Lauren Caggiano is a Fort Wayne-based copywriter and editor with a nerdy passion for AP Style. In her free time, she enjoys volunteering, thrift shopping, fitness and travel. Learn more on her website: www.lovewriteon.com.
Money can be a major source of stress at times, but it doesn’t have to bum you out. Ask yourself: are you the master of your money or is your money owning you? Financial security will look different for each person, but there are some general points to consider as you strive to achieve and maintain this sense of well-being in your household.
Here are a few areas on which the experts recommend placing your focus:
First, things first. Are you banked and do you have a good relationship with your institution? Having a checking and savings account are the minimum requirements to establish a financial identity. A credit card is the natural next step, and a solid track record can help you build a credit history so you can be considered for other larger expenses down the road.
Set a realistic budget — and stick to it. It’s easy to spend money you don’t have, but a budget can help you reign in expenses and stay on track in the savings department. Apps like Mint can do the hard work for you, so with a click of a mouse you can have a real-time view of your finances and progress. Using coupon apps can be another money-saving hack.
Where do you want to be financially in one year, 5 years of 10 years out? What goals do you have in mind for yourself and family? For example, maybe you want to pay off your student loans and/or buy a house. How will you get there and what steps will you need to take to make them a reality? What habits do you need to change now or adopt to see your goal(s) to fruition? A financial planner can help you craft a customized plan and stay accountable. Ask a friend or relative for a recommendation for a professional but don’t be afraid to do your own research, too. The relationship is personal and should feel comfortable so you can trust them with sensitive information.
Many Americans do not get adequate financial education growing up, much to their detriment. When it’s time to apply for a credit card or student loan, they may make poor decisions due to ignorance or lack of real-world experience. In other words, they’re not financially literate. Do you understand such concepts as co-signer, compounded interest, amortization, credit scores, credit worthiness, etc.?
Take the time to seek out information to help you make the most informed decisions. There’s no shortage of podcasts, books, blogs, seminars, etc. that can introduce you to basic money management or advance your knowledge. Also, be careful about the source of advice. Some scammers masquerading as so-called “experts” can take advantage of you and actually do you more harm than good.
“Money is a great servant but a bad master.” ― Francis Bacon
In short, you can’t put a price on financial security. What steps can you take to make it a priority this year and beyond?