This past year one of our goals was to explore Europe and see as much as we can. We did a giant loop starting from Croatia on New Year’s Day and made it as far south as the island of Crete in Greece, as far east as Cappadocia, Turkey (which is actually in Asia) and then all the way to the north end of the European continent at Nordkapp, Norway.
Another goal we set out to accomplish is to start helping more people start living a sustainable and adventurous nomadic life. And the fact that we started this site is proof that we are well on our way. As stated in our previous blog post, we have set a goal to create 100 videos to show all of you what it takes to start Freely Roaming.
It is important to remember that becoming financially independent is an important step of living a sustainable nomadic life. That is not to say that you can’t start traveling full time before you get there but just make sure you are able to visualize a clear path before you take the leap.
If you are in need of some help with becoming financially independent, there are some really easy things you can do this year that will literally pay HUGE dividends in the long term. In this blog post, I’m sharing 5 goals that you could set to get you on the path to financial independence.
Goal Number 1: Create a Budget and Track your Expenses
A lot of people, myself included, are not great at doing this. It is a tedious and boring job and super easy to put off. But in order to know exactly where you stand in your path to financial independence, this is critical. This is the first step of starting your process. Consider using an app like ‘Money Manager’ to track your income and expenses to make it easier for you. Other tools like Mint or Wealthfront connect your bank accounts so you can get alerts by notification to stay on top of everything that is happening. By keeping track of exactly where you are spending your money, it will become clear exactly where you can reduce your spending and start getting your money to work harder for you.
Goal Number 2: Cut at Least $100/month in your Spending
This one should be easy once you start keeping track of your financial life. It might take a couple of months to see where the obvious places are to save but I will give you some ideas of where to look right away. In today’s consumer-centric society, there is no shortage of ways for companies to help you spend your money. With everything going to monthly subscription format, many of the things you are paying for might not even be on your radar for expenses to cut. I am not telling you to deprive yourself of the comforts of modern life but I bet if you are aware of all the alternatives available to you, saving a hundred bucks a month can be done by just making a couple of changes. Here are some examples.
Depending on who your cell phone provider is, you can likely save anywhere from $40-80 by switching to a MVNO (Mobile Virtual Network Operator). In the United States, you have basically 4 primary mobile network operators: AT&T, Verizon, Sprint and T-Mobile. Everyone else just rents those 4 companies’ networks and resells their services on top of them. Some of these brands are even wholly-owned subsidiaries of them. This is meant to provide a more competitive price without devaluing the brand of the main network operator. Phone services like Net10, StraightTalk, and Visible Wireless are all examples that offer great plans at a much reduced price.
You won’t really see any practical decrease in your ability to use your mobile phone and save a ton of money every month by switching. For example, by switching to the unlimited plan from Verizon to Visible Wireless, you will cut your phone bill in half from $80 to $40 a month while still remaining on the nation-wide Verizon LTE network.
Other places you might find ways to save money are things like cable TV, gym memberships, and music and video streaming services. Really analyze for yourself how much you are actually using these monthly memberships and shop around to see if there are better deals you can switch to. And finally, review your car and homeowners insurance policies to see if you qualify for any new savings that weren’t available to you before. You might be surprised how much a 30 minute phone call can save you every month.
Goal Number 3: Become Financially Literate
Gaining financial literacy is a key factor in becoming financially independent. You don’t need to be an expert but just learning a handful of the basics will really help you get a good grasp on how to prepare for your future.
For example, learning the power of compounding interest will open your eyes to what just saving a few hundred dollars a month can turn into hundreds of thousands in retirement. Learn how to set and keep a budget. Learn how to responsibly use your credit cards. Learn what it takes to raise and keep your credit scores high. And learn all of the differences between IRAs, 401Ks, HSAs, equities, ETFs, bonds and all of those fancy acronyms and terms that have always confused you in the past. According to the Center for Financial Services Innovation, a non-profit financial services consultancy in Chicago, 72% of Americans are considered financially illiterate.
Set this goal for 2020 to be part of the 28% well on their way to becoming financially independent. From blogs, magazines, books, YouTube videos to podcasts, there are tons of resources available and many of them totally free to help you gain the knowledge you need. I am not sponsored by any of these people or companies but can recommend them as great resources to learn from. I will leave their links in the YouTube video at the start of this post to help you on your way.
Goal Number 4: Start a Side Hustle
Maybe you are not in a position to be able to put away money in a retirement plan right now. I totally understand and in fact most people in America are in the same boat. But there is always something you can do to get started on the right track. If this is you, then starting this new year you should consider starting a little side hustle to create a new stream of income. The great thing about this goal is not only will it potentially make you some extra cash, but it will open your mind to the whole world of diversified income streams and its potential for your financial future.
For example, if you have a reasonably nice car, you can give driving Uber or Lyft a try. If you have an extra room in your apartment or house, you can listing it on AirBnB. If your landlord or HOA doesn’t allow it, get a roommate or even host a foreign exchange student. If you speak another language, you can even teach it to people over Skype. If you don’t have any of those skills, it can be as easy as walking dogs or starting a blog or YouTube channel on something you are passionate about! The bottom line is that there are so many opportunities in today’s gig economy to make a little extra money on the side and it doesn’t even have to feel like work. It can be fun!
Goal 5: Create an Emergency Fund
So for those of you who are really super duper advanced and have all of those 4 goals already covered, let’s push it to the next level and create an emergency fund for those ‘S’-Hit-The-Fan scenarios. Because you never know when something bad might happen and it is best you are prepared for such a situation. If for some reason you lose your job or if someone in your family has a medical emergency, the last thing you want is to be buried right back into credit card debts. At the very minimum try to keep 3 months, ideally 6 months, worth of living expenses in a relatively safe and liquid account like a high yield savings account. Ally, Synchrony, CIT, Wealthfront are all great options to get more than 20 times the average savings account interest rate.
If you have a Roth IRA and have contributed over the years, you can also withdraw your original contribution without taxes or penalties. Just make sure you don’t withdraw any of your gains. This is a last resort as it can severely hurt your ability to retire but still better than to put expenses on your credit cards. I am not a financial professional so please do your own research before you consider any of these tax sensitive actions.
So that is it!
These are 5 goals that will set you on the path to financial independence. Like I said earlier: It is important to remember that becoming financially independent is an important step of living a sustainable nomadic life.
Freely Roaming is not a way to escape the problems of your static life but rather the result of having solved all of those problems.
That is exactly what we are here to do. We are here to help you solve all of those problems.
If any of you have already accomplished all 5, you are a pretty amazing human. But if you find any of these intriguing, I hope you will set at least one of these as something to try for 2020. Which one are you going to attempt? Do you have other ideas that we can all strive for? Would love for you to add a comment below to help each other out with even more ideas that are attainable for all of us in the upcoming year.