Creating your own definition of success and being proactive about reaching it is a surefire way to accomplish more with your money.
13 Things You Must Do for More Financial Success
No matter your money goals, use these 13 tips to build more wealth and financial stability.
Protect your ability to earn an income.
Protecting your income or creating additional sources of income is probably the best thing you can do for more financial success. Not only does an extra income stream help you pay the bills and eliminate debt faster, but it allows you to stay safe if one of them dries up.
Consider how you can use the skills you already use in your job to create a profitable side business. What interests do you have that other people would pay for, such as online tutoring, gardening, driving for rideshare apps, caring for pets, or writing?
If you don’t have time to create an additional source of income, could you ask for a raise or promotion at work? Taking a higher-level job may be the ticket to earning more or staying as relevant as possible to your employer.
Maintain a healthy cash reserve.
If you’ve been following the Money Girl blog or podcast, you’ve probably heard me discuss the importance of building a cash reserve, also known as an emergency fund. It should be a top priority, so you’re never backed into a corner, financially speaking.
Having savings is one of the best tips for financial success because it protects you from hardship, such as having a significant unexpected medical expense or losing your job or business income. If you don’t have a financial cushion to fall back on, a setback could force you into debt and take years or decades to recover.
If you get a raise at work or have a profitable year in your business, it can be tempting to spend the excess. But the trick to building a healthy cash reserve is to save when times are good diligently.
Before you book a vacation or buy a coveted luxury item, make sure you have plenty in the bank. I know saving isn’t as much fun as splurging. But the best way to ensure you’re ready when lousy luck strikes is to prepare for it today.
Keep your emergency money in an FDIC-insured bank account so it’s completely safe. No, you aren’t likely to outpace inflation with a savings account, but that’s not the purpose of a cash reserve. Ideally, you should save at least three to six months’ worth of living expenses. However, you might need more or less depending on your work and family situation.
I know it can seem daunting if you haven’t started building an emergency fund. Don’t worry; just get started by taking small steps. Aim to accumulate $100, then $500, and $1,000 as quickly as possible. Not only does having an emergency fund protect your finances, but it also gives you incredible peace of mind and eliminates a lot of stress.
Adopt long-term thinking.
Everyone’s definition of financial success is different. For most of us, it won’t come from an inheritance or winning the lottery. Reaching significant achievements, such as saving enough for a comfortable retirement or putting kids through college, results from long-term planning that may have taken decades. If you make small, continuous improvements that compound over time, you can achieve just about any desired outcome.
For example, if you want to retire with more than a million dollars, you could invest $300 a month starting in your 20s, $800 a month starting in your 30s, or $1,200 starting in your 40s. The more time you allow investments to compound, the less you must invest to achieve your goal. The sooner you take a long-term view, the easier it is to build a secure future or achieve any dream you have.
Stay focused on your money goals.
You’ll probably spend money on a thousand other things if you don’t set financial goals. So, take some time to figure out what you want to achieve with your money. What financial and non-financial dreams do you have?
If you’re unsure of your financial goals, I recommend this simple exercise: Imagine your life five years from now. Consider where you’re living and how you spend your time. In five years, what would you be proud to say you had accomplished between now and then?
Stretch your imagination further and do the same for your life in 10 or 20 years. Then imagine you’re on your deathbed with just a few hours left to live. What accomplishments would make you feel good about yourself even in your final hours?
These big questions can help you know what you want to achieve with your money and inspire you. Without clear financial goals, seeing what you’re making sacrifices and working for isn’t easy.
I have excellent resources to help you assess your financial situation, set goals, and track your wealth. When you sign up for my free newsletter, The Money Stack, you automatically receive my Money Success Toolkit, which includes a Financial Planning Workbook and Personal Financial Statement calculator.
I recommend signing up for the newsletter, downloading these free resources, and setting aside some quiet time to complete them. You might involve your spouse or partner in creating goals that align with the future you envision for yourself and your family.
READ ALSO: 10 crucial money rules couples should follow
A critical thing you must do for more financial success is to live within your means. To be comfortable later, you may need to feel slightly uncomfortable today.
So, evaluate your priorities carefully and give up unnecessary spending that’s holding you back from achieving more. I’ve found that calculating the value of your time is a powerful way to understand what something truly costs. Before you reach for your credit card, do some quick math.
For example, if you earn $60,000 a year, you earn about $30 an hour. If you see a pair of shoes or something you want online that costs $300, you’d have to work 10 hours pre-tax to pay for it.
To figure the cost of an item after taxes, take about 20% to 25% off your hourly rate. That would take you from $30 to $23 an hour, which means you’d have to work more than 13 hours to pay for a $300 item. If you wouldn’t happily trade 13 hours of work for something, forget about it!
Watch your cash flow.
Understanding exactly how you earn, spend, and save is vital because it’s the foundation of your financial life. If you’re not sure how much money is coming in and going out, you won’t be able to manage it intentionally.
The best way to watch and manage your cash flow is to use a digital tool that aggregates your financial accounts in one place. As you review your cash flow, be vigilant about categorizing income and expenses correctly so you’ll have accurate reporting. That’s the best way to understand your spending and where to cut back.
