The road to financial wellness doesn’t have to be dark, windy, or gravel. In the age of digital money, it’s so easy to essentially “set it and forget it” with your money. We swipe a card, set up an auto payment, or enter our payment information in our favorite shopping apps and with a simple step, the money is spent without us ever laying eyes on it. It can be really tough to keep track of things we cannot see. That certainly stands true for our money. Spending an entire paycheck can happen with very little effort. Despite the ease of spending, you can develop the ability to see your money again. You can hop on the smooth road to financial wellness.
What is financial wellness? Financial wellness is knowing your current financial state and where you’re heading with a firm understanding of where you’ve been.
Step 1: Knowing Your Current Financial State
This entails knowing where you stand financially at any one given moment. It’s knowing how much money is in your bank accounts, the balances on your credit cards, and where your investments stand. Understanding your investments involves knowing how your investments are faring.
- 401k, IRA
- Stocks, bonds
- Value of your house in the current market
- Businesses you own or have invested money
Understanding your current state also involves knowing how you are currently spending your money. This means you have allocated the funds in your account according to the budgets you’ve set. It also means knowing who is handling the money in your relationship. Is it shared? Is it each person handles their own money? Is it a combination? Regardless, of how it’s handled, it’s important for both parties to have a clear picture of the financial picture. Every month, my husband goes through our financial picture. He allocates our funds and documents the process using a paper ledger. Yes, pen and paper. That’s us, however. For us, seeing it “ in person” and not from a computer screen makes is easier to comprehend. We’re old school, perhaps, in that respect. We’re the same with books. Nevertheless, every month we go over our financial obligations and discuss our goals. I do not like to spend a lot of money at once, so going through our monthly obligations gives me anxiety, but my husband stresses the importance of being aware of where we are. He’s right. Being aware of what we are spending is very helpful. I always keep it in mind before spending. Have a conversation regularly with you significant other about your current finances. Having a keen knowledge of where you stand gives you a clear picture of your financial state. Meaning you’ll know what you can or cannot afford. You’ll know if making certain moves make financial sense because you have a clear picture of your current financial state. Basically to know where you are helps make decisions in line with where you would like to go.
Step 2: Defining Your Financial Goals
With your significant other, have a conversation about your short term and long term financial goals as a unit as well as individually if that applies. By outlining your goals, you motivate your saving or spending, depending on what you’re looking to do. You have a reason for doing what you’re doing. When we have a “why” that we care about it makes it much easier to continue to save money or spend money wisely. Write down what is you want to do in the short term and long term with your funds. This may be paying off debt, starting a business, going on a vacation, preparing for holidays, buying a new bike, or any other task you choose that requires money. Think about what is motivating you to create these goals. Your motivation is what is going to drive your actions. If you’re paying off debt to improve your credit to put you in position to purchase a house, that house is your motivation. Keep your motivation in the forefront of your mind, so you’re spending consciously. You are thinking about what and why you’re buying. Before you buy your third pair of boots, you’ll think about the impact this purchase has on your future plans. You’ll think about whether these boots are needed to pursue other goals you have. You consciously weigh your options and develop a decision that is either cohesive or not cohesive with your financial goals. Either way, you will know if you’re hurting or helping yourself. No more surprises at the end of the month. What happened to all the money? You know because you thought about your purchases and know where your money went. Know your goals for the week, the month, the year, the next how ever many years, for day at times. Just know why you’re spending what you’re spending and decide if it’s helping or hurting you. By being purposeful about allocating funds and budgeting, you will set the stage for successfully reaching the goals you’ve set.
Step 3: Having a Firm Understanding of Where You’ve Been Financially
This means knowing the financial lessons you’ve learned along the way. Perhaps, it’s the way you’ve seen money handled growing up. The lessons you’ve learned paying off those credit cards you applied for in college. Or the stress you’ve been through living paycheck to paycheck. Noting the valuable lessons you’ve learned in the past, makes establishing clear goals for the present and future spending habits much easier. If you recognize in the past, you’ve had no idea how your paychecks were spent, you’ll know for the future, you want to change that in order to improve your financial clarity. When we were younger, we racked up credit card debt providing for our young family. From that experience, we know that credit card debt is something we are not okay with in the future. We learned valuable lessons and took a deeper look at our spending from those experiences. Those experiences have made us wiser consumers. Do not dwell on your past mistakes or experiences. Move on from them but don’t forget them. What I mean is don’t wallow in your sadness about how you spent money in the past and how it’s still negatively impacting you today. Instead, recognize it and use it to your advantage. Now you know how not to handle your money in the future. Use it as fuel. Gas for your financial knowledge tank to propel forward. Use the experiences to make you a wiser consumer.
Closing It Out
Throughout our financial blogs you will see us use the terms funds allocation and budgeting. Funds allocation or allocating funds refers to the act of deciding where funds need to be spent and actually setting aside the funds to use for those purposes. It involves deciding how every dollar of your money will be spent and saved. Budgeting on the other hand, involves deciding how much money you’re willing to spend on certain aspects of your financial life. Having a budget sets the stage. Allocating funds puts the players in action. Both are very important for establishing a clear financial picture. By keeping record of your spending you will see how it evolves over time and make clearer and suitable goals for the future.
JR & Erica
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