Your financial future is wide open. One promise of America is our ability to achieve whatever level of success we want. It doesn’t matter if you’re the son or daughter of a billionaire, or you’re a first-generation American.
Success and a bright financial future is available to you.
But it’s not guaranteed, you’re not entitled to it, and it won’t be easy to get.
A great financial future will require sacrifices, and you’ll need to become a good steward of your most important resources. My goal is to share what’s required for you to make it happen.
As a financial advisor, I’ve been helping people become financially successful for over 20 years. I’m honored to be named to Investopedia’s list of the top 100 financial advisors many years running. Wherever you are, I can help you get where you want to go.
Here’s what we’ll cover:
- Knowing your financial facts
- The three most important financial principles
- Security, then prosperity
- Your financial goals
Let’s get started.
Knowing your financial facts
For your personal finances, your facts are cash flow, budget and credit. Having a basic understanding of these, and consistently paying attention to them is a prerequisite for financial success.
“What gets measured, gets managed” is a financial first principle. Too often, we take our eye off the proverbial ball and stop monitoring these important areas. That’s a recipe for financial disaster. Here’s how you know your financial facts:
You have to know how much money you have coming in every month, and how much is going out. Do you know each of those numbers? Variable expenses make it more difficult to definitively know how much your spending monthly, but you should have a general idea.
When was the last time you reviewed your monthly transactions? However long it’s been, that’s how far back I want you to go. If it’s been a year, go back through the previous 12 months and look at every financial transaction.
It’s wise to constantly work to optimize your finances. In service of doing that, you’re looking for things you’re spending on that are no longer of value to you. When you find one, get rid of it. If you’re not sure if you’ll miss it, cut it out. You can always add it back in later.
A budget is a plan for your money. When you keep a budget, you know if you’re on track to a great financial future, or if you’re behind.
There are a lot of ways to keep a budget, here are some great tools to help you get started:
- Spreadsheets: You can download our Personal Financial Statement, and I encourage you to check out Tiller Money.
- There are a lot of great apps available for free like Mint and YNAB.
- I’m also an advocate for the 50/20/30 budget guide.
When you get started budgeting, you may find it restrictive (I know I did). As you get in the habit of doing it, you’ll find it becomes an empowering exercise because it gives you a greater sense of control.
If you like to dig deeper, check out our Get a Budget Course.
Credit plays an important role in our lives. It influences where we work, live, and the vehicles we drive. Because of its influence, it’s important to strengthen our credit. Your initial goal should be to get your score to at least 620. This will allow you to qualify for conventional financing, which will save you a lot of money long-term.
To monitor your credit, it’s wise to review your credit report at least once a year (FreeCreditReport.com), as well as your credit score. When reviewing your credit report, keep an eye out for incorrect information such as names and addresses that have no relation to you; that may be a sign of fraud. You should also look for incorrect information about any accounts. Should you find any, reach out to the credit bureau to get it resolved.
You can reach out to an existing creditor (credit card company, home or vehicle lender) to get your credit score. You can learn more about improving your score from this blog post.
The three most important financial principles
There are a lot of financial concepts to pay attention to, none more important than these three. I like to talk about them in terms of Olympic medals.
The Gold medal of personal finance is “Pay yourself first.” You do this by making sure you’re contributing to your financial priorities at the beginning of every month. The opposite of this is paying everyone else first, and waiting till the end of the month to pay yourself. When you do this, you recognize there’s rarely any money left over for you. This leads to living paycheck-to-paycheck.
Here’s how you do it:
- Enroll in your company’s 401(k) and beginning making automatic contributions
- Open an IRA and set up automatic contributions at the beginning of every month
- Open a savings account and set up automatic transfers at the beginning of every month
The Silver medal of personal finance is “Stay out of debt.” The average American has over $6,000 of credit card debt. This debt keeps is a massive burden that causes stress and prevents us from pursuing our most important financial priorities. Because of that, you need to do everything you can to get out. In service of helping you do that, you can access our Get Out of Debt course for free.
The Bronze medal of personal finance is “Diversify.” Never put over 5% of your net worth in a concentrated investment. What’s a concentrated investment? An individual stock, bond, or cryptoasset.
The rise of online trading platforms like Robinhood have increase interest in investing, which is a positive. The flip side of that coin is that the vast majority of people using those platforms are losing their money. This is because they are not diversified.
You take a diversified approach to investing through mutual funds and ETFs. I’m a fan of low-cost index investing, as well as robo advisors like M1 Finance. Once you’ve created a sound foundation and are on track to reach your goals and objectives, you can invest in more concentrated investments. But don’t put the cart before the horse.
Security, then prosperity
Whatever your financial goals, that’s what I want for you. You want to get rich, great! If you simply want to get out of debt so you can stop worrying about money, I’m here for you. Here’s what I know for sure; you’ll never reach financial prosperity unless you first find financial security.
You reach financial security by building your emergency fund. I recommend you save six months’ worth of expenses in your emergency fund. And I know that won’t be easy, but it will be worth it. Once you’ve got a fully-funded emergency fund, you’ll have financial peace of mind. When you’ve got that, you’re well-positioned to go after financial prosperity.
Your financial goals
Finally, you need to get clear on what you want. The financial industry makes “financial planning” unnecessarily complex. A financial plan is a pretty straightforward thing.
You figure out where you want to go, look at where you are, then create a plan for closing the gap. Once you know what you need to do, you put your plan into action and start chipping away at it.
To help you get clear in the future you want, you can access our Goals course for free.
A great financial future is available to you. I’m interested in helping you get wherever you want to go, please don’t’ hesitate to reach out.
If you’re ready to take control of your financial life, check out our DIY Financial Plan course.
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