Millions of Americans are deep in credit card and student loan debt. There is a big fear of an upcoming retirement crisis because people have so little saved for their golden years. Much of the problem in American personal finance stems from the lack of good financial habits. Here are three great habits that everyone should follow.
Set up a Budget
A budget simply allows a person or family to track income and expenses. Many expenses are fixed each month. For example, a car payment or a rent or mortgage payment will generally stay pretty stable from month to month. Other expenses are variable. Utility bills fluctuate by the season. Food costs can vary widely from one month to the next. At the beginning of each month, it’s a good idea to set aside some time to look at the expected income for the month and then see what’s available for discretionary bills like food and entertainment. One month might require leaner food choices while another might allow for a few steaks. A budget will help a family decide which direction to go.
Create a Plan for Savings
Those who pay themselves after everyone else will have little to save. It’s a good idea to pay yourself first. This requires a savings plan. It’s possible to save even before the IRS takes its share. To achieve this goal, it’s necessary to save in a tax-advantaged plan like a 401(k) or an IRA. The traditional options actually cut taxable income and allows a saver to save every penny of those dollars up to the IRS limit. Starting at a small percentage and then building it over time can allow a family to ease into savings and make changes less painful.
Pay Down Debt Aggressively
Many people are comfortable with debt. However, every dollar that goes toward paying off debts and the interest on them is a dollar that cannot be saved or used for something else that’s more beneficial. Paying the minimum on a credit card could leave a person in debt for 10 or 20 years even on a very small balance. That’s why it’s important to pay more than the minimum each month.
These are just three financial habits. However, few are more important when it comes to building wealth and achieving financial freedom. Getting started as soon as possible is the key to long-term success in personal finance.