Close your eyes for a moment and envision where you’d like to be in 30 or 40 years… Are you sailing to Tahiti? Writing that book? Running your vineyard? Building a new company?
If you had trouble envisioning where you’d like to be, you’re not alone. But unless you can visualize it, unless you’ve got your destination planned, it can be hard to get there. That’s why it’s so important to start thinking about what your goals currently are – whether it’s for yourself, your career, your startup, your art, and/or your family – and take the first – or the next – steps to invest in your future.
What does investing mean? Very simply, it means putting your money somewhere you expect it to grow. It can be traditional stocks, bonds and mutual funds, or real estate, collectibles, annuities, and other things that are expected to gain value over time.
When you’re just starting out, thinking about – and setting aside money for – your future can feel like a challenge; when you’ve just set up your first lemonade stand and barely breaking even, it’s hard to think about re-investing part of your profits in lemon groves that will someday produce income for you.
The trick is to overcome inertia, get started, and make a commitment, even if it’s just a tiny first step.
Inertia is not your friend
Inertia is one of the biggest reasons people waste opportunities to started investing when they’re young.
Objects at rest tend to stay at rest:
If you’re not investing yet, or if your money is sitting in a non-income producing bank account it can be hard to get started or get moving.
Objects in motion tend to stay in motion:
If your money is constantly in motion, if you’re spending everything you make, or if your money is following the crowd to the next big glamour stock, it can be hard to slow down and take stock with a Financial Planner to build a solid foundation.
A study by Hewitt Associates found, for instance, that only 31% of employees in their 20s invest in their company’s 401K plan¹. That means almost 70% of young employees who could be investing in a matching 401k plan haven’t started taking advantage of what is essentially free money. Whether inertia is keeping them from getting started, or inertia is keeping their money in motion so that there’s none left over to invest, they are not only leaving free money on the table, they’re not letting that money grow through compounding.
According to an article in US News and World Report, if you start investing just $100 a month in your 20s, increase contributions as your income increases, and make good financial decisions along the way, you are on your way to potentially retiring with over 1 million dollars.²
How Do You Get Started?
Here are four simple steps to get you past inertia and get you started.
- Find your motivation
We are all passionate about certain things. The more you care, the more focused you are about achieving your goals. Make a list of the things that are important to you and the things you want to achieve.
- Find extra money
There are only two ways to “find” money – spending less or making more. While it may seem daunting – inertia again! – you’d be surprised by how easy it is to discover places you can cut back a little or spend a little less. And, while you have a lot more control over your spending than your earnings, you can also look for ways to find extra sources of income, work more hours, or even get a better paying job.
- Move financial goals up
If you plan to save “whatever you have left” or “whatever you’ve saved” at the end of each month, don’t be surprised by how little that actually is. We all have a tendency to spend what we have, and spend more as our income goes up. You can avoid that pitfall by paying yourself first. When you prioritize saving in your budget and take that money “out of circulation,” your spending will fall in line.
- Get advice from an adviser you trust
The world of finance and investing can be complicated and confusing. Don’t let fear of the unknown keep you from getting started. You don’t need a large amount of savings to meet with an adviser who can answer a lot of your questions. Getting a roadmap from someone who knows the territory will help you get started and may allow for a smoother journey.
Investing in your future is an investment in yourself. If you take these four simple steps, even with limited assets, you’ll be laying the foundation for a lifetime of investing in your own plans and goals, and your own vision of financial freedom.
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