The definition of financial independence varies from person to person and comes in all shapes and sizes. However, a common thread across all financial plans is to be able to fund living expenses throughout life without being a burden on loved ones. While this goal may seem simple and obvious, it is often overlooked, particularly in early adulthood. This begs the question, “How do I set myself up to find financial independence?” Ultimately, obtaining financial independence is like pruning a tree; best done a little bit at a time to make room for future growth. As a college student I have had the opportunity to see my peers in a variety of positions when it comes to financial independence, ranging from not having their own bank accounts to saving money for retirement and building credit. A few points in particular come to mind for me when I think about how best to set the stage for achieving financial independence.
Communication is Key
Ignorance is bliss until things like health insurance and a phone bill get dropped in your lap. If you are dependent on someone in any capacity, understanding their intentions and comparing those intentions with your plans is critical. Avoiding important conversations can lead all parties to a worse position. While not uncommon, young adults who are dependent on someone such as their parents should make an effort to maintain frequent communication. By all means you should accept financial support; however, trouble can be around the corner if you don’t have a plan in place for when the aid disappears. Communicating and planning can be the best way to ensure success with a minimal amount of stress. While finances can be a taboo topic in some households, sitting down and discussing a plan is optimal for both the provider and the dependent. Surprises are rarely a good thing, especially when it comes to finances, so avoiding them and setting clear expectations is a great step.
Identify the Finish Line
Reaching financial independence allows you to be in control of the thermostat. It means you can say “no” to those around you with no financial backlash. The moment you don’t rely on anyone else for health insurance, internet, phone service, and housing, you are free to do as you please with no emotional strings attached to your finances. However, identifying that path can be less than straightforward. It is important to clearly identify what financial independence means to you at any point in time. For instance, someone nearing the end of college versus an individual nearing the end of their working years will have drastically different definitions of financial independence. Getting in the habit of identifying your current financial independence goals will help you hone in on the finish line as you move forward.
Create Your Roadmap
Once you know what the finish line looks like, you can determine how you are going to cross it. While circumstances vary, attaining an appropriate level of employment likely resonates with all young adults. To determine what “appropriate” means to you, it is worth looking at and projecting your desired expenses. While this exercise can be daunting, understanding what your outlay looks like gives you a leg up when evaluating different opportunities in terms of whether the compensation meets your goals.
Money Means Emotions
When it comes to financial independence for young adults, there are many psychological factors at play. The notion of taking on the expense of services that have been provided to you for free for your whole life can be stressful. On top of that, financial independence is not without its own hardships. Downgrading your lifestyle to accommodate your new means can be a tough idea to wrestle with. As you work toward financial independence, your quality of living will likely go down before going back up. Pushing your kids’ bedtime back is a lot easier than making it earlier. Decreasing your quality of life may be inevitable as you try to attain financial independence, but it is likely necessary to set yourself on the right track. As a bit of a foodie, the biggest quality of life change I noticed after going to college was the deterioration in the quality of food I could afford. I certainly was not able to afford the diet I was accustomed to while living with my parents. That being said, tightening your belt financially is not all struggle, starvation, and slow service. Becoming independent is a two way street that ultimately feels liberating, given time. Giving up some of life’s luxuries is likely the first and most difficult step in the right direction. In the end, owning your expenses and providing for yourself sets you up to find financial peace and clarity.
I will be the first to say that financial independence can seem daunting as a young adult. However, the more self-reliant you become, the more liberating it feels. Despite the process entailing hard work and emotion inducing moments, nobody ever comes out wishing they could go back to being dependent on others. When you are pruning a tree, the first days after pruning will always be the most difficult. Instead of using those resources freely, the tree will have to delegate them to the areas that were cut off. While the tree may initially struggle, pruning ultimately promotes growth and prosperity. In the long run the tree will be stronger, happier, and healthier.
The information provided herein is for educational purposes only, and should not be construed as advice, including, but not limited to tax, legal, insurance, investment, or retirement advice. For your specific planning needs, please seek the advice of Integris Wealth Management, your tax accountant, attorney, insurance agent, or other professional as appropriate. Investing involves the risk of loss.