January 6, 2024
The start of the year is such a fantastic time.
We’re optimistic about what the new year might bring. We leave last year’s baggage behind, and get a totally new fresh start!
So how will we approach it? Just cruise along and let life decide for us?
Sure, maybe if you’re a normal person. But not around here!
We decide what we want to happen, then we go about making it come true.
In this post, I want to offer my best suggestions to help you make the most of 2024. I’ll give you some ideas and strategies to level up your life and finances, starting with…
Our mindset is the key pillar that underpins everything. And what we give attention to – our focus – is what dictates whether we get anything done or not!
The mental gym is where we sculpt our mind’s muscles to build financial independence. Because make no mistake, your progress (or stagnation) rides on how you think about money, wealth, and life.
This year, I want you to focus on these two things:
Abundant thinking: Shift your mindset from scarcity to abundance. Instead of dwelling on how you’re not where you want to be (yet), or things you’re worried about, focus on how incredibly lucky you are to live in Australia, in 2024, with all the possibilities that offers. All the good things in your life: a comfortable home, food, water, friends, a job, savings, health. All the ways things might work out better than you expect, not worse. And yes, things aren’t perfect – but there are more opportunities to learn, make money, and grow as a person than ever before.
Let the small stuff go: Let’s not lose sleep over that $20 expense or a random $500 bill. Especially when you’re in the position of becoming wealthier every year, often by many tens of thousands of dollars (possibly hundreds of thousands for some of you!). It’s just not worth your mental and emotional energy. I began to enjoy life more when I reduce the number of things I care about, because then all my energy is available for things that really matter. The money isn’t the point – it’s that we only have a certain amount of mental and emotional energy. To (probably) quote Mark Manson, we only have so many fucks to give. So make sure you’re dedicating those fucks where they’re deserved 😂
I hope you know by now that saving and investing for financial independence is not about deprivation and a life of sacrifice. It’s built on deliberate choices and happy tradeoffs.
The issue for many people is they’re just spraying money here, there, and everywhere. It’s not thoughtful or intentional. Here’s a couple of ways you can improve that in 2024:
Value-driven spending: Make every dollar count by aligning your spending with what you care about, as best you can. Figure out what you genuinely enjoy in life. This is the part most people don’t do – they just assume it all matters. Wrong. Half the shit we spend money on probably does absolutely nothing for our life satisfaction, it’s just a sugar rush we’re hooked on. If you have something you prioritise, like health or travel or dining, you’ll feel much better about cutting back on everything else. Look over your spending and find things to cut and improve, and perhaps even one area that might be worth spending more on.
Carve out cash: To make the above happen, you can specifically carve out a portion of your income for certain things. Otherwise, your favourite category can easily just end up creating a massive blowout and ruining your savings goals. You could save $20,000 across all other areas just to spend it all on travel or fancy dinners. So keep it to a healthy and considered amount, balancing your lifestyle desires and your goals. What compromises are you willing to make elsewhere in order to make it work? This way you can hit your savings target while living a life you enjoy. Spend according to your priorities. A savings plan should feel like a tailor made suit, not a straight jacket.
When you align your spending with your values, it genuinely energises you. And that energy propels you forward with greater motivation than you had before. A miserable life with no fun is hard to sustain for a long time. Now, you don’t necessarily need to spend much at all to have fun, but you get what I’m saying.
Maybe the problem isn’t saving. Maybe what you really need is more cash coming in the door!
If you’ve followed the rest of this blog’s advice (or even some of it), you’ve likely already got your spending habits under control. That means boosting your earnings is going to be the most effective strategy to improve your finances.
Here’s a few tactics to consider this year:
Job hopping/shopping: Make sure you’re getting top dollar for your skillset by staying on top of the current salaries being achieved. Find out from friends in your industry, and shop around on job sites like Indeed and Seek. Many employers realise wages are moving upwards and are coming to the table. After doing your research, you’ll be well equipped to negotiate your salary confidently. In many cases, to maximise earnings it can pay to switch employers. Even the conversation about leaving is sometimes enough for your employer to realise you’re serious. Instead of money, you may actually prefer more flexibility over your working conditions.
Increase your value: It sound cliche, but your income is typically related to the value you produce. The catch is, your employer will pay you as little as possible while retaining you. That’s just how the world works. Therefore, aim to become as valuable as possible, and your earnings will follow. You can do this by growing your skillset, taking on more responsibility, and finding ways to make (or save) company money. The less replaceable you are, the more you’re worth, which does two things: enhances your base income, plus increases the leverage you have with your employer for future raises.
Side income: Depending on your work, it may not be feasible to negotiate your salary or level up in the traditional sense. So to create extra income, a side hustle (still not a fan of that term) can be the best fit. It also gives you more productive variety and can be something less stressful or more enjoyable than your main job. Whether it’s freelancing, consulting, a creative endeavor, or an old fashioned part-time job, it doesn’t take much to bring in an extra $10k+ per year. (Bonus points if you test out a potential retirement gig you had in mind!)
Unless you’re doing a short stint of ‘beast mode’ (where you do nothing but work to pile up a bunch of money until you run out of steam), you’ll want to maintain a healthy workload so you can rest and enjoy days off. Just like saving, you can take the earning side of things too far as well.
Often we go through life continuing on our current path because of momentum.
It’s far easier to keep rolling along in one direction than it is to pause, reflect, and reconsider whether that path is still the direction we want to go. So I want you do to just that:
Stop. Take some time to think about your life, how everything’s going, and whether your desires and priorities may have changed.
Is complete financial independence still the right goal? Or, after consideration, would some version of semi retirement be a better fit?
