An In-Depth Guide to Personal Finance

Everything costs money. There is a saying that the best things in life are free.

That may be true, but the rest of the 99.99% of things are quite heavy on the bank account. Between bills, school, food, children, girlfriends, wives, entertainment, and subscriptions, how can anyone keep accurate track of their money? Personal finance is the collective term used for managing your money at home. It encompasses everything from diapers to government bonds. Here are steps one must take to ensure that every cent is accounted for.

Seek Advice

Seeking advice is an invaluable tool for any person that wants to keep their personal financial plan on the straight and narrow. Find an expert you can extract information from and mold your strategies around these insights. If you don’t have access to a professional financial planner, MoneyTaskForce.com is a great tool to keep you up to date on trends and news. Big-time search engines also have their financial sections you can look at. The idea is to get a strong feel of how successful people work with their money.

Set Goals

Every person needs goals. A person without goals is probably not going anywhere. Same goes with money. Money is a means–a proof of value. What you do with it determines your wealth. Having a financial plan is crucial to this. Figure out what your goals are. Do you want that new motorcycle? Do you want to save enough to pay for your child’s college? Do you want to take copy-cat selfies in Bali with friends? None of these things can be responsibly done on a whim. Determine a series of goals and attach timelines to them. Have a short, medium, and long term goal. Short is within the year. Short is that vacation mentioned earlier and whatever other purchases you may take on. Medium has a range of five to ten years. Medium is that motorcycle and your eye on that nice apartment in the city. Long term is looking towards the horizon towards retirement. Having a solid plan to stay afloat during your unemployed golden years is always a good idea.

Set Up A Budget

Your primary tool to accomplish what you want financially is the budget. Your budget is a set guideline as to how much you’re allowing yourself to spend within a given time frame. It can be simple or it can be complicated. Like most things, the answer is somewhere in the middle. The Goldilocks quotient of any good budget means that you’ll be aware and somewhat challenged by the boundaries, yet not completely restricted. Ease of use still plays a factor in a financial plan. It’s not all about spending as little as possible. It’s about understanding your habits, curtailing the unnecessary ones, and rewarding the good ones.

Create Safety Nets For When You Splurge

The tendency for anyone under an extremely strict budget is to accrue a feeling of entitlement. “I’ve been so good with my money, I deserve a night out.” This is dangerous. Anything you feel like you “deserve” is absolutely undeserved in the world of personal finance. That attitude primes you to go overboard and splurge way too much. Set up systems that ensure that you don’t go completely off the rails. A very common and highly effective way to do this is to squirrel away money without you even knowing. Have a relatively small percentage of your paycheck go to a savings account in a bank separate from where you have your checking account. Lose the account number. Lose the pin number. Lose everything pertaining to said account and just forget about it. This means you won’t feel the hit of this savings strategy, and you’ll have something to fall back on in case overdraft fees are in your immediate future. Make it as inconvenient as possible. That means that the only way to access that money is to physically go to a branch, wait in line, and retrieve it in person.

Pay Off Debt

Pay off your debt. It doesn’t matter how much money you have in your pocket, if you’re in debt, someone else owns that cash. Make an effort to pay off all your debt within a certain time frame. Let’s say in your early years you took on a lot of debt to get life going the way you wanted it to. Pay extra on all of them, focussing on the ones with higher interest rates. Once the high-interest rate loans are paid off, pay that same amount total, but towards the other loans. For example, if you have three loans that each cost you $100 a month, pay that same $300 total towards the remaining two when one of them is paid off. This ensures that you pay off your debt as quickly as possible. It’s called the debt-paydown snowball effect.

Invest

Lastly, invest. Start investing and getting good at it as soon as you can. You have tons of options ranging from bonds to stocks, to real estate. The sooner you get into the investing game, the more you’ll focus on your long term goals and retirement. It’s never too early to start, but due to the nature of these plans, there is such a  thing as too late. You just have to choose the right one and tailor your plans around it. But be careful. There if you delve in stocks and bonds, there is a gambling aspect that is sewn into the system itself. Your goal is to buy low and sell high, of loan out big to get an even bigger return. Due to the fluctuations in the market, this may not work in your favor. But if you do it right, you’re looking at a lifelong habit of making significant passive income.

Gone are the days where things were primarily cash or check. It’s all card and recurring payments. It’s absolutely necessary for one to be on top of their money. Being financially responsible means the difference between knowing when you’re in the red and somehow finding yourself deep in it. Financial responsibility is the key to getting ahead of the game and making sure that you can live a good, happy, worry-free life for years to come. That is the essence of good personal finance.

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