Dread Mondays? Or is it more like Mourn-day to you?
You could practically see yourself singing the blues to come what may at work tomorrow, when you could be sipping on Tequila Sunrise while watching the sun-kissed skies by the beaches of Malibu.
Except – you can’t afford such indulgent lifestyle when you have bills to pay, children to feed and still save for rainy days, especially for retirement.
You could be thinking – I can only dream of it.
Before you even know it, you are defeated in both your mindset and attitude to financial freedom.
I’m destined to work from 9 to 6, Mondays to Fridays or even on certain weekends and retire at 60. And hopefully I do not have to withdraw my EPF till then. After that, I might lead a somewhat adequate life to last me for the next 15 to 20 years or so.
– Almost everyone else on Planet Earth
What if there are ways to leave that square, boring work cubicle of yours before the age of 60?
What if you have the option to retire at 45 or even much earlier?
If we’ve caught your attention and kept you reading so far, then read on to find out how early retirement is not for the lucky few or the selected ones. With the right mindset, attitude and sufficient financial literacy, you don’t have to wait till you’re old and bent over to stop working. Many people have done it – retiring as early as 35 to 45 years old and living longer to enjoy life in their own terms. It may not be easy, but it is proven to be executable.
So here’s 5 ways to get your finances in check for early retirement: –
1. Clear your debt
The first step is to get out of debt because debt payments weaken and reduce your cash flow. If you can’t even handle paying off your debt, it is hard to see your retirement savings grow.
List all your debts, ordered from highest to lowest interest rate and start with paying off high-interest credit cards. There are many ways to assist and accelerate your settlement such as loan refinancing, balance transfer with low to zero interest payment plan.
However, take note that the most important step to take is to stop spending using the credit facilities altogether if you know you have problems controlling your spending and managing your payments on time.
2. Monitor your spending habits
You need to know where your money is going each month. The two big expenses that impact your wallet the most are housing and food. You may have heard of the advice of not spending more than 30% of your annual income on rent. Do the math and you’ll know if you’ve been over budgeting for your rent each month.
Prepare your own food because dining-out, take-out, and food delivery will cost you more than the actual cost of the food itself. Plus, it is healthier and you know exactly what goes into your food.
Other small expenses that you can cut are underused memberships and impulse buying. The rule of thumb to prevent impulse spending is to adopt the 30-day rule.
Consider the item you are about to spend on. Put it back and do not throw it in your cart – yet. During the 30 days, you will have ample time to do your research. This rule works well for serial impulse buyers. For one, it’s not denying ourselves of what we want, but simply practicing delayed gratification. Secondly, by giving ourselves some time to do more research, you might end up finding better offers elsewhere!
3. Increase your savings rate
Once you’ve monitored your spending habits, you can maximize your savings every month. You can try to increase it gradually by budgeting more of your expenses and increasing your income. It may be painful at first but knowing ‘why’ will help you do this more deliberately. Besides, once you get used to spending less, you will enjoy the hassle-free lifestyle that gives you more peace.
4. Use your money to generate more money
Saving alone is not enough.
You need to use money to grow more money. You cannot invest $0 and expect $100 in return. To expedite your financial growth, you have to invest. Of course, there are risks to any investments, so make sure you have a firm understanding of what you are investing in.
If you’re a beginner investor, study, read up, attend courses, seminars and workshops to build adequate financial literacy. Seek advice from relevant financial mentors and gurus. But don’t just take their word for it. Find out everything you need to know. And you’ll thank yourself for it.
To start off, especially for those that are new to investment, try to invest in low-cost passive funds like Vanguard index funds or exchange-traded funds (ETFs) in Malaysia. It is a low-fee and fuss-free way to invest money that can give higher returns. The first step is to open trading accounts (i.e CIMB ITrade / HLEBroking / TDAmeritrade Asia). There is no minimum amount to invest so you can put in any number that is comfortable and affordable to you.
5. Don’t put all your eggs in one basket.
Having a steady source of income is good. But what’s even better? Having multiple streams of income.
If you have other hidden talents that can be leveraged to churn out some extra cash, you can work during your free time to create multiple sources of passive income.
Passive income is where you get paid over and over again for any one-off work such as writing, creating Youtube videos and online courses, licensing your photos and renting out your car and house. It’s extremely tiring to actively exchange time for money, so passive income is a smart and time-saving way to generate money on the side.
Lastly, do you have enough?
Now, the most important question is:
Do you have enough to retire comfortably at the age you want?
A reliable method of finding out is to use a financial calculator. A quick Google search will lead you to multiple websites and tools.
Since you’re still here (congrats on making it this far!), here’s our very own Synchestra financial calculator (clickity, click!) to calculate and forecast all your retirement needs.
In a nutshell, it is not impossible to retire earlier, leave your cubicle and live your life on your own terms. The key is to improve your financial state by clearing your debts, budget appropriately, and increase your savings by investing and having multiple sources of income.