Credit card debt, economic challenges, and a competitive labor market are just a few factors that can challenge how you think about your particular financial situation. The question is, how can you improve your financial fitness? Here are some steps from our partners at GreenPath Financial Wellness to get you thinking proactively about your financial future.
1. Track Monthly Spending
Staying healthy financially begins with ensuring you earn more than you spend, so that you have enough money to build savings for the future. Keeping an eye on your spending is an important step in the effort to create a budget without wastage. Once you develop a household budget and track income and spending, it becomes clear where the money is going and where you need to adjust your spending to achieve your financial goals.
If you take the time to manage financial tasks, you will start to develop good money habits. This includes making sure that your bills are paid, that you have saved money for emergencies, and that your financial strategy for the future is on track.
2. Plan Ahead
If you are saving for an emergency, home purchase, or paying off high-interest debt, you want to make sure you’re saving enough to meet your goals. To maintain your financial well-being, track your spending so you can control your money rather than let it control you. If you find that you spend more than you earn or want to increase the amount you apply toward debt or savings, see if you can reduce your spending.
To avoid wasteful expenditures, track your income, monthly bills, and daily expenses. Try taking a look at your mortgage, bank and credit card statements from the last 3 months. Prioritizing will help as you create a plan to minimize debt and increase savings.
3. Set Goals
Setting financial goals, preparing a financial plan, sticking to a budget, and setting up an emergency fund for the unexpected. By managing debt, you ensure that your financial well-being does not suffer.
Setting financial goals and planning for them helps manage debt. The average American has about $6,000 of credit card debt including student loans. It is not uncommon for people with credit card debt to only pay the interest on the amount borrowed, instead of planning to eliminate the debt altogether. When considering your overall financial picture, consider all of your options. GreenPath offers tips, tools and free counseling to help.
4. Know Your Credit History
Another tip from the checklist is to pull all three of your credit reports each year. It is easier than you might think.
Checking your credit history can reveal any inaccuracies or issues you might want to resolve. Each person’s situation is unique when it comes to credit history and score, a key part of financial well-being.
5. Build a Savings Habit
Setting and sticking to a realistic savings plan is another key component of financial fitness. You can automate savings directly from your employer, or put into place other tricks to make it a seamless savings process. No matter the amount, setting aside a budget-friendly amount each month for savings builds fitness and financial health.
As with a healthy diet, we maintain our physical fitness in the same way, and if we follow this checklist, we can return to financial fitness with a little help and a clear strategy.
It is always a good time to understand where you are financially and get help to keep things on track. Use this five part checklist as a guide to get started on your financial journey and then, keep going.