x Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 22 January 2018

Chart your path to financial prosperity

The goal is to put money to work in different ways that provide you with additional streams of income.

Gary Clement for The National
Gary Clement for The National
Ever get that sinking feeling that you're running to stay still?

Last week was a tough one. I felt my energy and focus had been sucked into a black, bottomless hole - more of an endless pit or trap, in fact. It's a way of living that can take over your life if you're not careful, or even rob you of it.

So I sat one evening with notebook in hand and focused on how I earn and what sort of income it is - more on this in a moment.

I drew me: I was a smiley face smack-bang in the middle of the page.

I then put lines coming out of me and drew circles around each job or activity I did - including training, TV and investments - and from these bubbles came more lines leading to how these activities broke down into subsections - for example, the website bubble had lines leading to more bubbles with words such as writing, workshops and UAE Saves Week. Ideally the investments subsections would include stocks and shares, buy to let, coffee shop/going concern or whatever it is you are putting your money into.

The chart didn't only have on it what I do now. It also had lines to things I planned on doing in the future and a wishlist. Things such as buying a forest or opening up a media training centre. I then got a bright red felt-tip pen and wrote the letters A or P on each line. Some lines had neither.

A stands for active income - or work that involves me physically being the unit of work, or having to be directly involved and available.

P stands for passive income - income that does not require direct involvement.

There will always be a limit on how much active income any of us can earn - regardless of how much we decide our time and knowledge is worth - and it's restrictive. We need to be available to make money this way.

Passive income, on the other hand, might need your involvement while you set things up, but then you're earning without dedicating any more time and availability.

No prizes for guessing where I want more of my income to come from with time.

My target is for my passive income to equal, and then be more than, my expenses. Only then will I consider myself financially free.

The chart pretty quickly told me where I need to put my energy and focus if I want to achieve this. It was all there, in red, staring back at me.

So, what are the sorts of things we can do to generate more passive income? I'm sure you have ideas - I'd be interested in learning from you. Here are some of mine:

. Own a business, preferably one that is managed. Have you ever thought of buying a bed and breakfast? Or a forest? You'd earn from people checking in at the B&B or from wood being sold if you go for the latter. Either way, these investments would need to be managed by experts if they're to fall under the P category.

. Become a landlord. This could be residential or commercial property.

. Invest. Include stocks and shares that give dividends.

. Choose where to put your cash. Go for accounts that pay out interest.

The goal is to put money to work in different ways that provide you with additional streams of income. These things won't make you instantly rich, but they will help on the road to achieving financial freedom.

This simple exercise of creating my A/P chart gave me a renewed sense of purpose and focus. It's far from rocket science, but it's vital. The trick is to think about what you want your life to become, figure out how money can help you achieve it and then put the plan into action.

Keep your charts and redo them on a regular basis. It could be on your birthday, New Year's, or every six months. Decide what's right for you, and stick to it. We all need a friendly reminder every now and then, and these charts will not only map out how your life is progressing, but also gently nudge you to act if you want to be in charge of your life.

So, what'll it be? You actively earning and hoping you don't lose your job, or you using the money you make to get off the treadmill and move closer to how you want to live.

Nima Abu Wardeh is the founder of the personal finance website www.cashy.me. You can contact her at nima@cashy.me