You are debt free… what now?

You have paid off all your debt… what now?

I found when I had paid off the last of my debt I felt a little lost. What do I do now?

Paying off debt is an intense experience. It involves sacrificing now with nothing to show for it except a dwindling debt balance. You are paying for something you spent on in the past and really probably don’t even remember what it was now.

Debt repayment requires a certain intensity stay committed and see it through. Dave Ramsey doesn’t call it ‘gazelle intensity’ for no reason.

My emotions around paying off debt revolved around frustration, anger, resentment and generally just fed up that I wasn’t getting ahead. All these emotions fuelled me to tackle my debt and stick in there until the end.
I found it easier because there is a target to reach which was zero debt. It’s clear. You do whatever it takes to get to that point of zero debt… cut your bills, stop eating out and/or increase your income.

There is an endpoint.

Then what?

I found it significantly harder, in the beginning, to be as intense and committed to saving to invest.

My emotions around saving money to invest just didn’t seem as strong. Now I needed to put myself first, value myself and think a long game. I had to feel I deserved it and value the stability. I was surprised at how little a priority that was for me.

It was another big a-ha money moment for me.

Much like the one I had during my financial crisis where I realised I had an incorrect belief that money is not important. We do need money to live to our full potential and enjoy a life based on our highest values. And there is nothing wrong with that.

I had investments before in real estate (and still do) but I had kind of fallen into them without much thought or truthfully much saving.

Some tips to get you started

Below are some tips and tricks that could be useful to you when you are trying to flip your mindset to one where investing is a priority:

  • Know your why: this always seems to be a compelling way to pull you towards your goals even when your motivation starts to wane.
  • Make it like a payment: It’s easier to work towards something like when you were paying off debt.
  • Make it game: Put a bit of fun into it, set little milestones that trigger a fun reward, make it a friendly competition with a friend.
  • Reverse psychology: Think of a bad scenario that motivates you because you don’t want to find yourself in that position.
  • Go easy on yourself: Investing is a whole new learning curve and you can (and probably will) make some mistakes along the way. Make sure to do your research so they are small ones.
Investing with a small amount of capital

There are some barriers to investing when you first start out, mainly that you more than likely begin with a small amount of capital. Unfortunately. there are not a lot of investing options for small amounts of money. In the beginning you will require patience until you start to build your capital.

When I first started out I was doing some work for a small financial planning company. I asked them about ETF’s but they did not see value in them. (It is obvious to me now, why that would be the case).

I looked at the mutual funds they recommended. They looked good but often they were closed to new investors or required large amounts for their initial investments, some required $10,000 and others $25,000.

At the time I was a single mum and it all felt a bit daunting and out of my reach.

I wasn’t ready to give up though, I was determined to find a way to start making my money work for me from the beginning while I was saving.

Exchange Traded Funds (ETFs)

Doing some more research I found that ETF’s are great when you are starting out with a small amount of money. You can buy them directly on the stock exchange, they are low in fees and already diversified for you.

I went with Stockspot for my son’s savings as they offer a balanced portfolio with zero fees for children.

Stocks

You can also choose to buy individual stocks. This can be a lot riskier as choosing stocks is not an easy task. If you are buying in small lots it may end up costing you a little bit in brokerage so you need to weigh up this cost (really it should be added to the cost of the shares). Also, in the beginning, you will not have any diversification, especially when starting with one company.

Having said that it may be worthwhile researching and choosing some dividend stocks that you feel comfortable with. There are reports and reviews you can read that will tell you ‘blue chip’ stocks that have paid a regular dividend over many years.

Dividend stocks can help you build your investment in two ways: by increasing in capital value and by paying a dividend. The key is to use the dividend to invest in more stock.

 

(This is not meant to be financial advice, it is based on my personal experience).

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