In a culture where making a purchase is as easy as tapping on your phone screen, it can feel like an impossible task to save money and invest it too. But it is possible to learn to manage money to achieve all of your financial goals.
The key is simple: start with where you are financially today. By taking one step and then the next, one day not long from now you will discover your finances are in perfect shape to start investing in your future.
In the meantime, here are the steps to take to fix your finances.
Step 1: Pull your credit report.
Under the Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA), each consumer is entitled to one free copy of their credit report annually from each of the three credit reporting bureaus (TransUnion, Equifax, Experian). By taking advantage of this service, you can learn about discrepancies or disputes that may be weighing down your credit score.
If you discover issues on your credit report, you can take the help of some of the top credit repair services to resolve these issues and improve your credit score. With an improved credit score in hand, you can qualify for better interest rates on loans, lower interest on credit cards, better rates on insurance quotes and a host of other financial perks.
Step 2: Create a working budget for yourself.
If you feel like you just never learned how to manage money well, you are definitely not alone. There are many people just like you who struggle to understand just where their money goes each month.
The best tool to help you tackle this challenge is a personal working budget. Your budget will help you master the fundamental principle of money management: spend less than what you earn.
Your budget will also help you identify where you can cut costs so you can start saving and investing for your future.
Step 3: Participate fully in any employer-sponsored retirement investing.
If you are employed by an employer that offers retirement benefits, it is in your best interests to contribute the maximum amount you can each month. There are several reasons for this:
- If your employer has a fund matching program, you can double the value of your contributions monthly.
- You can reduce your annual taxable income by the value of your retirement contributions.
- You won't be able to touch the funds until you are age 59.5, so they are safely out of your reach until you need them most.
If you do not have access to an employer-sponsored retirement option, you can still open your own individual retirement account (IRA) with your bank or independently.
Step 4: Automate as much of your repetitive financial activity as possible.
Finally, taking advantage of automation tools is a great way to keep the majority of your money going where it is needed most.
Here are some handy automation ideas:
- Have your pay direct deposited into your bank account.
- Set up automatic drafts from checking to savings and savings to investment accounts right after your paycheck gets deposited.
- Use bill pay services to ensure you don't get behind on required regular payments.
- Use autopay for insurers and similar services (this may also qualify you for a discount on premiums).
- Use simple savings apps (Digit is a great one) to automatically transfer small amounts of funds into a separate savings account whenever you make a purchase.
By taking charge of your finances and putting safeguards in place to prevent you from getting your hands on unallocated funds, you can begin to pay down debt, save for a rainy day and invest towards your future goals and retirement needs.
After all, nothing feels better than looking at a bright shiny credit score and a positive bank balance that you worked hard to achieve!