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8 Things Couples Must Do Now for a Financially Secure Future

8 Things Couples Must Do Now for a Financially Secure Future

Whether you’re newlyweds, in a long-term relationship, or several years into a happy marriage, there are many steps you can take to ensure a financially secure future.

It’s wise to look at this from two points of view; first, what can be done to help the two of you remain secure throughout life, including your retirement? Secondly, determine what needs to happen right now for each of you to have financial security if one of you were to pass away at a young age.

Fortunately, this process doesn’t have to be nearly as difficult or time-consuming as most people fear. By making a few simple lifestyle changes and taking care of some critical paperwork, you can have a better future.

1. Make Wills

It’s always important to make a will in order to protect your partner. However, this is especially true if you aren’t married. After all, the state will be given the duty of dividing your estate if you die without a will, and this process always favors blood relatives.

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This doesn’t mean that married couples don’t need to worry about a will, though. Although your spouse is most likely to get the majority of your estate from the state if no will is present, the process of dividing everything could impose costly taxes on them that can often be avoided with a legal will.

2. Get Life Insurance

Both of you should have life insurance that names your partner as the beneficiary. There are many types of life insurance available, so be sure to take some time to research your options. For example, the Ladder online life insurance calculator helps you look at many aspects of your financial needs that may otherwise be forgotten.

By factoring in your remaining mortgage amount and other existing debts, you can get a clearer picture of how much coverage will be necessary for your partner to survive financially when you pass away. Doing this for each other is one of the best ways to show love because it ensures you’re each safeguarded and won’t need to sell your house in order to survive.

3. Determine Your Priorities

Most people could easily blow through millions of dollars if given the opportunity, but since this isn’t likely to happen, the two of you need to determine what your top priorities are. For some couples, this means living in a cheap apartment so that they can travel and build a retirement account. For others, a nice house is more important. By deciding what your top priorities are, you can adjust the rest of your life to continue saving money, while simultaneously improving your quality of life.

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4. Take Care of Your Health

A study by the American Heart Association indicated that exercising 30 minutes a day, five times a week, can reduce your annual healthcare expenses by $2,500. If you add in a healthier diet filled with vegetables and fruit, you’ll be in a good position to save even more money!

Commit to exercising and eating right to bulk up your retirement savings account, boost your life expectancy, and make it easier to enjoy your twilight years. After all, no one wants to spend the latter portion of their life feeling physically debilitated by medical issues that could have been avoided with a proactive approach.

5. Simplify Your Lifestyle

Take a look around your home. Is it filled with objects you don’t need and never use? Do you have a cable plan that includes hundreds of channels you’ve never watched? Is it common for you to buy new clothes before your current ones get anywhere near worn out? If you answered yes to any of these questions, you can save money by simplifying your lifestyle.

Reduce your cable plan or cut the cord entirely to save money. Start buying items only if they have a truly useful and practical purpose. Stop spending so much on clothing, especially if most of it hangs in your closet untouched for months at a time. Instead, put the money you would have spent on these things into your retirement account. You’ll thank yourself when you get older.

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6. Set Up an Auto Transfer

For many people, the process of taking money out of their paycheck and moving it into a savings account is where everything breaks down. People forget, or they end up spending the money on something frivolous.

Stop this breakdown in its tracks by setting up an automatic transfer. This will take the money out of your checking account and move it into your savings account for you. Experts recommend putting 10 to 15 percent of your net income into your retirement account. Overall, saving 20 percent is best because this allows you to also build a nest egg for emergencies.

7. Chip Away at Your Debt

Whether it’s a mortgage, credit cards, or old debt that’s hanging around your neck like an albatross, you must clear away this financial responsibility to boost your ability to save for retirement. It’s common for people to pay the minimum due on their debts, but this will drag your payments out for an extremely long period of time. Instead, even if you can only afford an extra $5 to $10 per month, be sure to always pay more than the minimum due.

It’s also wise to pick the debt with the highest interest and work on paying that one down as quickly as possible. Once you zero out a balance, start paying extra toward the next debt in line. According to Bank of America, paying just $10 more per month on a credit card balance of $1,500 with an APR of 18 percent will save you $1,202.41 in interest fees. The card will also be paid off in less than 4 years, instead of it taking an astounding 13 years.

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8. Make Wise Financial Decisions

One of the things that makes it heartbreakingly easy for people to lose everything is the tendency many of us have to overextend ourselves financially.

A great example can be found with people who agree to a mortgage that leaves them with no wiggle room for emergencies. In other words, if you and your spouse make a combined $7,000 a month, but your mortgage, bills, and other necessary expenses cost $7,000, you are setting yourself up for disaster.

Always make sure that you set up your expenses with a cushion of at least 20 percent. This makes it possible to build a savings account, and it also makes it less catastrophic if someone gets sick or loses their job.

