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What Will it Take to Own Your Financial Future?

June 09, 2021

Do you ever feel like your finances just aren’t running on all cylinders? Setting definitive financial goals will help you stay on track, weather unexpected expenses, and gain peace of mind for your later years.

Today, I’d like to offer six goals that can help you get on track – and stay there – so you can own your financial future.

Live Within Your Means

We all know that we should live within our means, but it can be easier said than done. This is especially true when wages are stagnant, yet prices for everything from food to housing to cars continue to rise. Seventy-eight percent of American workers live paycheck to paycheck; of those, three in four are in debt, and one in four have no savings. Walking that close to the financial edge means one unexpected expense, something as common as a broken-down vehicle, could become a personal financial crisis.

So, how do you live within your means and avoid these potential crises? Here are four tips to guide you:

  • · Know exactly how much money you’ll have, after taxes, to pay for your lifestyle.
  • · Review all your expenses. You may be surprised at just how much money you’re wasting on things like eating out, gym memberships, cable, and online monthly subscriptions.
  • · Come up with a realistic budget that you can stick to. Your ultimate goal, of course, is to spend less than what you earn.
  • · Find areas where you can change your spending habits. For instance, save up for that dream vacation (rather than putting it on credit cards), buy an older model car, or live in a more modest home.

To make peace with your new spending values, avoid competitiveness and comparison with your friends and family. Instead, focus on your long-term goal of financial security. In the end, this will provide you with much greater value than keeping up with the Joneses ever will. This isn’t always easy, but it is always worth it.

Build an Emergency Fund

Having an emergency fund is a critical step when it comes to your overall financial health. Before paying off any significant debts, you should work toward establishing an emergency savings fund. This fund is your cushion for unforeseen expenses like a health issue, a needed big-ticket item, or other unexpected emergencies.

To start, set your sights on saving the equivalent of three to six months of your living expenses (preferably in a high-yield online savings account) earmarked for emergencies only. Once you have a nice cushion of emergency funds, you can begin paying off consumer debts.

Ideally, you want to be saving for retirement in retirement accounts, such as a 401(k) or Roth IRA, at the same time as building your emergency fund. However, if you’re only able to do one at a time, build your emergency fund first.

Pay Down Debt

If you’re working toward healthier finances overall, paying off debt is an important goal.  There are many ways to approach paying off debt, so do some research and choose the path that’s right for you. Helpful steps include consolidating debts to a fixed payment with a fixed term, always paying more than the minimum required payment, and paying off your most expensive or highest-interest debt first.

It takes discipline to pay down debts, but keep your long-term goals in mind: wouldn’t it be nice to retire debt-free?

SEE ALSO: Do You Know Your Financial Independence Day?

Maintain Good Credit

A strong credit score is integral to your financial health. Unfortunately, 30 percent of Americans have a credit score under 600, which is considered fair or poor. Good credit gets you better rates on mortgages, credit cards, and lines of credit.

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Managing your wealth is a very personal subject, one we should discuss in a more personal setting.