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2021: Make it Your (Mid) Year of Financial Freedom What does financial freedom mean to you? Does it mean that instead of getting bogged down by a paycheck-to-paycheck existence, you'd pay your bills early? What if you had substantial equity in your home?

By Melissa Brock

This story originally appeared on MarketBeat contributor/ via MarketBeat

So what if it's the fifth month of the year? Why not declare this month the start of your Year of Financial Freedom?

What does financial freedom mean to you? Does it mean that instead of getting bogged down by a paycheck-to-paycheck existence, you'd pay your bills early? What if you had substantial equity in your home? What if you could survive for months without a paycheck?

Take a look at most "financial regrets" lists and you'll see that most include not saving enough. The other big regret involves not saving early enough. Whether you just got your first job out of college or have just turned 50, you want to focus on your financial future. Doing so equals financial freedom.

Think Through What Financial Freedom Means to You

First, you want to think through what financial freedom actually means to you. This part can end up feeling like a slow slog because it can take a while to outline your goals. Everyone's goals look different because they depend on your interests and more.

You might become consumed with paralysis about what you want your goals to be. Don't let this happen. Remember that your goals can change over time — totally natural! (I don't think you can call yourself human if your goals change. I remember when I had a baby, my financial goals changed, big time!)

Take these tips into consideration before you make this year your big year — in May!

Tip 1: Write down what you want.

Write down absolutely everything you want to achieve. What do you want your money to do for you? Do you want to retire with $1 million? Buy a vacation home?

Write down absolutely everything you ever wanted, whether it's completely zany or pretty ho-hum. Maybe you want to buy a hot air balloon and spend every weekend in the air. Maybe you want to sell everything and live on Orange Beach in Aruba. Whatever it is, why not write it down? Scientific evidence proves that writing it down makes it happen.

Tip 2: Stay in control of your money.

News flash: You must stay in control of your finances, your finances must not control you.

Think of yourself as the captain of your money. The start of financial freedom and stability starts with understanding the role of money in your life. Then, like a good ship captain directs his crew, you tell your money where to go and what to do.

Tip 3: Don't fail to plan.

Nobody plans to fail, but many people fail to plan. Yep, pulling out the old cliches, but this cliche hits the nail on the head. (Sorry for another cliche!) The way you achieve financial freedom depends on your ability to plan for financial freedom.

For example, have you contributed no more than the amount to get the maximum employer match on your retirement contributions? Your financial freedom plan may not allow you to do anything less than maxing out your 401(k) or 403(b).

Don't forget to evaluate your current job's ability to help you meet your financial goals! Do you need a new job to help you achieve your goals?

Tip 4: Dig deep and stick to it.

Whatever your goals, the most successful people possess grit — massive determination to never give up. If you want to have $1 million by the time you retire, you might need to tap into a side hustle to contribute to your savings. That might mean postponing your desire for new cars, boats, motorcycles, RVs and more.

What does a good ship captain do when his ship starts floundering?

Yep, he rights it by changing course. Don't be afraid to do that with your money as well.

Tip 5: Make a concrete plan.

How much do you want to save this year? Whether you want to save $1,000 per month in retirement, you want to work backward. Write down your final goal, then figure out how you'll get there. Walking backward from $1 million can be a fun activity. Have you tried it?

Tip 6: Read everything you can.

Listen to podcasts, read, tap into free resources, and learn as much as you can about making money, leveraging your assets and more. Read up about real estate investing if that's in your financial freedom toolkit. Learn as much whatever it is so you not only know enough about your subject, you can also teach it to your kids someday.

Tip 7: Automate everything.

You want to automate absolutely everything you possibly can. Do a brainstorm of the things you can automate:

  • Your mortgage: One of the best things about autopaying your mortgage: You'll never pay it late. You won't pay late fees, destroy your credit or go through the hassle of mailing a check every month.
  • Retirement accounts: You MUST automate your retirement accounts. If you don't (this is a biggie!) you risk not regularly contributing to your accounts. Yikes!
  • Bill pay: Awful at remembering to pay your regular bills? Again, late bill payments can destroy your credit and get you caught up in a vicious debt cycle.
  • Investments in non-retirement accounts
  • Fun money

Tip 7: Execute.

We'd miss a huge, important opportunity not to mention that whatever you do write down, expect to achieve and more — you must actually execute, not just put it on your "to do" list. Set those goals and actually achieve them. Don't forget to live on a budget, invest wisely, automate everything.

A side note: Check your debt load. How much debt do you currently have and is it crushing you? If you have revolving debt (such as with credit cards), try to axe that as soon as possible.

Make it Your Year (Even in the Middle of the Year)

Utilize money as a tool that allows you to live your life as you want. Put yourself squarely in the captain's quarters and figure out how you want your crew (your pennies) to work for you. Work toward an automated system and financial freedom will come.

The more financial freedom you have, the more opportunities you create for yourself.

So, hurray for a brand new mid-year! Anytime is a great time to start fresh and get after your goals.

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