[STANDFIRST] Whatever your circumstances, being financially independent is always a good idea. Vicky Shaw seeks some expert tips for making it happen.

Do you wish you could be more financially independent, rather than always relying on someone else - perhaps a partner or parent - to bail you out of money difficulties?

Or perhaps you're trying to stand more on your own feet financially because your circumstances are changing, maybe as the result of a relationship breakdown, or because you've moved out of your family home for the first time.

It could be that you're thinking of changing your life in the near future - or just playing it safe. Over a fifth (22%) of women keep a secret savings fund to provide them with financial support should their relationship end or they choose to leave their partner, according to recent research from Fidelity International.

Maybe your loved ones aren't being transparent with you about their own finances. Another recent survey, from the Money and Pensions Service (MaPS), found four in 10 (40%) of us admit to having kept a financial product, such as a credit card, loan or savings account, secret from family and friends.

Whatever the reason, here are five tips from Maike Currie, investment director at Fidelity International (fidelityinternational.com) for gaining your financial independence...

1. Ask yourself: 'How financially healthy am I?'

As with anything in life, before you make any changes, you need to understand the situation you are currently in. Take some time to evaluate your finances, considering everything from any debt you may have, the health of your current accounts, to logging into your pension savings. This will help give you a picture of your current financial health. Next, consider your relationship with money, are you a big spender or a compulsive saver? Perhaps somewhere in the middle of the two?

While everyone approaches their finances differently, it's important to understand where your mindset is when it comes to money. Understanding this will enable you to set achievable short and long-term goals, and over time improve your financial resilience.

2. Always have some money 'waiting in the wings'

No one can predict life's ups and downs - this past year has been a perfect example of that. It's vital you are prepared for whatever financial challenges life can throw at you. Making sure you have some rainy day savings set aside will provide some peace of mind that, even if the unexpected happens, you can weather the storm.

Financial independence is important regardless of your relationship status, with more and more women in relationships taking steps to ensure they have separate savings to their partner. Fidelity's research found 22% of women and 19% of men have a secret savings pot, just in case their relationship ends, and they need financial support.

3. Build your own credit score

Your credit score is one of the most important numbers in your financial life and it follows you wherever you go. A good credit score can unlock the best rates on mortgages, loans, credit cards, and can even impact things like taking out a mobile phone contract.

Making sure you have some household bills paid in your name, like the mortgage, or a credit card that you use for some spending, ensuring you pay it off regularly, will help prove to financial companies that you can manage your money well.

4. Ensure your financial freedom in retirement

Despite retirement feeling like a long way off for some, saving for it has to start much earlier in life. The earlier you start building up a nest egg for the long-term, the better off you'll be at retirement age. This will also prevent you from having to borrow unnecessarily in the future or rely on friends or family.

A monthly investment into a self-invested personal pension (Sipp) is an easy and tax -way to help give you the financial freedom you want for the future, while auto-enrolment into a workplace pension scheme means you'll benefit from the contributions both you and your employer make.

For women, this step is even more crucial given the gender pay gap and the knock-on impact this has on women's pension savings.

5. You don't have to go it alone

Just because you want to be financially independent doesn't mean you have to dive into the unknown without a safety raft. There are lots of online resources to help guide your journey to financial independence. There are some free alternatives that can help get you started, and it's always a good idea to talk to a professional who can review the best options available.