Declare your financial independence

Published 9:45 pm Thursday, June 20, 2013

By Nathan Rice

In just a couple of weeks, Constant’s Wharf Park & Marina will become one of the many areas in Hampton Roads set aside to celebrate American independence. It is a time for our community to gather together as we celebrate our freedoms and remember those who made them possible.

Americans seem to have freedom in their veins, but for many Americans financial independence seems difficult to obtain, and we sometimes feel tied to our monthly bills and credit report. Is financial independence something only obtained by the extremely wealthy, or is there a way we can all experience this freedom?

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We can start by examining our use of credit. We have become a culture of credit, and for many Americans, borrowing is an everyday occurrence. Credit has its place in the world of finance and is often needed, but in many cases it is abused rather than properly used.

Refuse to use your credit cards to make everyday purchases, such as groceries or gas. A good rule of thumb is to not use your card for anything that will be consumed before your monthly bill arrives. Credit cards can play an important role, but when they are used to purchase everyday items it can lead to the illusion of having more money than one actually receives, and small purchases can add up very quickly.

Maybe it’s also time to scrutinize our spending habits and cut back on some expenses. Our culture is also one of “keeping up with the Joneses,” and we tend to spend ourselves into trouble on things we don’t truly need. Whether it’s that 20th pair of shoes, the newest iPad or a faster computer, we sometimes buy without much thought of the long-range consequences.

Marketing companies capitalize on this by telling you to “buy now” or offering a special “deal” if you purchase immediately. Grocery stores and other markets even have impulse-buy items strategically placed.

Financial independence often depends more on how much you spend than how much you make.

Having an emergency fund in place is also helpful. Setting aside a savings account gives breathing room when an unexpected purchase is required or there is a sudden change in income.

Having a cushion to fall back on in these times gives a true sense of security. Building this savings is not always easy, but even setting aside a few dollars every paycheck will lead to your own emergency fund.

Also consider working with trusted family or friends, see if your church offers financial advice classes and ask your financial institution how it can assist in your goal of financial freedom. Just as the 13 colonies joined together to defeat a common enemy, financial independence can be won when we work together.

Have fun at a cookout and enjoy the fireworks, but this July consider declaring your own financial independence.

Nathan Rice is the Relationship Manager of the Downtown Suffolk branch of ABNB Federal Credit Union. He is a Hampton Roads native and can be reached at nrice@abnb.org.