It’s a New Year, and many of us are still in goal-setting mode. While some years are more successful than others, I still love the process of setting goals and the feeling of achievement when I reach them.
I find that many of us find it very difficult to set financial goals. We all want to have more money; but beyond that, what should you do?
Here’s a reminder of the basics to get you started:
1. Spend Less Than You Earn
It’s the most basic rule of personal finance, and sounds so obvious. But if you are in the workforce and have been ignoring this rule – either by adding to credit card debt or flying through your savings – make this the year to stop.
Take a hard look at your income vs. your expenses every month. What came in and what came out?
2. Pay Yourself First
Are you saving for retirement, a child’s education, a home or a vacation? Or just financial freedom at some later date? It takes time to build savings, and most of us should be saving something every month. Make it easy on yourself by automating the process – you can easily link your checking account to deposit into your savings or investment accounts each payday. How much? That depends, but try to increase just a little each year.
3. Accept Gifts from your Employer and Uncle Sam
Are you maxing out your 401(k) or IRA? Many companies match, dollar for dollar, up to 6% of your salary contributed to a 401(k).
If you are a business owner, do you have a retirement plan for your business (not just an IRA)? Do you have a Roth IRA? Our government provides tax incentives for retirement savings. No one wants to pay *extra* taxes, so please, take advantage of them. Other ways to save on your taxes are out there, but retirement savings is generally the big one.
4. Put Your Money to Work
Is your money growing or just sitting there? While it’s important to have some liquid cash (the right amount will vary for each individual or family), beyond that amount… does your money have potential for growth?
5. Protect Yourself
Are others dependent on your income? What would happen to them if something happened to you? If you have a family, please be sure to cross life insurance off your list.
If these sound laughably simple, good news! You have the foundation in place for building wealth over the long term, and you can work on fine-tuning your investments. If they don’t, well … no time like the present to get started.