[Good morning Dukes! Today we have a new honored guest with us: Aaron from Personal Finance for Beginners (Twitter: @PFforBeginners). Aaron started his blog to help young professionals, recent college graduates, and other “newbies” learn more about personal finance. Aaron is excited to share his own insights and experiences and as he pays down student loan debt, sticks to a deliberate budget, and invests for the future.]

Less than two years ago, I considered myself a duke-to-be who would soon receive a financial kingdom as if promised by birthright.

Now, this isn’t exactly a story about receiving a large inheritance from a forgotten family member or stumbling across a financial windfall in a treasure chest, but my financial status was about to change in a big way… or so I thought.

After an extended period in college (11 semesters!), I was finally about to graduate. Not only that, but I was fortunate enough to already have a full-time, salaried position waiting for me. I was about to inherit my financial kingdom.

It didn’t take long for “lifestyle creep” to kick in. Even before graduation, I started making decisions based on my kingdom-to-be.

First, I bought an almost-new car with a payment equal to my share of the rent. Second, I moved out from my college housing and into my own apartment. Third, I started accepting every invitation to go out for lunch and began frequently buying dinner on my way home from work.

It wasn’t long before I found myself exactly where I was before graduation: living paycheck to paycheck without any savings… left with just thoughts of “I’ll do better later” for my future.

How I Had My Financial Epiphany

Fast forward several months later: I decided I wanted to move – or at least have the option if my employment or personal circumstances changed.

How much does it cost to move across the country? I took the question to Reddit.

I shared my monthly take-home income and what I thought were my monthly expenses. I wasn’t using a budget, but I knew many of my fixed expenses such as my rent, car payment, etc. One of the readers left a comment that prompted a financial epiphany and sparked the start of my personal finance journey:

“How are you single, earning a comfortable salary, living in a modest apartment… and have zero savings? Several hundred dollars a month are going somewhere, do you know where?”

This was the first challenge on my newly-found financial journey: figuring out where my money was going.

I spent an hour or two reviewing my financial transactions for the past few months before I found the two-headed beast facing many millennials struggling with their finances: I was eating out frequently (sometimes twice a day) and vacationing somewhere every other month.

With an actual understanding of how my money was spent, I made a budget that would allow me to live within my means and start saving for my financial goals. Just having the awareness of my spending that I didn’t have before – combined with a specific plan – made all the difference.

From Chris -> Love that you took action once you self-evaluated. Reddit personal finance threads can be very enlightening with the amount of varying perspective.

You Need Your Own Epiphany

Before you start building your financial kingdom, it will be valuable to experience your own personal epiphany. (If you’re reading Duke of Dollars, this moment may have already happened!)

If you were to stop strangers on the street and ask for their best financial tips, you’d likely end up with reasonable advice:

  • “Spend less money than you earn”
  • “Pay yourself first”
  • “Don’t carry a balance on your credit card”
  • “Save money for a rainy day”

In spite of many people already knowing these financial maxims, a Guardian Life research study found that only 21% of Americans are confident in their financial well-being. Developing financial wellness isn’t just about knowledge – it’s about proper application.

The group of “Confident Planners” enjoyed higher financial and emotional confidence as they set realistic expectations and stuck to their plan. These people found a way to put financial principles into practice.

Sticking to your plan isn’t always easy. Experiencing your own financial epiphany – whether you seek one out or it finds you – can increase your motivation and commitment along the way.

Why Are You Building Your Financial Kingdom?

As I’ve met other “dukes and duchesses” of personal finance, I’ve found that relatively few are seeking to live in giant castles with garages full of luxury vehicles. (Although if that’s your goal, that’s cool, too.)

Many people I’ve talked with are interested in achieving FIRE for one reason: to reclaim future time.

Some want to use financial independence to fund their travel or a life abroad. Others may want to spend more time with their loved ones or build new relationships. Others want the freedom to focus their energy on creating their own business or developing new their hobbies.

There are many benefits from building your financial kingdom that will be available to everyone. By improving your personal finances, you can enjoy:

  • A higher standard of living
  • Flexibility to make decisions regardless of money
  • The ability to provide for others
  • Security in case of a financial emergency
  • Peace of mind about your financial future

No matter your motivation, understand why building your financial kingdom is important to you.

From Chris -> We agree!!

There’s Room For Your Financial Kingdom In The Alliance

Take a moment to reflect on your financial situation now. Consider where you may be 10 years from now.

Do you like where your path is headed? Perhaps, in that time, your savings will have increased and your investments will have grown. You’ll be financially independent… or at least you will have developed the habits to get there.

… But what if the financial future you see isn’t what you want it to be?

Fortunately, there’s still time to claim your financial kingdom. Build your emergency fund. Create a plan to pay off your debt. Increase your investment contributions. Find a side hustle to boost your income.

The good news is that you don’t need to build your kingdom alone. There’s no shortage of land or gold to go around. There’s room for you in the alliance.

The online personal finance community is incredibly inclusive and insightful. You can find all of the information you need to be successful. You can connect with others who share your same objectives and values. You can find accountability for your own goals and help others along the way. That’s why I started blogging.

Conclusion

Everyone has the opportunity to build their own financial kingdom. Regardless of income, financial wellness is about setting proper goals and sticking to a plan. Experiencing a “financial epiphany” and understanding your motivation will help maintain the discipline needed to achieve those goals.

Personal finance doesn’t have to be competitive. Together we can help educate, encourage, and include others. This will make our own journey more enjoyable as well.

What was your “financial epiphany” that prompted you to improve your finances? What end goal are you looking to achieve?

[Thank you very much Aaron for stopping by the Kingdom – we appreciate you and are proud to call you an Ally!!]