The stepping stones to making your first million are actually the foundation blocks for achieving financial freedom — something most of us are striving for. While it requires a tremendous amount of luck to become very wealthy, anyone can achieve financial freedom.
The secret is not how much you earn or how much you have but rather how much you spend. If you can control your spending and live a sustainable life, you can achieve financial freedom relatively quickly.
Three steps to financial freedom
I believe there are three steps to financial freedom, these steps need to be followed in a specific order to be sure of reaching your goal. I will explain each step in more detail, however it is worth noting that very few people manage to achieve the first two steps by retirement age.
Living with too much debt is the primary reason that most people fall behind the few who get it right.
Your steps to financial freedom:
- Be debt-free
- Have an emergency fund
- Ensure your income from assets covers your expenses.
1. Be debt-free
Most of us will need to borrow money early in our careers. Usually we need debt to buy our first vehicle and home, some people might also need to borrow to start a business. Debt can be a wonderful tool for wealth creation if it’s used to buy assets that will appreciate in value at a good growth rate.
This can be called good debt and should be used wisely. However you also get bad debt, which is usually incurred on your credit card, overdraft or via a personal loan and is used to buy items that have limited resale value.
Many people use debt to buy clothes, shoes, furniture, holidays and entertainment. This is pure wealth destruction as this debt is enormously expensive and you are only deriving a short-term emotional benefit from these purchases. If you cannot buy these goods with cash, you simply should not buy them at all.
2. Have an emergency fund
Once you have eliminated all your bad debt and have a limited amount of good debt, you should start building up your emergency fund. This is money that is available at short notice to cover unforeseen expenses. If you don’t have an emergency fund, how will you pay for damaged car tyres or pay an insurance excess when your geyser bursts at home?
In most instances, you will need to use your credit card or some other form of debt. This only sets you back again as you now need to pay off debt before you can get ahead. I think an emergency fund should be three to six months’ of your expenses.
If you spend R20 000 per month then your emergency fund should be worth R60 000 to R120 000. This money can be stored in your access bond, a money market account or savings account.
3. Have investments that can generate enough income to cover expenses
You should only start building up your investments once you have finished the first two steps. Unfortunately there are no investments that are guaranteed to grow faster than the interest charged on a credit card or overdraft.
This means there is no point building up your savings and investments when you owe money on your credit card. You should aim to build up an investment portfolio that is 20 times the amount of your annual expenses. If we assume that you spend R20 000 every month, this is equal to R240 000 per year.
If you want to be financially free, you will need at least R4,8 million of investments. I would also suggest that you have extra capital to cover additional, unplanned expenses, so you should aim for R5,5 million. This money should be invested in a range of investments that include cash, bonds, property and shares.
With modern investments you can buy all of these different types of assets in one portfolio. This could be in the form of a balanced unit trust or share portfolio with exchange traded funds (ETFs).
The best way to build your investment portfolio is by developing a savings habit where you spend less than you earn every month so that you can save the difference. Ideally you should save at least 15% of what you earn every month. For those who are really serious about achieving financial freedom even earlier, aim for 33% of your earnings.
Many entrepreneurs will struggle with this as they (correctly) argue that their capital is best invested within their businesses. I agree with this view in the early stages of a business’ life. However, once the business starts to stabilise and generate sustainable profits, the business owners would do well to draw a portion of the profits and invest them outside of the business.
This is a form of risk management where you can create an asset that is unrelated to your business. The ideal combination would be a great business investment that continues to generate real wealth while you have an investment portfolio that provides income certainty.
This allows you to continue managing your business with relative freedom while ensuring that you and your family have relative financial security.
What you spend determines your future
It is pointless allowing your lifestyle costs to escalate at the same rate as your income escalates. If you do not control your personal expenses so that your income increasingly exceeds your costs, you are not creating the savings momentum required to build up your investment capital.
This is a problem faced by many high income earners who spend large amounts on vehicles, leisure properties and other lifestyle assets. I believe that you should have a balance in life, you should derive enjoyment from your efforts but it should be balanced with the need to build your asset base so that you can maintain a lifestyle in the years ahead.
Spend time on investments with your spouse
Financial stress is one of the biggest causes of divorce. It is noteworthy that many people who have achieved financial freedom at an early age are married and work in partnership with their spouse when it comes to financial decisions.
