Finding Your Way to Financial Freedom

Finding Your Way to Financial Freedom

At WIC meetings I have often heard women business owners state that they have a goal to find “Financial Freedom.” In the instances I have heard this, it is stated as the person’s fondest desire. As a financial planner and Investment Advisor for more years than I care to count, it has been my life’s work to help people identify and achieve their personal financial goals. Based on that experience, here are what I believe are the five key steps to financial freedom.

  1. Define it.
    What does “Financial Freedom” mean to you? When I sit down with clients, I never assume that I know what someone means when they say they want financial freedom. When pressed for meaning, clients identify vastly different targets — from getting and staying out of debt; to owning a home; to running a million dollar practice; to retiring early; to spending time out of the work force while caring for children or aging parents or having x dollars in savings and retirement. I’ve even had people look sheepish and say, “I don’t know — it’s a feeling.” All of these answers are correct; start by defining what financial freedom means to you.
  2. Measure it. Chunk it.
    “Hope is not a Plan.” “Begin with the end in mind.” Anderson Cooper said the first, and Stephen Covey said the second. As overused as these quotes may be, they are words to live by when taking the first steps to financial freedom. Once you have identified what financial freedom will look and feel like to you, determine how you will measure your goals. What will the “end” look like to you and how will you get there? A subset of creating measurable goals is to identify small achievable goals to get you started with the larger goal. When my kids were first learning to read their wonderful teacher told them to “chunk it,” meaning break the word into small manageable chunks. I think this holds as true for big goals as it does for reading big words. Write these smaller goals down and set a timeline for achieving them.
  3. Hire it.
    If all of this seems overwhelming, hire a qualified person to walk you through the steps. A financial planner can help you do all of the items listed above and a Registered Investment Advisor can assist you with the implementation of your plan. Often people like myself do both, simply to make it easier for the client. My clients are often a little startled to discover that our work together feels a little bit like therapy, especially when there are two people involved. While it is important to hire someone who is licensed and registered, it is equally important to hire someone who can really listen and create a plan out of what they are hearing from you.
  4. Don’t make it automatic.
    Recently I read some financial advice that suggested that if you made all your financial matters automatic — meaning paid your bills, your taxes, and set your retirement aside — you would then be able to automatically achieve your financial goals. In my experience, I don’t think anything could be further from the truth. If you are paying bills automatically with little oversight, you can quickly lose touch with where your money is going and wind up in debt no matter how big or how little your income. Audit your credit card bills and your bank statements monthly. This is especially true for the self-employed where income can vary from month to month. Plan for the rainy day and have money set aside for leaner months. Keep spending and expenses steady in highly profitable months to make up for the disparity. It’s one of the most basic steps to financial freedom, but you’d be surprised by how few people practice it.
  5. Protect what you have.
    A good financial plan should include provisions to protect what you have as you attain it. For instance, protect your income with disability insurance and your loved ones with life insurance. While risky investments often provide higher returns, they can also experience higher losses. Remember the movie Moneyball where the analyst believed that baseball games could be won with base hits? It is an analogy that could be used when investing. Take on only the amount of risk that allows you to sleep at night.

What is your heart’s desire? Is it finding financial freedom? If so, how will you define what that is and how will you achieve it? Do you need a little help? Everyone’s journey is a little bit different, but these five steps can get you started and help you find your way.


Leslie Smith, a WIC member for more than 11 years, is a Financial Planner and Principal of Coronado Financial Group, LLC, a state Registered Investment Adviser. She has over 20 years experience in financial planning, investment management and insurance. She holds industry licenses series 7, 26, 24, 63 and 65 as well as a CA Insurance license #0777261. Contact her at 650-571-8132 or Financial Planning services offered through Coronado Financial Group, LLC. Securities offered through SagePoint Financial Advisors, member FINRA, SIPC. Coronado Financial Group, LLC is not affiliated with SagePoint Financial, Inc. Registered Representatives may only discuss/transact securities business with residents of the following states: California, Arizona, Nevada, New York and Tennessee. WIC is not affiliated with SagePoint Financial Inc.

Copyright 2012. All rights reserved. Leslie A. Smith. No reprints in whole or in part without express permission.

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