Make This Merdeka Your First Day Towards Financial Independence

achieve financial independence

Each national day, Malaysians would rejoice and celebrate our country’s independence from colonisation (for the 66th time this year).

However, as the last firework sizzles and the last cheer of “Merdeka!” fades, each of us would go back to our lives, facing the same financial problems – be it clearing our credit card debt, or struggling to buy our first home.

But it doesn’t have to be this way every year. Here are some lessons that will help you celebrate the next Independence Day, truly independent.

1. Earn more

Most people have the habit of living from one paycheck to the next. It is not only bad for your finances, but also makes peace of mind an elusive goal.

As most fail to draw a budget or cut back on their expenses, living beyond one’s means becomes a habit that is very tough to break. Tough but not impossible.

First, find out if you are earning enough. Compare your monthly expenses with your monthly net salary. If the calculations reflect a deficit, then be proactive about it. Find ways to raise your salary or find ways to earn additional side income.

Having passive income is sometimes a necessity in order for us to achieve financial stability.

2. Manage your debt

The two most dreaded words for us when it comes to personal finances would most probably be debt management. These two words that sound so simple, can be hard to achieve.

Sometimes debts can just get the better of you, no matter how hard you strive to be organised and avoid defaulting or being late in your payments. After all, it is very hard to realise your other financial goals with huge debts hanging over your shoulders.

To get your debts back on track, go back to basics. List down your debts, and choose to either clear your debts using the avalanche (highest interest rate first), snowball (lowest amount first), or snowflake (pay whatever you can) methods. There are different ways to help you manage different debts. For high interest debts like credit card, don’t leave the debts to snowball into a monster.  You can consolidate your debts before it overwhelms you.

3. Have financial goals and work towards them

Everyone has financial goals – be it buying your dream car, or early retirement. However, there are some general financial goals that everyone should work towards.

Most people don’t think about retirement while they are young and climbing up the corporate ladder. It seems too far away, and does not require immediate attention. Later, they regret their ignorance and wish they planned for their retirement at their prime age.

In order for us to save adequately for a comfortable retirement (two-third of our last income), we need to save one-third of our current income, as early as possible. The earlier we start, the less we need to put away for retirement each month and the more we can accumulate.

Don’t let these excuses stop you from starting your retirement planning.

4. Grow your wealth

Being financially stable means having enough financial buffer to weather most financial disasters. If you are at the risk of depleting your saving when your car breaks down, you are far from being stable.

It will be tough to depend on your monthly salary to grow your funds, but there are various investments we can take advantage of to give our money a boost and also to protect it from the rising inflation.

Start small (with just RM1,000) or invest a big sum – both ways work if you want to invest.

Choose investments that can help you weather financial crisis and invest wisely, according to your investment personality.

5. Being adequately protected

Insurance is typically a “just-in-case” product. You won’t use it unless something unfortunate happens. It protects your income and your family from unnecessary financial burden in the event something happens to you.

However, the question is not just about having insurance coverage, but we must ensure we have adequate coverage based on our financial needs. If you are earning RM8,000 a month, your sum insured should reflect that in order to protect you and your family from any sudden loss of income.

You also need to be aware of the difference between life and medical insurance to ensure you have the right coverage for your needs.

With Merdeka Day around the corner, every Malaysian should strive to achieve financial independence. By this time next year, hopefully, you will be well on your way to achieving your own financial independence.

Selamat Hari Merdeka!

This article was first published in 2014 and has been updated for freshness, accuracy and comprehensiveness.

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