September 7th, 2012
Road to Financial Freedom
A few weeks back, I was called at a forum to share my views on financial freedom and like many of us do, instead of going to the library and doing a sophisticated detailed study, I googled it. Yes, and surprised or not, I did not find a single article that could actually define the concept in a much needed way. Disappointed, I asked myself what do I know “my Financial Freedom is? And am I really spending some of my quality time towards my own Financial Freedom”.
Being able to spend freely, even after retirement, with wealth building and sustaining; this is financial freedom.
Most people have a dream to get rich…richer…the richest; but only a few actually do so. Pardon me, but accumulation of money is still not financial freedom! Had that been the truth almost all the rich people today would have retired from their jobs. Instead, being able to spend freely, even after retirement, with wealth building and sustaining; this is financial freedom. In short, if I want to retire at the age of forty, I should be able to do so without the worry of how my expenses, those routine and those arising on “act of God”, will be met. In fact, I should also be able to continue my luxuries those that I can afford today. So sorry! Retirement funds are not the best option, especially knowing that the inflation and other economic data will not remain the same. The concept becomes much easier to understand if I say that I want “never be unable to pay my debts.”
A thousand saved today might be equal to a hundred spent tomorrow
Now the task is to realize what an individual’s own financial freedom is. Every person has a different lifestyle leading to a completely different set of spending and saving habits. Thus, it can carefully be said that most of the times people’s living standards determine their need for money today and in the future. Having said that, it is also implied that as the flow of cash increases in a person’s life, his lifestyle changes in response to his circumstances. Nevertheless, the basic needs of a person will remain the same even if he gets the fortune of the England’s King. The ideal time for a person to define himself is at the start of his work life in such a way that as his life changes over a period, you know he gets married and have kids, his needs might change but his lifestyle should remain the same. Also, as understood from here, defining the level of a person’s financial freedom is an iterative process. In short you never stop or take a rest.
What stops you from achieving your financial Freedom? Of course… it’s you!
You are the one who whenever plans for saving or devising his savings to a well thought out investment plan, defers the whole idea to a later date, thinking that you will have enough money and time in a nearer future and only then you will think about it. Let me be very clear there is no universally defined “minimum money” that needs to be saved or invested and there’s no defined time for saving and investment. It is you who have the liberty to set standards and to stick to those. Believe me, you don’t need a wealth manager. If you set a monthly standard and sometimes there might arise an urgent need, you can easily get away with your savings that month since it is you who is monitoring your money and that is again a reason for you to be relaxed as no one can take as much better care of your ‘fruits of labor’ as you can.
There are many other deterrents to savings such as inflation and other deteriorating economic scenarios, but I would also count availability of credit cards as a deterrent to savings.
The concept of “Buy now pay later” has taken so much control of our lives, we don’t realize while using credit cards that this is not free and it will ultimately result in an outflow of cash at a later date.
Sometimes we end up buying more than what we can afford and the result is the ever mounting interests for unpaid cash. Not that we don’t need one, all we must learn is to keep an eye on our utilized limit every time we use our card.
Similarly, bank deposits are a deterrent to better investment decisions. How? You put all your money in a fixed deposit account turning a blind eye to all those attractive investment opportunities available. I’m not asking you not to keep your cash in the bank, all I’m trying to prove is that you have a lot of options to choose from and those you are already aware of.
Taking advantage of progressive markets is a key to successful financial planning.
There are highs and lows in all markets, but investing at the right time, and getting out of the market when the things can turn unfavorable are the decisions that require a keen eye on the markets. It is always advised to take calculated risks. Your level of market knowledge should determine your level of risk and therefore one should enter a market only after careful research and with little investment at the start. Although, even if you are the guru of all risk calculations sometimes loss is inevitable.
Do not put all eggs in one basket
You know, put some money in stocks, some in real estate, and a few coins in the bank, closely monitor market conditions and keep on changing levels of investments in your portfolio based on the market information. All ready for a retirement alarm set at forty! Mutual fund investments are also a good way of diversification. Diversification of portfolio has gone to such level that there has been an increasing trend of global investing. This curtails risk to a greater extent, for instance, if Greece is pulled out of European Union, at least you also have some funds invested in Ajman.
There is another aspect; a sophisticated investment might also mean taxation. If we’re making some gains there’s absolutely no harm in sharing a small portion of it with the government however, effective investment planning might save us from adverse tax implications. Again, you don’t need to be a tax expert but you must know all what’s charged on your income.
So starting from understanding the concept, I have tried to cover for you the main areas of the big deal of liberty from all financial problems. A lot of the decision taking must come from good level of knowledge and with some experience. As for experience, it is again advisable to start with small level of investment no matter whatever the market.
But before everything else, comes the decision of stepping into the wider universe of investments and even before that, the act of saving. Act now so that you have the Freedom Tomorrow!
|Sana Quadri is a Chartered Accountant, currently working as a Chief Financial Officer (CFO). With a 10 years of experience in financial industry, she has developed herself as a competent accounting and finance professional. She has also written articles for The Pakistan Accountants Magazine published by ICAP.|