Every single one of us has personal finances, whether we are an employee or self-employed, we own our own house or not, or we are a student or the CEO of a Fortune-500 company. There may be different ways in which we approach our personal finances, and indeed there may be different ways in which we manage it. Some people will use a team of accountants, whereas most of us will rely on a financial advisor or just ourselves, perhaps with a little help with some accounting software.
And yet the objective remains the same: to understand and effectively manage our finances. In this respect, the core principles, which can be broken down into 3, remain the same!
Create a plan, and stick to it, including your budget
This could be split into three distinct components of planning, executing and budgeting, but when you think about it, it all really boils down to the same thing: understand what you want (and have) to achieve. This will be intrinsically linked to the next point on debt, because a plan should factor in any debt that you already have, and thus want to get rid of, as well as the avoidance of any future debt.
Start by putting together some detailed goals: a five or ten-year plan if you will. In fact, it may be even more long term, covering you into retirement, for example. It will be best to include both longer and shorter-term goals because you don’t want a comfortable retirement coming at the cost of not taking a vacation for the next 30 years, for example.
The key considerations here are obviously your current earnings, your potential future earnings (set this out as a clear step), your assets, your debts, and then your costs. A properly fleshed-out plan will consider all of these variables, as well as the risks and opportunities that will arise over the coming period. These are impossible to predict accurately in the long term, but you definitely should think about health insurance, for example, just in case something does change in the future. What you absolutely cannot do is continue to live only in the moment. Build an emergency fund too in order to give you peace of mind in any circumstance.
Now, once you have your budget, there is no cutting corners: you must stick to it. If you don’t, then your plan becomes worthless. And when we talk about sticking to your budget, it’s not simply about spending no more than X amount per month, for example. It is also how that money is allocated.
“In order to respect the plan and your budget, you need to commit X amount to A (which could be your long-term objective) , X amount to B (which is your emergency fund), which then leaves you with X amount to spend on C (your short-term needs and wants). If you want to save for a vacation in a year’s time, then that means spending a little less on C each month to make up the amount you need, not taking something from pot A or B. This is all fundamental when it comes to respecting the budget,” states Ben Willough, a finance blogger at Academized and State Of Writing.
No one wants to live with debt: it is stressful, and seriously hinders you in reaching your financial goals. That is why, if you have debt, it must become the first priority when building your financial plan and setting your budget. Your plan must set out a debt elimination process, by which you seek to eradicate your debt as quickly as you can.
If your debts are split, then formulate a plan which looks to pay off a little of each debt every month. However, if one debt is inflicting serious interest, then this debt becomes your priority. Once you have paid off that debt, you can then move on to the next.
I always advise finding creative ways off assisting this debt elimination process: for example, by selling off any unwanted items, getting a second job simply to pay off those debts, if time allows, or by cutting back on non-essential spending,” recommends Faye McCrae, a business editor at Revieweal and TopCanadianWriters.
Get advice when you need it
This is a key piece of advice, and goes a long way to explaining why people with the means have a team of financial experts batting for them. It is very difficult to know everything about everything you need to know, so sometimes we must seek out advice to assist us in our financial planning. That may be an investment expert, a debt expert, or simply someone who can assist you in paying taxes and so on. There is plenty of software available which can assist too, and it’s mostly very easy to use.