Never Too Soon To Save

Megan J. Stewart is committed to staying on the fast track to early retirement

a condo with a doorman and fitness center,” says Stewart, who has several friends who are living from paycheck to paycheck. And worse, she adds, those that can’t afford it try to make that lifestyle happen anyway. “They spend too much, too fast, and move back home. It’s all a waste. That’s definitely not going to be my path.”

Of course, total denial doesn’t work. “If you restrict yourself too much, you’ll splurge,” says Stewart, who allows for an occasional indulgence such as treating herself to a day at the spa. “It’s about moderation,” she adds. While some may think she’s living a constrained life, Stewart’s betting that she’ll have the last laugh. For her, wealth isn’t necessarily untold riches but the freedom to spend her days as she pleases, whether that’s volunteering, traveling, mentoring, or spending quality time with family and friends.

Following her entrepreneurial spirit, Stewart is in the process of researching business opportunities. “If I could have $200,000 to $300,000 saved up and passive income like rent from property, an entrepreneurial endeavor that gives off money, plus stocks and bonds working for me, then I won’t have to be in the office eight hours every day,” she explains. One source of motivation is the entrepreneurs and other successful African American professionals she meets on her talk show. “They reinforce me. They remind me of where I’m going and why I’m doing what I do.”

For young professionals, especially recent college graduates just entering the work force,
Stewart offers the following advice:
Create a plan. In other words, set goals and dare to dream. But don’t stop there. Put your financial goals in writing and set target dates for achieving tasks. Plot your strategy in as much detail as possible. Clear, concrete steps are easier to make.oo Stay the course. Discipline is not optional. It must be a way of life. There’s no room for excuses. To avoid the dilemma of living from paycheck to paycheck or having a negative cash flow each month, steer away from instant gratification. Giving in becomes a habit, one that could inevitably lead to your financial undoing. Learn to put your desires for material things on hold, especially if you can’t afford to pay cash for them.

Use credit wisely. Avoid stacking up serious credit card debt. Once you start off on the wrong foot, it’s very easy to get stuck there. Such habits will haunt you later. A low credit score will mean trouble when you’re ready to buy a home. The best thing to do is to have a single credit card, preferably one with no annual fee and the lowest APR you can find. Stewart is also big on paying bills on time and regularly checking her credit report for errors, which can wreck one’s credit score. The way she sees it, the less money you give creditors, the more you can save to use for your own good.

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