It may seem daunting to make lifestyle changes and take on vital steps such as writing your wills, but this is the best way to have a happy, financially secure future. Don’t forget that exercising and eating healthy are also critical for future financial and physical health. As an added bonus, there are many proven ways to save money while eating healthier.

Begin implementing these changes right now to reduce your future risks.

Featured photo credit: Kan Wu via flic.kr

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Holly Chavez

Writer, Entrepreneur, Small Business Owner

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Last Updated on August 20, 2019

How to Set Financial Goals and Actually Meet Them

How to Set Financial Goals and Actually Meet Them

Finances can push anyone to the point of extreme anxiety and worry. Easier said than done, planning finances is not an egg meant for everyone’s basket. And that’s why most of us are often living pay check to pay check. But did anyone tell you that it is actually not a tough task to meet your financial goals?

In this article, we will explore ways on how to set financial goals and then actually meet them with ease.

5 Steps to Set Financial Goals

Though setting financial goals might seem to be a daunting task but if one has the will and clarity of thought, it is rather easy. Try using these steps:

1. Be Clear About the Objectives

Any goal (let alone financial) without a clear objective is nothing more than a pipe dream. And this couldn’t be more true for financial matters.

It is often said that savings is nothing but deferred consumption. Therefore if you are saving today, then you should be crystal clear about what it is for. It could be anything like kid’s education, retirement, marriage, that dream vacation, fancy car etc.

Once the objective is clear, put a monetary value to that objective and the time frame. The important point at this step of goal setting is to list all the objectives, however small they may be, that you foresee in the future and put a value to it.

2. Keep Them Realistic

It’s good to be an optimistic person but being a pollyanna is not desirable. Similarly, while it might be a good thing to keep your financial goals a bit aggressive, going out of the line will definitely hurt your chances of achieving them.

It’s important that you keep your goals realistic in nature for it will help you stay the course and keep you motivated throughout the journey.

3. Account for Inflation

Ronald Reagan once said – “Inflation is as violent as a mugger, as frightening as an armed robber and as deadly as a hitman”. And this quote sums up the best what inflation could do your financial goals.

Therefore account for inflation whenever you are putting a monetary value to a financial objective that is far away in the future.

For example, if one of your financial goal is your son’s college education, which is 15 years hence, then inflation would increase the monetary burden by more than 50% if inflation is mere 3%. So always account for inflation.

4. Short Term vs Long Term

Just like every calorie is not the same, the approach towards achieving every financial goal will not be the same. It is important to bifurcate goals in short term and long term.

As a rule of thumb, any financial goal, which is due in next 3 years should be termed as short term goal. Any longer duration goals are to be classified as long term goals. This bifurcation of goals into short term vs long term will help in choosing the right investment instrument to achieve them.

More on this later when we talk about how to achieve financial goals.

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5. To Each to His Own

The journey of setting financial goals is an individualistic affair i.e. your goals are your own goals and are determined by your want to achieve them. A lot of times we get on the bandwagon of goal setting only to realize later on that it was not meant for us.

It is important that your goals are actually your goals and not inspired by someone else. Take a hard look at this step at all the goals you’ve set for after this step, you will be on the way to achieve them.

By now, you would be ready with your financial goals, now it’s time to go all out and achieve them.

11 Ways to Achieve Your Financial Goals

Whenever we talk about chasing any financial goal, it is usually a 2 step process –

  • Ensuring healthy savings
  • Making smart investments

You will need to save enough; and invest those savings wisely so that they grow over a period of time to help you achieve goals. So let’s get down to ensuring healthy savings.

Ensuring Healthy Savings

Self realization is the best form of realisation and unless you decide what your current financial position is, you aren’t heading anywhere.

This is the focal point from where you start your journey of achieving financial goals.

1. Track Expenses

The first and the foremost thing to be done is to track your monthly expenses. Use any of the expense tracking mobile apps to record your expenses. Once you start doing it diligently, you would be surprised to see how small expenses add up to a sizeable amount.

Also categorize those expenses into different bucket so that you know which bucket is eating the most of your pay check. This record keeping will pave the way for cutting down on un-wanted expenses and pump up your savings rate.

2. Pay Yourself First

Generally, savings come after all the expenses have been taken care of. This is a classical mistake which almost everyone of us do. We pay ourselves last!

Ideally, this should be planned upside down. We should be paying ourselves first and then to the world i.e. we should be taking out the planned saving amount first and then manage all the expenses from the rest.

The best way to actually implement is to put the savings on automatic mode i.e. money flowing automatically into different financial instruments (for example – mutual funds, retirement corpus etc) every month.

Taking the automatic route will make us lose control of our money and hence will compel us to manage in what’s left with us thereby increasing the savings rate.

3. Make a Plan and Vow to Stick with It

Budgeting is the best to get around the uncertainty that financial plans always pose. Decide in advance how spending has to be made.

