What’s in the way of financial independence?

Kristia van HeerdenLatest, OUTstanding

The amount of money we need to be financially independent is so huge that saving it takes years for most people. Once you add time to money, the inflation monster starts to feed. Its favourite meal is your money. To fight this dreadful beast, you need to invest so your money can grow at a faster rate than inflation can eat it. Most investors concern themselves with finding the final mix of asset classes and investment instruments to meet this goal.

This all seems very complicated, but there are only four things that can stand in the way of your success. Luckily they can all be overcome if you understand them. Even better, they are all really easy to understand.

You don’t have enough time

The main ingredient for compounding is time, not money. Even a small amount of money saved in the right way for long enough can turn into a big sum. The mistake most of us make is to put off savings until we “earn more money”. The longer we kick the can down the road, the harder we have to work to catch up. When it comes to long-term savings, don’t worry about how much money you have. Your biggest concern is time. The more time you have, the less money you need to save.

Your cost of living is too high

The amount of money you need to be financially independent is based on how much you spend every month, not how much you earn. If you are just starting out, you are in a wonderful position to keep your spending where it is now and watch independence catch up with you.

If you don’t see any areas where you can cut spending, resolve to never again increase your monthly expenses unless you have to take care of more family members. Your goal is to widen the gap between what you earn and what you spend. Use the earnings and savings ratios to keep you on track. Remember, money you spend today is lost to you forever. Money you save is money that can keep working for you.

You don’t save enough

The less time you have, the more money you have to put towards achieving your magic number. It might be hard to believe, but you already have the money you need to save. You are probably spending it on things that seem essential but aren’t.

Some examples:

  • Rooms in your house you don’t use (the one that’s “for visitors” that never visit)
  • One or more cars that have more capacity than you have family members
  • DSTV
  • A cell phone contract you renew every two years
  • A gym membership you don’t use
  • New clothes every month
  • Trips to the hairdresser (you’ll still have hair if you don’t go, unless you didn’t have hair to begin with or a family history of baldness)

If you are truly spending every cent on a roof over your head, food and education, you won’t find room in your budget. Your job is to get very, very comfortable with what you have. The more comfortable you are, the easier it’s going to be to resist the temptation to spend money on non-essential lifestyle expenses. Gifts, prizes and tax rebates are all for your future.

The money invested isn’t growing enough

This is what we might call a first-world problem. When you get here it means you have paid off your debt, found room in your budget, given your investments enough time, and now the market is being mean to you.

In later posts we discuss different investment strategies for different stages in your life. Whether you are managing your investments, or have investment products managed for you, you will need a clear investment strategy that you will stick to even when the market doesn’t perform in the short-term.

If your portfolio isn’t growing as much as you’d like, do the following:

  • Put off making a decision about your portfolio as long as you can. Buying and selling shares costs money and can have tax implications. It’s a very last resort.
  • Ask yourself how long you’ve been invested and how long you’re planning on being invested. If you have ten years or more to go, stick with your strategy while you research alternatives.
  • Get a few professional opinions on your asset allocation and what you hold. Sometimes another point of view can help you spot flaws in your strategy.
  • Ensure you have the right asset allocation for your investment time horizon.

OUTstanding Money

Being outstanding with your money doesn’t have to be hard. This series of articles will give you all the tools you need to get your house in order to start investing.

This series of articles was sponsored by OUTvest, and written by Just One Lap in 2018.  It’s timeless wisdom that needs to be out there – in public spaces where it can feed into ongoing discussions about long term financial wellness.