Humans crave certainty. We want control.
And we understand that the majority of things that happen to us are beyond our control. But we can control how we prepare and position ourselves, as well as how we respond when things happen.
I’ve been helping people take control of their finances for 20+ years as a financial advisor. I’m honored to be named to Investopedia’s list of the top 100 financial advisors in the country many years running. My goal is to give you the tools you need to take control of your finances.
Here’s what we’ll cover:
- Knowing your financial facts
- Clarifying your financial priorities
- Creating plans
- Achieving common priorities
- How to make it real in your life
Let’s get started.
Knowing your financial facts
When it comes to your finances, you’ve gotta know your facts. Your financial facts are your cash flow, budget, credit and beliefs about money. These are essential parts of your financial foundation. As you work to take control of your finances and make plans for your future, you need to make sure you’re building on a strong foundation. Without that, any adversity can derail your plans.
On paper, understanding your cash flow is easy. You simply track money coming in, and money going out. But it’s easy to not pay attention. It’s easy to go for months at a time without reviewing. In order to effectively monitor your cash flow, you need to review all your financial accounts at least once a month. You may even find transactions you’re unaware of. Here’s a more detailed post on cash flow.
If you’re serious about taking control of your finances, this one’s for you. A budget is simply a plan for your money, and it can be a powerful tool. It can help you to know if you’re on track to meet your goals and objectives, and it can tell you if you can afford to do something (like go on vacation or invest in Bitcoin).
There’s not a right or wrong way to budget. Some people prefer to use spreadsheets, others like apps, and some people still use the back of their checkbook. What’s important is that you use it. Like tracking your cash flow, it’s important to review your budget on a monthly basis. Here are some detailed posts on budgeting.
If you’d like to dig deeper, check out our Get a Budget course.
Having good credit is good. Having bad credit is bad. Good credit means we pay less money for things. Having bad credit can prevent us from living where we want, driving the type of vehicle we want, and even working where we want. Because of these realities, we need to be good stewards of our credit. We do that in two ways.
It’s wise to check your credit report once a year. Keep an eye out for incorrect or inaccurate information. Should you find something that shouldn’t be there, contact the credit bureau immediately to resolve any discrepancies.
You can get a copy of your credit report for free from sites like FreeCreditReport.com.
Next, monitor your actual credit score. You can get your score by contacting one of your existing creditors (credit card companies or banks you have loans with). Strive to get your score to 620 as soon as possible. That will allow you to qualify for conventional loans, which will save you a lot of money over the long-term.
Here are two blog posts if you’d like to dig deeper into credit management:
If you’d like to dig deeper, check out our Improve Your Credit course.
Whether we’re aware of them or not, we all have existing beliefs about money. If they’re positive, you don’t have any work to do. If you’ve got negative beliefs about money, they can limit your ultimate potential. So how do you know? Go through these prompts and write down the first thing that comes to mind:
- Money is _____
- People with money are _____
- I’d have more money if _____
Here’s a blog post if you’d like to dig deeper into your beliefs about money.
It’s not simply your beliefs that are a problem. It’s how they cause you to act.
My limiting beliefs caused me to avoid financial matters. During my 20s, I didn’t pay attention to my cash flow, didn’t keep a budget, and waited till the last minute to pay my bills. Not a recipe for success. Once I figured out I had limiting beliefs, I began to work at replacing them with positive ones. That helped to start being proactive with my money and to take control of my finances.
Clarifying your financial priorities
Because we have limited resources, we need to prioritize how we allocate them. This is true for time, attention, money, and energy. If we decide what’s a priority and what’s not, somebody else will make those decisions.
Getting clear on what your personal values are is the starting point. To help you in this process, you can access our Values course for free. Our values are the lens we see the world through. They can help us choose experiences over possessions (or vice versa), decide where you’re going to donate money, as well as the types of investments you’ll make.
Once you know your priorities, it’s time to figure out where you’re going and how you’ll get there. You probably know the importance of setting goals, I know I did for most of my life. But, just because I knew they were important didn’t mean I actually set them. In fact, it took me until my mid-30s before I actually sat down and wrote out personal goals.
To help you get clear on what you want, you can access our Goals course for free as well.
Part of effective goals planning is creating plans for how you’ll actually accomplish them. When it comes to your finances, it’s imperative to take time horizon into consideration. You need money today, you’ll need it in 10 years, and you’ll need it in 50 years.
For each of your important financial priorities, formulating a plan for bringing them to life will help you take control.
Achieving common priorities
I’m sure you’ve got a long list of important priorities. I wanted to share some strategies for accomplishing some of the most common ones.
Getting out of debt
Credit card debt is a burden for many of us. Getting out should be a top priority. The first step is putting together a list of all your debts, the interest rates, total amount, minimum payments, and company. From there, you’ll be able to look at your current cash flow and budget to figure out how you to find the extra money and pay it off, and how long it will take.
In service of helping you to do that, you can access our Get Out of Debt course for free.
Here’s are two blog posts if you’d like to dig deeper into debt management:
Saving your emergency fund
Along with setting up a budget, funding an emergency fund is one of the most powerful tools you have to take control of your finances.
Pre-pandemic, I would recommend people have three months worth of expenses saved as their emergency fund. Today, I tell people to keep saving until they’ve got six months. Now, I recognize this isn’t a simple thing to do. But I assure you, it’s one of the most important things you can do. Once you’ve got it, you’ll enjoy far greater peace of mind.
Saving for retirement
Saving for retirement is the ultimate form of delaying gratification. You’re making a sacrifice today for your future-self.
Getting started as early as possible goes a long way. That being said, the best time to get started is right now. If your company has a 401(k), I recommend you enroll in it. If they offer a match of your contributions, contribute at least enough to get the full amount.
Regarding how much to be saving, you can utilize the tools of one of our Certified Partners, OnTrajectory, to model out the exact amounts based on your priorities.
Making it real
The more we can automate our finances, the better. Setting up automatic bill pay, direct deposit, and automatic contributions helps keep us on track.
I also encourage you to set a recurring money appointment in your calendar every month to go over your cash flow, budget, and to review your progress towards all your priorities.
You’re someone who is capable of financial success and reaching all your important goals. By following the steps I’ve just laid out, you can take control of your finances.
If you’re ready to take control of your financial life, check out our DIY Financial Plan course.
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