René Nourse, CFP®
While we’ve all heard from time to time that the best answer is yesterday, there’s no way to go backwards and change the past. That’s why the best answer to this common question of, “When Should You Start Financial Planning?” is today.
Despite what you might think about the state of your affairs, the absolute best time to start with a financial plan is today, right now, with what you currently have. Don’t give into the notion that you must earn a certain income or have a certain amount saved before beginning. The truth is that the sooner you start on your plan, the higher probability that you will have control over your finances in the future.
As you grow older and move through the various stages in life, your financial needs and goals are going to change and shift with you. Whether you have concerns about health care, college costs for your children, or maintaining enough money to maintain your lifestyle through retirement, it’s important to have clear objectives surrounding your financial well-being and not leave it up to chance.
Here are 4 money lessons to live by to get you started in your financial plan today:
1. Spend less than you earn
Take some time to create a chart of all your outgoing expenses each month, alongside with your monthly income. See where you can cut back your spending, and determine how much money you want to set aside every month into your 401(k) plan. See Tip #4 for more information on 401(k). The trick about spending less than you earn is to be proactive about managing your income and expenses, rather than reactive.
2. Start saving
Even if you don’t have a large amount of discretionary income after paying your bills, start with cutting back on some variable expenses to save. This practice will get you into the habit of looking more closely at your spending. You should strive to save at least 10% of your annual income each year.
3. Downsize expenses in your home
If you are paying more than 30% of your income into your mortgage or rent, it may be time to downsize. If you can’t downsize your home, get creative with ways to save on home expenses like cable, landscaping, watering and electric expenses.
4. Utilize your company 401(k) plan
Start by putting a minimum of 10% of your gross income into your 401(k)—and if you can do more, go for it. Anything your employer puts in on top of that is icing on the cake! Your money will come out of your check pre-tax, and you won’t have to pay capital gains year to year.
Regardless of your martial or breadwinning status, starting your financial plan now is the only option to secure control of your finances for the future. The actions you take today will affect your tomorrow!