10 Steps Of Personal Finance
Many people wonder how they can get ahead financially. The truth is that building lifelong financial stability is less about having the best possible trick up your sleeve and more about having long-term dedication.
When you consistently make good financial decisions, you’re setting yourself up for a lifetime of personal finance success!
#1: Save Early and Often
Time in the market is better than timing the market.
Have you ever heard this saying?
Many advisors advocate for spending more time in the market to take advantage of compound interest. The longer you let your investments grow, the more money you’ll earn as a result of compound interest.
However, you shouldn’t only be funding your retirement savings account early in your career.
Building a healthy emergency savings fund is extremely important! Having 6-12 months of living expenses on hand in a savings account can help to protect yourself against unexpected medical costs or having your car break down without warning. An emergency fund also keeps you out of debt – which is incredibly important for long-term financial success!
#2: Live Below Your Means
When you first start leveling up in your career and making a “real” salary, it’s hard not to want to celebrate. Unfortunately, that celebration can often slide into a lifetime of overspending and bad budgeting habits.
Even if you’re continuing to increase your earnings, that doesn’t mean anything if you aren’t making room to save, pay off your debt, and set money aside for future short- and long-term goals. In other words, if you’re burning through each paycheck, you’re not going to have long-term financial stability.
#3: Get Out Of – And Avoid – Debt
Student loans are consistently on the rise with no real sign of slowing down. If you’re saddled with student debt or other loans, it’s time to focus on knocking them out. Put together a debt payoff plan and get started as soon as you can. Struggling to choose a strategy? There are two popular options that can get you started: the debt snowball and the debt avalanche.
When using the debt snowball, you start by paying off the smallest loan you have. Then, once it’s paid down, you “snowball” those monthly payments into the next-smallest loan until they’re all paid off. When using the debt avalanche, you start by paying off your highest-interest loan. Once it’s paid off, you “avalanche” that payment down to the next-highest-interest loan.
#4: Protect Your Assets
Are you insured? Making sure you have the right kind of insurance and that your coverage is enough is critical to long-term financial success. Life, disability coverage, auto, and health insurance all matter. Depending on your unique financial situation, you may also want or need an umbrella policy.
#5: Increase Your Earnings
One of the best things you can do for your finances both now and in the future is to continually increase your earnings. The more money you make, the more likely you are to move toward your financial goals quickly. Having increased cash flow means more money that can go toward your student loans, build your emergency savings, pay off consumer debt, and contribute toward long-term savings goals like retirement or your children’s education.
Not sure how to increase your earnings? Pursuing a higher salary or a different job that pays more is a good place to start. Beyond that, you can explore different bonus plans, tackling part-time work in your field, monetizing a hobby, or developing passive income streams.
#6: Avoid Burnout
Too often, early-career professionals and physicians get caught up in the hustle. They work long, hard hours in positions they may or may not be passionate about. Even if the compensation is good, you need to take care of yourself to protect your long-term earning potential.
That’s right, burnout is an all-too-real concept, and it could negatively impact your finances. If you lose the passion for your career and choose to leave or get let go, you’re limiting your ability to continue earning and saving. Protect yourself from this by reconnecting with why you love your career or pursuing roles that are meaningful and fulfilling for you.
#7: Create an Investment Strategy that Matches Your Goals – And Stick With it
The last thing you want to do is save a healthy nest egg, only to limit yourself by not having a clear investment strategy that aligns with your goals. Too many professionals are flying blind when it comes to investing. They choose general target-date funds in their 401(k), and the buck stops there. Having a more in-depth strategy that focuses on long-term goals and a diverse portfolio is key.
Then, once you have a strategy – stick with it! Even during a bear market. Too often, investors panic and sell their assets when the market is down, even if they could potentially recover given enough time. If you’re feeling worried, talk to an advisor or another sounding board to voice your concerns before making any final decisions.
#8: Minimize Education Costs For You & Your Children
Education costs are increasing. If you’re currently going back to school or considering ongoing education as a physician, it’s important to weigh the cost of your education with the value you’re getting. Finding low-cost options that still have a high ROI is critical. This is equally important for your kids. As you start saving for their college education, conversations with them should cover two key ideas:
1. The education savings you’re building as a family is there to help them keep the amount of debt necessary to a minimum.
2. It’s still your family’s responsibility to find a college that fits within their budget and helps keep them out of debt.
These are tough conversations to have, especially as your kids get older! Still, it’s critical that they understand the importance of using the college savings you have available wisely. You won’t be able to achieve long-term financial success if you’re paying off loans you’ve had to cosign!
#9: Pursue Low-Cost Lifestyle Options
Expensive hobbies are one of the fastest ways to use up your cash flow and drain your savings. Unfortunately, accruing pricey hobbies is easy to do as we get older! Whenever you can, try to find hobbies that fulfill you for minimal cost.
You want to have hobbies outside of work that bring you joy and add another layer of meaning to your life, but you don’t want to pay a lot to participate in them whenever you want. Think about hobbies like hiking, exercise, reading, or hosting game nights with friends. Ideally, you could also have hobbies that also bring in another stream of revenue! For example, you could sell courses, monetize your hobby -whether that’s a photography business or freelance work.
#10: Avoid Divorce
This can be a sensitive personal topic, but the truth is that divorce is expensive! Even more important, married couples are statistically shown to have a higher net worth and are generally happier. It seems like a win-win! In all seriousness, marriage has a number of financial benefits that range from having dual-income to care for kids and cover expenses, to tax breaks, to just being able to balance one another when making big financial decisions and budgeting.
If you’re looking to kick off your personal finance journey, these 10 steps are an excellent place to start.