While saving is one of the most important financial decisions, most people aren’t doing it, since they do not understand how to start. Here Are Five SIMPLE steps

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MM Note: This is a guest post by Todd Kunsman, a 29-year old that began his FIRE journey 3 decades ago. Given the success of the original guest post 8 Steps To Financial Freedom, I asked Todd to follow it up and discuss his challenges when beginning to save and over the past 3 years as he works towards financial freedom.

By the time I turned 26, I had been frustrated with the lack of savings, a fair career, and a general sense that I was just falling behind. It had been late in the summer of 2014 I chose my finances needed a total overhaul and something needed to eventually change.

Even though I have accomplished a lot in the previous 3 decades, I’ve also encountered a lot of challenges from completely shifting my mindset and putting saving first. In the beginning, I made a lot of explanations about not getting started, I felt like I wasn’t making progress fast enough, then I began second-guessing many of my conclusions. However, here are five things I have learned over the previous three years which may help anyone start saving more money and start fiscal liberty travel.

5 STEPS TO START SAVING

1. DON’T PROCRASTINATE — GET GOING TODAY AND LEARN AS YOU GO
Among the most challenging facets after deciding to modify my financing was getting started. How many times have all of us said we wanted to do something, had a notion, wanted to see more, etc., to family or friends, but never really took the initial step to do so straight away? I’m convinced the vast majority of people (myself included) have spoken about doing so and so, but then never followed through. So we do what’s comfortable, which for most people with money, is simply nothing.

The first step was that I forced myself to sit down and produced a spreadsheet of all of my bills, earnings, and where some excess spending was moving. In all honesty, seeing my whole life in a spreadsheet scared me a little. I didn’t stop till everything has been listed. Then once I knew where I had been (meaning how much was I ?), I opened my Vanguard account to start saving.

But I should’ve begun as soon as I was considering this particular journey. I didn’t have to cram everything in that specific instant; I just must get going. I was concerned I was going to make a mistake, but immediately realized I could find out as I go and that I had to begin now or it might not happen.

2. SET ALERTS — MAKE IT A WEEKLY HABIT
The afternoon I started saving, I place a reminder in my calendar once a week to sit for an hour and work on my finances in some way. It could incorporate reading, balancing the accounts, optimizing cash flow, exploring funds, etc..

If a reminder is not enough, install some type of reward for your self which keeps you on the right path and motivates you to work with it. Habit, do it. Trust me, that 1 hour each week will cover off big-time. It’s my greatest ROI hour weekly.

There’s plenty of advice out there on how many times you should handle your money — a few people today say 5 minutes a day, or even a couple of hours a month, however, I prefer to take action a few times a week. For me, I learned you don’t wish to look at your accounts every day unless you’ve got self-control.

This will prevent you from being overly impulsive. For the first two decades, I just logged in to Vanguard 1 time per week, which still may have been too much checking-in at that time. Now, I mostly check in a couple of times weekly, usually via the app. However, I also don’t have the impulse to make decisions depending on the news or market changes. I’m more calculated and trust myself to not be impulsive. I didn’t have this patience at first; it comes with experience.

There is no ideal number of times to check on your account — a few people may be better off only 1 time per month and finally, this is your choice. But if you want to avoid making rash selling or purchasing choices, limit how many times you look at your accounts and do not download account apps if you understand you can’t exercise control.

However, it does not let me do any buying or selling so that I can’t be impulsive.

3. KEEP AT IT – GROWTH CAN BE SLOW AT FIRST, BUT THEN REALLY ADDS UP
After I understood where my money was going and what I’d left savings, I felt somewhat defeated. According to earnings and the loans I had to pay off, the savings amount I might contribute seemed modest. How could I ever reach my targets based on such a small amount each paycheck? It is certainly a discouraging feeling.

It was slow the first couple of months, but then I was amazed by how much my balance grew in 6 months, 1-year-old, and past. Following a year of always saving the identical percentage each paycheck, I could not believe that I had saved over $5,000 (this was not adding my 401k).

