I spend a lot of time reading about personal finance, and everywhere I look there is some version of the FI/RE (Financial Independence, Retirement Early) movement.

Twenty -five-year-olds broadcasting their seven-figure networth, or having plans to retire at the ripe old age of 30 years old. And me, being already over that 30s hump, feel like I made have missed the boat.

So what’s left for those of us who have only realized that we need to do better with our finances? Those who have already committed to student loans, 30-year mortgages, etc.?

Luckily hope isn’t all lost. Here are the steps those of us over the 30 hump should do to secure a golden retirement.

Prioritizing Retirement  

It’s an oldie but goodie advice and here’s why.

It is going to take us longer to save up for retirement than it did any other generation. That’s because we make less (on average 20% than boomers), will need to save more since we are living longer (54% longer compared to those born in the 1900s but are more likely to be sicker from cancer or heart disease), and don’t have the added bonus of secured payouts of pensions.

Our only recourse is that time is the great equalizer. And with compound interest, the longer the savings can compound the more we’ll have. So ramping up our retirement account savings is key. Put in as much as you can (and then 1% more) as your pay increases. As close to the $19,500 contribution limit as you can.

So even though the student loan debt might feel like a millstone around your neck, don’t buy into the hype of sacrificing your retirement savings to pay down your student loan faster.

You don’t want to burn your most expensive resource … time. Once it’s gone you can’t recover it and you’ll have to work twice as hard if you don’t start now.

And while you’re at it, don’t forget to take advantage of IRAs (Roth or Traditional) as well. That’ll put an extra $6000 in your retirement bank book every year if you can hit the limit.

Lowering Housing Costs (and other big costs)

Hovering somewhere between 30 to 45%, housing is still the largest expense for most people. So finding ways to lower this expense frees up a large part of one’s salary for dividends producing investments. And there are some great options other than moving in with parents or getting roommates.
If you haven’t already purchased a home then purchasing a small multifamily like a duplex, triplex, or quad, rather than a single-family home can be lucrative and cost-saving at the same time.

It’s called house hacking. You can live in one unit and rent out the other unit/s.

The income from those units covers the mortgage, taxes, maintenance, and insurance for the home while simultaneously giving you a little extra income. Each payment will chip away at the mortgage until you own the property completely, and you didn’t have to make the monthly payments! With interest rates still low, and economic confidence still running high, it’s a great time to get a mortgage for a house. I wish someone had told me about this when I was just graduating from college.

I won’t even discuss that you get additional benefits of first time home buyer rates and credits. In the future, when you are ready to branch off to a single-family, you can keep renting all the units and use the property as an income-producing investment property. Not only does it add income but it also lowers your taxes. Brandon Turner from BiggerPockets and countless others have gone this route and set themselves up with passive income to replace their jobs or supplement their day jobs. This method might not be right for everyone’s situation – especially if you have no desire to be a landlord, but it’s an option where if possible and you are willing can be one of the fastest ways to get on the track to financial security.

 

If you already have the 30-year mortgage, then house hacking isn’t much of a viable option but there are other ways to lower your housing costs, like taking advantage of the low-interest rates currently available or lowering costs on other areas like property taxes or homeowner insurance.

Defining your financial future

We have a lot of fear about the future. Especially around if we are doing enough now, sacrificing enough of our current happiness for the future millions you’ll need to survive. But we don’t have to give up avocado toast and all we hold dear to achieve our financial goals. What we need is a clear(ish) vision of where we want to be.

You need to do define YOUR financial vision for the future so you can see what you’ll need to do to get there.

Do you want to be debt-free living in your paid-off house? Travel the world like a nomad? Have a passive income to pass to your children? What does your unique financial future look like?

If you have no idea what you want, then you can’t plan appropriately and have every right to be worried. But if you hash out your plans, make cushions for the unexpected, and determine how much they cost, then you can start funding your dreams appropriately.

Maximizing your tax savings

The fastest way to increase your wealth is to keep more of what you earn by lowering your taxes. The more money you have is the more and better options you have for investing.

The new money advice regarding taxes is to pay what you owe but maximize the advantages that are allowed to deduct.

The first stop is appropriately defining your exemptions on your W4. Then maxing out your HSA contributions which have a triple tax benefit, contributing to a dependent care FSA if you have kids of taking care of your parents, contributing to individual retirement accounts/401ks, and contributing to you state 529 (state specified tax benefits) plan to bring home more money.

