America is known as one of the richest countries in the world. Unfortunately, that hasn’t translated well to its citizens in terms of financial literacy. In fact, 62% of U.S. adults have carried credit card debt in the past year, according to the National Foundation for Credit Counseling. 27% of people admit that they don’t pay all their bills on time.
For many Americans, financial freedom is still a pipe dream. But that doesn’t have to be the case if you make smart decisions early on. To help you out, we’ve listed five steps to take to attain your financial goals.
Create a budget
Whether you’re living off a six-figure salary or squirreling away a portion of each paycheck, having a budget is invaluable. For one, it gives you a clear view of your cash flow, allowing you to trim unnecessary expenses. Additionally, The Balance notes that budgeting shouldn’t feel restrictive, as it simply a means of prioritizing your needs over your wants.
You can start with a simple plan, like the 50-30-20 framework, which divides your income into three parts: 50% for needs, 30% for wants, and 20% for savings. As you get the hang of tracking your expenses, group them into different categories like food, entertainment, and utilities, to monitor where you’re overspending.
Aside from finding a higher-paying job, investing is also another great way to generate revenue. Placing your money in assets like index funds and stocks can yield high returns, provided you’re willing to wait. Before you start though, consult a financial advisor or do your own research to determine which financial product suits your needs. Because of the risk involved, a long holding period is recommended for these types of investments. Given this, you should start investing early to give your assets time to mature.
Build an emergency fund
You can never be too prepared for a crisis. Such events can set you back on your path towards financial freedom. But having an emergency fund is one answer to this. Luckily, there are a number of convenient ways to build one.
A good rule of thumb is to save at least three to six months’ worth of your monthly expenses. The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau recommends setting up automatic payments to allocate to your emergency fund. Some companies also offer employer-based contributions, where your paycheck can be split between two or more accounts. Overall, an emergency fund is key to any financial plan, and vital in securing your future.
Have a good credit score
A credit score gauges an individual’s capacity to pay back their loans consistently. It’s used as a risk indicator in transactions and may affect where you can live and work, and how much money you can borrow from lenders. However, a low credit score can pose a problem, especially if you plan to take out a business loan to further your financial status.
As such, it’s important to always keep your credit score healthy. Petal Card points out that the best way to do this is by paying your dues on time. To that end, you can try scheduling automatic payments from your bank account, or use free budgeting apps to alert you. If you already have debt, consider taking out a debt consolidation plan to pay off your obligations on more favorable terms.
Work with a coach
It’s difficult to stay focused when you’re doing things alone. Sometimes, you need a little outside intervention to succeed, and this is where a coach can be helpful. As we’ve mentioned in our post on the Top Benefits of Working with a Coach, finding a mentor will help you map out a road to success. Aside from holding you accountable, they also identify your strengths, bring out your potential, and challenge you to push past your limits. This encouragement can be just what you need to attain financial freedom.
At the end of the day, everyone dreams of achieving their financial goals, whether that means buying a new house, or living debt-free. And while there is no single path to realizing them, following these tips can help set you on the right track.