Revisit your FI number. Is it still enough? Have inflation and lifestyle choices expanded what you need? Or have you actually decided you’d be happy to live on less, and getting back your time is more important?
How can you go about bringing your plans forward? Can you create time in your life now for a hobby you planned to take up in retirement?
Maybe you decide to test the waters of freedom by taking large chunks of time off, not for a holiday, but to experience what it’s like to have lots of empty space. I did this by taking lots of individual days off work, so I was working 3 days per week for a while. I absolutely loved it and that’s what prompted me to pull the plug and quit.
So try it out for yourself. See how it feels. See how you use that free time, and whether it feels like something you want more of.
It’s also wise to undergo an investment checkup. Because a lot of things can change over the years.
Life and experience. As our life changes, we may have more responsibilities (like kids or a higher level job that’s hard to replace). As a result, our appetite for risk could change. Keeping more cash or investing less aggressively might make sense. For others, becoming more aggressive after years of being too conservative and finally getting comfortable with markets might be the right move.
Time and interest. We may also crave more simplicity over time, and not want to spend as much time on our investments as we did in the beginning. So that portfolio of individual stocks that we were so passionate about at first is now more of a hassle than it’s worth. Our initial enthusiasm lead us down a path of overcomplicating things, when a simpler approach would have done just as well (guilty) 😂
Performance and asset mix. Each of the assets we own – home, investment property, Aussie shares, global shares, individual stocks, superannuation, a business, crypto, whatever – will have all performed differently. That can lead to portfolio allocations we might not have expected or desired. Consider whether the current setup is one that you’re happy with. What would you like to own more or, and what less of? Make plans to reallocate and move in that direction.
Suitability and purpose. Related to the above, as our wealth expands, we may need to change our asset mix to meet our next goal. Maybe you started out investing in property (as I did), but now you find yourself with quite a bit of equity yet very little income. The smart move may be to offload a property and reinvest that equity in a way that produces a decent income stream. As you probably know, net worth doesn’t equal freedom. Equity is only potential freedom if it’s able to be utilised in the right way.
Consistency and habits. Take a moment to also consider your investing approach. Are you staying true to your long-term goals, or have you been swayed by short-term market noise? If you haven’t been able to build a truly consistent investing habit, resolve to do that starting this month. Have an automatic transfer to your investment account so there’s no excuses or distractions. Another useful habit to cultivate is checking your portfolio less often. This does two things: reduces overthinking, and increases the chances its positive when you check, making investing less stressful.
By the way, I created a spreadsheet to keep a running estimate of my dividend income to help plan my finances. If you’d like a copy for yourself, simply enter your email below and I’ll send it to you.
Maybe your numbers and investments are all good. You might be totally happy with the progress you’re making and your current FIRE plans and trajectory.
So what could you focus on in 2024? A lot of things!
Can you improve your sleep quality and energy levels? By having a ‘wind down’ routine, and avoiding technology late at night and first thing in the morning (which fries your brain). I find this surprisingly effective.
Can you improve how you use your spare time? Reading books and long-form content instead of quick dopamine hits of a 7-60 second video. Yes, it takes more energy, but it’s infinitely better for your mind and understanding of topics. We’re all getting sucked into max-stimulation-mode of video content over reading. I’m actually not sure as a society we can come back from that!
Can you improve your health habits? Try fasting, or doing so for a longer period. Having smaller portioned meals. Taking a break to walk at lunch instead of sitting. Getting up early for a morning bike ride to wake up with the sun. Relax out in nature instead of on the couch. Exercise an extra day each week, and restrict the rubbish in your diet.
There’s literally a thousand things you can do to improve the quality of your life, none of which have anything to do with your finances. And here’s the thing: there aren’t really any good excuses for. It kinda dawned on me recently that I have absolutely zero excuse for not being in great health and physical condition, so I’m now putting more focus on this area.
There’s no need to be intimidated. Just one small action is a powerful first step that we can build on. Momentum is incredibly powerful as I wrote about here.
How do you ensure you get what you want out of 2024? Get very clear on what it is you want to achieve.
Fast forward. What position do you want to be in one year from now? What does that look like? And how can you make that a reality?
It can help to decide on a single theme for the year. Whether it’s levelling up your income, finding the perfect balance in saving/enjoyment, crafting your investment portfolio, or planning out your FI escape for 2027.
Becoming laser focused on one aspect of your life will be far more fruitful than a scattered approach. There are so many distractions in the world already, we can’t afford to half-arse it!
Now sure, we can’t control what happens to us this year. But we absolutely have control over our actions, our mindset, and how we deal with whatever comes our way.
Self-accountability is the most unpopular trait in the modern world. But it’s also the most powerful. It’s how people go from nothing to something, and end up with a life and a result that surprises everyone around them.
If you know someone who would benefit from reading this article to kick start their year, please send it to them 🙏
Thanks for reading!
Here are some resources you may find useful on your wealth building journey:
Mortgage broker: If you’re looking to get a home loan in 2024, or a better rate on a loan you already have, I can happily recommend More Than Mortgages. I’ve used them for 10 years now and they’ve been really helpful.
Sharesight: A great portfolio tracking tool for share investors, and free for up to 10 holdings. It tracks all dividends, franking credits and capital gains, which is incredibly helpful at tax time. Saves me a lot of time and headache!
My book: After 5 years and hundreds of articles and podcasts, I decided to distill everything down into an easy to follow book. Designed as a complete roadmap to achieving financial independence and retiring early in Australia. Available in paperback, ebook, and audio.
Just so you know, if you choose to use these resources, this blog may receive a financial benefit at no extra cost to you. Thanks in advance if you do. And to be clear, I only ever recommend things I use myself and genuinely believe in.