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Top 6 Financial Independence (FI) Blogs You Should Read

Financial independence refers to the state of reaching a point of sufficient wealth where one is not required to work full time  —unless they want to — in order to maintain a desired lifestyle. It occurs when people have enough built-up income to pay for necessities, for the remainder of their lives, without an active-income, work-related paycheck. Financial independence can be achieved through saving, investing, and other passive income sources, but it usually means that individuals can pursue the things that they are truly passionate about, such as hobbies, travel, and so much more.

 

If financial independence, early retirement, or creating an investment portfolio are on your radar, be sure to check out these financial independence (FI) blogs and bloggers. Their experiences, advice, and discussions may be just what you need to kick-start your path towards financial independence.

 

1500 Days to Freedom

Also known as Mr. and Mrs. 1500, the 1500 Days to Freedom blog chronicles the journey of one blogger (and his wife) whose goal is to retire in 1500 days at the age of 43 — thereby “[thinking] differently and [escaping] the rat race.” Blogs range from a variety of financial independence topics, all of which aim to “encourage and inspire others to abandon their consumer, spendaholic ways in favor of a more fulfilling existence” and learn how to invest and save money via cutting expenses and smart, simple investing. Learn more about Mr. 1500, see if he is accomplishing his goal by February 2017, check out their blogs, and read more about the resources that helped them grow their money.

Bogleheads® Forum http://www.1500days.com/goal-progress/

 

The Bogleheads® are a collection of people, inspired to follow the investing advice of Jack Bogle (author, blogger, and financial guru), who “follow a small number of simple investment principles that have been shown over time to produce risk-adjusted returns far greater than those achieved by the average investor.” On the site, visitors will find thousands of forums that “emphasize regular saving, broad diversification, and sticking to one’s investment plan regardless of market conditions.” Using the forum site can look a little overwhelming, but there is a great starter guide that will help you get organized — and prepared — to begin the Bogleheads® investment philosophy. Typical forum topics include: investing (help, theory, news, general), personal finance, personal consumer issues, and more.

 

JLCollinsNH

Jim L. Collins’ financial independence blog, titled jlcollinsnh, focuses on a simple path to wealth. Best known for his Stock Series on investing — at times called “the best thing you [could] read about how to invest money” by Mr. 1500 — the blog also discusses anything and everything from money, life, travel, and business. The author began the blog as a way to teach his daughter what did — and did not work — financially for him. As far as what you should do with the information, the author states: “If you read my blog you’ll soon have a very clear idea of my views. You can then read other sources, compare and decide for yourself what resonates.”

 

Mr. Money Mustache

Mr. Money Mustache (MMM) is a financial freedom blog, started by a 30-something retiree, who wants to share his frugal, yet fun, life of leisure — and all that comes with it. Along with blogs, there is an MMM forum dedicated to providing The Money Mustache Community with resources, discussions, and advice on all things financial, investing, and more. However, if you would like to stick with the blog itself, Mr. Money Mustache recommends starting with his blog “Getting Rich: From Zero to Hero in One Blog Post,” and working your way to the classics. If you would like to dive into the community forum, try starting with these steps, followed by the Best of Mr. Money Mustache discussions.

 

The Mad Fientist

The Mad Fientist is not mad. He is a scientist of financial independence…or “fience”…or FI, if you will, which is short for “financial independence.” He wants to teach you, and every reader, that early financial independence is possible — and achievable earlier than you might imagine. “By analyzing the tax code and looking at personal finance through the lens of early financial independence, [The Mad Fientist] develop[s] strategies and tactics to help you retire even earlier” — rather than at 60+ years old. Along with well-researched blogs, he offers podcasts that feature some of the heaviest hitters in the financial independence sphere, as well as a free financial independence tracker. Not sure if it sounds legit? Check out this review from Mr. 1500.

 

The White Coat Investor

The White Coat Investor is a blog started by a practicing, full-time, board-certified emergency physician — who received a lot of bad advice and wanted to share what he learned along the way. It covers financial and investing topics and strategies that are specifically targeted at physicians and other high-earners, but the blog and forum are great resources for anyone who wants to find sound financial, investing, tax, and retirement advice. There is a lot of great content to sort through, so the author recommends starting here, which includes their top beginner blogs. Want even more from the White Coat Investor? Order the book — it summarizes the blog and contains material not found on the blog.

 

The Next Step

Hopefully, these blogs have proven to be a great start on your progress towards financial independence! Other financial blogs are available, but you may find that the six blogs mentioned provide some of the more meaningful advice on this topic. If you find something interesting and useful, be sure to share it with your family and friends, because education (ideally early education) is key to these strategies.

