Tips for Staying on Top of Your Personal Finances
Lives are busy. Between work, families, and all the little details and obligations it’s easy to see how our finances, especially long-term finances, can get neglected.| By: Randall E. White, CFP®, RICP®, CRPC®, CMFC®
But the good thing is, with a little effort and time on the front end, you can really get on top of your finances and be able to check something important off the list. Sound too good to be true? Well, read below to get some tips that can help you get on top.
Write Out Your Goals
Did you know people who write out their goals are 42% more likely to achieve them?[i] This probably has something to do with making the intangible (an idea) tangible. Writing something down helps imprint it in our memory, and it is also a visual reminder. So, write down, in as much detail as you are able, what you want to focus on financially. Most of the goals, like buying a house, starting a business, retiring early or well, will all involve long term planning. But the first step in any plan is figuring out what your target is.
Make A Realistic Plan
Now that you have your written goals. the next step is going to be to flesh out a realistic plan to achieve those goals. Realistic is the important word here, because, like a lot of New Year's resolutions, if you aim too high without a ladder to get there, you won't meet the goal. The best plans involve both short-term and long-term goals, with many checkpoints and rewards, like rungs on a ladder, along the way. That way, even if you fall down a few rungs, you can see the progress you've made and that you aren't all the way back at the start. Having a plan increases your chances of success by over 30%.[ii] By creating short-term and long-term goals and prioritizing their importance, you can track the results and successes of multiple ends simultaneously.
Stick To Your Budget
The next step, once you’ve visualized your goals and figured out how to achieve them, is the most challenging part. It’s making a budget and sticking to it. Like the plan, the budget should be realistic. You don’t want to set yourself for failure by being too restrictive or austere in your budget. Like super strict diets it’s hard to stick with them. So, the goal is to make a budget that you can live with and stick to. One example is the 50/30/20 rule.[iii] 50% of your earnings go to your needs, 30% for your wants and 20% go savings. Having small checkpoints, the rungs on the ladder, and getting rewards for each can bolster confidence. There are many online budgeting services, like Mint and various other budgeting tools that can help you create a budget. Obviously, if you are part of a household, making sure that everyone is on the same page regarding the goals and budget is key. The other tip to keeping yourself on a budget is to constantly be re-evaluating your budget and modifying as need be. Life can be unpredictable and your budget needs to be able to adapt to the unexpected for you to stay on track long-term. Making sure to have an emergency fund established can help with unexpected expenses as well.
Attack Your Debt
One of the best goals you can set for yourself is to pay off your debt. Americans now owe over a trillion in credit card and student loans.[iv] While some debt can be advantageous which allows you to buy a house, pay for your education, or start a business, etc., it can also be costly and bad for your health. Bad debt makes it hard to make choices, hard to move, hard to finance a car, and you end up paying far more in interest the longer it sticks around. Or, if you can't pay it, you may be forced to file bankruptcy. Debt removal should be part of your financial goals. If you owe a lot to a lot of places, it may seem overwhelming getting started. But, a good rule is to create a debt elimination plan. For example, when making minimum payments on all your debts, focus on one at a time and pay more toward that one. Ideally, the highest interest or most toxic debts should be worked on first. Once that first debt is paid off, move to your next debt and add the same amount you were paying to the first. This debt paydown strategy is called the "snowball effect" and can be really helpful in minimizing your balances.
Meeting your goals shouldn’t be a solitary pursuit and there are so many avenues of help to get you and keep you on track. If you have a friend or family member who is financially savvy, asking them for advice could help. There are free online budgeting and saving apps that can also help you. A qualified financial advisor can be an excellent resource and depending on your goals, you can find one with expertise in your specific goals. It may take little work, but with a little forward thinking and some dedication, you can be on your way to achieving your goals and in control of your finances, and that is a great place to be.
Disclosure text: Securities offered through Triad Advisors, LLC, member FINRA/SPIC. Advisory services offered through TriCapital Wealth Management, Inc. TriCapital Wealth Management, Inc. is not affiliated with Triad Advisors, LLC.