Take Financial Control Now
Between work, friends, family and the things you enjoy, it's hard to find the time or energy to think about investing. But getting your financial life in order is easier than you think. The trick is to get started. What you do—or don't do—with your money today will have a profound effect on your future.
Like many areas in your life, start with a list and work through it one item at a time. These eight tips should help you get organized.
1. Make Investing a Priority
Like most people, you probably realize that you can't afford to put off making investment decisions. Now is the time to make your financial life more of a priority. Go as far as setting an appointment with yourself to ensure that you get started this week.
2. Make a list of Realistic Financial Goals
- Eliminate debt?
- Save for a wedding?
- Make a down payment on a house?
- Pay for an advanced degree?
Next to each item, write down your time frame for achieving that goal. Don't forget to include retirement. It's one goal that no one can afford to ignore.
3. Organize and Plan
Where are you now, financially? Organize your bills and receipts to get a handle on your financial situation. What do you spend the most on? Where could you save? Pull all of your financial paperwork together to help you to determine your current money situation and what you want to achieve moving forward.
4. Put Yourself on a Budget
Make a chart with your take-home pay in one column and your expenses in another. Include all of your monthly costs, including rent, transportation, utilities, food, gifts, clothing, travel—anything you spend your money on. Your expenses should not exceed your take-home pay. If they do, make adjustments.
5. Speak with a Financial Advisor
A qualified financial advisor can be an invaluable resource. If you don't have a financial advisor, ask friends, colleagues and family members for recommendations, or find one now. Financial advisors typically charge a fee for their services.
6. Read. Ask. Listen. Learn.
Take some time to understand money and investments. If you work with an advisor, be an active participant in your financial planning. Keep up with the markets by reading, asking questions, truly listening to the answers and then asking more questions.
7. Take Advantage of Employer-Sponsored Retirement Plans
Remember to allocate some money each month to a savings plan. Sign up to participate in your company's 401(k) or other qualified plan—many companies will contribute to your account as part of your benefits. Plus, your contribution is pretax, up to IRS limits!
8. Start Now
By far the most important thing to do is to develop a financial plan. Remember that the sooner you start, the more your money grows and the closer you'll get to your financial goals.
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