How to Achieve Financial Freedom

By Sulaiman Abdur-Rahman · May 18, 2024 · 6 minute read

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How to Achieve Financial Freedom

Ever dream of leaving your job to pursue a project you’ve always been passionate about, like starting your own business? Or going back to school without taking out student loans? What about the option to retire at age 50 instead of 65 without having to worry about money?

Any of these opportunities could happen if you’re able to achieve financial freedom — having the money and resources to afford the lifestyle you want.

Intrigued by the idea of being financially free? Read on to find out what financial freedom means and how it works, plus 12 ways to help make it a reality.

Key Points

•   Financial freedom means having enough income, savings, or investments to afford the lifestyle you want without financial stress.

•   Strategies to achieve financial freedom include budgeting, reducing debt, setting up an emergency fund, seeking higher wages, and exploring new income streams.

•   Opening a high-yield savings account, contributing to a 401(k), and considering other investments are important steps towards financial freedom.

•   Staying informed about financial issues, reducing expenses, and living within your means are key to achieving and maintaining financial freedom.

•   Avoiding lifestyle creep and making smart financial decisions can help you reach your financial goals and live the life you desire.

What Is Financial Freedom?

Financial freedom is being in a financial position that allows you to afford the lifestyle you want. It’s typically achieved by having enough income, savings, or investments so you can live comfortably without the constant stress of having to earn a certain amount of money.

For instance, you might attain financial freedom by saving and investing in such a way that allows you to build wealth, or by growing your income so you’re able to save more for the future. Eventually, you may become financially independent and live off your savings and investments.

There are a number of different ways to work toward financial freedom so that you can stop living paycheck-to-paycheck, get out of debt, save and invest, and prepare for retirement.

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12 Ways to Help You Reach Financial Freedom

The following strategies can help start you on the path to financial freedom.

1. Determine Your Needs

A good first step toward financial freedom is figuring out what kind of lifestyle you want to have once you reach financial independence, and how much it will cost you to sustain it. Think about what will make you happy in your post-work life and then create a budget to help you get there.

As a bonus, living on — and sticking to — a budget now will allow you to meet your current expenses, pay your bills, and save for the future.

2. Reduce Debt

Debt can make it very hard, if not impossible, to become financially free. Debt not only reduces your overall net worth by the amount you’ve got in loans or lines of outstanding credit, but it increases your monthly expenses.

To pay off debt, you may want to focus on the avalanche method, which prioritizes the payment of high-interest debt like credit cards.

You might also try to see if you can get a lower interest rate on some of your debts. For instance, with credit card debt, it may be possible to lower your interest rate by calling your credit card company and negotiating better terms.

And be sure to pay all your other bills on time, including loan payments, to avoid going into even more debt.

3. Set Up an Emergency Fund

Having an emergency fund in place to cover at least three to six months’ worth of expenses when something unexpected happens can help prevent you from taking on more debt.

With an emergency fund, if you lose your job, or your car breaks down and needs expensive repairs, you’ll have the funds on hand to cover it, rather than having to put it on your credit card. That emergency cushion is a type of financial freedom in itself.

4. Seek Higher Wages

If you’re not earning enough to cover your bills, you aren’t going to be able to save enough to retire early and pursue your passions. For many people, figuring out how to make more money in order to increase savings is another crucial step in the journey toward financial freedom.

There are different ways to increase your income. First, think about ways to get paid more for the job that you’re already doing.

For instance, ask for a raise at work, or have a conversation with your manager about establishing a path toward a higher salary. Earning more now can help you save more for your future needs.

5. Consider a Side Gig

Another way to increase your earnings is to take on a side hustle outside of your full-time job. For instance, you could do pet-sitting or tutoring on evenings and weekends to generate supplemental income. You could then save or invest the extra money.

6. Explore New Income Streams

You can get creative and brainstorm opportunities to create new sources of income. One idea: Any property you own, including real estate, cars, and tools, might potentially serve as money-making assets. You may sell these items, or explore opportunities to rent them out.