 

Also, keep in mind that all of these blogs and forums are meant to help educate oneself on financial independence, investing, and early retirement. The authors want to offer basic knowledge, but they state that it is up to you (and your circumstances) to decide what will be best — and most beneficial — for you. They do not guarantee performance or returns — but they do promise it will make you think!

 

Disclaimer

Education Loan Finance is not paid to mention any of these blogs, books, or forums. We also do not promise or guarantee performance or returns based on their advice; we are simply informing you of helpful information sources available for your own research purposes.

How to Talk About Finances with Your Significant Other

Money is possibly one of the largest sources of stress on a person’s life and in their relationships. In fact, finances are the leading cause of stress and conflict in relationships, according to a recent survey. It is a topic that many Americans avoid and often include in the same category of heavily debated subjects such as religion and politics. Although talking about money matters with a partner can seem daunting, it is one of the most important discussions a couple can have together. Whether married, engaged, or in a serious relationship, it is never too early to have an open and honest conversation about personal finances and how both parties’ views and habits work together. If you are looking for ways to approach the topic of finances with your significant other, here are some ways to get started:

Are you a spender or a saver?

Assessing you and your partner’s financial habits is a good place to start. People usually fall into two different categories based on their spending habits — spender and saver. Figuring out which type you and your significant other are can help you make financial decisions and better understand where your partner is coming from. Savers tend to look at the bigger picture when it comes to finances. They are looking toward the future by saving for retirement and preparing themselves for the unexpected by saving for emergencies. On the flipside, spenders are more spontaneous with their money and like to enjoy the benefits of their hard work in the present.

If one partner is a spender and the other is a saver, getting on the same page can be difficult — but it is not impossible to reach a compromise. Budgeting is a great way to do this — it satisfies the saver’s need for financial accountability, and it may cause the spender to realize how his or her purchasing decisions affect the couple’s finances. To keep the spender happy, try to work a “fun money” category into your budget as a responsible way to get their spending fix.

What is your current financial situation?

Where you both stand financially is a crucial topic to discuss before marriage. After all, by tying the knot, you are also tying together your finances — and if you are in debt, the other person in the relationship is affected. Many couples who do not have an honest talk about money before marriage are blindsided when they find out their spouse is thousands of dollars in debt. Before taking that step in your relationship, have an honest discussion with your partner where you disclose all credit card debt, education loan debt, or other types of debt.

What are your long-term financial goals?

Take some time in your conversation to talk about your hopes and dreams for the future. Do you want to purchase a home in the future? Do you want to pay off your student loans sooner? Do you want to travel the world? How much do you want to have in savings or investments by a certain point? Where do you see yourself in ten years? In fifty? Talking about the future and seeing if your long-term goals align with your partner’s is a great way to make sure you are on the same page and working toward a shared goal.

The “Money Talk” Is Necessary

Good communication is key for a relationship to be successful — and that is true for finances as well. More than 40 percent of couples surveyed by Country Financial said they did not discuss how they would manage their money together before getting married. Although having clear and open lines of communication about money in a marriage is imperative, many financial experts stress the importance of discussing finances long before a significant other becomes a spouse. While talking about money is a serious topic that can be difficult to approach, it is crucial to ensure you and your partner are on the same page when it comes to money so that you have a greater ability to set your relationship up for success in the future.

6 Reasons Hiring a Financial Planner Could Be Helpful

Saving money for specific life goals — whether for debts, bills, or future expenses — is a long-term strategy that sometimes requires the assistance of someone with financial expertise, even for the most financially-savvy individuals. Like most things, hiring a professional in a particular field can help achieve optimal results. Enter the financial planner.

Before getting started, first realize that a financial planner is different from a financial advisor. Generally, a financial planner is someone who helps set up some form of a financial plan, thereby solving an individual or family’s specific financial situation. Conversely, a financial advisor (also known as investment advisors and other financial professionals) is someone who helps implement a financial plan by choosing specific investments. Even professionals in the field frequently interchange these generic terms incorrectly, so it is often best to fully vet an array of practitioners before making a final decision.

Good financial planners — those who offer sound, personalized advice — could not only help consumers save a lot of money, but they might also help them reach their financial goals much more quickly. You will need to determine in which situations the do-it-yourself approach to financial planning is appropriate versus when obtaining help from a professional might be worth the cost.

First, it is always important to fully educate yourself on the details surrounding your financial plan so that you have a clear picture regarding your current situation. You are always your best advocate, even if your financial professional is reputable and honest. Since you are entrusting this person with sensitive personal information, maintaining a better awareness of your needs and goals can help you find someone that has your best interests at heart rather than someone who is simply trying to sell products.

