The big house. The fancy car. The ’round-the-world vacation. When you think of a bucket list, and mention money, it’s easy to start daydreaming about things that cost a fortune. However, you don’t have to have your head in the clouds to achieve a bucket list of money moments. Here are 8 of the big ones. Many of them are already within your reach.
The comments above and below are excerpts from an article by Paul Michael (WiseBread.com) which has been edited ([ ]) and abridged (…) to provide a fast & easy read.
1. Becoming Debt Free
Let’s start with the most obvious money moment we should all be striving for — eliminating our debt. It’s certainly not easy, and it’s not something that can be done quickly. This requires careful planning, a lot of willpower, and the willingness to forgo the little luxuries we all like to have in our daily lives, but it can be done.
One way to do this is by snowballing your debt. You take the smallest debt you have, perhaps a store card or a loan, and you figure out a way to pay as much off that balance as you can each month. While you’re doing this, you pay the minimum on your other debts. When that small debt has been paid off, you apply that to the next debt on your list, and just keep going. Eventually, you’ll have everything paid off, including the car and the mortgage. What does “eventually” actually mean? It might be a few years, but if you stick to it, you’ll achieve your goal.
2. Putting Work That You Love Ahead of Salary
All too often, we do work that doesn’t really fulfill us, but gives us the money to pay the bills, save for a college fund, and go away on vacation every year. However, as we spend most of our lives working, it makes sense that the job should be one that really brings us happiness.
By following some of the advice mentioned earlier, it is possible to put salary and benefits second to job satisfaction and, when you don’t need the money, the job market looks very different. Suddenly, your options are wide open. If you love working with animals, you can leave the rat race to care for dogs and cats. If you love working with children, or the elderly, you can find careers in those fields. They don’t pay as much, but the rewards to your soul are much greater.
3. Building a Solid Emergency Fund
Some 50 years ago, you could start a job at a company in your youth, and with hard work and dedication, retire from that same company 40 years later. That time has passed. These days, corporations are constantly looking for ways to cut costs and give greater value to their shareholders. That means mergers, streamlining, and of course, layoffs.
When the worst happens (and it will probably happen more than once in your lifetime), you need to be adequately prepared. Experts say your emergency fund should have three to six months’ living expenses in it. Some say more, especially when the economy tanks and jobs are scarce.
How do you do that, especially when you’re trying to pay down debt? You need to first set a target — how much will be in the fund? Then, you need to take advantage of great interest rates, low or no-fee accounts, and apps like Acorns that invest the change from every transaction. Put a dedicated amount to one side each month, and stick to it. If that means no eating out, or no trips to the cinema, so be it. Once your fund is established, you can loosen the reins a little.
4. Creating a Last Will and Testament
Very few people like the idea of creating a will. The whole idea of planning for a life that does not have you in it is morbid to say the least, but it’s essential, especially if you have family and have specific ideas about who gets your possessions.
With a will, you can ensure that your last wishes are met. You can name an executor, who will take on the task of wrapping up your affairs. You can be very specific about who gets what, and how it is all divided. You can name a guardian for your children and pets, and a property manager. This is all very important. If you do die without a will in place, it can lead to a lot of infighting and malice and, in some cases, it can split families apart. The state will decide how to distribute your belongings, and it will not be done with the delicacy or care that you would like.
5. Earning Passive Income
Passive income is a way to earn money using little-to-no effort, usually from a business or venture you have set up yourself. Examples of passive income include earnings from rental properties, royalties from intellectual property (books, songs, software, etc.), investment portfolios, renting out tools and equipment, and even interest from lottery winnings. The latter is not something you have much control over, but everything else is achievable.
Look for ideas on ways to make lucrative money on the side without the need for a lot of regular work. It may take some serious elbow grease on the front end, but once that’s established, you can sit back and watch the money come rolling in.
6. Buying Something Big With Cold, Hard Cash
This one is certainly not as important as the money moments preceding it, but it’s worth aiming for. When you can buy something big (a car, a house, a boat, an RV) with cash, you have so much more power to negotiate, and you will save a staggering amount of money because you are not paying compound interest.
Let’s look at a home. Cash buyers usually get a discount, and even if it’s only 3%, that can mean $6,000 on a $200,000 home. So let’s say the cash price is $194,000, versus the $200,000 mortgage price, and the mortgage buyer puts down 10%. Over 30 years at 4%, that $180,000 loan has become around $310,000! By paying cash up front, you are literally saving the cost of another smaller home. It’s not easy, but once you pay off your debts, you can quickly accumulate income. With some savvy investing, you could one day feel the satisfaction of saying “And how much if I pay cash – right now?”
7. Negotiating a Higher Salary
Some people work hard, put in the hours, and accept the 3% raise they get each year, which barely covers the rising cost of living. Other people grab life by the throat, and get a bump in pay simply by asking for it. Before you do it, you’ll need some good data on your side.
First, look at the position you are in on Salary.com and Glassdoor. What are people being paid at other companies in your area? Are you earning a competitive salary, or are you underpaid? (If you’re overpaid, you may want to hold off on asking for even more…that could backfire).
Next, assemble all the reasons that you believe you are owed more money. Did you save the company a lot of money? Did you bring in new accounts? Did you work 70-hour weeks all year long? Just like buying a car, you want to do your homework. Then, call a meeting with the boss, and lay it all on the line, politely but assertively.
8. No Longer Living Paycheck to Paycheck
The number of people living paycheck-to-paycheck in America may surprise you. It’s not 1 in 4, or even half of us. No. 3 out of every 4 Americans are struggling to make ends meet.
For many, it’s a case of not being paid enough, or having crippling debt repayments. For others, it’s more about bad budgeting and excessive spending. Whatever the reason, you should have a plan to get beyond living paycheck to paycheck. Have a big enough cushion in the bank to make life more comfortable and cut out the expenses that are dragging you down. With dedication, you could be one of those people who doesn’t count the days to the next check going in the bank.