According to Bankrate, 65% of Americans are not savings enough. As a business owner, you have the opportunity to take charge of your finances in a way that employees are not able to. Do not get caught in the 65% of Americans who do not save enough for the future. But how much should you be saving? Where do you save your money? What investing strategies should you use? In this article, I’m going to lay out a 4 step wealth building strategy to ensure you are on track to become financially free.
Before we go into the wealth building strategy that gets you on track to becoming financially free, let’s quickly define what being financially free means. Financial free means that you can maintain your lifestyle without earned income (whether from a job or actively working in your business). So in order to be financially free, you will need a substantial amount saved and invested to live off the passive income or interest from that invested money. A quick rule of thumb way to determine how much you need saved is to take the amount you need per year to live off of and multiply it by 25. For example, if you need $30,000 a year to live off of, you would need to save $750,000 to be financially free.
Now that we’ve defined financial freedom, let’s look at the wealth building strategy to get there. In ‘The Business Owner’s Guide to Financial Freedom', Mark Kohler lays out a four-step strategy for business owners to take control of their financial future. Kohler recommends finishing each step completely before moving to the next step in the strategy to prevent inefficiency to occur while striving toward your goal. His strategy is similar to guidance provided by Certified Financial Planners and financial gurus like Dave Ramsey. This difference is that Kohler focuses on the small business owner. The four step wealth building strategy is 1. Optimizing your business, 2. Paying off bad debt, 3. Saving 12 months cash reserve, 4. Investing for the long-term.
The first step in building wealth is optimizing your business. Optimizing your business involves setting up systems in your business and ensuring there is at least a reasonable amount of profit in your business. The first component, setting up systems, involves documenting your procedures to allow you to delegate work. The second component, profitability, is ensuring your bottom line is comparable to the average painting business of a similar size. Once you have ensured your business has these two components, you can move to the next step. Most painting businesses can complete this first step in the first year of operation. Of course, you might always be updating your systems and improving your profitability, but you need to at least get to a baseline before moving to the next step.
The second step is paying off bad debt. Bad debt is considered to be unsecured (or badly secured) personal debt like credit card debt, car loans, student loans, or personal loans. This type of debt is usually very expensive. Meaning the interest is usually high.
The third step is to save up 12 months of cash reserves; 9 months saved on the personal side and 3 months saved on the business side. This is more than what is traditionally recommended by Certified Financial Planners who typically recommend 3 to 6 months of cash reserves. However, painting business owners are exposed to a substantial amount of risk. Most painting businesses deal with the seasonality of demand for their services. Plus, the painting business is exposed to the risk of a downturn in the economy. For example in 2008, the demand for house painting went down substantially and many painting businesses failed because they did not have the cash reserves.
The last step to building wealth is to save for the long-term. This could mean putting money in index funds or real estate. It’s important to emphasize that you should not start on step 4 until you have completed the previous 3 steps. For example, you would not want to start putting money in index funds that usually get an 8% return, when you have credit card debt charging you 20% interest.
In conclusion, this overarching strategy can be a general guide for you when you decide on what tactics to employ in your finances on your path to financial freedom.