There are no guarantees in life, and that includes your health, your job and your finances. That’s why it’s imperative that you take control of your money so that you’re prepared for anything, from a catastrophic emergency to a comfortable retirement.
“These days people are almost encouraged to live beyond their means. Consumers can have all things now with credit cards and payment plans,” says Elise Gworek, Vice President of Commercial Lending at Landmark Community Bank. “Without financial self-discipline or a financial partner to help keep you on track, it doesn’t take long for your finances to take control of you.”
Whether you’re trying to save for retirement or get out of debt once and for all, there are a handful of smart strategies that financial planners swear by.
“A very wise woman (my mom) once told me ‘A goal without a plan is just a wish,’” continues Elise. “Even a plan consisting of just a few simple strategies puts you on track for financial stability — no wishing needed.”
If you’re ready to take control of your money and enjoy more financial security, then take heed of these eight pointers to improve your financial stability.
1. Keep it simple.
“I think the biggest misconception about money management is that it has to be complicated,” says Elise. On the contrary, she advises all of her clients to K.I.S.S. That is: Keep It Simple, Sweetie! To achieve financial balance, you should truly stick to the most basic premise: more money coming in than going out. “When you are out of balance, you need to either increase income or reduce expenses, period,” she says.
2. Save, save, save.
“Save from the start,” Elise advises. “As soon as you get paid, pay yourself.” Even if it’s only a minimal amount at first, put that money into a separate account or envelope so you won’t touch it. “This can be with cash or a 401K if your employer offers it,” says Elise. “Just pretend it doesn’t exist.”
3. Pay your bills on time.
By making current payments, you are better able to manage your expenses accurately. Plus, it keeps your credit score in good standing, and it’s just a good habit to be in.
4. Manage your debt.
Interestingly enough, certain debt is acceptable, but other types … not so much. For example, the mortgage on your personal residence can be considered good debt. Unfavorable debt, however, includes things like large-balance, high-interest credit card debt, in which only minimum payments are being made, or loans for vacations that stick around long after your suntan has faded. Elise advises people to pay on higher-interest rate items first, to get them paid off sooner. Also, negotiate credit card rates — call the credit card company and request a rate reduction, and you will likely be surprised at how easy it is to get a lower rate, especially if your credit is in good standing. Always do your homework, and if it is possible to consolidate all of your debt so you’re only paying one low interest rate, go for it!
5. Think long term.
There is no “get rich quick” method, and improving your financial security doesn’t happen overnight. “‘Time and money’ is the best recipe,” says Elise. “It adds up over time, especially when you combine it with number 6 …”
6. Seek professional assistance.
Get the help of certified and accredited financial professionals. “Those with the CFP acronym in their title have earned the certified financial planner accreditation. These planners keep up with the latest and greatest ways to invest and make the most of your money.” Plus, they assist with more than just current and future financial needs. “Most financial planners can also place life insurance, as well as assist in coordinating will and estate planning consultations. Lastly, they also become a third-party person your family can contact, if ever there’s an emergency,” Elise points out. They truly become your financial security blanket.
7. Have an emergency plan.
Speaking of emergencies, there’s no good time to have one. But, if you’re adequately prepared, it can make a tremendous difference in the outcome. Financial preparedness includes having savings, a HELOC (home equity line of credit) and liquid investments, which brings us back to the importance of a financial planner. Based on your stage of life, the financial planner can advise on types of investments that will allow you to access funds in an emergency. “Emergencies that require unexpected expenses will happen, whether it’s car troubles, house repairs or our kids,” she says. “Be prepared.”
8. Be informed.
It’s always a good idea to be aware of your financial situation, but it’s also imperative to understand all of the other facets of your finances. This includes knowing your financial contacts, where all of your accounts are, and what the logins and passwords are for each. “This is especially important if you are not your household’s CFO,” Elise says. Set up a family meeting to get all of this information together and store it in a safe place that is accessible by all parties who might need it. Again, a reminder: point number 6 serves this role very well.
By making a few tweaks to your approach, doing a bit of homework and establishing relationships with the right people, you can make a tremendous difference in your financial well-being. If you’re ready to get started, contact the experts at Landmark Bank to set up a time to talk to a financial professional.
To learn more about Landmark Bank, visit them online at landmarkbanktn.com.
This article is sponsored by Landmark Bank.