Your Financial Freedom Checklist

Financial freedom. Everyone wants to reach it, but not everyone puts the same amount of effort in making it a reality. Well, today, I want that to change. Money isn’t everything, but to improve your life, it can make things easier if you are smart about it. And, having a financially secure future is one…

Michelle Schroeder-Gardner

Last Updated: July 5, 2021

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Financial freedom.

Financial freedom. Everyone wants to reach it but not everyone puts in the effort to make that a reality. Well, today, I want that to change. Money isn't everything, but to improve your life, it can make things easier if you are smart about it.Everyone wants to reach it, but not everyone puts the same amount of effort in making it a reality.

Well, today, I want that to change. Money isn’t everything, but to improve your life, it can make things easier if you are smart about it. And, having a financially secure future is one of the smartest ways to use your money.

Here’s exactly what I mean when I use the term financial freedom:

Financial freedom is when you are able to live life without constantly worrying about money. It’s when you feel comfortable enough to follow your passion, instead of thinking about the income you are bringing in. It allows you to not stress about an unexpected expense because you have an emergency fund.

Financial freedom isn’t about how much money you make. It’s about how much you save, your financial habits, your financial goals, and more.

Depending on your situation and what you want out of life, you may be able to think of some things to add to that list.

So, whether you have a financial goal for this year, if you’re creating a five year plan, or whatever your goal may be, here is a financial freedom checklist so that you can start improving your financial life. As you knock each one off of the list, you’ll get closer and closer to financial freedom!

Your financial freedom checklist.


Fully build an emergency fund.

An emergency fund is something I believe everyone should have. However, according to a report by, 26% of Americans have no emergency fund whatsoever.

According to this same report, only 40% of families have enough in savings to cover three months of expenses, with an even lower percentage having the recommended six months worth of savings.

These are statistics that definitely need to change. An emergency fund can help you if you lose your job, if your hours are cut back, if you have an unexpected expense, and so on.

Having an emergency fund can greatly help you get through tough parts in life, and is crucial in reaching financial freedom.

Read more at Everything You Need To Know About Emergency Funds.


Create a realistic budget.

The average family carries a lot of financial stress. Most people have student loans, credit card debt, a mortgage, car loans, and sometimes other forms of debt. However, not many people have a budget.

According to a survey done by Gallup, 68% of households in the U.S. do not prepare a budget.

Budgeting can help you take control of your financial life, which can help reduce stress and let you reach your dreams.

You should most definitely be spending less than you earn, and a realistic budget can help you achieve financial freedom.

Read more at The Complete Budgeting Guide: How To Create A Budget That Works.


Pay off your debt.

If you want to reach financial freedom, then you’ll most likely want to figure out how to eliminate any debt that is preventing you from reaching your financial goals. For the average person, this probably means any high interest debt, any debt that’s causing you stress, and so on.

Paying off your debt can lessen your stress levels, allow you to have more money to put towards something else (such as retirement), stop paying interest fees, and more.

The first step to eliminating debt is to realize why you have debt in the first place. I believe that if you don’t understand where your problem with debt stems from, then it would be hard to make a positive change.

Yes, it is great to just start attacking your debt, but you also don’t want to fall back into a debt cycle by not realizing where your debt problems are coming from.

After you realize why you are in debt (or why you keep going back into debt), the next step is to figure out how you will eliminate it. There are many different ways to attack your debt, and I prefer a mixture of everything.

Read more at How To Eliminate Your Debt.


Have regular family money meetings.

Talking about money and conducting regular budget meetings is an important task for every family and serious relationship to take part in. A family who has regular money talks and budget meetings is more likely to be financially successful and happier than a family that doesn’t.

Regular money meetings can lead to better communication between family members, a more unified financial goal, family members being more involved and motivated, and more.

Read more at Family Budget Meetings – Yes, You Need To Have Them.


Have an excellent credit score.

Some people will want to fight me over this one, and that’s fine. While a small majority of people may be fine without an excellent credit score, the average person could benefit from it.

