Whether it is where, how, or how peaceful you live, finances impact every aspect of life. When you have plans to establish a secure financial future for yourself, taking actionable steps now makes all the difference. From making financial plans to adjusting spending habits, several steps lay the foundation for stable finances down the road. Below is a look at steps to take now to build a healthy financial state in the future.
1. Envision what a good financial future looks like
For most people, the overall goal is to create some level of financial peace of mind for the future. However, individual goals with finances vary from person to person. This is because financial peace of mind has a different meaning to everyone. Maybe you are looking for freedom from employment, no debt, or simply enough money to sustain yourself after retirement.
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The key here is to determine what you are working toward. Write down what financial peace of mind looks like for you in general, and don’t be afraid to daydream a bit. Maybe you want to buy and pay off a home. Or, maybe your goals are centered around retirement, like having a certain amount of money invested in a solo 401k.
2. Create realistic, concrete goals
With your general ideas of what a good financial future looks like, veer toward making goals a bit more concrete. Create a legitimate, formal list on a document you can access repeatedly. Follow a few rules as you create goals. Make sure the goals that you add to the list are:
For every goal you add to your list, add an estimate of how much money you need to achieve it. Then, add a specific date for when the goal should be achieved. For example, if you want to be debt-free by retirement, add a cost estimate and how many months until retirement. Also, calculate how much money you need to set aside or designate monthly
3. Create a budget and revisit it often
Budgeting keeps spending in check but also identifies financial responsibilities and priorities. An alarming 65 percent of Americans don’t know how much money they spend per month. Unfortunately, without a budget, you have little knowledge or control over your own cash flow. But with a budget, you can make sure both long and short-term goals are met. Creating a budget forces you to look at expenses, spending habits, and shortcomings with your current income so you can make changes as needed.
A budget is not a once-and-done type of thing, however. This plan should be revisited frequently and at poignant times, such as when your expenses change, or you get a new job.
4. Start saving for future retirement ASAP
The sooner you start saving for retirement, the easier it will be to achieve personal financial stability. If you have an employer-provided 401k, get familiar with the account. Look at how it has grown and whether you need to contribute more. Remember, the general rule from experts is to allocate 10 to 15 percent of your income to retirement savings.
Consider how much this account could be worth by the time you retire. If what you come up with is not enough to support your long-term goals, it may be time to consider other efforts. For example, investing in something like alternative investments may offer a better return.
5. Get creative about reducing your expenses
If you can’t pick up secondary income, extra money for financial goals has to come from somewhere. The most logical way to find more room in your budget for something like retirement savings is to better control your expenses. Examine your account statements with a discerning eye.
Find out where your money is going. Tighten up spending where you can. For example, if you subscribe to four streaming services and only watch one, you may find extra money there. If you still pay for a landline phone and never use it, get rid of it. You may even be able to save a few hundred bucks by making coffee at home.
6. Escalate your savings efforts over the years
The older you get and the closer you get to retirement, escalate what you are saving. Whether you’re adding money to your solo 401k, allocating funds to investments, or dropping money into savings, uptick your efforts.
Most people have bigger expenses and less predictable or substantial incomes in their younger years. However, as you get older, major purchases may already be made. And, you may find yourself in a stable income bracket. Therefore, if you can allocate a higher percentage of your income to savings, do so.
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7. Safeguard your health
Even though this tip sounds unrelated, your health is closely tied to the stability of your financial future. After all, being unhealthy can mean less income and higher expenses for medical-related parts of life. An illness can totally interfere with your ability to work and how much money you need to get by.
Everyday habits you have right now directly impact your future health. For example, if you rarely exercise, eat loads of sugar, or smoke, these actions are bound to have costly consequences later. Safeguarding your health is actually one of the wisest decisions you can make for your financial well-being down the road.
Your Financial Future Is All Yours
When it comes to finances, it is never too soon to think about what you want for the future. The more time and attention you give to planning for the inevitable, the more comfortable you can be when you get there. Taking small steps now—envisioning, budgeting, saving, adjusting—sets you on a path to your idea of success.
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