We all want financial health but achieving it can sometimes be daunting to get started. But, pushing yourself to move forward with a plan can pay off big. There are many things you can do, but keeping it simple can help jump start the process and give you some definite objectives that are both reachable and easy to put in motion. Because financial health has such a positive impact on our daily lives taking the steps towards your goals should be a very important priority.
To help, here are five easy steps to get you going:
Begin with a Budget
Budgets get you thinking about your money and help you take control of spending. First, identify how you’re spending your money now. You might be surprised to see that morning cup of coffee is costing you over a $1,000 a year when it would cost pennies to make it at home. Second, decide what you could live just fine without, and what is necessary like your mortgage payment and groceries. Use available websites or apps to help. Set a goal to spend no more than 80-90% of your total income with 10-20% left to save.
Pay Off Credit-Card Debts
Tackling your credit-card bills can be daunting, but it’s necessary for financial health. Begin by making a list of your credit cards as an extension of your budgeting process above. Then, set a plan to pay off the one with the highest interest rate first, regardless of the amount owed on the card. Once done, move onto the second card and so on, but continue making at least the minimum payment on the other cards as well. If you are able, try to transfer balances from high interest rate cards to lower rated ones.
You should also be checking your credit report at least once a year and checking for any inaccuracies, identity theft, etc. Under the Fair Credit Reporting Act, you are entitled to a free credit report every year at annualcreditreport.com. If there are inaccurate items on your credit report, you can use our Free Credit Report Dispute Kit to make sure you get them items corrected and protect your rights.
Build Your Emergency Savings Fund
Because you never know what the future holds, it is important to build a financial cushion or emergency savings fund in cased you lose your income or have an unforeseen expenditure. Credit cards should not be the fall-back since using them for life expenses can end up costing you much more in the long run. Begin by saving 5 – 10% of your income until you have at least 3 – 6 months’ worth of basic living expenses set aside. A low impact way to get there is by saving a tax refund, a bonus, or the difference in income from a recent raise.
Target Your Savings
A great way to help you save is to take the thinking about it out of it. Have a portion of your paycheck direct deposited into your savings account each pay period. You are less likely to spend it if you never see it in your regular account. Instead of having your entire paycheck deposited to your checking account, have 5-10% put directly into your savings account.
Save for Retirement
It is never too early to start saving for retirement and permanent financial health. If you have access to a 401K plan with a company match, it’s an easy choice to participate and make sure you are getting the full benefit. Start by setting aside 3% of your salary to the 401K. This deduction is pre-tax so you will hardly notice, plus, it will reduce the amount of taxable income you are bringing home. Increase your savings by just one percentage point a year until you get to 10% and you’ll hardly feel a pinch. It’s also good to start saving your emergency fund before your retirement fund because if you get stuck and need to use some of the money, you will be taxed on the withdrawals and may even be hit with penalties. If you’re self-employed or your company does not provide retirement benefits, opt for an individual retirement account (IRA). For specific advise on your particular financial situation, you should consult with a reputable financial planning professional to help you make the most of your money.
Start moving towards financial health using these steps and an overall savings plan that works for you. As with any positive step forward, soon you will begin to feel the benefits and greater peace of mind.
Culik Law is a Massachusetts Attorney / Law Firm. The post is not intended as legal advice.
Culik Law is a BBB Accredited Business located in Woburn, MA. They have been Accredited since 2010.