If you've ever tried to get in shape, you know that there's no magic formula for exercising and eating right. You need the discipline to put your knowledge to work in the real world - even when it would be so easy to grab a super-sized burger and skip that trip to the gym.
Becoming financially healthy is not so different - there are just a few things to know, but just because something is easy to understand doesn't mean it’s easy do. Luckily, you can often start to see benefits of effective financial management right away - in the form of extra cash.
The first step to financial health is to earn more money than you spend. From making sure paycheck deductions are correct to possibly moving into a higher paying job with more responsibility, understanding how you earn money is an important (and often overlooked) step.
Step two is to thoroughly understand how and where you spend your money. Sure, we all know how to spend money, but does our spending reflect our true goals? How much of that spending is on true needs and how much is spent on luxuries?
Step three concerns saving and investing. From creating an emergency fund that will help to avoid high interest credit card debt in an unexpected situation to investing for the future, saving money involves setting priorities and implementing solid strategies. How do you set your priorities? What strategies will help you achieve them?
Step four concerns borrowing, something almost everyone does throughout life. Whether you borrow for a car, home, or higher education, the choices you make when choosing a loan can have a major impact on the overall cost of the money you borrow. And the skill with which you manage your debt will affect everything from the interest rates you pay on other loans to your ability to qualify for other loans in the future.
Finally, the fifth step concerns protecting your financial stability. How many Americans did everything right only to lose all financial stability as the result of an uninsured major illness? Far too many. From making smart choices about insurance to realizing long-term asset-building goals, understanding and managing financial risks can mean the difference between financial success and failure.
For most people, increasing financial health isn't very complex or hard to understand. But that doesn't mean it's easy - procrastination can hinder the simplest changes. Potentially changing financial attitudes and behaviors built over a lifetime can also be a challenge. So in addition to providing suggestions for what to consider when making financial changes, we also provide some strategies for helping your behavior match your long-term goals. The key is to stay engaged - getting a little education here and making a few changes over time can add up in ways you'd never expect.