When a Financial Planner Can Be Helpful

Financial planners are most helpful and generally worth the cost when you need help planning around these specific financial situations or life events:

Starting a Family

Starting a family comes with many financial responsibilities. Hiring a good financial planner can help you navigate, prioritize, and balance the plethora of decisions and tasks that come along with it, such as joining finances, budgeting for children, considering life insurance, estate planning, college savings, paying off any remaining student loan debts, and more.

Maintaining a High Income

If you are a high-earner, chances are you may need help navigating and taking advantage of tax-saving strategies, as well as implementing and managing various financial responsibilities. A good financial planner can help strategize a plan that allows you to focus on making money, alongside maximizing your ability to live and have the life you have worked so hard to enjoy.

During Self-Employment

If you are self-employed, then you know that you are subject to different financial questions and opportunities. A good financial planner — one that specializes in self-employment — can help you get the most out of your business (and money), as well as navigate retirement accounts, variable income, employee care, ownership questions, and business structure questions.

Coordinating a High Net Worth

Using a financial planner for a high net worth can also be beneficial, as they can help coordinate large balances across different types of accounts. The National Association of Personal Financial Advisors (NAPFA) is one place to start looking for fee-only financial planners.

Planning For a Specific Need

Using a financial planner could be extremely beneficial if you have a unique situation with unique payment or repayment needs. For example, individuals with extremely high education loan balances may want to consult a financial planner to determine the optimal debt payoff plan when you have multiple consumer loans such as auto, credit cards, mortgages and student loans in order to find a repayment plan that is most beneficial. If you have never researched how the terms of your current student loan repayment plan compare to the options that are available in today’s competitive lending environment, you should consider student loan refinancing to see if you qualify for lower interest rates and better repayment terms!

Retirement

Near-retirees sometimes need help planning for retirement, and current retirees sometimes need help understanding when to file for social security, as well as withdrawing and extending various retirement accounts. A financial planner can help explain these details, as well as formulate a strategy that can help individuals maintain their accustomed lifestyles during retirement.

More Tips on Hiring a Financial Planner

Before you hire a financial planner (or advisor), remember to educate yourself, including finding out if a financial planner is right for you. Next, consult this Ultimate Guide to Choosing a Financial Advisor — it covers everything you could ever need to know to choose, vet, and decide on a financial planner or advisor. Finally, if you have student loan debt and you or your financial planner have questions on student loan refinancing, talk to the specialists at Education Loan Finance. Our personal loan advisors provide a complimentary analysis of your student loans to assist you in the refinancing of your private and/or federal student loans. Applying for better rates and terms on your student loan is also free with ELFI, and we are ready to assist you in finding the right student loan repayment program for your financial goals.

5 Financial Mistakes to Avoid in Your 20s

For many people in their twenties, learning experiences and financial decisions are plentiful. The transition from college to the professional world takes place during this time, and graduates learn how to support themselves without the help of their parents. It is an exciting time for 20-somethings to be financially independent, but it can also be daunting. When it comes to money, missteps made in younger years can affect people for the rest of their lives. Unfortunately, some 20-somethings do not realize the financial mistakes they make until much later on in life. Here are five of the most common financial mistakes people in their twenties make:

  • Not Setting Financial Goals

Many young professionals are often caught up in the excitement of receiving a sizable paycheck, but they fail to make a plan for what they are going to do with it. Not setting short-term and long-term financial goals can lead to frivolous spending without limits, which can make it more difficult to save money. Think about where you see yourself in the future. When would you like to purchase a car or home? How much do you want to have in savings by a certain point? Knowing where you want to go and coming up with a plan for your money can help you with budgeting as well. 

  • Neglecting to Budget

Writing and sticking to a budget is crucial for everyone, but this is especially true for young adults in the first phases of their financial journey. Without a budget, people might find themselves spending more than they should or even living paycheck to paycheck. Tracking your spending and being cognizant of where your money goes might lead to a realization that you are spending more than needed in unnecessary categories. Budgeting can help with that — it gives you boundaries and limits on what you can spend and where, freeing up more money to save, invest, pay off debt, or get you another step closer to achieving financial goals.

  • Failing to Establish Good Credit

This is another big item. In addition to existing education loan debt, 20-somethings are prone to piling on more debt in the form of credit cards. Credit cards make it easy to purchase things without immediately receiving a bill, so many people fail to consider the repercussions. Often, they will carry a balance from month to month by only paying the minimum amount. Do not make this mistake — credit card debt can be crippling to your financial health and can negatively affect your credit score, keeping you from getting the best rates on future purchases. Instead, use your credit card(s) responsibly by keeping your credit utilization ratio below 30 percent and paying off the balance each month. That way, when it comes time to buy a home or new car, you will be more likely to get the best rates, potentially saving you money on interest in the long run.

