The best way to begin any life plan is to take stock of your current finances, how you want to spend them now, and how you want to spend them in the future. Of course, to figure out where you’re going in life you might have to do some soul searching. But once you’ve decided the general framework for the rest of your life, it’s time to start saving, investing, and planning for life’s many contingencies.
First, save for the unexpected
No matter what your current income level or age, the first step to any solid financial life plan is to set aside money for life’s unexpected curveballs. Those in the industry call this an emergency fund, and you can create a dedicated savings account just for things like job loss, car repairs, medical expenses, home repairs, and more. For example, you may want to think about where you live now and plan for where you want to live in the future such as moving to a safer neighborhood or purchasing a larger or smaller home.
Some suggest having up to eight months or even a year’s worth of living expenses in your emergency fund, but that’s simply not reasonable for most young people. Shoot low first – maybe $1000. That’s enough to cover some basic troubles, if not a catastrophic event. A good, attainable goal is to eventually build up six months of living expenses. Set up the savings account to auto-deduct $50 or so from each paycheck. This way, you’ll eventually get used to living day-to-day on a little less, and that emergency fund will increase without you even having to pay it any attention.
Next, think about investment
Investing is scary, but it’s vital to building money for long-term goals.
“True investing doesn’t happen without some action on your part. A ‘real’ investor does not simply throw his or her money at any random investment; he or she performs thorough analysis and commits capital only when there is a reasonable expectation of profit. Yes, there still is risk, and there are no guarantees, but investing is more than simply hoping Lady Luck is on your side,” notes Investopedia.
It’s important to do your research and figure out what type of investments – from stock and bonds to real estate and mutual funds – are right for you. Check out this great primer on how to get started.
Start putting money into your 401K as soon as possible as employee-match programs are pretty much like getting free money,
“If your employer offers to match a percentage of your 401K contribution – and most do – maximize that benefit by contributing to the match limit. Employers who offer to match your contribution will typically do so up to 3-6 percent of your annual salary. So, if you make $50,000 and your boss matches your 401k up to 5 percent, be sure to contribute $2,500 over the course of the year,” says The Balance.
Of course buying a home is a critical investment as well, so explore your financial options in that area too. See if there are any grants or other home-buying assistance you qualify for such as special loan programs or incentives offered by the government.
Prepare for your children’s expenses
For most people, having children is an inevitability. While investing for your own future is important, you must realize that your future children’s future IS your future, and you can start preparing for that even before they are born.
“Unlike retirement, which you conceivably have four decades to save for, if you wait until your kids are born to start saving for college, you’ll have a shorter window of time to build up a sizable education fund. And while you can start out with more aggressive investments in your college fund, like stocks, as you get closer to your children’s 18th birthdays, you’ll need to shift your investments into more conservative options, which typically mean lower returns,” says the Motley Fool.
All of this points to starting to save for your kids’ college as early as possible.
Article Source | Jackie Waters