The COVID-19 pandemic had a significant impact on the American economy and on how people handled their finances. Numerous employees quit their employment during the so-called “Great Resignation,” and many more embraced a long-term remote or hybrid work schedule. As property sales and prices in suburban areas increased, some families purchased brand-new homes. In response to viral outbreaks, other parents enrolled their kids in private schools or started homeschooling them.
With all of these changes, it could be appropriate to review your financial condition at this time. This is crucial for those who have had financial difficulty recently and have had to rely on short-term solutions like stimulus payments or postponed student loan payments to maintain their budgets.
As Tax Day approaches, spring also looks like the ideal time to review your spending plan. However, according to financial experts, you should reassess your money management strategy at any moment. The chief of network expansion at JPMorgan Chase, Racquel Oden, asserts that “it’s never too late” and “it’s never too early.”
Making a budget is just one aspect of money management, and if that’s where you start, you’ll be missing out on important information. The following seven actions will help you handle your money wisely:
- Recognize your financial condition as it stands.
- Set financial and personal priorities.
- Establish and follow a budget.
- Create a reserve for emergencies.
- Make retirement savings.
- Clear your debt.
- Set up periodic progress reports.
Recognize your present financial position
You must assess your existing circumstances before you can begin to manage your money more effectively. According to Karen Heider, senior financial advisor at Concenture Wealth Management in Houston, Texas, “you have to know where your money is going.”
To comprehend your present financial condition, the first and most fundamental step is to keep track of all of your normal monthly income and expenses. Heider advises using one of the many apps that can automate the procedure if it sounds too difficult. Some of the free or inexpensive apps that can connect to financial accounts and make it simple to categorize expenditure are Mint, PocketGuard, and Simplifi by Quicken.
If you’re hesitant to link your bank account to an app, keep track of your spending for a month by looking through your receipts to see where your money goes besides the usual suspects like rent, utilities, and debt repayment. It might serve as a wake-up call to consider how much money is being spent on things like groceries and eating out.
Another option to comprehend your current financial status is to work with a specialist; you might be able to get this assistance for nothing. For instance, according to Oden, Chase provides free financial health checks at all of its locations.
Establish financial and personal priorities.
It’s time to assess whether your existing financial condition matches with your beliefs after outlining it. You don’t have a single life objective, Oden claims. “You have several objectives.” And identifying your financial goals can make the process of developing a workable budget much simpler.
For instance, hiring a housekeeping service could save you time and money if spending weekends with your family is a priority. However, if travel is a higher priority, it might not make as much sense. In that instance, spending on vacations might be a better use of the money used for housekeeping.
People sometimes limit themselves when they set financial objectives. Heider asserts that it isn’t necessary to pay off debt or put money down for retirement. Small or large financial goals, such as saving for a modest purchase or indulging in a luxury vacation, can be combined with short-term objectives to help you stay motivated.
Establish and adhere to a budget
It might be simple to create a budget that outlines how your money will be spent each month. However, adhering to it is frequently difficult. People could lack the self-control to avoid making impulsive purchases, or they might feel overly constrained by having to budget their money.
The benefit of adhering to a budget is having money available to spend on the things that are most important to you. A budget that is created with your priorities and goals in mind will also be simpler to stick to.
If you find that there isn’t enough money to cover everything you want, start looking for ways to reduce spending. While it’s common advice to stop making modest, recurrent payments like duplicate streaming services or takeout coffee, don’t forget about bigger, sporadic outlays.
According to Tyler Boyd, chief strategy officer for Squeeze, a digital tool that helps consumers analyze and lower household bills, you might not understand how simple it can be to reduce expenses that are sometimes thought of as fixed.
Boyd cites auto insurance as an area where households could save a lot of money. He remarks, “That’s a fantastic example of a bill we record on our ledger without cost comparison.”
Create a fund for emergencies
Maintaining a reserve of funds for unforeseen circumstances like a damaged automobile, illness, or lost job is a key component of successful money management. Gregory Lawrence, a certified financial planner and the founder of retirement planning company Lawrence Legacy Group in Estero, Florida, thinks that everyone needs an emergency fund.
Savings are the greatest way to start this fund, so include them in your spending plan. The amount you save will depend on how much additional cash you have on hand, but as a general rule, you should set aside 10% of your monthly salary for emergency savings with the aim of building up a sum equivalent to three to six months’ worth of normal costs.
No matter how much you can save, establish the practice. According to Lawrence, those who save pay themselves first. Set up recurring transfers or direct deposits into a savings account to make sure you get paid before other costs or impulsive purchases deplete your funds.
Invest for the future
You might desire to retire at some point, but doing so without a retirement savings will be challenging. Only about 40% of your salary is replaced by Social Security benefits, and many employers no longer provide pensions.
Heider claims that people “concentrate too much on debt and don’t think about retirement.” You must immediately start thinking about retirement (savings).
Due to automated salary deductions, workplace retirement plans like 401(k) accounts can be a smart way to save for retirement. Additionally, a lot of firms will match a part of their employees’ contributions, which will increase retirement savings even more. These accounts also qualify for tax benefits. A Roth 401(k) account is funded with after-tax money, but returns withdrawn in retirement are tax-free. Traditional 401(k) contributions are tax deductible.
An IRA provides comparable tax advantages for people without access to a 401(k) or other employer-sponsored retirement plan. Total IRA contributions for employees in 2022 are limited to $6,000 in total.
An IRA provides comparable tax advantages for people without access to a 401(k) or other employer-sponsored retirement plan. Total IRA contributions for 2022 are limited to $6,000 for employees under 50 and $7,000 for those over 50.
Lawrence declares, “I adore maximizing Roths.” They provide advantages for estate planning in addition to being able to save taxes in retirement. It’s a fantastic method to leave fortune to your offspring, he claims.
Clear your debt.
Debt can make it difficult to achieve financial goals, and it can be difficult to pay it off.
Since the majority of debt carries an interest charge, paying off your debts can take a while if you are only making the minimal payments. Concentrating any excess funds on one loan is one method for accelerating payback. Roll the repayment of one obligation into another debt once it has been paid off, and do this until all outstanding debts have been paid.
Consolidating high interest credit cards into a loan or line of credit with a reduced interest rate may be helpful in some circumstances. However, debt consolidation only works if you make a long-term commitment to residing within your means. Otherwise, you risk having a new credit card balance in addition to your debt consolidation loan. If a loan is necessary, get the one with the shortest term you can.
But don’t make the error of delaying savings while paying off debt. Heider asserts, “It’s not all or nothing. It is a balance, She claims that dividing your funds between debt repayment and savings is the best strategy.
Set up periodic progress reports
It takes time to properly manage your finances. Making regular appointments throughout the year to assess your financial condition, including your income, expenses, savings, and net worth, is beneficial.
Additionally, verify your credit report by requesting a free copy from AnnualCreditReport.com as least once a year. Heider observes that “a lot of people do not actively monitor their credit report.” Regularly reviewing report data is crucial to finding errors or possible fraud that might have an adverse effect on your credit score as well as the interest rates you pay on loans and credit cards.
Utilize these check-ins to assess the status of financial objectives and to see if any budget items require future revision. Your spending may need to adjust if you discover that your goals have changed.