Design your Financial Freedom

IN 4 STEPS TO FINANCIAL FREEDOM

In 4 steps to financial freedom

Achieving your dream in 4 steps to financial freedom. Sounds too simple to be true? Well, the process to actually achieve financial freedom isn’t complicated, but that doesn’t mean that it is easy either. As experienced experts, we were interviewed by the Dutch sailing website Zeilwereld.nl about our journey. In this blog article, we share the English version of that interview. The interview contains our most important tips to achieve financial freedom for yourself. 

Disclaimer: this article was written in Dutch by Anke Haadsma and first published on zeilwereld.nl on 28 June 2021. You can find the original article here. The article has been altered a little bit sometimes for the purpose of readability.

Steps to financial freedom

The dream: to live on a sailboat, preferably to sail around the world. But how do you do that? Just buying a boat and maintaining it will cost you a decent amount. And then you also have to maintain yourself along the way. One way to do it, is to become financially free.

Fleur and Ronald have realized this. Their goal was freedom and independence. The dream: to live on board while traveling the world. We’ve talked to Fleur about their path to earning passive income before. You can read this interview here (in English).

We talk to the couple again and ask them for tips so that you too can achieve financial freedom. Fleur and Ronald have collected everything they learned about financial freedom into a toolkit. In short, there are four steps to financial freedom you can take to achieve your dream:

  1. Determine your dream
  2. Save money
  3. Invest
  4. Take the plunge

For each step, they share their most important tips.

Fleur and Ronald took 4 steps to financial freedom
Hi, we are Fleur and Ronald

 

The couple is living proof that this method works. The big question they now ask themselves: “what is next?”. Reaching your dream is great, but it also means that your big goal will disappear. You will need a new dream. Or just enjoy what you have achieved, and that is exactly what Fleur and Ronald are doing right now.

They are currently in Mallorca, where they take the time to share with us their acquired knowledge towards their dream. We discuss the four steps to financial freedom and the tips Fleur and Ronald can share with others for each step of the process:

 

Step 1: Determine your dream

Fleur: “First of all, it is good to determine your dream. What does your ideal lifestyle look like? That has really been the driving force behind the whole journey for us.”

You don’t need to have the dream completely clear yet. As you will keep adjusting it throughout the process, but it is important to have the big picture clear.

Ronald: “The whole process of achieving your dream and creating financial freedom took us a few years. If you don’t know why you’re doing it, there’s a good chance you won’t achieve that goal. The dream is the motivation that will keep you going.”

Fleur adds to this: “You notice that at a certain point you will unconsciously make choices that work towards your goal. In addition to, of course, very conscious choices regarding your finances.”

Tips to determine your dream:

    • Visualize your dream to make it real

“You can do that in many ways. For example, I had a foam sailboat on my keychain. Because of this, I was reminded daily of our dream. It also sometimes provoked questions from people, which meant I was talking about our dream again.”

Other ways to visualize your dream are hanging a photo of your dream boat on the wall or sticking an inspiring quote to your bathroom mirror to remind you of your dream.

    • Train your brain to keep the focus on your dream

“You are going to let go of more and more things to get closer to your goal. Things that might bring you happiness in the short term, but do not contribute to your dream in the long term. It’s like eating a piece of chocolate while trying to lose weight: now you feel like it and that piece brings you happiness. But in the long run, the chocolate won’t help you lose weight or get fit.” If your dream is clear, it’s easier to delay your happiness and make smarter choices.

Determining and specifying your dream helps you in your motivation and mindset.

Steps to financial freedom result in achieving your dreams
Ronald and Fleur’s dreamboat: a Lagoon 42 catamaran

Step 2: Save money

Saving may sound like an easy job, but it’s more important and not as easy as you might think. Ronald and Fleur discovered this the hard way. Some tips to help you save money and stay on track with it:

    • Determine how much savings you need

“It is smart to determine your financial end goal before you start. Calculate how much money you need for your dream. It’s not just about the boat you might want to buy, but also about the monthly income you need to live on.”

    • Saving becomes fun when you see clear progress

“It’s important to see results from your efforts. The faster you save, the faster your dream comes closer. This is motivating. If you save 1,000 euros per month, it is much more stimulating than if your savings account grows with only 100 euros per month.”

    • Focus on saving instead of earning more

“We saw that cutting back on your expenses had a much bigger effect than trying to get a higher income. Due to the taxes on your income, it is better to spend 100 euros less than earn 100 euros more. Handy, because most people also have more influence on their expenses than on their income.”

    • Take a critical look at your expenses and make choices

“At one point we started living on a weekly budget of only 100 euros. This may sound harsh, but it helped us enormously in making choices. For example, we could sometimes not have that cup of coffee on the terrace because we also had to eat the next day. You can compare that coffee with that piece of chocolate. It gives you happiness in that moment, but in the long run it is of no use to you.”

