Take the next step toward financial health
Make a budgetMaking a budget is the first step toward creating and maintaining your long-term financial health. Start by making two lists: income and expenses. Then subtract your total expenses from your total income. If this equation results in a negative number, then you have a clear problem. It means you’re spending above your means. You either need to increase your income or decrease your spending. A good budget will show a positive number, which indicates that you’re spending below your means. Your overall budget goal should always be a positive bottom line.
Reduce your debt intakeGood financial health is achieved by using credit wisely and sparingly. To reduce your debt, you need a debt repayment strategy or debt loss plan. Begin by listing all your debts from smallest to largest. Start repaying them, beginning with the smallest and working your way up. Some may argue that it's better to pay off debts with the highest interest rates first, but you'll have some small "wins" early on if you arrange them from smallest to largest. Psychologically, this motivates you to keep going. You can also trim some financial fat by taking advantage of balance transfers on high rate credit cards.
Add a credit monitoring serviceCredit monitoring services will help you secure the credit you’ve worked so hard to build. Think of it like a night watchman, someone looking out for the presence of unauthorized activity in your credit corridor.
Create an emergency fundHaving an emergency fund ensures that you'll have money in your account in the event of job loss, health issues or anything else that can dismantle your finances. Emergency funds provide security in the face of unforeseen financial hardships. A solid guideline is to have six to eight months of expenses available in your account. You can start by putting aside 10% of each paycheck.
Prepare for the futureIf you want to protect your children and other beneficiaries from future financial hardship, you need a plan. You can start by taking out life insurance, opening a retirement account and, if applicable, creating a college savings plan.
Have funThis step probably takes most people by surprise, but if you're not having any fun, it’s hard to successfully maintain your financial health. Put aside a portion of your income for guilt-free spending. If you sacrifice too much on your mission for good financial health, you risk relapsing and spending significant portions of the money you've worked so hard to save. Make it a point to treat yourself occasionally, within reason. Try opening a "fun fund," an account you use for special weekend trips, nights out with friends or some other big-ticket purchase.