Our journey to Financial Independence

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7 Steps To a Great Start With Personal Finance

Personal finance is just that. Personal. Yet there is a lot to learn from other people’s stories. It isn’t straightforward as a I learned when I graduated.

Everything changed the day I left University. I left Switzerland for the UK. A new country meant a new financial system. It also meant losing my financial security net.

“But Lionel, you are Swiss of course you can manage money”

My gosh, have I cursed, the reputation the Swiss bankers gave us… Yet I can’t deny it, I have a passion for personal finance. There I said it… a walking stereotype that’s what I am. The good news is I’ve learned some stuff along the way. Keep reading to start your journey with Personal Finance

1 Download a Budgeting App

Personal Finance through expense tracking
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The first thing you should do is get an expense tracking app. It’s stores all my current accounts, credit cards and saving accounts. I’m able to visualize all my expenditures, find the hidden money sinks, and track my overall wealth.

I personally use Emma, it categories my expenses automatically! As soon as I get close to reaching a budget –  I receive a notification. I had no excuse for forgetting to track an expense. Not only could I visualize my expenses – I got to know myself.

I have now set up an external sheet for my budget but I still use Emma daily. It keeps me on top of my finances with one quick stop.

2 Apply the 50-30-20 Rule

At the start of my personal finance journey, it was difficult to grasp what my spending targets should be. After learning about Elizabeth Warren’s 50-30-20 rule. I had found a framework on which to base my decisions.

It suggests you should spend your after-tax income as follows:

  • 50% for needs (rent, food, transport, insurance)
  • 30% for wants (entertainment, gym, holidays)
  • 20% for savings (investments, paying off debt, saving accounts)

This rule helped me when deciding which country I should move to when graduating. And whether it was financially sound to do so. Since moving to the London, I’ve aimed at decreasing the 50% to grow my savings.

I have managed to shift take it down to around 40% in a couple of years. I cannot say I have achieved my goal but I am on my way.

Currently, I’m saving 43% of my income mostly supported by lockdown diminishing my expenses. Thankfully, it has lead me to increasing my investment rate to 25%. I mostly invest through Vanguard and ETFs although I also invest through Trading 212. (You can get 1 free share worth up to £100/$100 with my link.)

Wealth consists not in having great possessions, but in having few wants. — Epictetus

3. Paying off debt is an investment

Debt is like a weed. It will grow especially if you ignore it. Paying off your credit card debt should be at the top of your priorities. Most of the money they make comes from the predatory APR interest rate they charge.

When you pay off a debt you do not only increase your credit score. You lower your future debt as you curb the interest growth.

4. Build an emergency fund

Since COVID-19 hit I have become a massive Emergency Fund advocate. I keep upwards of 3 months of expenses saved at all times. It allows me to keep my mind at ease. When the ghost of unemployment comes looming — I have breathing room.

Whenever I need to tap into this fund my priority is to refuel it as soon as possible. You can learn more about how to build your own with my article “How to Build an Emergency Fund in 2020“.

5. Check your finances daily

Every day, I take a couple of minutes to go through my budgeting app. It helps in making the money real. I know where, when, and what I spent.

Of course, I end up letting myself down every now and then; but my impulse purchases have gone down tremendously. Instead of treating “mistakes”. they are now learning opportunities.

6. Educate yourself

I try and read as much as I can about financial law, investment opportunities, and saving tips. The world of personal finance is ever-changing and different from 1 country to the next. Researching what applies to your area will help you grow and be critical about what you read online.

“Winning at money is 80 percent behavior and 20 percent head knowledge.” — Dave Ramsey

7. There is no "get rich quick"

When I started reading about personal finance; every other article talked about the X trick. I quickly learned that there is no such thing as easy money. Passive income is not a myth but it takes a lot of work before it becomes sustainable.

Take your time, let your money grow, and be disciplined it will all come eventually. Remember that passive income although it’s attainable is often looked at through rosy lenses. You can learn more here “Passive Income It’s All a Lie“.

Here’s the major problem with going on strike for more money: You cannot get rich by demand! — Jim Rohn

Personal Finance Is Worth It

Starting off with personal finance isn’t an easy thing. It takes rigor, discipline, and courage. It means tracking expenses and making every penny count. Yet, I find it freeing. It gives me control over my life and lets me decide where I’m going. You’ve now seen a few of my tricks. I hope they will help you begin this exciting journey.

Share you experience of Personal Finance and what gave you the bug! I would love to hear your thoughts and tips.


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  1. Call me old fashioned but I like getting cash out as it helps me keep track of how much I’m spending.

    I find with debt/credit cards your spending doesn’t seem as real, which is when I get more nasty surprises where I’ve spent more than I intended (usually on the small things like drinks and snacks!), though I can see how a tracking app like Emma would be a massive help!

    The 50-30-20 is a great approach, especially as the 30 part can easily get out of control!

    Thanks for sharing!

  2. These are great tips for someone who is just beginning their journey on the path to financial independence. I like the 50/30/20 rule, but as someone who did not save for retirement when I was younger, I’m having to save way more than 20% now. There are creative ways to catch-up retirement savings after a late start, it can be done!

  3. These tips are super useful! I already bought a physical budget planner to keep track of my expenses – I find it a lot better to keep the overview and I don’t get distracted by other notifications whilst filling it in. I check my banking app at least once a day, to make sure I have enough money for the automatic withdrawels that happen throughout the month, and I make sure to always put a bit of money into my savings account when I receive my salary. That way I restrain myself from splurging too much.

  4. “Making the money real” certainly requires considerable effort for the many of us who primarily go cashless, does’t it… Nice suggestion on keeping daily tabs on expenditure – so simple yet quite effective as you become hyper-aware of your balances & that keeps you in check nicely (unless there’s a shop nearby full of beautiful shoes 🙂

  5. I don’t have a budgeting app, but I do my budget on an Excel Sheet with all the formulas and whatnot in it. So I just update it after I’ve gone to the shops etc. It has helped me to see my finances in a new way, because I see exactly what I’m spending my money on and where I can cut back if needed. In addition, I’m also a huge advocate for an emergency fund. Right now I have about seven month’s salary saved up, but my target is to get to a year’s worth of salaries. Anyway, great tips!

    All the best, Michelle (michellesclutterbox.com)

    • Thank you for commenting Michelle!
      I use both as the app makes sure I don’t forget anything!
      Emergency funds are important but remember (once the crisis is over) there is such a thing as too much saved.
      It exposes the money to Inflation!

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