Financial Focus: Work to achieve your financial independence
Over the past few months, just about everyone has felt the loss of some type of freedom, whether it’s being able to travel, engage in social gatherings or participate in other activities we previously took for granted. Still, as we prepare to observe Independence Day, it’s comforting to realize all the freedoms we still have in this country. And taking the right steps can also help you achieve your financial independence.
Here are some moves to consider:
Build an emergency fund
It’s a good idea to create an emergency fund consisting of three to six months’ worth of living expenses, with the money held in a liquid, low-risk account. With this fund in place, you can avoid dipping into your long-term investments to pay for short-term, unexpected costs.
Keep your debts under control
It’s not easy to do, but if you can consistently minimize your debt load, you can have more money to invest for the future and move closer toward achieving your financial liberty. One way to keep your debts down is to establish a budget and stick to it, so you can avoid unnecessary spending.
Contribute as much as possible to your retirement plans
The more money you can save for retirement, the greater your feelings of financial independence. So it’s essential that you contribute as much as you can to your 401(k) or similar employer-sponsored retirement plan. At a minimum, put in enough to earn your employer’s match, if one is offered, and every time your salary goes up, boost your annual contributions. Even if you participate in a 401(k), you’re probably also still eligible to contribute to an IRA, which can help you build even more funds for retirement. And because you can fund an IRA with virtually any type of investment, you can broaden your portfolio mix.
Explore long-term care coverage
One day, your financial independence could be threatened by your need for some type of long-term care. It now costs, on average, over $100,000 for a private room in a nursing home and more than $50,000 for the services of a home health aide, according to Genworth, an insurance company. Most of these costs won’t be covered by Medicare, either, so, if you want to reduce the risk of seriously depleting all your financial resources — or burdening your adult children with these heavy expenses — you may want to consider some type of long-term care insurance. You could choose a traditional long-term care policy — which can cover a nursing home stay, home health care, or other services — or a hybrid policy, which provides long-term care coverage plus a death benefit.
Manage withdrawals carefully
Once you retire, your financial freedom will depend a great deal on how skillful you are in managing the money in your retirement accounts. Specifically, you need to be careful about how much you withdraw from these accounts each year. If you set a withdrawal rate that’s too high in your early years of retirement, you might eventually risk outliving your resources. So, set a withdrawal rate that reflects your age, assets, retirement lifestyle and other factors. You may want to consult with a financial professional to establish an appropriate rate.
As you can see, working toward your financial independence is a lifelong activity — but it’s worth the effort.