7 FINANCIAL PLANNING STEPS TO SET YOU UP FOR SUCCESS (A MUST READ FOR RECENT COLLEGE GRADS )



DISCLAIMER: Let me start by saying that it is okay if you are reading this and you do not have a single dollar to your name.

I am glad that you are educating yourself, that is the most important thing.

This article will help you start your journey. Take your time and work towards financial freedom slowly. It is better to crawl than to regress.

The most important thing I did right after I finished college one and half years ago was to educate myself about personal finance.

After reading Dave Ramsey’s Total Money Make Over and spending most of my time on the internet researching personal finance, I was light years ahead of peers when it came to life options.

Don’t get me wrong. I still made a ton of financial mistakes such as quitting my job before my side hustle became a stable income source.

But even then, instead of getting myself in dept trying to stay afloat, I heeded Dave’s advice and moved in with my aunt so that I could cut my expenses.

It was humiliating for a while, but it worked.

So here are the seven steps you should take towards financial freedom.



1. Educate yourself about personal finance today!

I cannot stress it enough. Spend less time on entertainment and more of it on education.

Watch less family and beauty vlogs on YouTube and spend more time on Dave Ramsey’s channel or on The Financial Diet.

It is a shame that neither our parent nor our education system spend enough time teaching us about eliminating debt, diversifying income and other important financial concepts.

But that cannot be an excuse for us.

There are so many middle aged people or even people in their thirties who live very difficult lives because of financial ignorance.

Spend this time to start yourself off on the right foot so that you will not end up there yourself.

Check out my recourse page for a list of books, podcasts and YouTube channels that I have found to be most helpful in teaching me about personal finance.



2. Find a Source of Income /a way to increase your income

If money is not a problem right now, you already have a job or a business that is actually making you some money, you can skip this step.

If you are working an internship that does not pay or a job that pays very little, look for a way around that by either getting a side hustle, another job, a part time job or a be indispensable enough at work that you can ask for a salary.

I have a few articles based on research and my own experience about getting a good job much faster, writing an outstanding resume and impressing interviewers.

The thing about your early twenties is that you are most probably very broke. 

I could tell you all about savings and paying off your debt or budgeting when you do not have a single dollar to do any of that with.

Do not sit around waiting for your dream job. Take the job that is closest to that dream job and work something out.

Take that low paying job and earn something as you continue looking for some other job or building your own business on the side. 

I know that it is very stressful depending on your parents for money or living on credit cards.

So do something now even if it means taking a job in construction, freelance writing or as a waiter.

You need a source of enough income to relieve some of that stress.

Do not give up on your dreams. They are valid. Just be practical and work towards them.

If you want to start a business but have no capital and no way to survive or you want to be a content creator, that is okay, keep doing that but also get a job to pay the bills.

Get a job to buy yourself the time and the resources you actually need to build your empire.

All the jobs I have ever taken were all so that I could be able to fund my writing until it could be able to take care of me.

The first step for any college graduate is to find a source of income to relieve the pressures that come with unemployment. Any job.



3. Understand and Manage Your Debt

You have probably heard that in 2016, the average college graduate finished school with a degree and $37,000 in student debt.

Whatever your figure is, be it as high as $90,000 or as low as $1,000, you need to deal with this reality.

A lot of people ignore student loans until they have snowballed. Not you.

Whether it Federal, Private or both, you need to read, call and ask to understand the following:

a) the total amount you owe plus interest, how much time you have to repay it and if you can negotiate a reasonable billing amount and period,

b) if there is a deferment option, if you need it and if you qualify for it.

A deferment allows you to stop making your federal student loan payments for a period of time. Some private lenders have this option as well.

c) if there is a forbearance option, if you need it and if you qualify for it.

A forbearance allows you to temporarily reduce the amount you pay. Some private lenders have this option as well.

Once you understand what you are dealing with, you are better prepared to conquer it.

When you begin making some money, your priority should be saving up an emergency fund and attacking your student debt very seriously.

Every personal finance expert will tell you that nothing holds you back from achieving any substantial financial gains more than debt.

Credit card debt

The best advise I got after college was to take a pair of scissors and cut my credit cards. Yes, it was Dave Ramsey. 

I closed down Apps that lend money and stopped using my credit cards completely. May not be the best option for everyone.

A lot people keep credit cards and say that they are only for emergencies, but I could easily convince myself that renewing my Netflix subscription is an emergency. 

You may not need to cut up your credit cards like I did but you need to stop using debt to cover your day to day expenses or to even buy things you do not need.

This is real life and credit card debt leads to bankruptcy and destroys your credit score if mishandled.

If you cannot meet the rent, you should be looking at options such as moving back home, staying with a friend for a while, getting a roommate or a crappier apartment.

Credit cards encourage you to use money you do not have.

Understand your debt and manage it. Do not do anything to sink you deeper into debt.