I think it is nearly impossible to create wealth if you and your spouse are not on the same page with regard to spending and saving. It’s the same as two horses trying to pull a heavy load but one horse is moving in the opposite direction to the other. The end result is that a lot of effort is expended but no progress made.
Don’t be afraid to get your hands dirty
We all know the stories of the tech billionaires who spent a few months working in their parents’ garage and managed to create sufficient wealth to feed a small country for decades. These are great and inspiring stories but they represent a very small percentage of the people who have tried to achieve the same result with no success.
People who embrace more unfashionable businesses offering services that people need on a daily basis are more likely to achieve sustainable financial success. For example, everyone needs a plumber, electrician, painter and handyman from time to time.
I realise there are very few parents who will brag to their friends that their school-age son is planning on becoming a plumber but there are many plumbers who have achieved financial independence comparatively early. Their contemporaries who became doctors and lawyers might have had more aspirational careers but many of them are still forced to sell time every day to cover their lifestyle costs without being able to build their savings.
As many business owners will tell you, it may not be glamorous owning your business, but it can be enormously rewarding when you start to build an asset of value that can be sold.
This is especially valuable if the business can sustain itself without the daily input of the owner or founder. Personally, I would be advising young people to start focusing on careers that will enable them to build the skills to own their own businesses one day.
(Infographic) The Financial Advice Millennials And Gen Zers Want To Know
Having a grasp on your financials is tricky, but it’s crucial if you want to be successful. And that starts with getting the right advice.
Whether it’s saving for retirement or paying off credit card debt, money management can be a challenge. Of course, different people have different concerns – and that often comes with age. While a 60-something baby boomer might be organising their savings for retirement, your 20-something millennial might be focused on paying off student loans.
In a recent study, financial intelligence company Comet surveyed more than 1 000 people to uncover the top financial concerns of various age groups, as well as the financial advice millennials and Gen Zers want to know and what they hear instead.
Overall, saving for retirement was the top concern across all age groups, with saving for an emergency and affording monthly bills following in second and third. However, it’s no wonder these are some of the most pressing worries – according to the research, 23 percent of people admit they don’t have a savings account, and 43 percent reported not being on track towards their retirement goals. Perhaps that’s because they didn’t hear the right advice growing up. At least that might be the case for Gen Zers and millennials.
According to the research, these young people want to learn things such as how the stock market works, how to manage an investment portfolio, how to invest in real estate and how to build credit. Instead, they’re simply told how to create a budget, save for retirement and pay credit card bills in full every month.
Having a grasp on your financials is tricky, but it’s crucial if you want to be successful and comfortable. To learn more, check out Comet’s infographic below.
This article was originally posted here on Entrepreneur.com.
14 Ways To Make Quick Cash On The Side
If you need money quickly, here are some solid ideas.
Need to make some fast money on the side, whether it’s to pay off a credit card or to make your rent?
Keep in mind, making quick side cash isn’t about making a lot of money or getting rich. It’s about getting a shot of capital to help tide you over and put something extra in your pocket. However, some of these side-income ideas can build up your wealth over time. There’s many ways to accomplish this: By participating in the gig economy, the sharing economy, online sales networks, passive income techniques and more.
If you’re looking to make extra money in a relatively short period of time, check out these 14 slides.
Take Advantage Of Financial Democracy Made Possible By The New Stock Exchanges
Why should financial democracy matter to entrepreneurs?
Because it creates a society able to afford products and services. Without it, even the innovative products and services that are entrepreneurs’ bread and butter will fail.
What is financial democracy, exactly?
It’s both the right and the ability of the (wo)man in the street and business people to make the decisions that affect their financial circumstances.
Financial democracy does not automatically follow political democracy. For almost 25 years after South Africa’s political transformation, the exclusiveness of our financial markets continued to deprive the vast majority of South Africans of the means to invest, save, and build wealth. South Africa has, therefore, never developed a retail stock exchange environment. So, it has deprived the majority of small and medium sized business of access to capital.
For entrepreneurs to truly flourish, they need a mechanism that easily and seamlessly connects the investor pool with every size of business. And, they need affordable ways to enter both the retail and institutional market.
In short, they need stock exchanges. Ones on which listing takes weeks rather than years, doesn’t break the bank for listing fees, and provides the shortest route to the largest possible potential investor base.
