gives you the opportunity to pursue riskier ideas other entrepreneurs can’t afford to consider.
If you don’t want to do anything that too closely resembles work, find a personal project to pursue. Invest in local businesses, travel the world, volunteer or find a socio-political movement to get involved with.
Micha Boettiger is a freelance writer who writes about life, travel and money. Check out his personal blog and follow him on twitter @prowriterlife.