How to start your 2013 off the right way with a financial plan!

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Financial independence is a slippery idea.

It is hard to define. A simple Google search yields a fantastic amount of, sometimes contradictory, definitions. The best one, in my opinion, tells us that financial independence is when you have sufficient personal wealth to live indefinitely without having to work actively for basic necessities. Financial independence is even harder to put into practice; but it is not impossible.  It is much easier when you realize that becoming financially independent and amassing wealth is a slow process that takes time, self-discipline and most importantly a plan.  You must be consistent, create good habits to cut your everyday expenses, generate extra income, and put money into some of the following standard investments (i.e., stocks, mutual funds, bond, real estate, etc.) that can be beneficial to you now and in the future. With your time and effort what you are doing is developing a strategic plan that will begin to look like something. So now 2013 is here and you are wondering what steps you are going to take to start your 2013 off the right way to become financially independent with a plan, here we go: Create a plan and make sure you stick to it with. NO EXCUSES!  Before you create a plan make sure you understand the difference between Gross Income and Net Income. Gross income is your salary- the total dollar amount your employer agrees to pay you over a given time period. Net income is what you take home- the amount you earn after your employer makes deductions for taxes and benefits.  People make a huge mistake of budgeting from their gross income when they should be budgeting off of the net income. You must create your financial plan from your net income.  Having a financial road map that is generated from your net income will help you prepare your plan with numbers that will keep you out of trouble and make sure you are not unrealistically assuming you have money that you don’t have.  A financial plan based on your net income will also help you figure out how much you’ll need to retire and then help you determine how you’ll hit that goal on a weekly, monthly, and yearly basis. The goal of your financial plan is to look at where you are today and where you want to go. Then it sets out all the steps you need to take to get there: helping you create a budget, track where your money is going and reevaluate if your money is being spent strategically to help you attain your financial goals (being knowledgeable about how every dollar is spent, saved, or invested is crucial for staying on track). You will also need to make sure you understand how much you will need to retire. You can do this by talking with professionals or, if you are like me and pinch every penny, you can use free websites and calculators. You can type “How much do I need to retire” into Google. I believe that when looking to create an effective, efficient and compelling financial plan you need to identify and be specific with your financial goals.  Financial goals need to be created using the SMART system (Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Realistic, and Timely).  It’s not enough to say that you want to create an emergency fund you need to use SMART and say I want to create an emergency fund and have $7,500 in it by the end of the year by saving $150 out of each paycheck.  Being as specific as possible will make your financial plan realistic by putting measurable goals into the forefront of your plan. Not having a financial plan is not acceptable. Remember it is not about getting rich it is about becoming wealthy (on your own financial terms) and doing more with what you have. If you have no plan you have no progress. Not having a plan will create stress in your life. You’ll likely have more worries about money, you may not know where you are today or how to plan ahead, you could even lose control of your spending and fall behind on your bills, etc. So remember you would not take a long road trip without a map. In the same way, you need a road map for your financial future. A financial plan looks at where you are today and where you want to go. Then it sets out all the steps you need to take to get there. I hope the content above helps you start your 2013 off the right way with a financial plan.

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