Whether you want to believe it or not, your credit score can play a major role in your life.

While you shouldn’t go crazy and completely obsess over improving your credit score, it is important to learn more about them due to the impact they may have on your life. Some of the areas that your credit score may impact include:

  • Home and car insurance – Your rate may be calculated on your credit score. If your credit score isn’t good, then you may actually be paying more because companies consider you to be riskier.
  • Employer – There are employers who will check your credit report. I once read a statistic that around 30% of companies will check a potential new hire’s credit report before making a hiring decision.
  • Renting a home – A potential landlord will most likely check your credit history. They will want to know if you pay your bills on time or if you have ever skipped one completely. If your credit history is not up to their standards, you may be denied the rental altogether, you may be asked to pay multiple months at once, or you may be asked to find a co-signer just in case you fail to pay your rent.
  • Credit cards – The rewards offered on your credit card, such as bonus point offers, are usually only available to those with good or excellent credit scores.
  • Loans (home, car, etc.) – If you apply for a loan, your credit score and credit history will definitely be checked.
  • The interest rate you receive – A good credit score can mean you qualify for a good interest rate, and a bad credit score may mean that you get a very high rate. I have actually seen someone with a 24% interest rate on their car loan! A higher interest rate can mean paying thousands of dollars extra.

Even though your credit score can impact your life in a big way, that doesn’t mean it’s hard to improve your credit score. Yes, it can be easy to wreck your credit score, but it can be easy to get it back to where it needs to be.

Due to this, I believe a credit score can be used to a person’s advantage and help a person reach financial freedom.

My favorite site for checking my credit score is Credit Sesame. Credit Sesame makes it extremely easy to check your score and both me and my husband have active accounts.

Learn more at The Complete Credit Score Guide – Improving Your Credit Score Has Never Been Easier!


Diversify your income streams.

Do you ever feel too reliant on one source of income?

Maybe you are afraid that one day you will lose your job or that something will happen to your main source of income.

The beauty of finding ways to make extra money is that it allows you to diversify your income. This means you won’t have to worry as much about one of your income streams having a bad month or completely disappearing because you’ll be prepared for it.

By diversifying your income with multiple income streams, you can have a backup plan, you may be able to retire earlier, and so on.

Diversifying your income is a great way to reach financial freedom.


Stop trying to impress others.

Whether you are five years old and want that new toy everyone is playing with, or if you are 50 years old and are feeling the need to upgrade your house, car, etc., everyone has experienced wanting to keep up with someone else.

The problem with this is that keeping up with the Joneses can actually make you broke.

When trying to keep up with the Joneses, you might spend money you do not have. You might put expenses on credit cards to (in a pretend world) “afford” things. You might buy things that you don’t care about. The problems can go on and on.

This can then lead to an excessive amount of debt and potentially set you back years with your financial goals, if not decades.

If you want to reach financial freedom, then you’ll need to realize the difference between wants and needs, and stop trying to keep up with others. Instead, you should be realistic with your spending so that you can get your financial situation under control!


Make more money to reach financial freedom.

I believe that earning extra income can completely change your life in a positive way.

In fact, because of extra income and my blog, I was able to pay off $38,000 in student loans within 7 months, I was able to leave my day job in order to pursue my passion, travel full-time, and more!

Read more at Hundreds of Ways To Make Extra Money.

Making extra money will improve your life as you:

  • Pay off your debt.
  • Save for big purchases, such as a vacation.
  • Stop living paycheck to paycheck.
  • Help you reach retirement sooner.
  • Figure out a business idea.
  • Become more diversified with your income streams.

While cutting your budget is great and all, making more money is great too.

It allows you to save more because you can only cut your budget by so much. Your income, on the other hand, can grow by an endless amount.

Whether you have just one free hour each day or if you are willing to work 40 to 50 hours a week on top of your full-time job, there are many options when it comes to learning how to earn extra income.

And, this is why I believe it can help you reach financial freedom!