These tax-advantaged accounts allow you to lower your tax bill, put more of your money back in your pocket, while still preparing for the future.

So help the economy (debatable) but definitely help yourself and take advantage of the opportunities to keep more of your hard-earned money.

Keep learning

Do you know what the top 1% of earners all have in common?

They read with the purpose of learning, increasing their knowledge, and investing in themselves.

International author on habit and wealth creation, Thomas Corley, interviewed 233 wealthy individuals (177 of whom were self-made millionaires) with at least $160,000 in annual gross income and $3.2 million in net assets over the course of 3 years and found that:

• 85% read two or more books a month for education and learning purposes
• 63% listened to educational audiobooks during their commute to work
• 88% read 30 minutes or more each day for purposes of education and learning
• 58% read biographies of famous successful people
• 51% read history books
• 55% read a self-help book

So what does that mean for Millennials? If you want to secure your financial future you must always keep learning, be perfecting your craft, and broadening your knowledge in any area of interest. It doesn’t matter how unrelated it is to your profession. Reading just to learn – regardless of how remote the relation to your profession – is deciding to invest in yourself.

You’ll learn other tips for success, savings, and improving your financial future and your life in general.

Diversifying Income Streams

Diversification is another oldie, but this isn’t limited to your investment portfolio. We need to diversify their cash flow by having multiple sources of income in the same way that diversification allows you to balance the economic downturns of one area with successes in another.

Your primary job or 9-5 is one source of income, if you lose your job, then you’ve lost your only source of income. For long-term wealth, create additional cash flows – rental income, selling products on Etsy, offering consulting services, filling out surveys, the list goes on.

It’s so easy to find blogs, books, and articles about finding additional income sources and everyone today has a side hustle of some kind anyway. Don’t laugh, this is real talk. It’s what the self-made ‘I wasn’t born with a silver spoon ‘ millionaires do.

Thomas Corley’s research found that self-made millionaires do not rely on one singular source of income. He also added that “They develop multiple streams. Three seemed to be the magic number … [Where] sixty-five percent had at least three streams of income that they created prior to making their first million dollars.”

Proof it pays to diversify your income streams.

Having Multiple Exit Strategies

We know just how quick and how bad a good deal can go sideways, and how much it pays to be flexible.

So while planning for the best-case scenario, create your ‘bug out plan’ which details what you’ll in the worse. How will you preserve your cash, what bills will you cut or reduce, what will you cash out to become more liquid. Get very clear in your mind what the worse case will look like – how much you will have, how long it will last, and what you will do when it runs out.

Nothing lasts forever – not even emergency funds. And we can’t prepare for everything, but having investment vehicles, with multiple exit strategies to protect ourselves is essential.

For example: If investing in rental properties, houses must have some equity where it can be sold for profit, lease optioned or moved into as a primary residence. Stock market investments are ones where the contribution can be withdrawn without penalty if the situation changes.

Be Aggressive At Cutting Unnecessary Spending

The key to finding financial independence when you’ve lost over a decade of time is being extremely thoughtful with how you spend.

No one is saying you need to live off beanies and weenies, but you can’t have every lavish thing now that you really don’t care about, and expect to still have money available for the things you love too.

Pick the things you love and splurge on those, and mercilessly cut the things you don’t.

 

Lastly, Be Patient

Be patient with yourself, your finances, and your progress. 

If you need to clean up some debts or mistakes first, then give yourself time, space, and compassion to do so.

Sometimes it’ll take you longer to ramp up on your goals because life is happening – kids need braces or babies are still in daycare and that’s sucking up your free funds. 

Don’t be angry or discouraged that you can’t move as fast as you want. Give yourself time to move from the current situation to one that is most feasible for you to take your financial situation to the next level.

So let’s do it

The rules are different now. The economic climate is too.

We can’t expect that saving alone at 0.01% interest rate will produce enough funds to sustain us until we die. And there is no pension coming to supplement where we fall short.

If we want to have long-term wealth we have to change the game, how we think, and how we play to win. If you’ve never heard the new strategy before, then check it out! I guarantee you’ll be excited by what you find.  If you’ve heard it before but haven’t done it. Then now is the time.

Don’t wait until you need to use the funds to start accumulating it.

You can do this!

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