Stepping Stones to Financial Independence

For most Americans, financial independence is an important goal that motivates us throughout our entire lives. Even though our personal ambitions and goals may differ, we all share a common aspiration: generating enough money to live comfortably.

While many people think of work as a means to achieve financial independence – earning a salary to pay your bills and provide a high standard of living for your family – the term takes on a whole new meaning as you approach retirement. As a retiree, financial independence means that you are earning enough money from your investments and other assets to live your desired lifestyle.

Becoming financially independent requires a long term commitment and a cohesive plan that can lead you towards your goals. Consider these “stepping stones” as you continue your journey to and through retirement!


During your life, you will encounter many “get-rich quick” schemes that promise wealth and success with little to no effort. However, as you probably have learned, very few people become wealthy overnight. Instead, the most effective way to achieve financial independence is to plan for the long term, stay committed to your goals, and make smart, stable investments.


Each month, set aside a little money for savings before you pay your expenses; in other words, pay yourself first! The amount you save will vary based on your income and circumstances, but typically a 10-25% savings rate is a good goal to set (your financial advisor can provide you with more clarity). Over time, your regular savings habit will help you to develop resources for purchasing investments; then, your money can begin to compound and grow exponentially as you reinvest your returns.


Given all of the stocks and securities available on the market, it is important to consider the various factors that can impact your success as an investor. Understanding the current tax environment, inflation and interest rates will be critical in order to create an effective investment plan. In doing so, you will position yourself to build a portfolio that is stable and resilient, even amid the fluctuations of our economic climate.


Neither the bear market nor the bull market will ever stay permanent; rather, the market is in a constant state of flux. When the market takes a turn for the worse, it can be difficult to focus on the long-term view – and many people end up making impulsive decisions that are not in their best interest. For this reason, you should be wary of reacting to the natural ebb and flow of the market. Instead, build a solid, proactive investment strategy and stay the course.

Of course, that is not to say that changing your investments is off-limits; but adjustments to your investment plan should reflect careful planning and analysis, not a spur-the-moment reaction to an emotional situation. By remaining calm, focused and logical when assessing your financial situation, you will be able to make smarter decision that will guide you toward financial independence.


As the old saying goes: “Don’t put all your eggs in one basket.” A diversified approach to investing will strengthen your staying power (the ability for your portfolio to withstand fluctuations in the long run). As a result of this staying power, you will likely experience steady growth over time – cushioning your assets from volatile market conditions and mitigating your losses.


A professional financial planner provides the perspective and experience you need to identify and capitalize on opportunities to strengthen your portfolio. While many “DIY” investors are well-versed in market conditions and investment strategies, they often overlook these opportunities or make unforced errors along their journey to financial independence.

Even if you consider yourself an expert on investing, seeking professional advice can greatly enhance your financial plan. As a financial planner, I have witnessed the efficacy of these strategies in guiding my clients towards financial independence. While there are a plethora of factors to consider when creating a successful financial plan, the underlying theme is simple: save money early and consistently; invest proactively, not reactively; and seek guidance from the experts. With these stepping stones to success, financial independence is easily within your reach.

Jill Ciccarelli Rapps, CFP®

Ciccarelli Advisory Services, Inc. is located at

9601 Tamiami Trail North, Naples, FL(239.262.6577)

Jill Ciccarelli Rapps is a CERTIFIED FINANCIALPLANNER®, a trained life coach and a partner of Ciccarelli Advisory Services, Inc., a family-focused wealth management firm in Florida and New York. Investment advisory services offered through Ciccarelli Advisory Services, Inc., a registered investment adviser independent of FSC Securities Corporation. Securities and additional investment advisory services offered through FSC Securities Corporation, member FINRA/SIPC and are registered investment adviser.

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