The 10 Ingredients to Financial Well-Being
Seventy-three percent of Americans rank their finances a top stress in their life. Unfortunately, not enough of an emphasis is placed on financial education in our society, so many Americans are faced with financial challenges and worries about their financial well-being well into their retirement.
Your financial health, in fact, impacts so many other aspects of your life, including productivity, health, and happiness. But becoming financially successful isn’t complicated—it just requires consistency and dedication.
The following 10 steps can help you achieve financial success. And the best news is, it’s never too late to start!
10 key ingredients to financial well-being
1. Strive to live within your means
Financial well-being starts with a budget. Budgets might be a dirty word to some, especially if you’re financially comfortable. However, overspending can drain your accounts quickly. Set a budget and work on sticking to it for three months. After three months, revisit your initial budget and goals, and revise if necessary. Budgeting apps like Mint and Personal Capital are great places to start, but you can also build something simple in Excel.
2. Put as much money away as you can
Start to save as soon as you get your first job or as soon as you can. If available to you, get into the habit of putting away as much as you can into your company-sponsored retirement plan, usually a 401(k) or 403(b); if your employer doesn’t offer one, consider opening an IRA.
Continue doing this throughout your entire career, and as you receive raises, increase the amount you’re putting away. Never buy anything you can’t afford. If you do these things, you will create a nice nest egg and you won’t be part of the 64% of Americans who haven’t put away enough money for retirement.
3. Don’t put all your financial eggs in one basket—diversify
Real estate professionals say the three most important things in a property are location, location, location. Similarly, when investing in securities, the three most important things are diversification, diversification, diversification.
In simple terms, diversification equates to not putting all your eggs in one basket. If you’re diversified, your portfolio will allocate investments across industries, geographies, and more. Your portfolio make up will be based on risk tolerance, cash flow, needs, time horizon, and goals. You can bucket each account according to your goals and diversify them accordingly. This should help you through good times and bad, and is an important part of improving your financial well-being.
4. Embrace the power of compound interest
Iconic scientific genius Albert Einstein allegedly once said the eighth wonder of the world is compound interest. Why? Because when you can allow your money to compound and make money on your money, your investments can grow significantly.
As an example, at a 7% return, your money doubles about every 10 years. So a 40-year-old who has $1 million (no taxes included) would have about $16 million when they reach the age of 80. That’s the wonder of compound interest working for you. Compound interest is another reason to start saving as early as you can, so you can truly make your money work for you.
5. Educate yourself about investing
“An educated consumer is our best customer.” Educate yourself about the investment world. The more educated you are, the better you will be able to differentiate between the right and wrong investments for you. There are many websites, books, podcasts, blogs, and online courses to help you understand how to invest. With this education you can invest wisely for yourself or hire the right advisors.
6. Ensure your childrens’ financial well-being by teaching them about finances
Fostering financial wisdom is a powerful way to help your children and grandchildren build a solid, stable knowledge of the financial markets. It will help them with their independence while giving you the ability to pass along your values to the next generation.
Communication is the key. The most successful families start educating their kids about finance at an early age. You might also consider including your loved ones in conversations about your goals and priorities.
7. Put your estate in order
It’s critical to have a will, or you will let the courts decide how to distribute your assets when you pass. While Covid-19 raised estate planning awareness, especially among younger people who may not have thought much about it before, two out of three adults still do not have a will. Regardless of your age or health, talk to your heirs about how you want to distribute your assets upon death. Have these conversations while you’re still around so your heirs can understand what your intentions are. Don’t leave it up to them to figure it out. This could save a lot of heartache down the road.
8. Don’t let emotions dictate your investment decisions
Fluctuations are a normal part of investing. Don’t get emotionally involved in the ups and downs of the market. Be careful listening to the “media experts” because they look at things on a daily basis. As an investor, you should be looking more long-term and not worried about the daily movements of the market. If you’re about to make an emotional financial decision, talk to someone who has no “skin in the game.”
9. Spread the wealth
Should you be one of the fortunate ones who has achieved financial well-being and made enough money to live comfortably on through retirement, consider spreading that wealth and supporting causes that are important to you. Involve your children so they can learn important lessons about philanthropy.
Consider setting up a donor-advised fund, a private fund created for the purpose of managing charitable donations, and having your children be responsible for finding a charity to donate to.
10. Hire the right professionals to help you achieve financial well-being
As your financial situation becomes more complicated, consider hiring a professional to help. Look for professionals who have your best interest at heart and ones that have a fiduciary responsibility to put your needs ahead of theirs. When evaluating different options, ask how they get paid and what you can expect from working with them.
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