7. Open a High-Yield Savings Account

A savings account gives you a designated place to put your money so that it can grow as you keep adding to it. And a high-yield savings account typically allows you to earn a lot more in interest than a traditional savings account. As of February 2024, some high-yield savings accounts offered annual percentage yields (APYs) of 4.5% compared to the 0.46% APY of traditional savings accounts.

You can even automate your savings by having your paychecks directly deposited into your account. That makes it even easier to save.

8. Make Contributions to Your 401(k)

At work, contribute to your 401(k) if such a plan is offered. Contribute the maximum amount to this tax-deferred retirement account if you can — in 2024, that’s $23,000, or $30,500 if you’re age 50 or older — to help build a nest egg.

If you can’t max out your 401(k), contribute at least enough to get matching funds (if applicable) from your employer. This is essentially “free” or extra money that will go toward your retirement.

9. Consider Other Investments

After contributing to your workplace retirement plan, you may want to consider opening another investment retirement account, such as an IRA, or an investment account like a brokerage account. You might choose to explore different investment asset classes, such as mutual funds, stocks, bonds, or rate of return, stocks are notoriously volatile. If you’re thinking about investing, be sure to learn about the stock market first, and do research to find what kind of investments might work best for you.

It’s also extremely important to determine your risk tolerance to help settle on an investment strategy and asset type you’re comfortable with. For instance, you may be more comfortable investing in mutual funds rather than individual stocks.

10. Stay Up to Date on Financial Issues

Practicing “financial literacy,” which means being knowledgeable about financial topics, can help you manage your money. Keep tabs on financial news and changes in the tax laws or requirements that might pertain to you. Reassess your investment portfolio at regular intervals to make sure it continues to be in line with your goals and priorities. And go over your budget and expenses frequently to check that they accurately reflect your current situation.

11. Reduce Your Expenses

Maximize your savings by minimizing your costs. Analyze what you spend monthly and look for things to trim or cut. Bring lunch from home instead of buying it out during the work week. Cancel the gym membership you’re not using. Eat out less frequently. These things won’t impact your quality of life, and they will help you save more.

12. Live Within Your Means

And finally, avoid lifestyle creep: Don’t buy expensive things you don’t need. A luxury car or fancy vacation may sound appealing, but these “wants” can set back your savings goals and lead to new debt if you have to finance them. Borrowing money makes sense when it advances your goals, but if it doesn’t, skip it and save your money instead.

The Takeaway

Financial freedom can allow you to live the kind of life you’ve always wanted without the stress of having to earn a certain amount of money. To help achieve financial freedom, follow strategies like making a budget, paying your bills on time, paying down debt, living within your means, and contributing to your 401(k).

Saving and investing your money are other ways to potentially help build wealth over time. Do your research to find the best types of accounts and investments for your current situation and future aspirations.

Ready to invest in your goals? It’s easy to get started when you open an investment account with SoFi Invest. You can invest in stocks, exchange-traded funds (ETFs), mutual funds, alternative funds, and more. SoFi doesn’t charge commissions, but other fees apply (full fee disclosure here).

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How can I get financial freedom before 30?

Achieving financial freedom before age 30 is an ambitious goal that will require discipline and careful planning. To pursue it, you may want to follow strategies of the FIRE (Financial Independence Retire Early) movement. This approach entails setting a budget, living below your means in order to save a significant portion of your money, and establishing multiple streams of income, such as having a second job in addition to your primary job.

What is the most important first step towards achieving financial freedom?

The most important first step to achieving financial freedom is to figure out what kind of lifestyle you want to have and how much money you will need to sustain it. Once you know what your goals are, you can create a budget to help reach them.

What’s the difference between financial freedom and financial independence?

Financial freedom is being able to live the kind of lifestyle you want without financial strain or stress. Financial independence is having enough income, savings, or investments, to cover your needs without having to rely on a job or paycheck.

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