LEARN, LEARN, LEARN
The first step in creating financial wellness is to gain knowledge. Knowledge is power—the power to build robust financial health. Some employers, organizations, and communities offer financial wellness programs. If such programs are available to you, consider signing up. The more you know, the better. The financial world can be complex and confusing. Understanding where the opportunities lie and how to make your way through the muddle of money management may give you a distinctive edge.
If your employer doesn’t have a program, develop or find one of your own. Do the research. Remember, getting yourself a financial education may set you in the right direction.
However, the most valuable, reliable, and up-to-date information may come from a financial professional who can help you with financial wellness programs on budgeting,
CREATE A BUDGET
It may seem obvious, but creating a budget may be your single most important step toward financial wellness. A budget allows you to monitor and manage your money and better develop strategies to pursue your goals, both short-term and long-term.
Some financial professionals say that you should consider using a phone app, online banking, spreadsheets, or old-fashioned pen and paper.
A budget can be a tool to track your income and expenditures and better understand your financial habits that may be draining your pocketbook. Budgeting also enables you to spot positive habits and spending patterns that you may want to reinforce or enhance. Furthermore, a budget provides you with openings and opportunities to invest and build your savings. Balanced, sensible investment strategies developed with a financial professional can set you well on your way to a bright future.
Here are 5 steps for building a budget:
Consider your net income. How much money do you have, and how much do you make? Determine your take-home pay, which is your gross pay minus deductions for social security, taxes, and other accounts. Add in any amounts from self- employment, freelancing, or part-time work.
Know your spending. Track and categorize your spending. That way, you’ll know exactly where you spend your money and gain a better understanding of your outgoing financial habits. Start by listing your fixed expenditures, such as rent, mortgage, car payments, and utilities. Then, look at your variable expenses, such as groceries, gas, and entertainment. Record your daily spending on paper, an app, your phone, or on your computer.
Create a strategy. Chart your fixed and variable expenses to get an understanding of trends or your projected spending habits. Gas expenses, for example, count as fixed (a need), while a magazine subscription counts as variable (a want). You may detect high levels of spending on gas or entertainment expenses. This distinction is important when making budget modifications later.
Make adjustments. Once you have completed your budget, determine the changes you want to make to pursue your goals (we’ll explore these more deeply in the next section). If your budget is tight, you can cut variable expenses to generate savings (remember the high spending levels on entertainment). You can also look at cutting fixed expenses, which may require a little more creativity.
Keep it active. Review your budget frequently and regularly to ensure that you remain on track. Your budget may fluctuate
(pay raises, paying off debts, or eliminating variable expenses), so frequent reviews—for example, weekly or even daily—are best in the beginning as you become more focused and disciplined.
Contact our office to learn more about building a balanced budget and download the complete guide Unlocking the Treasures of Financial Wellness here.