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Editor's note: Today, we're running one of our favorite essays from our dear friend Mark Ford. Mark is a self-made multimillionaire and serial entrepreneur who has built dozens of successful businesses. In today's essay, he explains why it's not too late to change your financial future...

How to Become Financially Independent in Seven Years or Less

By Mark Ford, founder, The Palm Beach Research Group
Wednesday, January 18, 2017

You are middle-aged. Your net worth is meager. Your income is barely sufficient to meet expenses... And those expenses are going up. What can you do?
Should you give up your dream of retiring comfortably one day? Should you accept a future of increasingly meager existence? Should you grow bitter and curse the powers that be for putting you in this situation?
Or should you take responsibility for your situation and make changes?
That last question was rhetorical, of course. But sometimes, I wonder if people really do understand their options. Things happen in life that we can't control. But we can control the way we respond to them...
I understand that when you are halfway through your life and barely making ends meet, it seems like the only chance to become financially successful is to win the lottery (either an actual lottery or the stock market equivalent of one). So it may be frustrating to hear some rich guy from Palm Beach tell you that you can't quickly turn $25,000 into $1 million by investing in stocks.
But I believe – no, I am certain – that anyone who has modest intelligence and a positive attitude can become financially independent in seven years or less if he is willing to work incredibly hard.
You do not have to give up on your dream of being wealthy. You always have the ability to change your financial life. It will just take a bit of time and patience. And it will require you to change some of the thoughts and feelings you have about wealth and your relationship with money.
Here are four simple ways to get started...
1.   Accept the fact that you are solely and completely responsible for your current financial situation.

Before you react defensively, read that sentence again... I didn't say you are the cause of your situation. I said you are responsible for it.
By taking responsibility for your current condition, you also assume responsibility for your future. Nobody can change your fortune but you. And nobody else will. The sooner you accept that reality, the sooner you will shed the anger and blame and begin to feel financially powerful.
I'm not giving you a pep talk. I'm telling you the truth. I've done it myself, and I've coached dozens of people to do it, too. It is a simple adjustment of your thinking, but it is extremely powerful. It works instantaneously. Without it, you cannot move forward, even by a single inch.
2Set realistic expectations.

I've had people tell me they don't want to make 10% or 15% per year on their money. They think returns like that are "ho-hum." They want some incredible stock tip or a secret get-rich-quick technique. When I hear someone say that, I think, "This person will never become wealthy."
Realize that 10%–15% is a high rate of return. Warren Buffett – the most successful investor of all time and one of the richest people on the planet – has averaged 19% on his investments over his entire career.
The journey to millions of dollars is earned $100 at a time. You must be willing to accept this fact to move your financial life forward. Your financial life is like a train that has stalled. And right now, you want to be driving it at 100 miles per hour. But it can't go from zero to 100 miles per hour in no time flat. Inertia is against you. Be happy with 10 miles per hour now... and then 20... and then 30. This is how wealth accumulates: gradually at first, but eventually at lightning speed.
3.   Thoroughly understand the difference between spending and saving.

With every paycheck you get, cover your necessary expenses first (bills, mortgage, etc.). Then, put some money toward saving. This includes what you use to invest, as there's no distinction between good savings and good investing. What you save, you can leverage to create additional income.
Only after you have "paid yourself" by saving should you add to your "spending" account.
4.   Recognize that your net investible income (the amount of cash you have after spending and saving) is the single most important factor in determining how quickly you will become wealthy.

Commit to adding to your income with a second income. Make an honest count of the number of hours each month you devote to television and other nonproductive activities. Devote them to wealth building instead. Cast aside the comfortable shoes of victimization. Put on the working boots of a financial hero.
It's not fun to realize, in the midst of your life, that you haven't acquired the wealth you want. But the good news is your past doesn't have to be a prologue... unless you allow it to be one. You can change your fortunes today by doing the four things I've just told you to do.
You are only 47, not 87. You have plenty of time to increase your income and grow your net worth. Why do you assume all is lost when – as any 87-year-old will tell you – you have a whole wonderful life ahead of you... a life that can be rich in a hundred ways?
Mark Ford

Further Reading:

"Every day, you make hundreds of small decisions that either add to or subtract from your eventual wealth," Mark writes. If you make the right choices, you'll be on track for a wealthy future. Learn more in Mark's essay: The First Step to Truly 'Getting Rich'.
"It is still possible for ordinary, wage-earning Americans to become wealthy," Mark says. You might think your only choice is scrimping and saving... But there's a better option. Read more here: The Three Ways to Get Rich.

Market Notes


Today's chart highlights the big uptrend in an emerging market...
Emerging markets are typically less developed and more volatile. Some face strict economic regulations that limit their ability to grow. But once they're unleashed, the upside potential is huge...
Argentina is the latest example. After shifting political leadership two years ago, its government has been making dramatic changes to economic policy, like the recent decision to lift controls on its currency. Then earlier this month, President Mauricio Macri announced that Argentina is eliminating a required 120-day holding period for foreign investors. This was a smaller hurdle, but still a concern for investors who want unrestricted access to their cash.
As you can see, shares of the Global X MSCI Argentina Fund (ARGT), which tracks a basket of Argentine stocks, are on the rise. If the Argentine government continues to reduce regulation and encourage investment in the country, shares are likely to continue their climb...

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