Whatever past mistakes you’ve made, 2014 is the year to change your habits. I’ve noticed I’m an impulse spender who always looks forward to that next big purchase. No matter how much money I make, it never feels like enough, as I’m always filling previous voids. In order to break that habit, I sought the advice of several financial analysts and life coaches. Each helped me identify trends in my personal life that affect my finances. To combat it, we’ve come up with a list of financial moves I need to make this year, and you should too.
Smurfette wept at she stared at the pile of bills she earned at the strip club…
Take an objective look at your finances. Are you making enough to cover your spending while paying your past financial obligations and preparing for the future? If you’re spending based on future income, there’s an issue. You need to look at the numbers involved in your personal finance at least once a month to ensure you’re staying abreast of your current financial situation.
T.J. Tillman, a founding partner at Empire Wealth Management says, “My recommendation is to have a hierarchical set of financial priorities and not stray from it. The order would be (from bottom to top) paying for basic monthly expenses like food, shelter, etc., money set aside for emergency savings, money set aside for retirement, and then discretionary income to save up for major purchases. By following these guidelines, it’s possible to live a life with significantly less stress and still work towards those material things that are nice but not necessary.”
Pay off Your Credit Cards
Your highest interest rates are coming from your credit cards–and that’s just the start of where they get bad. Having revolving credit is only good for your credit if you have an abundance of available credit (money you could spend, but haven’t). Even this is only true of true credit cards; pre-paid credit cards don’t even report to your credit agency (you’re paying a fee to use your own money).
Paying off credit cards is a vital step in treading above financial waters. Pay off cards with the highest interest rates first, and know that if you took out any cash advances, that balance is paid off last (earning the banks the highest interest rate for as long as possible).
Strengthen Your Reserves
Every penny you save counts. Stop looking at bonuses as “free money.” In fact, stop looking at any money as free; you have to work for every cent. Stop discrediting the effort you put into your own personal blood, sweat, and tears, and instead start paying the most important bill of your life: your monthly payment to your personal savings account. You want to have at the ability to pay at least 3-6 months worth of bills in case an emergency comes up. You’re never 100% in control of your own income, and even if you were, life happens. Be prepared for an empty tanks with a reserve can just in case.
Settle Your Debts
It’s never fun owing anyone; I’ve never heard someone say, “I’m so happy I owe money to (insert anyone’s name).” Settling debts will strengthen your reputation and lift a mental burden from your shoulders. Instead of thinking about who you owe what to, you can concentrate on what’s important in life. “Karma is real, baby,” explains Life Coach Melanie Cobb. “Money can’t flow to you if your incoming channel is clogged with old resentments, guilt, or small stories.” Drop the guilt and clear those burdens off your plate.
Tired Until You’re Retired
Unless you’re Benjamin Button, one day you’re going to get old. If you don’t start saving now, you’ll be one of those old people who’s still working. It’s easy to think you’ll never be that way, but it’s as inevitable as death if you don’t do something to prepare now. What if the world ended today? What if aliens invaded and are going to destroy the earth. You’re not on the president’s call list–he doesn’t even know you exist. So what will you do? If you don’t have a plan, you’re not a survivor of the zombie apocalypse; you’re a zombie.
Habits Are Made to Be Broken
Bad spending habits are the root of most people’s financial problems. Stores know this, and that’s why there are impulse items strategically placed throughout the store. In fact, nearly everyone is counting on you to spend money, and the only person you can count on to be responsible with your personal finances is yourself. Break free of bad spending habits by practicing discipline and focusing on your financial goals, rather than relieving your temporary cravings. Also a word of advice–eat before you go grocery shopping to keep from overspending.
Review Your Permanent Record
You need to check your credit report today; in fact it’s a good idea to check it at least once a month. Remember how you had a permanent record in school? Teachers would always threaten to list misdeeds on your permanent record. You couldn’t see your permanent record then, but you can check your credit report to ensure you truly are responsible for the financial decisions you’re being credited for. Now you know, and knowing is half the battle.
Be Open About Your Finances
If you keep your finances a dirty secret, it’ll eventually come out the closet to bite you in the ass. You need to be honest with people–you don’t have to tell them how much money you make or have, but you don’t need to be ashamed to tell people you’re not willing to pay to go out because you’re currently saving. They may ask questions, but you can politely remind them that you’d rather not discuss finances whenever it gets too personal. You don’t need to broadcast your checking account balance; just don’t act like you have ends you don’t.
Seek Professional Help
There’s no shame in asking for help. Even Michael Jordan needed coaching. People like T.J. Tillman and Melanie Cobb represent an entire industry dedicated to coaching and motivating people through the tough financial times. It’s not necessary to take on the burden of all your debt and finances yourself. Cash rules everything around me, so it’s a pretty big deal that’s worth spending time discussing with a qualified professional.
We all want to be billionaires and spend money on all the things Bruno Mars sings about, but we’re not all CEOs, so we’re not likely to have that chance. Be honest with yourself; you can lie to everyone else, but always be honest with yourself about where you actually are. You can’t find your destination if you don’t even know where you’re at. Realistically assess your resources and options, and stick to goals you can actually stick to; it may take a little suffering, but, with resourcefulness and perseverance, you can make the right financial moves this year to bring success to any endeavor.