Everyone has at least one thing that they will be grateful for this year. Although it’s been a tough one to get through, I hope that these tips below will give you a grain of salt to carry through the remainder of the year, and for many more years to come. Once I implemented them and truly began to practice them in my own life, I began to notice a difference in how my finances, and financial knowledge, was growing. They aren’t ground breaking, nobel prize winning tips, and many of you may already know them. I can assure you, it’s worth the next 5 minutes of your time to soak them back in, or even soak them in for the first time. Either way, enjoy!
1. Contribute to a Retirement Plan.
While I’m sure many of you already do this, especially if you’re employed by a private company, I cannot stress the importance of this simple tip. It ranks number one because of how crucial it is in setting your future self up for success and comfort. Many times, your work will offer you FREE money! Say you contribute 3% to your 401(k) plan at work, your employer often will match that 3% as well! It may not seem like a lot, but over the years, that little bump can drastically add up. The benefit of each retirement plan is beyond the scope of this article, but this money is taken out of your paycheck before you even have the chance to see it, and spend it!
If you need the additional money after calculating a budget, maybe forgo this step, but chances are, you will be able to contribute even if it is the minimum amount to take advantage of your employer’s match. The social security system that many people have relied on to provide income for them in retirement will nearly vanish by 2050. You will not be able to retire comfortably without the aid of Qualified Retirement Plans.
2. Stick to a budget!
There’s no better way to adhere to this rule than by using my R.E.A.L.I.S.T.I.C budget method. It has been proven an invaluable financial tool to EVERYONE who uses it. It has helped individuals save money that they never knew they were able to. Heck, this could free up some change to contribute to that sweet deal in Tip #1!
Your future self will praise you. Beyond that, how will you know where your money is going, where your money should go, or where your money can AFFORD to go if you do not have a plan for it! That’s like going on a hike without a trail...you’ll wander in circles! This can be cost effective, and I can assure you that your future self will NOT like you if you don’t adhere to this Tip.
3. Pay off old debt before incurring new debt!
Duh, sounds obvious, doesn’t it? You’d be surprised how often this tip is not followed. People with student loan debt will buy a house with debt, then a car, then have kids, then get a credit card to pay for the kid! Life isn’t easy, and it certainly isn’t without hardship. Things happen, life happens. If you can control it, do NOT TAKE ON DEBT. Student loan debt is the number 1 debt in the country.
During the pandemic, 41% of people who have student loan debt said they didn’t make a payment on it. We can’t all afford to do so, but the effects of piling debt on top of more debt is a snowball that will crush you at the bottom of the hill. With interest rates that can be higher than ANY return you can safely generate in the market (Credit Cards have 15-22% interest rates) it will catch up to you faster than you think.
4. Save for a Rainy Day!
Sometimes, this one can be more important than all the above tips. Assuming that you can afford to contribute to a retirement plan, and that your employer matches your contributions, save money in cash! If you can’t afford to do so, this rainy day fund would be a better place to park your hard earned money. Cash is not without risk (inflationary risk) however, you NEED a cushion to fall back on when times get tough.
Experts estimate that you should have a safety net equivalent to 3 months - 24 months of expenses (this depends on many factors including your age, time until retirement, economic environment, risk tolerance, etc…)! Even if you can’t contribute a lot to a savings account, just a little is better than nothing. That will take us to a cliche, and obvious (BUT IMPORTANT) Tip #5!
5. A little is better than nothing!
This tip surely carries past the realms of personal finance. However, in this context it is EXTREMELY vital you adhere to this. Not all of us are afforded the same luxuries of being able to contribute/save/invest large chunks of money. Many of us are, and even they say things like “Well, I don’t think it will have much of an impact, so I’ll hold off on saving”. Any PENNY you save is more beneficial towards your future than a penny wasted. The little bit adds up and COMPOUNDS over time.
Do not compare yourself to others or the financial status others are in. If you take the time to make your finances a priority, you will sprint ahead in the long run.