That’s not been possible in the stock exchange monopoly that existed for six decades. Now, it is.
We now have four new stock exchanges. The resulting competitive environment will significantly reduce the cost of listing – and the cost for investors of buying and selling shares.
Instead of restricting share trading to people or organisations who already have tens of thousands of rands to invest or millions to spend on listing, by licensing four new stock exchanges, the Financial Services Conduct Authority (FSCA, formerly the FSB) has recognised that most financial decisions do not call for high levels of education.
Most people know how to spend their own grocery money. Most know that it’s better to keep their R1 000 monthly income in a coffee jar than spend R50 of it on bank account fees. People who can barely read and write are immensely skillful at manipulating air time deals to their advantage.
There is significant financial savvy in all social strata.
In the same way, although the mechanics of bookkeeping and accounting may be unfamiliar territory to many entrepreneurs, most have a clear understanding of the difference between profit and loss.
The FSCA has therefore enabled democratisation of the financial markets by enabling the broadest possible spectrum of entrepreneurs and investors to use stock exchanges to participate in and contribute to the economy – on their own rather than prescriptive terms.
How do you take strategic advantage of this democratisation?
- Base your business strategy on people’s instinct for making decisions in their own best interests. Trust financial decentralisation, such as one sees in crowd funding and in digital environments such as block chain, where people would far rather trust one another than institutions and governments. This is democracy innately at work in the financial environment and it’s accelerating organically as digital technologies give people more means and the confidence to help themselves – to information and opportunities. Ride the wave.
- Tap into people’s desire to innovate. Consumer organisations have proved that letting people interactively help them develop products is a powerful growth engine. Apply the principle by letting people grow your business by buying shares in it, giving you capital and themselves a platform on which to build wealth.
- Remember, the ultimate loyalty reward is equity.
Your financial democracy business plan
Look to list on an entrepreneurial stock exchange; one that was founded by entrepreneurs on entrepreneurial principles.
That means: A stock exchange that is already built on financial democracy and decentralisation. One that has, at its core, a single operational concept that keeps things simple for you, automatically gives you an immediate competitive advantage, and, ensures that no matter what your business needs in terms of attracting capital, the exchange can provide all the options in the same, consistent way.
What does such an exchange look like?
It has fintech capabilities. So:
It slashes your listing costs. It achieves this, among other things, by enabling you to populate an electronic prospectus, demonstrating your financial viability, and self publish.
It gives you control by having the granularity and agility to impose relevant governance right down to the individual investor. You get to decide the types and quantities of investors you want to attract. This also enables you to achieve black economic empowerment in perpetuity.
It leads the world by clearing and settling trades in T+0. No-one in the value chain has to hold large sums of money for days following a transaction. Small transactions become profitable. Investors don’t have to risk their life savings on a single large trade. A retail market is opened. An investment and savings culture is entrenched. The economy expands. Your business grows steadily.
It enables anywhere, any time trading via a mobile app that allows investors to see share value in real time. See economy expansion point above.
It integrates processes and procedures, simplifying them and ensuring rapid onboarding of issuers and, therefore, speed to market with new concepts and alignment with the digital economy.
It operates a principles-based regime. So:
It treats you, as an executive, with respect. It’s not prescriptive. It does not insist on excessive oversight, allowing the Companies Act to guide you to sustainability.
It does not attempt to squeeze your company into a pre-defined business or listings format. It recognises and works with your uniqueness.
It obviates the need for expensive specialist listings advisors.
It focuses on financial inclusion and access. So:
Shares can be bought and sold for no more than R1 000. See economy building point above.
The new world of stock exchanges is integrated, synergistic, holistic, organic, self-fulfilling
Decentralisation of financial control, democratisation of opportunity leads to a whole new economy. One in which, for instance, a taxi operator can finance a minibus through a company in which his purchase gives him shares. A single purchase gives him two benefits: a vehicle on which to found his business and a longer-term investment in shares that he can trade. The funding company gains liquidity through access to a wider base of investors while being able to control who buys and sells and the conditions on which trading takes place. Increasing black equity in business becomes an organic, natural, self-perpetuating process.
Everyone wins in a decentralised, democratised financial market. And it’s the stock exchanges that drive the process.
As an entrepreneur, can you afford to ignore the acceleration that listing could give your business growth?
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