Financial empowerment is that feeling you get when you know you’re in control of your money versus your money being in control of you. It’s about knowing what you want out of life, making a plan to reach that point and then acting out the plan.
It doesn’t matter what point in your financial journey you’re currently at, you can still feel financially empowered and, in turn, make better decisions for yourself.
If you haven’t yet reached the feeling of empowerment here are some very practical steps to getting there.
Know What You Want Out Of Life - Think Big
It’s hard to find empowerment if you don’t have an idea of what you want out of life. Your first step is to think about what you really want for yourself. Think big. Your answer doesn’t need to be what you think you’re “supposed” to do or be based off of other people’s expectation. And I promise you that whatever you're thinking right now isn't big enough.
You only have one life to live and fortunately, you have the ability to create the life you want. But first you have to know where you’re going.
Do you want to travel a lot?
Start your own business?
Buy a house?
I'm a huge believer in the phrase "you do you". Thanks Gary Vaynerchuk. But it's true - you need to do what you're comfortable doing in life. And realize that it's also okay for that goal or ambition to change. You're a different person at 18, 22, 30, 35 and so on. Each milestone you achieve in life will also change what you want out of life.
Anything is possible once you figure out what you want and then set clear goals that will get you there.
Educate Yourself - Knowledge Is Power
The most empowering thing you can do when it comes to money is educate yourself. To put it simply, you don’t know what you don’t know!
You can’t make the best decisions for yourself until you understand what the best decisions for you are. If you’re brand new to personal finance you can grab a couple of books like Your Money or Your Life or The Total Money Makeover to get a good understanding of basic money management skills.
If you're not a book reader, check out the best blogs out there. We list the best student loan debt blogs and the best investing blogs every year.
You should learn about things like living within your means, using debt responsibly, saving for retirement and increasing your income, if necessary.
If you’ve got the basics covered you can kick it up a notch and learn something that will help you reach your goals. Like how to invest, for example.
Ignore The Mainstream Media
The media is killing me lately on their view of millennials and money. Millennials are buried in student loan debt. Millennials don't invest. Millennials are waiting to get married and buy houses because they're poor. My goodness... it sounds horrible. But the mainstream media is a marketing machine today, not a truth machine. And those headlines don't speak to the strong majority of millennials doing well.
The mainstream media is also full of idealistic notions that you need to act a certain way, dress a certain way, drive a certain car and own a two story house with a picket fence in the front yard. The truth is you don’t need to do any of this if you don’t want to.
Once again - you do you. You can earn what you want, spend what you want, label yourself however you want. You don't need someone to tell you how you should be.
Most of the ideals of modern society are planted in your head in order for you to spend more money. That kind of clever marketing is everywhere and the more you’re aware of this the easier it will be to stay focused on your own goals rather than feeling the need to buy something to keep up with some sort of imaginary lifestyle.
Make And Implement Your Plan (And My Journey To Empowerment)
Once you have your goals in place and have educated yourself on how to achieve those goals it’s time to create and implement your own financial plan.
Focus on what you really want out of life and take the steps that are necessary to get you there. These concepts aren’t always easy but they are simple and will help you become more financially empowered.
Let me take a second to share with you my journey to financial empowerment. I graduated from college with $44,000 in student loan debt. I paid off my student loans within 2 years of graduation. I worked since I was 16 (really younger, but "legally" since then), and full time since I was 18. My first post-college job paid me $47,000 per year. But I side-hustled and focused on earning more money every year. I saved, invested, and became a millionaire this year at 31.
What were my money goals?
- Pay off my student loans (Done in 2 years)
- Save for a house (Done Twice)
- Max out my retirement accounts (I've maxed my IRAs, 401k, and HSA)
- Earn more on the side than my day job (in progress)
As you can see, I achieved my money goals, and I'm still working on the last one. But they've continued to change and evolve over time.
How did I educate myself?
- I read a lot - mostly other blogs and stories of others doing awesome things
- I listen to podcasts everyday when I'm commuting to work - check out my favorite money and investing podcasts
What's my plan today?
The plan is to continue building real wealth. To continue to maximize all of my savings vehicles while continuing to earn more money.
I'm a huge believer in the fact that your savings potential is limited, but your earnings potential is unlimited. You can earn as much as you want to - as much as you want to dedicate time, effort, education, and patience to it, you can earn it.
And I promise you, if you follow these step, and focus on building wealth on your terms, you'll feel financially empowered.
What kind of steps have you taken to feel more financially empowered?
Robert Farrington is America’s Millennial Money Expert® and America’s Student Loan Debt Expert™, and the founder of The College Investor, a personal finance site dedicated to helping millennials escape student loan debt to start investing and building wealth for the future. You can learn more about him on the About Page, or on his personal site RobertFarrington.com.
He regularly writes about investing, student loan debt, and general personal finance topics geared towards anyone wanting to earn more, get out of debt, and start building wealth for the future.
He has been quoted in major publications including the New York Times, Washington Post, Fox, ABC, NBC, and more. He is also a regular contributor to Forbes.
Editor: John Frainee