Achieving Financial FreedomIt seems like we just said good-bye to 2014 and just like that, January 2015 is gone too! That means that very soon, almost 10% of 2015 will be history and we need to start focusing on the remaining 90% now.

Why all these percentages? You may ask… I’m sure many of you have made some sort of financial resolution for 2015 and if you’re among the 20% who has NOT quit by now, this article may give you a few ideas and inspiration to accomplish your financial goals.

1. Debt Is The Biggest Obstacle Towards Achieving Financial Freedom. If you’re in debt of any type, whether it be credit cards, home loans, car loans, student loans or any other type of loan, eliminate that debt first. No investment or savings account will return the amount of money that you’re paying on interest fees while you accumulate debt. Being debt free should be everyone’s first goal.

2. Save as Much as You Can. After getting rid of debt, the next big step on your road to financial freedom is to save as much as you can. If there’s one point that most millionaires have in common is that they save as much money as they can; the more wealth they accumulate, the more conservative they are with their investments. And no, this is not about sacrificing your daily latte and adding $4 to your piggy bank. This is about saving a percentage of your earnings on a regular basis; setting that money aside BEFORE it even hits your bank account. Make it automatic.

3. Learn How to Say “No.” I come across a lot of projects and potential investment opportunities on a weekly basis. This is all great since I never know which one may be the next “Uber”, “Airbnb” or “Box”, but I must admit that I have saved more money by saying “no” to most of them than the money I would have made if I had said “yes.” Time is money. Scratch that, time is MORE valuable than money. If you find new deals that will just take a lot of your time and will not fit your strengths or core values, it is best to let them go. Most of the times, you’ll be glad you did.

4. The Stock Market Will Not Make You Rich. Yes, we all know people who made a lot of money in the stock market, but those are exceptions rather than the rule. Investing on a regular basis may get you a good return that will allow you to supplement your income, but it will not make you rich. If you want to invest in the stock market, you will need to spend quite a bit of time understanding how it works, formulating an investment strategy and sticking to it over time. AND… never invest your own money if you can’t bear to see it lose value; you will end up selling “low” after buying “high” and be in debt again.

5. Do Not Compare Yourself to Others. “Keeping up with the Joneses” is one of the main reasons why 76% of working Americans are living paycheck to paycheck. Just because “The Jones” are big pretenders, broke and with debt up to their eyeballs, that doesn’t mean that you need to do the same while you try to keep up with them. Comparing your lifestyle and finances to others will ensure your road to a debt laden life. Another person’s lifestyle will not pay your bills, won’t fund your retirement and will not provide you with long term rewards. Remember, buying on credit means that you’re buying with someone else’s money. Read again points 1, 2, and 3 above, set your own path and stay the course.

6. Surround Yourself with People Smarter than You. They say you’re the average of the five people that you hang out with the most. I always try to surround myself with friends and professionals that I consider are more knowledgeable than me in certain fields. In other words, when you feel you’re the smartest person in the group, you need to find yourself a new group of people that are brighter than you. When it comes to your business or personal financial decisions it’s not much different. Check with qualified advisers and associates first, before making any important decisions. It will save you a lot of money in the long run.

7. Discipline Always Wins! Success in life is never the result of one great action. It is about being disciplined and consistently doing the right things and taking proper action on a regular basis. As I’ve said in previous articles, reaching your goals –no matter what type of goals- is always the result of following your process day in and day out. Any detour will cost you time, money or both. The person that starts early, invests in his/her education, and consistently works to become better in all aspects of their lives (family, friends and business) will always be a winner in the long run.

I have been very fortunate to work with some incredibly talented team members, partners and associates over the years and they have given me fantastic opportunities to learn from them. Some people like to make things way too complicated. These simple tips are easy to follow and will make your road to financial freedom a much easier path to follow!

I strongly recommend that everyone watches this video created by Ray Dalio, founder of Bridgewater Associates, the “world’s largest macro hedge fund” company with $150 billion in assets under management.

How the Economic Machine Works: this simple but not simplistic and easy to follow 30 minute, animated video answers the question, “How does the economy really work?” Based on Dalio’s practical template for understanding the economy, which he developed over the course of his career, the video breaks down economic concepts like credit, deficits and interest rates, allowing viewers to learn the basic driving forces behind the economy, how economic policies work and why economic cycles occur.

As always, your input and comments are always welcomed.  Until next time, this is Manuel Gil del Real (MGR)