It’s that time of year when we make resolutions (resolution is a fancy word for soon-to-be-broken promise). As a financial planner, I have five “things” you should do to make 2008 a potentially financially successful year. Notice I didn’t say “resolutions” for fear you won't keep them past January.
1. Create a budget.
2. Live on the budget that you create.
3. Have a plan to get out of debt.
4. Begin saving money.
5. Have faith.
Create a budget
Less than 5% of the population has a budget. Why is that? Haven’t people figured out that living without a budget hasn’t worked so far? Isn’t it time to try something new? I love when people tell me they can’t live on a budget because it’s too constricting. That’s the point! It keeps you within your boundaries, which in turn keeps you out of trouble. If you need help, check out our website at www.tcfin.com and click on “Budget Counseling.” We have an Excel spreadsheet that has a budget that you can use for free (that’s good stewardship). If you don’t have Excel you can choose to view the file online and print it out.
Live on the budget you create
I know countless people that have beautifully planned budgets but never look at them. They’ve become glorified dust collectors. Having a budget and not using it is like having a car and not driving it. Used properly and regularly as a guide, that budget can make life really easy.
Have a plan to get out of debt
Debt can be one of the great attributors of wealth in your life. However, for most people, it is the “great inhibitor.” If you have found yourself being squeezed by the “borrow constrictor,” as Ron Blue calls it, stop overspending. Of course, this is easier to do if you have a budget (sorry to keep coming back to that). One of the most effective ways of getting out of debt is to “snowball” it. Here’s an easy three step process to help you:
1. Line up your debts starting with the smallest balance. Don't look at the interest rate. The only time the interest rate comes into play is if you have two balances that are very close.
2. Focus on paying the smallest debt first. Once that debt is paid off, you use the money you were sending that creditor and begin applying that to the balance of the next highest creditor. Pay that one off and keep doing it with the third, fourth, etc.
3. All the while, you make the minimum payments to the creditors that you are not currently focusing on. Focusing on one debt allows you to feel a sense of accomplishment when you pay one off. That will keep you interested in paying off your debt. You can even have fun with it.
Again, if you would like assistance with this, check out our website and click on “snowball your debt.” There is an excellent Excel file that can help you figure out how to pay off your debt.
Begin Saving Money
I’ve heard it a thousand times: “I just don’t have any money to save.” That’s gibberish. We live in the richest country in the world. What we consider to be middle class is outright wealthy in most parts of the world. We just have to get our priorities straight. Everyone can afford to save something, even if it’s $5 per week. Start saving and allow the “eighth wonder of the world” to begin working in your favor instead of against you. What is the “eighth wonder of the world?” It’s compound interest.
Sometimes it’s easier said than done. We have to trust God in all areas of our lives, even when it seems silly or even trivial. I’m reminded of the story in Luke, Chapter 5 where Peter met Jesus. Peter and his friends had fished all night with nothing to show for it. But, Jesus told them to cast their nets again. Peter, without hesitation (and presumably going on faith) immediately said “OK.” They put out their nets and this time they caught so many fish, the nets began to break. Faith tested is faith rewarded. Faith is the only test we are guaranteed to pass. Because even if we don't get what we want, we get what we need.
Steve Scalici is a Certified Financial PlannerTM with Treasure Coast Financial. He is co-host of God’s Money, which can be heard on the internet at www.oneplace.com. You can contact Steve at [email protected].