You and Your Money
Five Tips for Good Financial Health
Photo: Piggy Bank
Setting long-term goals is essential.
Like a balanced diet, good financial health requires discipline, good habits and a plan.
For some, financial health simply means spending less than what they make. But for others it may also include saving money for retirement or investing in something that creates wealth, like purchasing a home or opening a business.
Good financial health can include all of the above and more—and the following tips can help you get started.
1. Create a budget
Financial experts are the first to say it: The first step towards good financial health is having a balanced budget. A good first step is to write down all of your monthly expenses and make sure that you’re not spending more than what you make.
Once you have a budget:
* Identify and eliminate nonessential expenses
* Set aside money saved
* Revise budget periodically to make adjustments as necessary
2. Have a plan to pay down your debt
Paying down debt is an essential part of good financial health. After all, money spent on debt is money not being saved for retirement or other investments.
The Federal Reserve has a calculator that can help you figure out how long it will take you to pay your credit cards depending on the interest rate and your monthly payments. There are also several nonprofit organizations that offer counseling if you have out of control debt.
3. Establish a long-term plan
After creating a budget and developing a plan to pay down your debts, financial experts suggest creating long-term financial goals. One of the most common of these goals is saving for retirement.
The Department of Labor suggests 10 ways to prepare for retirement, which include:
* Getting familiar with the Social Security Retirement Plan
* Contributing to an employer-backed pension or retirement plan, such as a 401(k), if available
* Opening an Individual Retirement Plan, or IRA
4. Protect Your Investments
Insurance policies can help you protect your wealth. Home and auto insurance are some of the most common policies. But there are others you might consider, including disability insurance, life insurance and long-term care insurance.
Before purchasing an insurance policy:
* Consider all your personal needs
* Learn about insurance policies offered by your employer
* Get at least two estimates
* Make sure to take advantage of all available discounts
5. Write a Will
Financial planning goes beyond one’s life. By writing a will, you can legally protect your property and ensure that your wealth is distributed to your survivors as you planned and with the least taxation as possible.
Consumeraction.gov offers some tips on how to write a will, including:
* Clearly establishing the fact that the document is a will
* Naming an executor of the will. This is the person who will ensure that your estate is distributed according to your wishes
* Signing the document in front of at least two witnesses