    • Set aside at least half of your income to save

“We understand that this is a challenge if you have a mortgage and many other fixed costs. It is often difficult to set aside half of your income. And even we weren’t able to put that much money aside in the beginning. We started with about 30% of our income. But at a certain point that grew to 80%.” Half of your income is a good percentage to strive for.

    • Calculate your expenses and structure your finances

“It helped us to make an overview of our fixed costs. Each month, we transferred this amount directly into a separate bank account as soon as our income came in. After that, we set our savings amount aside on a separate savings account. What remained was for groceries and other expenses in the month, our weekly budget.” Structuring our bank account made this process super easy and efficient.

Saving a really big amount of money requires that you have to take big steps and make extreme choices every now and then. Are you willing to live cheaper, for example, to achieve your dream?

Ronald watching dolphins in Portugal
Ronald watching dolphins in Portugal

Step 3: invest

The money in your savings account does not automatically increase in value, in fact, your money decreases in value by leaving it in a bank account due to inflation, interest, and wealth tax.

So, it’s smart to put your savings in something that will generate more money. Ronald and Fleur actually see two ways of investing:

    • Standard investing

Standard investing is investing in something that you hope will increase in value over time and that you can make a profit on once you sell your investment. Think of your own home, stocks, or crypto.

    • Investing for financial freedom

Investing for financial freedom is investing in something that you hope will increase in value over time, but in the meantime, you also earn monthly revenue from that investment. Real estate is a very good example of this, investing in an apartment that you can rent out. Other options you can think of are setting up a business with licenses or monthly subscriptions, writing a book (royalties), or a blog (sponsors/partners).

You can use the monthly income from your investments (or assets) to save and reinvest. This is how you create an investing flywheel. Ronald and Fleur were surprised by the speed with which this flywheel spins. “Before you know it, you have quite a big new savings amount. “We didn’t actually know how big the effect of reinvesting your return would be, but it is a golden formula that goes beyond simple compound investing.”

Fleur: “Of course you have to have the money to start investing. When we bought our first apartment after years of saving for it, it was a bit of a shock; all our saved money went into it. If you don’t have the money to buy real estate, you can also look for something that works with investing time instead of money. Think of writing a book or a blog.”

Ronald: “It’s nice to see that, after we made that first investment, you can easily earn that money back. That makes it really fun to invest again.” Fleur also gives the last tip: “So start investing as soon as possible. If I could do something again, I would have started investing as soon as I had an income. Immediately introduce structure and start with a small amount. Any return you can make is a plus. Certainly, in the long term.”

The boat at anchor in the fog
The boat at anchor in the fog

Step 4: Take the step

At some point, it’s time to take the plunge and really realize your dream. For Fleur and Ronald, this was buying their boat, with which they could travel around and discover new places.

By renting out their real estate, they now have enough passive income to live from. But when do you know you’re ready to really take that step?

Fleur: “We have invested in real estate and now derive passive income from renting it out. Instead of saving the rental income for new investments, we started living with this money. We keep track of how much we spend every month so we know we’re not exceeding our passive income budget.”

Ronald explains: “Before you take the plunge, you must determine an amount that you can get by in order to be able to live normally. This amount must flow back from your investment. In addition, you must of course have enough savings to buy, in our case, a boat.”

Ultimately, it took Ronald and Fleur about eight years to make the complete switch from full-time work to financial freedom. “How long it takes before someone can take the step depends on how big your dream is and how fast you are able to achieve it. The steps are the same, but the amount of time it will take depends a lot on your personal approach.”

Ronald and Fleur took the plunge in 2020
Ronald and Fleur took the plunge in 2020

And then?

Fleur and Ronald have achieved their dream and now share their knowledge by helping others to pursue their dreams.

“Our goal was freedom and independence, we achieved that. It is now a bit of a question for us what our next dream actually is. Not to complain of course, because we enjoy this life very much, but we are also too young to officially retire.”

Ronald: “The whole process to get here was great. It’s amazing to set steps to financial freedom and see the results. But then it’s weird if you suddenly reached it. We are still thinking about our next step, but we know for a fact that inspiring others and sharing our knowledge about financial freedom will be part of that. We are convinced that many more people can take this step!”

For now, the couple is also enjoying some well-deserved rest while helping others achieve financial freedom. If you, like them, want to travel with a sailboat or maybe have a smaller dream. For example, work a day less. Their Financial Freedom Toolkit will help you with this. You go through the four steps to financial freedom using the templates that Ronald and Fleur have developed and used themselves.

 

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2 Comments

    1. Thanks for the compliment! We currently own 3 apartments in Rotterdam. Two of those are rented out.

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