Do you want to feel like a financial planning pro? If the answer is yes, you need to start with the basics. Even millionaires had to start somewhere! If you’re new to the world of financial planning, don’t worry—getting started is easier than you think. We’re here to give you a crash course in Financial Planning 101.
Read on to learn five essential tips.
#1 Cash In > Cash Out
This tip is as basic as it is useful. Ensuring your income is greater than your expenditures will give you a solid foundation to build the rest of your financial strategy. We know this is easier said than done, so if your economic equation isn’t adding up, we recommend:
- Finding ways to bring in more cash like:
- Pursuing a side hustle
- Taking on extra hours at work
- Asking for a raise when you deserve one
- Finding ways to spend less such as:
- Canceling subscription services
- Learning how to cook affordable meals
- Refinancing your mortgage
#2 Double Down on Debt
Once you get your cash flow in order, it’s time to tackle debt. Even small amounts of debt can add up when you factor in fees and interest rates. Plus, it’s disheartening to watch your paycheck get eaten up by purchases you made months or years ago (even if you are still using that awesome Moped you bought in your senior year of college). The best way to start digging yourself out of the hole is to get organized. Figure out:
- How much you owe
- Who you owe
- Which debts have the highest interest rates
- Which payments are due first
Once you’ve taken a good look at your debts, you can start allocating funds towards reducing them.
#3 Taxes Suck—But You Need to Do Them
We’d love to tell you that taxes don’t even factor into getting your financial act together, but we have to be honest with you. Staying on top of your taxes is infinitely easier than trying to undo the damage caused by ignoring them.
Plus, if you do them correctly, you might even find yourself with a financial return you can use towards a special purchase (or paying off more debt—sorry, it’s not exactly the most glamorous suggestion, but it may be the wisest). Double-checking your taxes will ensure your refund doesn’t get taken away with a tax offset.
#4 Your Budget is Your Friend
The word ‘budget’ gets a bad rap, like Nicolas Cage, Hallmark Christmas movies, or meatloaf (the middle-school-cafeteria kind, not the mom’s-homemade-recipe kind).
But National Treasure is a cinematic masterpiece, Hallmark classics make you feel warm and fuzzy, and meatloaf is actually pretty good when it’s made for a family of five, not a school of five hundred.
Most people equate budgeting with clipping coupons and buying off-brand cereal, but it’s not all about deprivation—it’s about learning how to allocate money towards things you want and need, and away from purchases you don’t. If the occasional cup of coffee or pair of shoes makes you happy, put it in the budget. If paying for a gym membership you never use doesn’t (which is, let’s face it, almost always the case), cut it out!
#5 As a Beginner, Get Help from the Experts
Finances are intimidating and asking for help can be tough. There’s no better time to utilize the expertise of financial professionals than when you’re first embarking on your financial journey. They can help you plan for the future, avoid common pitfalls, and offer advice you can follow for the rest of your life.
You’ll be a Planning Pro in No Time
You’ve probably heard the saying ‘fail to plan, plan to fail.’ The good news is you’re already planning, meaning you’re setting yourself up for success. Just by following the steps above, you’ll have covered your bases for a safe and secure financial future.