Before I started talking about financial freedom to members of First Baptist Church of Lincoln Gardens, so many were struggling because of debt. I remember one woman whose trouble started with a parking ticket that was less than $20.
Because she did not pay the ticket, a warrant was issued for her arrest and her driver’s license and car registration were suspended. One day, she was stopped by police, her car was towed and she was given a new summons to appear in court. By the time this comedy of errors completely unfolded, along with a few more infractions of the motor vehicle laws, this woman had no car, no license and no transportation to get to her job. Not surprising she then lost her job and her apartment, and ended up homeless. It took us more than five years to help her get back on track – all for something that could have been resolved with $20.
For many of us, the trouble begins with something unavoidable – divorce, a death in the family, a disease or job loss. Which is why the new year is the right time to strategize and plan so that you can stay on track, even if and when disaster strikes. You have to stay focused and take care of financial details seen and unseen.
How would you feel about yourself if you not only became financially free but you actually started accumulating wealth? Accept that this will become your reality and anticipate how to maintain focus, so that you won’t backslide.
By now, you should be using the money you’ve saved from paying off smaller debts to regularly pay down larger debts. If you’ve resisted the temptation to return to old habits or celebrate with a splurge purchase, soon you’ll be ready to invest in yourself and your future. Believe me, I know how difficult it is to resist those temptations. As you experience better health in your finances you may feel that going off budget every now and then won’t hurt, especially if you’re better off financially than most of your friends and family.
Even when you seem determined to stay in your new mindset, today’s advertising has been designed to undermine your savings efforts. Advertising went from marketing function to marketing feelings. The temptation is powerful unless we’re equipped economically and emotionally. One of the best weapons is to imagine your end years – retirement – and plan now to create the type of retirement you desire.
Have you ever imagined what you’d like to do in your retirement?
Many people have fanciful notions of retiring after they win the lottery or put in enough years at a caring company. Sadly, these options are not reality for most of us. You must plan for the future as if your life depends upon it. Because it does – no one else is going to take care of you the way you take care of you.
Most experts recommend that you should assume needing at least 80 percent of your current income to live on when you retire. If you plan well, retirement is best thought of as a season when you have more choices of how to spend your time because you have the security of enough money to live on comfortably. Yet in the past decade the number of bankruptcies declared by people 65 and older increased by more than 150 percent! If you don’t plan well, you may never be able to retire.
So, how do you start now in order to have a successful retirement? First, create a retirement fund to which you contribute monthly. Next, have a specific goal – an actual dollar amount – that you have set as your retirement target. Finally, imagine what you want your later years in life to look like and take the necessary steps now to begin making it happen.
There will be plenty of things that pop up in 2018 to distract you from your goals. If you haven’t yet, you need to form a support group of people who can help keep you focused on investing in yourself and your future. There’s no reason to take this difficult journey alone. If you don’t have anyone with whom to connect, your local church may be a good place to start or find other participants in the financial freedom movement at mydfree.org.
Saving money and getting out of debt is always one of the top new year’s resolutions. Let’s make 2018 the year when you not only keep these resolutions but you put yourself on a solid path to a blessed retirement.