For many people, thinking about the future can be scary. Young people who have entered the workforce only recently see financial goals as far-off concepts. Still, others feel less empowered to control their financial futures, especially in a complex, global economy.
However, you can take a few relatively simple steps at any age to protect your financial standing throughout your life. Some are just alternate ways to think about your money. Other practical measures will help you put your finances in order and prepare you for future decisions.
Here are some steps you can take right now that can create a solid approach to investing and make your future finances stable:
Set Financial Goals
Defining your goals is the first step in achieving financial stability—and truthfully, the first step in almost any new endeavor. We tend to associate financial goals with the distant future, which is completely valid. But defining short-term goals is also critical (and often less daunting).
Think about where you want to be financially over different time ranges—ten years, one year, six months, or even just one week. Knowing where you want to be makes it easier to set achievable goals as building blocks for success.
Set a Budget
Few enterprises succeed without a set plan. In finances, that plan should always include a budget. Putting one in place for your finances helps you monitor cash flow, prioritize your needs, and set savings goals more realistically.
No matter your approach—a zero-based strategy, the 50/20/30 rule, or something else—the best budget is one you can stick to. Your approach is a matter of being truthful with your self-expectations. Calculate your current and estimated future income and use it to set a reasonable budget for your needs.
Budgets rarely work if you don’t track where your money goes. Anytime you purchase anything, make a note of it. Enter the transaction on whatever ledger you use, whether physical or virtual.
Plenty of mobile apps simplify this process considerably, letting you enter the record nearly at the point of purchase.
Open a Savings Account and “Pay Yourself First”
Savings accounts play a central part in a financial plan. Whether it’s a standard, interest-bearing bank account or a retirement fund, setting aside money to accumulate savings is always a good move.
One common mistake account holders make is contributing to savings accounts after spending money on monthly bills. That’s why many financial advisors recommend “paying yourself first.” This phrase simply means setting savings as part of your budget and contributing to it once you earn income before spending on other needs or obligations.
Set Up an Emergency Fund
All humans are at the mercy of the unexpected. Accidents, health crises, job losses, immediate travel, family affairs, and other sudden twists and turns can jeopardize your financial strategy.
One way to limit these expenses, if not erase them, is to start an emergency fund. The solution? A simple savings account.
Experts recommend that the fund hold whatever you need to cover six months of everyday expenses. Even if you can’t reach that level right now, you can start with whatever you can afford to sack away.
Pay Off High-Interest Debts as Soon as Possible
Debt management is a key, if unwelcome, component of personal financial management. High-interest debts, like credit cards and payday loans, can cause immediate and severe damage to one’s financial profile and resources.
Financial advisors suggest paying down high-interest debts as soon as possible. This approach avoids the accumulation of interest charges that might elude your attention. After you’ve paid them off, eliminate — or at least severely restrict — taking out such debts in the future.
Some just starting their journey to financial wealth don’t realize how accessible the investment market is to them. Stocks, bonds, mutual funds, ETFs, and other commodities are all relatively easy to invest in with an online brokerage account.
Before starting an investment account, there’s a lot to understand, including concepts like risk tolerance, asset allocation, and diversification. But once you have a handle on the most essential aspects of investing, do so early and as often as you can.
Ask for Help
You’re not alone in finding ways to establish financial security. A qualified financial advisor can help you set goals and make decisions that will work today and improve your future. Find one who understands your needs and has helped others achieve financial peace of mind.