The Financial Freedom Schedule

Ask yourself these questions:

“Have I ever stressed out because of a lack of money?”

“Will I probably have to work until I’m 65 purely out of necessity?”

“If a financial emergency arises, will I most likely have to take out a loan or incur more credit card debt?”

If you answered yes to any of these questions then you need a financial freedom schedule. Anyone can be debt free. It doesn’t take great wealth, nor does it take extreme sacrifice. All you really need is a plan, discipline, and the patience and focus to see it through. I use a financial freedom schedule as a tool to help myself and others to become debt free. Simply put, this plan can change your life.

You can gather the required information in less than an hour. You’ll need to know your total debt and the date that each debt will be paid off assuming that you don’t change the amounts you currently pay each month. You will need your monthly net income (what you take home from your paycheck after taxes and other deductions) and a monthly budget.

First you need to add up all of your debt, starting with the largest amount to the smallest. Be prepared, as it may be a brutal awakening. Everyone’s list is going to be different but here is an example to get you started.

Mortgage

$62,000

Paid-off in 30 years

Student Loans

50,000

Paid-off in 30 years

Car Loan

13,000

Paid-off in 6 years

Total Credit Card Balance

1,100

Paid-off in 22 months

Total Owed

$126,100

Most people have far more debt than they realize simply because they’ve never taken the time to write it all down in one place. Once they do it can be sobering to the point where many just give up, thinking that what they owe is insurmountable. Nothing can be further from the truth.

Next you need to determine a true monthly net income. The best way to do this is to multiply a normal paycheck by the number of paydays per year. For example, if you get paid weekly, multiply one paycheck by 52 and then divide by twelve. If you are paid every two weeks, multiply by 26 and divide by twelve. If you’re paid monthly then the work has already been done for you.

Now that you know your true monthly income and just how large your debt total is, you need to look at your monthly budget. If you don’t already have a monthly budget then now is the time to make one. I’ll give you a few pointers if you’ve never really had a budget before.

  1. Take your last three bank statements and put each of the expenditures into an appropriate category. For example, if over the last three months you’ve spent any money at all at restaurants you need an “Eating Out” category, separate from what you spend at the grocery store.
  2. Make a category for savings, even if you don’t have a savings account and have never managed to save a dime.

Here’s a sample budget:

Mortgage Payment

$680

Utilities: Cable & Internet

$105

Cell Phones

60

Electricity

85

Water & Sewage

10

Groceries

400

Credit Card Payment

55

Auto Loan Payment

200

Student Loan Payment

200

Auto Insurance

65

Gasoline

150

Entertainment

100

Future Expenses: Clothes

50

Home Repair

100

Auto Repair

50

Vacation

125

Savings Account

300

Total

$2,735

If your monthly net income is at the very least as large as your monthly budget, you have everything necessary to plan your financial freedom schedule. For this example we’re going to make it hard, and say that your monthly income is the same as your monthly budget, right down to the penny.

Sample Financial Freedom Schedule

This example of a financial freedom schedule assumes no changes to your spending or lifestyle, and also assumes that the credit card debt has an interest rate of 10%.

Total Debt

$126,100

Total in Emergency Fund

0

Amount Put in Savings Each Month Starting Now

300

Amount Saved Each Year

3,600

Months to Financial Freedom (Debt/Yearly Savings)

396 (33 years)

Assuming a 30-year mortgage, without making any changes a 30-year-old is destined to reach the age of 60 before they are debt-free. Don’t let this be you.

Here are a few simple changes that can shave a few years off of the debt-free target date:

If you make the simple change of putting $100 toward the vacation fund each month instead of $125 and then put the extra $25 toward the credit card, you’ll have the card paid off 7 months early. Take an additional $25 from the clothes fund and downgrade to basic cable and Internet without the premium movie package and you can save another $35 per month.  Now you can put a total of $140 per month toward the credit card debt, paying it off in just 9 months (eleven months early) and saving over $65 in interest charges. It’s progress, but slow progress. Here’s what you need to do to speed things up:

It’s been referred to as the “snowball method,” and was made popular by Dave Ramsey. The snowball method entails paying off your smallest debt first, then using the extra money to tackle the next debt. So in this example we would first pay off the credit card, then the car note, then the student loans, and finally the mortgage. Each time we would use the extra money in our budget to pay off the next loan, rather than increasing our spending.

Here is the timeline using this method:

Credit card debt

Paid-off in 9 months

Car note

Paid-off in 51 months

Student loans

Paid-off in 138 months

Mortgage

Paid-off in 131 months


You can actually pay it off much faster than this. That $300 a month going into savings? Once you have six months of living expenses in your savings account, you would put an additional $300 per month into the snowball method. Let’s assume you save the six months living expenses first before starting to pay down your debt:

Credit card debt

Paid-off in 3 months

Car note

Paid-off in 25 months

Student loans

Paid-off in 87 months

Mortgage

Paid-off in 105 months

Now your financial freedom schedule is 8 years and 9 months, instead of the initial 30 years. Think about what you could do for yourself with an extra 21 years and 3 months of saving and investing $1,520 every month. If you stuffed it in a mattress you’d have $387, 600. Invest it ultra-conservatively at a 2% return on your investment and at the end of the same timeframe you’d have an astounding $504,389. A realistic return of 8% will make you a millionaire.

If you do nothing, 30 years from now (when you’re thinking about retirement) you may have your debts paid-off but no liquid assets. Start your financial freedom schedule today.