  • Foregoing an Emergency Fund

One of the first goals to set when starting the professional chapter of life is establishing a solid emergency fund. Financial experts recommend saving up at least three to six months’ worth of living expenses in case of emergencies. Many people in their twenties tell themselves that they can simply use their credit card for an emergency, or that emergencies will not happen to them at all. However, life is unpredictable — you never know when your car might break down, you take an unexpected trip to the emergency room, or your company needs to lay off some of its employees. It is better to be prepared for anything that could happen than to be blindsided by an emergency and not have the money to cover it.

  • Waiting to Save for Retirement

It can be very easy to put off saving for retirement. After all, you are in the early years of your life and career, and retirement is a distant thought. However, the earlier you get started, the better because that means that there are more years between now and retirement for interest to compound. If your employer offers a 401(k) plan, you will want to start contributing as soon as possible. According to a recent survey, 39 percent of retirees said they regretted not saving for retirement sooner. Try not to be part of that statistic and start saving immediately.

Start Out on the Right Foot

As a young person with the world at your fingertips and a paycheck in hand, making damaging financial decisions is easy — and the moves you make now can impact your life for years to come. To start out your finances on the right foot and enjoy financial success in the future, educate yourself on the financial mistakes people make at this age and vow to avoid them. Set goals for yourself, create an effective budget and stick to it, save up for emergencies, build good credit, and start saving now for retirement — you will be thankful you did.

Should You Save Money or Pay Off Debt First?

One of the most challenging things about setting financial goals is managing two short-term goals at once. What should you do if one of your goals is to pay down debt as quickly as possible, but you want to build an emergency fund or save for a down payment on a home as well? If you are currently in this situation, you know that deciding what to do with that extra chunk of cash in your bank account each month is difficult. The longer you wait to pay off debt, the more you may end up paying in interest — but having solid savings is essential, should emergencies arise. If you are trying to juggle saving and paying off debt at the same time, here are some questions to ask to help you decide which to prioritize.

How Much Do You Have in Savings Right Now?

Do you have money set aside in case of an emergency? Ensuring that you are prepared for anything life throws your way is a fundamental step toward financial health. Experts recommend having an emergency fund of three to six months of living expenses set up to protect against unexpected events. Without it, you could risk falling into more debt. If you do not have an emergency fund set up, that should be your first priority. Pay down what you owe each month on your education loans and credit card balance(s), then allocate extra cash to your rainy day fund.

How Much Does Your Debt Cost You?

Examine the interest rates of your debts in comparison to how much your savings earn you. For example, if you have credit card debt with an interest rate of 10 percent, and a savings account earning you 1 percent, it may be more beneficial to tackle that credit card debt before saving for a down payment or putting more money in a retirement fund.

If you have multiple loans and credit card balances, it could help to list all of them and include the corresponding interest rate beside each. Multiply the interest rate by the debt amount to see how much each debt or loan is costing you per year. Then, write out the total amount of cash you have in savings and multiply it by the interest rate of the account. What is the rate of return on your savings? How does that compare to what your debts are costing you per year? This could help put everything in perspective, not only to help you decide to start focusing on paying off your debts faster, but to know which debt to tackle first.

Remember, the earlier you pay off debt, the less you may end up paying in interest. Therefore, after establishing a solid emergency fund, your next priority is working toward paying off your debt.

Can You Potentially Lower the Cost of Your Debts?

Whether you have credit card debt, student loan debt, or both, there are a few tactics you can look into that could potentially lower the cost of your debts.

If it is credit card debt that is weighing you down, you could transfer your balance onto a new card. On her blog, Suze Orman recommends looking for cards that charge no interest for at least a year, allowing you to have a longer amount of time to pay off your debt without incurring interest. For transferring the balance, she recommends searching online for transfer deals that do not charge a fee for the amount of the transfer. From there, the goal is to use an online calculator to calculate the amount you will need to pay per month to knock out your credit card debt by the time the zero percent interest rate expires.

For education loans, find out if you qualify for student loan refinancing or consolidation through a private lender. People who possess a strong credit history and a reliable source of income may be able to take advantage of one single payment with potentially lower interest rates or lower monthly payments. With the possibility of lower interest rates or lower monthly payments, refinancing or consolidation could take you one step closer to achieving your financial goals.

To Save or to Pay Off Debt? That Is the Question.

You might think the answer is simple — but the truth is, it is a little more complicated. Both options are great financial moves, but the answer varies depending on where you are in your saving and repayment journey. A typical rule of thumb is to focus on establishing an emergency fund first, then shift to paying off your debts as quickly as possible so that you can move on to your other (more fun) goals like purchasing a home or a car. If you already have that fund set up, assess your debts to decide which ones to begin paying off first. Look at what your options are for minimizing the interest on your debts, and put those plans into action. While it might require determination and sacrifice, the feeling of being debt free with a secure savings account is worth it in the end.