4. Save up enough for an emergency fund

I cannot stress this enough. An emergency fund will save your life, sometimes even literally. 

An emergency fund is an amount of money you put aside for a rainy day.

Even before you start attacking your debt, you need to have some funds saved up for when life happens.

As a recent grad, you do not need a crazy amount like $10,000 emergency fund.

Just calculate how much money you would need for two to three months necessities if you. 

Because I live with my aunt and I currently work from home, my emergency fund is not that big. When I move out next year, I will need an even bigger one.

Health Insurance

Nothing can take you out faster than a medical emergency. 

Since I can no longer be covered under my parents health insurance, I took out one for myself. It is nothing fancy but it works well.

The most important emergency fund is actually insurance. Make sure you know just how long you can remain on your parents health insurance plan and start planning for when you are too old to ride on it any longer.

5. Budgeting and making sacrifices

First and foremost you need to make a budget and to stick to it. Click here to read more about budgeting on a low income.

A budget helps you track how much you are earning, how much you are spending and how much you are saving.

It is like a financial physical exam and you need to take it every month.

I used to love shopping. I loved buying new clothes, I loved buying makeup and I enjoyed eating out.

Needless to say, I do not do any of that anymore. And those were not even my biggest sacrifices.

About seven months after graduation, I was working a job I loved and was about to move from intern to legal assistant when I made the counter-intuitive decision to turn down the job offer and become a full time writer.

In hindsight it was a stupid decision.

I spent about two months writing, editing and publishing my book and got close to no sales at all.

That is when I started hearing all these stories about how writers made no money selling books but that books were just big lengthy business cards.

I still had my savings and not wanting to blow past them, I went back home to try and chart a path for myself.

Then a family emergency drained all my savings. I was left confused, anxious and completely disappointed.

It seemed as if no matter what I did, I could not make enough book sales to provide for myself.

A while later, I started writing as a freelancer to support myself.

My aunt opened up her home to me and I was able to live with her while I was job hunting in the city.

Giving up my apartment, working long hours as a freelance writer on top of the long hours of marketing my book and switching to a frugal lifestyle give me the opportunity most people do not get, the chance to follow my dreams.

So my friend, you can have it all, just not all at once. Choose wisely. Take up the shitty job, move back home, live a less than Instagram perfect life... for now.



6. Save money and invest it

There are people who will tell you to save money as you pay off your debts while others like my main man, Dave Ramsey, say that you should pay off all your debt before starting to save and invest.

With investing first, you redeem time for your investment to make you more profit.

For example, by investing a year later in a profitable business, you may end up losing up to $10,000 dollars.

On the flip side, finishing your debt first releases you from the prison of debt sooner and you will most likely redeem money you would have spent on interests.

Personally, a large chunk of my money is going towards paying my student debt but I am still putting something aside for investment.

A friend of mine runs a successful Forex trading business and I am saving up to invest with him.

Start saving for retirement as early as now. Read my article about how you can save and invest money on a really low income here.



7. Redefine fun/joy/success and pursue it (within your means)

You may wonder how this is a step to financial freedom. You are young and joy will not be handed to you so pursue it.

This journey will be so much easier if you actually love the life you are building.

Finding ways to be happy with little will help you break the effects of consumerism, years of conditioning by advertisement and consumer apathy.

That is the definition of financial freedom.

I really do not believe in spending the best years of your life cooped up in the house in the name of frugality.

Neither do I believe that I always have to spend money to have a good time. I believe in living a full and happy life within my means.

I will never go in debt just to have a good time or to fit in and never should you.

When luxury becomes an everyday thing, it is not luxury anymore. Life can be enjoyed and lived happily without all the things that money can buy. 

Redefine what fun means for you outside of material possessions and expensive concerts.

For me, I have the most fun when my friends visit me and we spend time catching up. We do not take expensive get together trips to Vegas, we do not even visit expensive places. It is sort of an unspoken understanding with us.

We often hang out in each others homes or do fun activities that do not cost much like hiking and visiting museums.

Once in a while, mostly on birthdays, we will splurge on gifts or dinner.

There are very many YouTube channels and blogs about frugality that will give you an alternative for everything. 

Frugal yet elegant fashion. Frugal homekeeping. Frugal ways to enjoy life.

A quick search on these topics and you will be impressed at how much joy and fun people are having while spending very little.

BONUS TIP

Work towards a dream.

You need to live for a bigger purpose in life than to make a lot of money, travel every country and post cute Intagram pictures.

You need a goal that is bigger than yourself and you should work towards it fiercely.

I want financial freedom to be able to provide for my family and I want to contribute to the eradication of world poverty even if it is just in my own community.

These goals motivate me to make sacrifices and to save up. I also want to live a life where I am able to dictate my time and work on things I am truly passionate about.

That kind of freedom is bought not given. You need to pay off all your debts, save money and invest it so that you may be able to dictate the terms of your own life.
Make financial goals and prioritize them. Work towards them slowly.

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