When it comes to finances, there are a few key tips that can make a big difference down the road. Many times, these are things our parents drilled into our heads as teens, or it was something we learned on our own through trial and error. If wealth is knowledge (pun intended), then why keep these key strategies to ourselves, then share them and better our clients and those who are hoping to pick up a tip or two to help them better manage their finances? My colleagues and I sat down to discuss what are some of the most important financial tips that we wish we knew when we were younger or had to figure out the hard way. There were many tips on that list, but to narrow it down to the most crucial, we've outlined a very lucky number seven to share with all of you.
1.) Make a Monthly Budget
One of the most important steps in ensuring financial success is creating a monthly budget. This may sound simple, but a budget is your financial strategy's foundation.
Creating a monthly budget doesn't have to be complicated. Here's how to ensure you're setting yourself up for financial success:
- First, calculate your gross monthly income. This could include your salary, investment income, Social Security, child support/alimony, freelance work, or other income sources. Remember to calculate your net income as well, which is how much is left after taxes and other deductions.
- Speaking of priorities, consider your financial priorities and allocate your budget accordingly. In addition to your regular monthly expenses, you might decide to increase your general savings or earmark money toward a large purchase such as a home or car. The important point is to decide what's important and to make sure your budget reflects those values.
- Finally, create expense categories for where your money is spent and track each and every expense. It's important to differentiate between wants and needs. You need to pay the rent or mortgage payment, but you want a new pair of shoes or a nice dinner out. By tracking your spending, you can determine whether your budget is aligned with your priorities or if you should make adjustments to your goals.
In a previous post, we also mentioned a free online tool called Mint. This mobile app connects directly with your bank account, credit cards, investment accounts, loans, and more to track spending and income, and provides helpful insights and tips to keep you on track. To learn more about visit our blog post, Four Free Online Finance Tools.
2.) Review Outstanding Debt
If you're like most people, you probably have some form of debt. Whether it's a mortgage, a car loan, or credit card debt, it's important to keep track of your payments and make sure you're on top of your finances.
One way to do this is to review your outstanding debt on a regular basis. This will help you stay aware of how much money you owe and ensure that you're making progress in paying it off.
Here are some tips for reviewing your outstanding debt:
- Check your statements: Make sure you're keeping track of all your payments by checking your monthly statements. This will give you an accurate picture of how much debt you have and how much you're paying off each month.
- Create a budget: A budget can help you see where your money is going and where you can cut back in order to make extra debt payments.
- Make a plan: Once you know how much debt you have and what your budget looks like, you can start to make a plan for paying it off. This may include making extra payments each month or finding ways to consolidate your debt.
By reviewing your outstanding debt on a regular basis, you can stay on top of your finances and make progress in paying it off. And with the right tools and strategies, you can achieve your financial goals and take control of your finances.
3.) Review your Investments
As you become more financially literate and feel comfortable talking about finances, you may consider looking into investments that are aligned with your goals. There are so many different types of investments and working with a financial advisor can help you understand your options. You should also educate yourself on some of the most common investment types, including:
Reviewing your investments regularly is a good way to stay on top of your finances and make sure that your money is working for you. Financial literacy is an important part of achieving your financial goals. Budgeting, saving, and investing are all key components of personal finance. By taking the time to learn about these topics, you can take control of your money and secure your financial future. Financial literacy can help you make smart choices about your money, and that knowledge can empower you to achieve your financial goals.
4.) Consult Your CPA
If you are filing your taxes this year, it can be a complicated and stressful process. That's why it's important to consult with your CPA before starting the filing process.
With years of experience in handling financial matters, CPAs, like the professionals at our sister company MBE CPAs, have expert knowledge on all things related to taxes. They can give you advice on which deductions and credits may apply to your specific tax situation, as well as help you understand any potential tax liabilities that you may face.
So whether you're just starting out with filing your taxes or you've been doing it for many years, it's always a good idea to speak with your CPA. With their guidance, the process will be much easier and less stressful, allowing you to focus on other important things in your life. So don't hesitate to reach out to our friends at MBE CPAs and get the help you need with filing your taxes!
5.) Consider a Plan for Added Income
If you received a pay raise or bonus this year, it's important to consider a plan for that added income. Options like putting it into savings or investments can help you reach your financial goals and ensure that you are making the most of your extra earnings.
Whether you're looking to save for retirement or simply want to build up an emergency fund, there are a variety of ways to invest your extra income. Some popular options include investing in stocks, bonds, mutual funds, or real estate. Additionally, you may consider opening a tax-advantaged retirement account such as an IRA or 401K if you haven't already done so.\
No matter what your goals are, it's important to have a plan for your added income. By investing your money wisely, you can help yourself reach your financial goals and build a solid foundation for your future.
6.) CompareYour Interest Rates
At today's low-interest rates, it is more important than ever to make sure that your mortgage or other loans are financed at the best possible rate. Whether you are looking to maximize your savings with a high-interest account, or minimize the cost of your debt by refinancing, it is essential to compare your current interest rates with those available in the market.
With so many different financial products and services on offer, choosing the right one can be overwhelming. To help you find the right option and get the most out of your finances, here are a few tips for comparing interest rates:
- Be proactive about checking your rates regularly. Financial institutions often change their rates without notice, so it is important to stay up-to-date with the market and be aware of any changes that may affect your finances.
- Look beyond simple interest rates when comparing options. Some financial products, such as savings accounts or mortgages, offer higher interest rates but may also have other features or restrictions that could end up costing you more in the long run. For example, a high-interest account might only allow a certain number of withdrawals each month, which could prevent you from accessing your funds when you need them most.
- Do your research to find out what interest rates are available for different types of loans or products in your area. Websites like Bankrate and Ratehub can help you compare the different interest rates offered by various banks, credit unions, and other financial institutions.
- Consider using an online broker to compare interest rates from multiple lenders at once. This can save you a lot of time and effort, and help you find the best deal for your needs.
- When comparing interest rates, be sure to consider the fees associated with each option. Some financial products come with high upfront fees, which can eat into your savings or increase the cost of borrowing.
Remember, that the lowest interest rate is not always the best option. It is important to consider all of the factors involved before making a decision, in order to make sure that you are choosing the right product for your needs.
7.) Check Your Credit Score
If it's been a while since you checked your credit score, now is a great time to see where you stand. Your credit score is an important metric when considering your financial health and will play a larger role when you apply for loans, especially mortgages and car loans. If you have a higher credit score, you may qualify for lower-interest debt, which will save you money.
Reviewing your credit report is important to ensure there aren't any mistakes or incorrect accounts assigned to you. If you notice something on your credit report that doesn't look accurate, such as a loan or credit card you don't remember opening, contact your financial institutions immediately. You can also file a dispute with the credit reporting agencies to report any false information you find.
Whatever method you choose, it's important to review your credit report regularly in order to ensure there aren't any mistakes or incorrect accounts listed. With regular monitoring and good financial habits, you can maintain a healthy credit score and take control of your finances.
Don’t Be Afraid to Ask Questions
Learning about finances can be intimidating, but we all must start somewhere. This Financial Literacy Month, make it a goal to learn one or two new facts about finance and contact an expert who can help. You can turn to financial advisors and financial publications to get your questions answered without feeling naive or silly. There's no such thing as a dumb question when it comes to becoming more financially literate and secure.
Financial literacy doesn't come from making big leaps but rather from taking one step at a time. Pick one of the options above and start yourself on the path to becoming financially savvy. Contact me, today if I can help answer any of your questions on finances.
AUTHORED BY GRIFFIN KALEPP, CFP - FINANCIAL PLANNER