Make Today Your Independence Day
noun in·de·pen·dence \ˌin-də-ˈpen-dən(t)s\
: freedom from outside control or support : the state of being independent
As we drove along the highway to travel to be with our family this holiday weekend, I was amazed and astounded once again of the beautiful country in which I live. The mountains were majestic, covered in green, a lush green that had already turned brown in southern California. Rivers and creeks refreshingly ran alongside the road as the water encouraged trees and bushes to grow and flourish. Wild flowers bobbed in the wind and alfalfa fields were either waiting patiently for their second cutting or hosting the freshly cut bales lined up on the field in perfect order. Small town USA was visible all around me as we drove through communities with flags waving proudly, fences decorated in tinsel red, white and blue garlands, fire work stands begging for customers with their brightly decorated signs. As far as my eyes could see, I was surrounded by the beauty of this country I call home.
Financial Freedom: not a privilege, but a result
This caused a reflection of my own freedom and independence, my freedom to live where I want to live, to shop where I want to shop, to take a time out to visit family, to chose a partner I love spending my life with, and every other freedom that is mine. Thus I began reflecting on my financial freedom and independence; not just a privilege of living in a certain country, but also a result of much work, attention and discipline. Now that I am right smack in the middle of the year, I am reflecting on my goals, and how far I have come from the beginning of the year as I look back to where I am on the journey I had laid out for myself. I know where I am, I know where I want to go and I am rewriting the path to get there.
It was only a few years ago that freedom was not a song I could sing. I knew the words to the song, but the melody could not be played. I had given up every credit card and lived strictly on cash. Not a bad way to reboot my life, yet it came with its own restrictions. What would I do when I needed new tires on my car? What would I do when I needed a new radiator for my car? This is what I did, I sold everything that was no longer essential to my life. The grand piano was sold to a man who needed to apologize to his wife for denting her Mercedes, the sports car was sold to a man who had scoured Craigslist for just my exact car. I gave everything else away and moved into a smaller house. It was time to start again. It was time to find freedom again.
It’s not about the money
Today I have found freedom once again. Whether or not I need car repairs, I have the freedom to have a car, buy tires and complete all necessary repairs. I now have another piano and I have the ability to use credit cards should I chose to. The best thing about my current situation doesn’t have anything to do with money, it has to do with educating myself back to choices and opportunity. Now that it is the start of the second half of the year, I am re-evaluating my goals, my successes, and assessing what it will take to reach those goals I have set, I am reminded of starting on again.
1. Goals. Where are you? You set out in January with great New Year’s resolutions and goals with great expectations of paying down credit balances and then Jr needed new braces. Or like us, the car needed an overhaul so our son could drive it to college and his first job. Go back and check your progress, and if need be, begin again.
2. Check your credit. Surprise! Once again I am going to ask you to check your credit report. The braces you had to have for Jr were put on Care Credit, how did that new account effect your credit?. Have you had any late payments in the past 6 months? To begin again, you need to know your starting point. For a free credit report check annualcreditreport.com or if you want to know your score along with your report go to PrivacyGuard.com.
3. Make a plan. Plan how you will go forward from here. For example, you want pay down your credit card debt, you will need to know exactly how much needs to be paid, divide it by the number of months you are giving yourself to do so and make a plan of how you will find that amount in your budget. You may need to adjust your budget so you can meet your plan.
4. Accountability. The way Weight Watchers works for weight is fairly simple. One of the components of success is accountability. When you know that you have to weigh in with your weight loos coach, you think twice about the food that is going into your mouth the week before. Knowing that you will be going through your food list, you make appropriate choices. May I suggest the same applies to your financial goals. Find an accountability partner, it could be a spouse, a close friend or even your friendly neighborhood money coach :-). Your chance of setting yourself up for success increases greatly.
5. Keep your eye on the prize. It helps me tremendously to have a picture of my goals or a reminder of my ‘why’ when I am working toward my targets. I have my goals written on a paper that has a place on my bathroom mirror. I had pictures of hiking the Camino on my computer desk top, and Jon and I have regular meetings about our goals for retirement. We keep each other on track and making those decisions that affect both of our futures.