Ugh, money, amiright? It's the thing we all need and thing we all worry about and also the thing we're all not supposed to talk about. Nothing controls your future more than your ability to earn and save cheddar. So what can you do to make sure you're doing the best you can?
In order to get ahead financially and build real wealth, you need to have a solid long-term plan in place for your financial success. This plan has to be realistic and reviewed frequently in order for you to stay on track with your money goals. Here are 10 things that should be part of your plans to ensure your financial success.
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1. Pay yourself first
Paying yourself first means that you put money towards your goals before you do anything else each time you get paid. This would include contributing to your retirement accounts (401k, 403b, IRA, ROTH, etc.) and also to your emergency fund. A great way to stay consistent with this is to automate your deposits to occur as soon as you get paid, before the money gets deposited to your checking account.
2. Understand your credit score
Understanding your credit is very important especially if you intend to apply for a loan towards a purchase like buying a home or car. Not only do you want to know what your credit score is but you also want to keep track of it to make sure you are aware of any changes or fraudulent activity. You are entitled to a free credit report from each of the major credit bureaus (Experian, Equifax and Transunion) once a year and you can also sign up for credit monitoring with them too.
3. Build credit responsibly
This means being careful where you apply for credit and how you use it. To build your credit, opt for a cell phone bill you pay monthly instead of a credit card you will be tempted to max out. If you choose to use credit cards, ensure you pay them off in full every month. Don't open unnecessary lines of credit (i.e. retail store cards with high interest rates) or rack up debt you don't need.
4. Don't mistake your credit card for your debit card
Your debit card is connected to your bank account — this means that the money you spend using your debit card is all yours. However, money spent on a credit card is not free money and you will have to pay it back, with interest if you carry a balance for more than a month.
5. Save at least 10% percent of everything you earn outside of your retirement savings
It's a good idea to create savings accounts that you don't have easy access to and save at least 10% for your non–retirement goals. This savings could be used for unplanned financial obligations that may come up. This way you don't have to rely on credit. You can also split your savings into categories like emergency fund, travel, shopping, new house, etc.
6. Create a budget to track your spending and manage your expenses
Having a budget is extremely important for your financial success. It will help you understand where your money goes each month and allow you to readjust your spending to ensure that you are not spending more than you earn. If you can keep your expenses lower than your earnings, then you will always make enough money.
7. Only buy what you can afford
You can do this by staying within the budget you've created and not taking on debt that is more than what you can afford to pay on a monthly basis. Also when it comes to larger loans like mortgages and car notes, be sure that the monthly payments fit into your budget without causing you any financial strain.
8. Understand cost per wear
Cost per wear is the cost of an item divided by the number of times you've worn the item. For example, something you wear everyday has a low cost per wear while something you wear once a month has a high cost per wear. Factor this process into your shopping and you'll be more aware of how you are spending your money on clothing, what is worth it, and what isn't.
9. Learn about investing
Long term investing is one of the ways to really build wealth. There are so many terms thrown around in regards to investing that it's hard to keep up, but you can start by learning the basics of what investing is and what investment avenues exist. Pick one avenue, do your research, learn as much as you can, and consider talking to an expert before deciding if you are ready to invest.
10. Keep educating yourself
There is no knowledge lost and when it comes to your finances you want to make sure you stay informed. Read financial books, blogs, and watch the best-reviewed money shows. (Oh, and um, read Sapling and/or follow us on Facebook!)