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Six Steps to Personal Financial Independence in 2006

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(ARA) – Every New Year’s Day millions of Americans make resolutions to be more responsible about eating, exercising, smoking, etc. With the average per person credit card debt in America at $8,562 and total consumer debt topping $1.7 trillion, this New Year consider committing to financial resolutions by creating a ‘Declaration of Personal Financial Independence.’

‘Many people struggle with living paycheck to paycheck and getting further into debt each month,’ says James E. Stowers, author of ‘Yes, You Can – Achieve Financial Independence’ and founder of American Century Investments. ‘The new year is a time to take a long look at how you’re spending your time and money, and determine your financial priorities. Creating and signing your own ‘Declaration of Personal Financial Independence’ is a great way to put those New Year’s resolutions into practice.’

Stowers recommends the following six resolutions to help you become financially independent:

1. Determine To Make a Commitment

Ask yourself this question, ‘Who will take care of me financially, if I don’t take care of myself?’ Your answer to that question will determine your financial future. Are you expecting to have enough in your savings to be independent until the end of your life? Or are you expecting to be taken care of by the government, a relative or a charity? Can you count on one of them to be there for you when you retire? The best option is independence.

2. Identify Your Wants vs. Needs

Most of us have more wants than we have income. By assessing your wants and needs, you can budget for everyday occurrences and save for the most important ‘wants’ on your list. Conduct a thorough analysis of your needs so you know your monthly budget, and then prioritize your wants by what value they bring to you. You may be surprised by the items that fall to the bottom of your list.

3. Pay Yourself First (R), Then Forget About It

Before you pay a single monthly bill, including your mortgage, rent or insurance, pay yourself first. A simple rule of thumb is to have at least 10 percent of your gross income saved and invested for the long term. Then, fight the temptation to spend any of your savings. Time is your greatest asset, so the sooner you start saving and the longer you keep your savings in place, the more financially secure you’ll be in retirement.

4. Practice Responsible Credit Card Use

Change your view on your credit cards and you’ll become a responsible user. Credit cards provide the convenience of not carrying cash in your wallet at all times. They shouldn’t be used to buy now and pay much more and much later. Start imagining cash coming directly out of your pocket and concentrate on paying down the debt that keeps you a prisoner of your credit card balances.

5. Prepare for a Financial Emergency

Personal, property or business risks will be a reality for all of us at some time. If you don’t provide for your emergencies, who will? Life is full of risks and financial pitfalls. By preparing for those risks now, you ensure the emergency does not have a profound impact on your lifestyle and financial goals. First, assess your current personal level of insurance coverage, evaluating its ability to cover your assets while allowing you to pay higher deductibles. Then, build an emergency reserve fund based on three to six months of living expenses. The reserve fund should remain readily available, safe and income-producing.

6. Get Your Money’s Worth

For at least one month, keep a record of every purchase, listing exactly the item and the cost. At the end of the month review the list and ask yourself these two questions:

* Am I getting my money’s worth?

* Am I satisfied with the way I’m spending my money?

If you answer no to either of these two questions, it’s time to reassess your spending and saving habits. Your goal is to continuously refine the way you spend money until you are completely comfortable with your habits.

Stowers encourages each of us to create and sign a ‘Declaration of Personal Financial Independence’ this New Year’s Day.

‘You cannot accomplish your goal of achieving financial independence by wishing. It takes doing. It takes being committed, and signing a ‘Declaration of Personal Financial Independence’ shows that you are absolutely determined to act,’ says Stowers.

‘Yes, You Can . . . Achieve Financial Independence’ is available by calling (800) 234-3445 or online at

Courtesy of ARA Content