Many people often lament their financial misfortunes whenever they deal with unexpected expenses or a business venture that didn’t go to plan. If only there were a way to guarantee money troubles would never keep you up again at night or create another gray hair.
People make finances out to be the boogeyman of their life and more complex than they need to be. While no one can guarantee that your bank accounts will always have enough money in it, those whose bank accounts do look like that (such as Donald Gayhardt or Jeff Bezos) advocate for well-managed personal finances in order to support your lifestyle and potential business opportunities. Those who have become rich and famous didn’t start out at the top of the ladder. They worked their way up, dealt wisely with their budgets, and made calculated investments.
If you want to pursue similar success, here are five steps that you can take to get on track with your finances. These tips can help reduce your financial struggles, help you save for the future, develop a solid score, and work towards lowering your debt.
1. Define Your Financial Goals
Sit down and be honest about your finances and long-term financial goals. Even if you have your heart set on traveling to the beach for a week during the summer, your budget might be telling you to stay home. Your goals should include immediate financial needs, but also incorporate your wants. It is okay to want a new car, go to college, start a family, or change business direction. How you manage your financial situation will determine how well you will be able to achieve any of your dreams. This is where a priority list comes in handy.
After you have written down your financial goals, establish them according to priority. You will need to pay attention to things that are more pressing and of the highest importance to your long-term financial health. Your goals should include getting out of debt, owning your own home, decreasing your spending, and living within your means. You will be able to create a financial plan for your future by prioritizing your goals.
2. Determine Your Budget
It’s not just enough to have financial goals. You need to have a process for achieving them. A budget gives you parameters for reaching your long-term goals while meeting current needs. A budget takes your financial plan and puts it into action. Your plan for spending and savings is carried out through your budget. Following through your plan and sticking to your budget isn’t an instant fix, but within a few months, you should notice some changes in your cash flow. When you have established the things that are a priority, your budget will address those needs first. Even if you have long-term goals like retirement or a trip across the country, you need to leave room for your more immediate needs and goals.
Along with your priorities, you need to consider the importance of establishing an emergency fund. While it might seem useless slipping ten or twenty dollars a week into a savings account, the assistance a few hundred dollars can bring when your car is in the shop can keep you from blowing your budget to pieces. An emergency fund can help reduce your mental stress and still protect your long-term goals. A budget and an emergency fund help you stay in control of your financial situation.
3. Pay Off Your Debt
The biggest thing that can get in the way of reaching your financial goals is a mountain of debt. Eliminating your outstanding debt should be a priority. If you aren’t sure how to do this, establish a debt elimination plan to give a boost and help pay it all off more quickly. It doesn’t have to be a major step each month. Simply make your minimum payments on each account every month, but work on paying an extra amount to one specific account each month until it is paid off. Move on to the next account and do the same. This is a debt-paydown snowball effect. Once you have paid off your debt, make the commitment that you won’t end up there again. Rely on your emergency fund for your emergencies, and live below your means.
4. Ask for Advice
Once you get on track with your finances and you have a substantial amount in savings, you may want to look for ways to invest and grow your money. Rather than doing the homework on your own, work with a financial planner to find out how you can make the best investment for your money. An adviser can inform you of the risks of investment, but they can also help you safeguard against them.
Personal wealth doesn’t grow on trees nor is it easy to come by. With some proactive attention to areas of debt and savings, you can get on the road toward personal financial health and security.
Matt Shealy is the President of ChamberofCommerce.com. Chamber specializes in helping small businesses grow their business on the web while facilitating the connectivity between local businesses and more than 7,000 Chambers of Commerce worldwide.