Most personal finance programs or apps allow you to create a budget. You set a maximum dollar amount or percentage of income for each spending category. Then, the program shows you how your actual spending compares with your budget. Here are some of my favorite finance tools and budgeting apps.
- Empower: It used to be called Personal Capital and is one of the best free budgeting programs for desktop or mobile. Once you link your financial accounts, it tracks your spending, savings, and investments. It has many features suitable for beginners and advanced users, such as budgeting, cash flow management, net worth tracking, bill pay alerts, and investment analysis, from a user-friendly dashboard.
- Simplifi: This mobile budgeting app has customizable categories, spending analysis, and various reports. It shows upcoming bills, recurring expenses, and income in a calendar view so you see how they affect your balance. It also helps you identify subscriptions to cancel what you don’t need, track refunds on returned items, and create savings goals.
- Monarch Money: It has a beautiful dashboard to create a budget with customizable categories and track your spending, savings, investments, and net worth. The app says it’s the money management tool for power couples, allowing you to collaborate and reach goals faster. It creates reports and helps you create and achieve shared financial goals.
- Quicken: Can handle just about every aspect of your finances–including budgeting, setting goals, paying bills, tracking investments, isolating tax-related transactions, investing, and reporting–with a comprehensive suite of products.
- Tiller: Offers pre-built spreadsheets for tracking expenses, income, account balances, budgets, and net worth. Once linked to your financial accounts, transactions get populated into Google Sheets or Microsoft Excel.
- QuickBooks: This is a robust solution for business bookkeeping where you can categorize transactions, create customized labels, view reports, and manage taxes, payroll, and bills.
If you’re self-employed, like me, you may have variable income, making it challenging to budget. I use a top-down approach to pay for my goals, such as retirement and other savings, first and then living on the rest. However, creating a budget may be essential to getting and keeping your finances on track.
Use automation to your advantage.
In addition to monitoring your cash flow and spending consciously on priorities, a key to financial success is automating your money. Without it, you risk having your financial targets fall through the cracks.
Automating various parts of your finances allows you to build safety nets, such as an emergency fund and retirement savings, without thinking about them. One tip is to ask your employer to split your paycheck between your checking and emergency savings.
Workplace retirement plans work so well because contributions must come from your paycheck before you have the chance to spend them. If you don’t have a plan at work or are self-employed, you can set up an automatic transfer from your checking into a retirement account, such as an IRA or SEP-IRA.
You can set up recurring transfers to automatically move money from your checking to other accounts, such as a health savings account, 529 college savings plan, holiday gift fund, or any other goal you may have.
Manage your debt carefully.
Another key to having more financial success is reducing what you owe. Having fewer or smaller liabilities can take the pressure off if your pay gets cut or you lose your job or business income. It can also help you live within your means if you overspend.
Even if you don’t have extra money to pay off debt faster, you can cut your interest expense by simply tackling your debt from the highest to the lowest interest rate. Also, consider options such as refinancing, debt consolidation, doing a balance transfer, or changing your student loan payment plan to make the debt more manageable.
Have the right insurance.
In addition to protecting your income and having cash in the bank, consider how various insurance products can create more financial success.
For instance, health insurance is essential for maintaining your physical and financial health, even if you’re young and healthy. While emergency savings are critical, you may not have enough to pay for ongoing medical care after a severe injury or illness. Even a quick emergency room trip could cost thousands of dollars.
Depending on your income and family size, you may be eligible for government assistance to reduce the cost of health coverage. You can learn more about healthcare subsidies at Healthcare.gov.
Remember that health insurance pays a portion of covered medical expenses but not your living expenses, such as housing, food, or debt payments if you can’t work due to a health problem.
Disability insurance is an often-overlooked financial product that replaces a portion of your income, such as 60% or 70%, if you can’t work due to a covered accident, illness, or injury. It allows you to keep up with your bills and meet living expenses while you recover.
If you don’t have the option to purchase disability insurance at work (or you do, but it’s not sufficient), buy a private policy for yourself. In many cases, a monthly disability premium is less than a data plan for your cell phone.
Having life insurance won’t help your finances, but it can ensure the financial success of those you leave behind. Consider purchasing term life insurance if you have a partner, spouse, or children who depend on you financially. They can be set up as beneficiaries and receive a payout after your death. Life insurance is most affordable when you’re young and in good health, so don’t wait to get coverage if you need it.
Ignore those who don’t support you.
The people you spend the most time with always influence you the most. If you’re hanging out with family or friends who don’t support your financial goals, listening to them can decrease your likelihood of success.
Instead, spend time with people who are encouraging and genuinely want you to achieve your goals. You’ll be glad you did.
Don’t get discouraged.
You’re certainly not alone if you’ve ever felt discouraged or upset about your financial life. Many people go through years, or even decades, not earning enough, not spending wisely, or not being sufficiently educated to make the best money decisions.
The fact that you’re reading this article or listening to the companion Money Girl podcast means that you’re on the right path to more financial success!
Focus on what you can control.
Often, we worry about things that are not in our control, making us feel powerless. Instead, focusing on what you can control will set you up for much more financial success.
Get professional help.
One of the fastest ways to succeed financially is to work with a financial advisor or retirement planner. They provide various services but are typically used to create a detailed plan for long-term goals, such as retirement savings. An advisor may also help you see options and solutions to financial challenges.