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Nowadays, several money management apps and wallets can help you do this automatically. It’s easy and who knows, you may just end up doing what people fail to do.

At first, you may not be able to stick to your plans completely but don’t let that become a reason why you stop budgeting entirely.

Make use of technology solutions you like. Explore options and alternatives that let you make use of the available wallet options and choose the one that suits you the most. In time, you will get accustomed to making use of these solutions.

You will find that they make it simpler for you to follow your plan, which would have been difficult otherwise.

4. Rise Again Even If You Fall

Let’s be realistic. It’s not like the world will come to an end if you made one mistake. This isn’t called leniency but discipline.

If you fail to meet your budget for a month, don’t give up the entire effort just like that. Instead, start again.

Remember that flexible plans are the most realistic plans. So go forward and try to follow your financial goals as planned but if for some reason, the plan gets out of hand for you, do not give up on it just yet. This has a lot to do with your psychology rather than any material commitment.

All you have to do is to stay on the road and vow to stay on it, no matter how much you fall down.

5. Make Savings a Habit and Not a Goal

In the book Nudge, authors Richard Thaler and Cass Sunstein advocate that in order to achieve any goal, it should be broken down into habits since habits are more intuitive for people to adapt to.

Make Savings a habit rather than a goal. While it might seem to be counter intuitive to many but there are some deft ways of doing it. For example:

Always eat out (if at all) during weekdays rather than weekends. Usually weekends are expensive. Make it a habit and you would in turn be saving a great deal.

If you are travelling buff, try to travel during off season. Your outlay will be much less.

If you go out for shopping, always look out for coupons and see where can you get the best deal.

So the key point is to imbibe the action that results in savings rather than on the savings itself, which is the outcome. Focusing on the outcome will bring out the feeling of sacrifice which will be harder to sustain over a period of time.

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6. Talk About It

Sticking to the saving schedule (to achieve financial goals) is not an easy journey. There will be many distractions from those who are not aligned with your mission. And it would be rather easy to lose the grip over your discipline.

Therefore in order to stay the course, it is advisable that you keep yourself surrounded with people who are also on the same bandwagon. Daily discussions with them will keep you motivated to move forward.

7. Maintain a Journal

For some people, writing helps a great deal in making sure that they achieve what they plan.

So if you are one of them, maintain a proper journal, where you write down your goals and also jot down the extent to which you managed to meet them. This will help you in reviewing how far you have come and which goals you have met.

Use this journal to write down all essential points such as your short term, mid term and long term goals, your current sources of income, your regular expenses which you are aware of and any committed expenses which are of recurring nature.

When you have a written commitment on paper, you are going to feel more energised to follow the plan and stick to it. Moreover, it is going to be a lot more easier for you to follow you and track your progress.

At this point, you should be ready with your financial goals and would be doing brilliantly with savings; now it’s time to talk about the big daddy – Investments.

Making Smart Investments

Savings by themselves don’t take anyone too far. However savings when invested wisely can do wonders and we are at that stage where we will talk about making smart investments.

8. Consult a Financial Advisor

Investments doesn’t come naturally to most of us therefore rather than dabbling with it ourselves, it is wise to consult a financial advisor.

Talk to him/her about your financial goals and savings and then seek advice for the best investment instruments to achieve your goals.

9. Choose Your Investment Instrument Wisely

Though your financial advisor will suggest the best investment instruments, it doesn’t hurt to know a bit about them.

Just like “no one is born a criminal”, no investment instrument is bad or good. It is the application of that instrument that makes all the difference.

Do you remember we talked about bifurcating financial goals in short term and long term?

It is here where that classification will help.

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So as a general rule, for all your short term financial goals, choose an investment instrument that has debt nature for example fixed deposits, debt mutual funds etc. The reason for going for debt instruments is that chances of capital loss is less as compared to equity instruments.

10. Compounding Is the Eighth Wonder

Einstein once remarked about compounding,

Compound Interest is the eighth wonder of the world. He who understands it, earns it… He who doesn’t… Pays it.

So make friends with this wonder kid. And sooner you become friends with it, quicker you will reach closer to your financial goals.

Start investing early so that time is on your side to help you bear the fruits of compounding.

11. Measure, Measure, Measure

All of us do good when it comes to earning more per month but fail miserably when it comes to measuring the investments; taking stock of how our investments are doing.

If there is one single step where everything (so far) can go wrong, it is at this step – Measuring the Progress.

If we don’t measure the progress timely, then we would be shooting in the dark. We wouldn’t know if our saving rate is appropriate or not; whether financial advisor is doing a decent job; whether we are moving closer to our target or not.

Do measure everything. If you can’t measure it all yourself, ask your financial advisor to do it for you. But do it!

The Bottom Line

This completes the list of tips for you to set financial goals and actually achieve them with not so great difficulty.

As you can see, all it requires is discipline. But guess that’s the most difficult part!

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Featured photo credit: rawpixel via unsplash.com

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