Meeting your financial goals is easier said than done, but these common-sense personal finance tips can help you get your finances in order and find financial success.
Create a Budget
Drafting up a budget sounds simple, but it does take a little bit of time and effort. Start tracking your income and your expenses regularly for a period of time. Separate your essential expenses, such as rent, from your discretionary spending, such as eating out. Discretionary spending is where you have the most opportunity to reduce your spending and improve your cash flow.
But it is also not enough to just create a budget; you must also abide by it. There are a number of ways to accomplish this as well. There are simple strategies such as the "cash in the envelope" practice. This is where you title an envelope designating what that money will be spent on. When the cash in that envelope runs out, that is the end of it for the week or the month.
There are also a plethora of online tools and apps created just to help with budgeting efforts. They can be directly tied to bank accounts and will automatically categorize a purchase, helping identify where the money is being spent. These services will also notify you when you are spending more than you should.
Minimize Bad Debt
The rule is simple when it comes to debt: If you can't afford to purchase something, don't buy it.
A credit card can be a great way to improve your credit score — if it’s used correctly. That generally means paying off the credit card each month and not carrying a balance. On the other hand, if you use a credit card to pay for things you can’t afford, the interest rate can make it impossible to catch up and pay off the debt, lowering your credit score.
Build an Emergency Fund
Having an adequate emergency fund is one way to ensure you don’t have to take on debt to pay for unexpected essential expenses. Whether you keep it in cash somewhere in your home or in a savings account, a financial advisor will generally recommend keeping enough money in your emergency savings to cover somewhere between three to 12 months worth of expenses.
Take "Calculated" Risks
There are too many people now saving their money and keeping it within their savings account, where the interest rate won’t allow it to even keep pace with inflation. Instead of keeping money in super-secure bank accounts that literally yield virtually nothing, start educating yourself on prospective investments.
David Kelly, the chief global strategist at JP Morgan Asset Management advises American to increase their risk tolerance when it comes to the stock market.
"Americans' aversion to stocks largely reflects low awareness of market history, the principles of diversification and more," Kelly said. "Stock investing, at least in measured doses, is a calculated risk that more people should take if they hope to build their wealth over time."
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