Don’t underestimate the power of compound interest. If you have looked into anything with finances already or read other blog posts on Millennial Money, you’ve seen this term before. At first, you read and read about how over time the ability of compound interest is the thing that helps accounts grow exponentially, thus assisting you to achieve your savings or retirement goals faster just by contributing consistently.

I honestly didn’t actually”buy” into chemical interest initially. Crazy right? You see it in all the significant investing books and from knowledgeable specialists, yet I was still doubtful. Plus, based on what I was saving and the passing months, I wasn’t seeing any great returns. But I kept raising my savings rate when I could.

That’s okay though. You’re starting relatively small and the longer you donate and hold particular funds, the greater your returns will be. The growth is slow but does start to accelerate over time.

Everyone would like to get rich overnight, but it doesn’t happen that way for most people. Just stay constant with gifts or give up as it looks like you are not getting anywhere. The most effective motivator for myself would be to have a note that said what my accounts appeared like before I began. It had been enough inspiration to keep me going and to realize how far things had changed.

Now after three decades of consistent donations to my accounts, holding the identical index funds but increasing contributions, I am seeing investment returns over $1,500/year. Did I believe I’d ever find that much in yields? Nope.

Sure, it isn’t revolutionary money, but that is money that’s additional to what I am already saving from my private salary. And this amount is only going to continue to increase year after year (although there can be several blips pending bear markets).

4. DON’T FREAK OUT WITH MARKET FLUCTUATIONS
A mistake I made (and most in investing do at some stage ) is by becoming worried when the market begins turning red. Over the previous three decades, there have been several corrections on the market, which just means stocks sell-off, but then typically recover in a few days, few weeks, etc., These initially scared me and I would end up selling funds after a day or two of losses.

So now, rather than buying low and selling high, I had been doing the reverse which makes you get rid of money. There are times you might want to eliminate a stock or fund, but small changes in the market aren’t any time to fear. Luckily when I was doing this, I had not contributed a lot, however, so my losses were very small. However, this is exactly what occurs with inexperience and not fully realizing investing.

So far in my financial journey, I have been blessed to not have confronted a genuine bear market, such as the more recent one in 2008. But it is inevitable and finally will happen again. So on your reading and study, be sure that you understand bear markets and protecting your accounts, and remember to not panic when markets recession or confront small corrections.

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5. KEEP READING, LEARNING, AND OPTIMIZING
I have mentioned a lot about getting started and being consistent, but one aspect I get asked about quite frequently is, “How can you learn all this info?” Like I mentioned above, patience is a large factor. It requires time to learn and improve your financial IQ, however, it is not as hard as everyone makes it out to be.

When I got started, I truly needed to understand the basics. Once you already have a saving strategy set up and your accounts available, you do not want to get too eager and start leaping into investing. You’re risking making beginner mistakes and losing your hard-earned money.

Google is your buddy when it comes to learning financing, but you do need to be careful as tons of websites let you know the very best funds to choose for your accounts. I strongly recommend avoiding those, unless you do your research on specified funds or stocks. Not many websites give bad information but remember it is your money and your future. I’d rather be in complete control and comprehend what funds I choose, rather than blindly mimicking someone else’s portfolio.

Rather, I taught myself the principles and visited websites that offer fundamental information regarding platforms, financial terms, types of funds, etc.. This includes areas like Investopedia and some of the very best money novels. Additionally, asking any family or friends who may know a lot about finances is also a good place to begin, but also be careful since your family or friends may have outdated ideas.

I avoided jumping in random funds as a post said so, didn’t take any”expert” advice regarding what my portfolio should look like, and stayed consistent with reading about investing. I would consider myself pretty knowledgeable in financing now, yet I’m still reading articles and books weekly and continue to learn a ton. Putting in the time to read will get you the ideal kind of results.

It is funny for me to think back I didn’t know what an index fund or compound interest was in 2014, but now manage my own three investment accounts and write about it as well.

CONCLUSION

My journey has been a massive learning experience and while sometimes I felt the urge to give up, the last 3 years have proved what consistency and fighting through the negativity can perform. I did not go to school for finance and never took a course on money, which goes to show you that anybody who wants to alter the length of their financial future could do so with patience, time, and push.

Have you started your financial journey yet? What are your challenges or learning experiences up to now?

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