Managing Your Finances

Managing money doesn’t come easily to everyone. So if you are struggling, don’t despair. Getting your financial life in order sooner rather than later, will be worth the effort. 
Here are eight starting points for you to consider.   
1. Create a budget  I know…it’s as fun as dieting, right? But you need one! You don’t know where your money is going or your true financial situation without a budget. It’s the first step to paying off debt with purpose, building your emergency savings, and having the money needed to buy a home, car, and fund your retirement accounts. Without a budget, you will live constantly surprised about what’s coming next and how you will pay for it. 
2. Understand your expenses  Keep track of every expense you incur for three months. Know where every dollar goes. Take all your receipts and record them in a program like Quicken. Remember to do the same with credit card and debit card purchases. If you have a spouse, get their help with bringing you their receipts, too. This will enable you to understand your big picture spending.    
3. Track your income  Next, keep track in the same way of your income. Hopefully, you’ll have more money coming in than going out. What is the net result? If you have more money leaving than coming in, you may find yourself in a constant state of debt. Look for ways to reduce expenditures until you break even and possibly hit a positive number.  
4. Consolidate debt  The majority of people carry credit card debt, student loans, car loans, mortgages, and HELOCs but couldn’t tell you how much they owe or the corresponding interest rates. Make a list of your debts and the interest rates for each. Look for ways to reduce debt efficiently including consolidation opportunities at the lowest possible interest rate.
5. Notice the surprises  As you track your expenses and see where your money goes, what surprises you? When I did this exercise in my early 30s, I was spending more money than I wanted to on Starbucks and childcare. Look for cost saving measures especially on things you don’t use or don’t bring you enjoyment. You can always add those things back into your lifestyle later. What about stuff sitting around that costs you money? The idea is objectively doing some detective work to consciously make improvements. 
6. Create a rainy day savings account  Stash the leftover cash in an account that you consider off limits. Without emergency savings, you have to use your credit cards, and that just makes debt consolidation and payoff more difficult. If for some reason you HAVE to take money out for an unexpected expense, try to replenish the money you took out ASAP.
7. Save 10 percent for retirement  When you’re 20 years old, retirement seems like two worlds away! But it quickly approaches and you want to take advantage of compound interest because it’s AMAZING. Investing early means you’ll have more options later in life when you possibly may be raising a family and working long hours. Need help setting up a plan that’s best for you, ask for help. Call our office.  I have a soft spot in my heart for young investors. And, if you have a 401K Plan at work with a match, I’m going to be calling your employer with you to help you sign up! Not kidding. It’s that good.
8.  Review your FICO Score  Your Credit Report is your financial report card. It reflects the grade you have received for present and past loans, credit cards, mortgages, etc. in a number score. Your FICO Score impacts your future ability to borrow money when you need to. And, you’re going to want a good credit score before you buy a home, auto, etc. because you’ll be able to obtain a lower interest rate which will save you money over the life of the loan. Pay your bills on time, keep track of how much credit you have compared to what you are using, and learn the lingo.   
Simplify and automate all aspects of your financial life. Check in often to monitor your progress. Focus on continuous improvement as you continue to learn more about your habits and those of the financially savvy. This is a lifetime journey and the sooner you start the more time you have to enjoy the rewards and share with others.