Get Your Finances In Order: The Basics

It's the start of a new year and with it comes the need to plan for the year ahead. This is the season for resolutions! So while you make your goals to lose weight, start that new diet, travel more and live your best life, one thing you should include is to become more fiscally responsible. It's time to get your finances in order.


Here are 5 things to get started on the right path:

1. Have a PLAN

Create a roadmap for your finances. What are your financial goals and what will you do to achieve them? Break your goals down into bite-sized action steps and work diligently to reach them. Put a timeline on each goal to keep yourself accountable. Make a plan for all the things that will require money. Consider hiring a financial planner/advisor that can give you personalized recommendations and keep you on a timeline. 

2. Create and Commit to a Budget

This will take some discipline. Consider adopting and applying the the 50-30-20 rule. Essentially this means, 50 percent of your money each month should go to essentials like bills and housing, 20 percent should go towards your financial goals like savings, saving for retirement and paying off debt/student loans, and 30 percent should go towards wants like vacation, entertainment, etc. Of course your budget sometimes need a little wiggle room but for the most part try to stick to this plan. Automate is so that you don't have to think about it.

3. Start a Retirement Fund

It is really important that you get on this early! It is vital that you prioritize creating and contributing to a retirement fund and take advantage of compounding interest. Compounding interest will do a lot of the hard work for you if you start early. Try to maximize your contributions and take advantage of any match system your job has to offer. Speak with your accountant about the tax benefits.

4. Keep an Emergency Fund

Make sure you have at least three (3) to nine (9) months of funds saved up for a rainy day.  This is where part of the 20 percent savings portion of your budget should go, and it's there in case you lose your job, become ill, or encounter an unexpected expense. Keep this money in a separate savings account at a separate bank from your checking account and forego a debit card for that account. Also, automate your contributions.  Ask your employer to direct debit a portion of your salary into your emergency fund account. You can also consider placing the funds into an account with high yield interest. 

5. Tackle your debt.

All debt are not created equal. There is what we call good debt and there's bad debt.  Things like credit card debt are considered bad debt because it grows pretty quickly and doesn't help you in the long term. Interest rates are usually higher and can take much longer to pay off. On the contrary, student loans are considered good debt because it's an investment into your future earning power. Put as much money as you can towards credit card bills first starting with the with the one with the highest interest. Once that's paid off, prioritize the next highest interest debt, and so forth. Also consider automating the contribution to your debt payment so that you never have to worry about a missed or late payment.