Save for retirement regularly.

56% of Americans have less than an average of $10,000 in retirement savings and 33% have no retirement savings at all.

To reach financial freedom, you better be saving for retirement, as that’s really the whole end goal when it comes to financial freedom.

Do you know how long it will take you to retire?

  • With just a 1% savings rate, it would take you slightly over 98 working years until you reach retirement.
  • A 5% savings rate means that it would take you 66 working years to retire.
  • A 20% savings rate means that it would take you 37 working years to retire.
  • A 50% savings rate means that it would take you 17 working years to retire.
  • A 75% savings rate means that it would take you 7 working years to retire.

Start maxing out your retirement funds, and then invest even more!

Tell me in the comments below – How many things have you checked off of this financial freedom checklist?

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Michelle Schroeder-Gardner

Author: Michelle Schroeder-Gardner

Hey! I’m Michelle Schroeder-Gardner and I am the founder of Making Sense of Cents. I’m passionate about all things personal finance, side hustles, making extra money, and online businesses. I have been featured in major publications such as Forbes, CNBC, Time, and Business Insider. Learn more here.

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  1. Everyone wants financial freedom and wants to have good money saved up in retirement. Thing is, with all the money to be made online through side hustles, if you tell someone that you don’t have a regular occupation and you side hustle online for a living through affiliate marketing and blogging, they might look at you sideways and not take what you’re saying at face value. That’s because they might be unfamiliar how side hustling will help them achieve financial freedom if they put their mind to it. If more people started the side hustle and because side hustlers online in their 20’s, they’ be A+ ok in financial freedom achieved by the time they turn 50.

    1. I agree with you 100% DNN that’s why I am kind of doing a “traditional” J.O.B and side-hustle combo right now! I realized that there is no way my 9 to 5 will ever get me where I want to be. I think a side-hustle is a MUST (for most folks) if you ever truly want to reach financial freedom. I actually wrote about this topic and published my own financial freedom checklist a few months ago on my blog (aka my side-hustle)…great minds think alike!

      1. There’s nothing wrong with doing a JOB combo and side hustle. You need a job right now to keep a roof over your head and food in the fridge until your side hustle takes off. You’re definitely going to get there. Just stay persistent in your side hustling and Keep your site updated with fresh content. You’ll be A+ ok! 🙂

  2. Nicole Gleason

    Hi there…I am trying to budget my money It is very hard especially now a days…I wish someone showed me years ago

    1. I hope things improve now that you realize 🙂

    2. Nicole, I know what you mean! My family had poor financial role models (too much house debt, dad switched cars every year, etc).

      But you can be better! There are tons of resources out there now to help you with your budget…and many are free!

  3. Nice article Michelle! I think financial freedom is something a lot of people are striving for. It is very helpful to know what some of the markers of financial freedom are so that we can set the RIGHT goals. I wrote about this topic and the 15 financial goals you must achieve by 40 on my blog. Very good info!

  4. erkumar

    Thanks for sharing,Michelle

  5. The Curious Frugal

    That’s such a huge amount of people with no to little retirement savings. We’re doing pretty well with most things on this checklist except we don’t have regular family money meetings. I know this one is super important but with a very active/not sleep-loving toddler we hardly have any time together. When we do we try to do fun things. Maybe we need to combine a money meeting with going out for lunch or dinner or something fun. I know this stage won’t last, we just have to figure out what works for right now.

    1. Yes, different things work for different people 🙂

  6. I think financial freedom is really just a mixture of 2 things:

    1. Having enough money to stop working today and have to worry about money again. This is probably $10 million in my books. That way you’d never have to think twice about buying anything.
    2. Being able to work whenever you want, from wherever you want.

    1. When will you reach $10 million?

  7. We currently live debt free and save about 50% of our income…and we are a family of big eaters! I find that our biggest expense is food, BY FAR.

    Otherwise, we are not spendy. I would love to retire early and just keep blogging as a side hustle!