Manage Your Money
When you increase your income or decrease your spending, you’ll find yourself with more cash at the end of the month. That cash is your ticket to financial freedom, and the more you can get each month, the better off you are. The trick though, is not to spend it, but to do things that will build a stable future for you.
1. Pay Off All High Interest Debt
Anything with an interest rate over 9% needs to go as soon as possible. The extra money should be used to make double or triple payments on these debts, focusing first on the one with the highest interest rate.
These steps can help you take care of your debt:
i. Make the first list – 4 columns, Name of debt you owe, the amount you still owe on that debt, the monthly payment for that debt, and most importantly, the current interest rate on debt.
ii. Order all of the debts by their current interest rate. The one with the highest interest rate, not biggest balance, should be paid off first.
iii. Look for ways to reduce the rates, focusing most strongly on the highest current one. Readjust the priority of the list to reflect to new rates.
iv. Direct all of your extra payments towards the top debt on the list. Each month, make minimum payments on all of the debts on the list except for the top one. With that top debt, throw everything you can at it. Make a double payment or a triple payment or more.
v. When a debt vanishes, cross it off the list and feel good about it.
vi. Update the list when you acquire a new debt.
vii. Update the list when one of your debts adjusts to a new rate.
2. Build an Emergency Fund
An emergency fund is an amount of money you keep in a savings account that’s intended to be used in the event of a major crisis, such as a job loss, a medical emergency, major car damage, and so on. It’s a good idea to measure your emergency fund in terms of months’ worth of living expenses – you should have a month and a half worth of living expenses for each person you claim as a dependent.
A good rule of thumb is to have 6 – 8 months worth of living expenses in your emergency fund. If this seems like a lot, set it as a long-term goal and begin putting aside a small amount each week. Right now, I have an automatic monthly deduction from my checking account to a high yield savings account at ING. Don’t wait, begin right now with as much as you can afford.
3. Max out Retirement
Go to one of those retirement meetings at work, ask exactly how much you should be putting away to ensure that your living expenses are well-covered in retirement, and put that much away. This varies a lot depending on how much you have in right now, how much your employer matches, and so on, so you should talk to your retirement planner at work about the specifics. It is never too early to start investing for retirement!
Save 10% of your income at the bare minimum. You should not have more than 5% of your retirement in the stock of any one company. If your company doesn’t have a retirement plan, open a Roth IRA on your own with a reputable company like Vanguard. If your company offers any matching on your retirement, contribute enough so that you can get all of it. If you don’t know what you are doing, put your money in a “target retirement” fund so that it gradually becomes less risky as you approach retirement.
4. College Savings
Establish a 529 college savings plan for them and start automatically putting a certain amount into this account each month. There are many different plans, just pick a good one and start investing now. I use the New York 529 Savings Plan managed by Vanguard for my lovely niece.
5. Pay Off All Debts
If all of these are covered and you still have cash left over, the next step is to pay off all of your debts. Get rid of car loans, student loans, and your mortgage using the debt reduction plan discussed in the previous section.
Now, this is a good time to start investing. Trent Hamm recommends buying low-cost broad-based index funds because they don’t have many fees and grow very nicely over long periods of time. Don’t invest in individual stocks unless you’re quite content to lose the money or want to invest many, many hours in research. Trent Hamm invest with Vanguard directly through vanguard.com – their fees are miniscule, they offer a huge array of index funds, and their customer service is stellar.
Thank you for Trent of the Simple Dollar for allowing the free distribution of this e-book. For the entire e-book, click on link below.