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Take Steps Toward Financial Freedom ~ MONEY TALK

By Chiaki Hirate

In two weeks, we observe Independence Day, an opportunity to celebrate all the liberties we enjoy in this country. Of course, there are different types of freedoms – such as financial freedom, which can open the doors to many other opportunities. What steps can you take to gain your financial independence?

Here are a few suggestions:

• Save, invest … and repeat. There’s really no shortcut to achieving financial freedom – you do have to save and invest for many years. And that means you should take full advantage of the opportunities available to you. If you have a 401(k) or similar retirement plan at work, try to put in as much as you can afford each year, and when your salary goes up, increase your contributions. Even if you have a 401(k), you may also be eligible to fund an IRA. Both a 401(k) and an IRA offer tax benefits and an array of investment options, so they are powerful retirement savings vehicles.

• Invest for growth. How much you invest is obviously a key factor in reaching your financial freedom. But how you invest is also important. If you’re going to accumulate the resources you need to retire comfortably and meet your other financial goals, you will need to devote a reasonable percentage of your investment dollars to growth-oriented vehicles, including stocks and stock-based mutual funds. Of course, these investments will fluctuate in value, so you’ll need to be prepared to accept a certain level of risk. Your individual risk tolerance will help determine how much of your portfolio should be devoted to growth investments.  

• Put financial windfalls to work. Whenever you receive a financial windfall, such as a bonus from your employer, a tax refund or even an inheritance, consider putting some of it to work in your investment portfolio. Over time, these windfalls can add up.

• Reduce your debts. It may be easier said than done, but try to reduce, or eliminate, as many debts as you can. The less money you have to pay each month on your debts, the more you’ll have available to save and invest. Of course, some debts, such as your mortgage, can’t be easily erased, but if you can find ways to cut down on spending, you may be surprised at how much progress you can make toward debt reduction. 

• Prepare for the unexpected. Life is unpredictable – and some unforeseen events could threaten your ability to achieve, and maintain, your financial independence. For example, if you were unable to work for a while due to illness or injury, you might be forced to dip into your savings and long-term investments just to help meet your cost of living. You can help protect yourself from this risk by building an emergency fund containing several months’ worth of living expenses, with the money kept in a liquid, low-risk account. And you may want to consult with a financial professional to learn about other protection strategies.

It will take a concerted effort to reach your financial independence – but, like all freedoms, it offers immense benefits. 

This article was written by Edward Jones for use by your local Edward Jones Financial Advisor.

Edward Jones, Member SIPC