Holly C. Wanegar, CFP®
Associate Vice President, Wealth Manager
You've probably heard the phrase, "what you don't know can't hurt you." That advice not so good for almost any situation, but it can be especially harmful when it comes to your finances.
If the thought of money management and financial planning leaves you feeling more stumped than like a star, don't worry – you're not alone. Many people struggle with finances until they make a concerted effort to learn the ropes.
Here are four essential steps to help you get started off on the right foot.
1. Make a Monthly Budget
One of the most important steps in ensuring financial success is creating a monthly budget. This may sound simple, but a budget is your financial strategy's foundation.
Creating a monthly budget doesn't have to be complicated. Here's how to ensure you're setting yourself up for financial success:
- Calculate your gross monthly income. This could include your salary, investment income, Social Security, child support/alimony, freelance work, or other income sources. Remember to calculate your net income as well, which is how much is left after taxes and other deductions.
- Consider your financial priorities and allocate your budget accordingly. In addition to your regular monthly expenses, you might decide to increase your general savings or set aside money toward a large purchase such as a home or car. The important point is to decide what's important and to make sure your budget reflects those values.
- Create expense categories for where your money is spent and track each and every expense. It's important to differentiate between wants and needs. You need to pay the rent or mortgage payment, but you want a new pair of shoes or a nice dinner out. By tracking your spending, you can determine whether your budget is aligned with your priorities or if you should make adjustments to meet your goals.
That's a quick overview to get you started, but you can find more budgeting tips, tricks and resources on our blog.
2. Check Your Credit Score
If it's been a while since you checked your credit score, now is a great time to see where you stand. Your credit score is an important metric when considering your financial health and will play a larger role when you apply for loans, especially mortgages and car loans. If you have a higher credit score, you may qualify for lower-interest debt, which will save you money.
Reviewing your credit report is important to ensure there aren't any mistakes or incorrect accounts assigned to you. If you notice something on your credit report that doesn't look accurate, such as a loan or credit card you don't remember opening, contact your financial institutions immediately. You can also file a dispute with the credit reporting agencies to report any false information you find.
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3. Understand Your Investment Options
As you become more financially literate and feel comfortable talking about finances, you may consider looking into investments that are aligned with your goals. There are so many different types of investments and working with a financial advisor can help you understand your options. You should also educate yourself on some of the most common investment types, including:
4. Don’t Be Afraid to Ask Questions
Talking about finances can be intimidating, but we all must start somewhere. This Financial Literacy Month, make it a goal to learn one or two new facts about finance and contact an expert who can help. You can turn to financial advisors and financial publications to get your questions answered without feeling naive or silly. There's no such thing as a dumb question when it comes to becoming more financially literate and secure.
Financial literacy doesn't come from making big leaps but rather from taking one step at a time. Pick one of the options above and start yourself on the path to become financially savvy. We act as fiduciary financial planners for our clients, meaning we partner with them to create a strategic financial plan based on their individual goals and with their best financial interests at heart. We do this using our strategic Plan Well, Invest Well, Live Well™ process. If you'd like to have a strategic financial partner to help you plan and invest well so you can Live Well now and in the future, contact us for a complimentary consultation.
Presented by Associate Vice President, Wealth Manager Holly C. Wanegar, CFP®. Securities and advisory services offered through Commonwealth Financial Network®, Member FINRA/SIPC, a Registered Investment Adviser. These materials are general in nature and do not address your specific situation. For your specific investment needs, please discuss your individual circumstances with your representative. Weiss, Hale & Zahansky Strategic Wealth Advisors does not provide tax or legal advice, and nothing in the accompanying pages should be construed as specific tax or legal advice. 697 Pomfret Street, Pomfret Center, CT 06259, 860-928-2341. www.whzwealth.com.