Ever heard someone talk about taking a “360-degree” approach to finances and shrugged it off as a buzzword? Maybe you don’t think about your finances often and because of the lack of stress you feel, you think you’re in good standing. Or maybe you have debt, but you choose to suppress the long-term effects it’ll have on your life.
Fair enough. But it’s also worth asking yourself: What does good financial health look like? Below I’ll detail the four areas that construct our financial world.
Before you can build a prosperous financial world, you need to get out of the red. If you have a student loan, figure out your final repayment date based on your current plan, then see how many years you could shave off by adding slight increments to your monthly payments. If you have personal credit card debt, take a DIY approach and ask your creditor for a lower monthly interest, or if you have more accounts, ask about consolidating them into one monthly payment.
If you have too much debt for those options to work, you need to take more extreme matters such as debt relief or bankruptcy. It might sound difficult or harsh, but your main goal should be getting out of debt. Every second longer you spend in debt, the further you are from achieving financial health.
If the latter option is your only hope, be careful and do your research. Many legitimate companies exist, but there are also plenty of scammers tricking desperate debtors. Active review sites like the Better Business Bureau (BBB) and TrustPilot are good places to start your research. For example, one national provider, Freedom Debt, gets new reviews each day.
There’s nothing inherently exciting about the concept of insurance, like there is with investing and saving money. However, part of achieving financial prosperity is having financial protection.
Since we can’t predict what each day will bring, we need safeguards against going in debt. That’s really all it comes down to. Whether it’s your car, your business, your home or your health, insurance guarantees you’ll stay afloat, and usually for a price that’s manageable to budget for each month.
It’s worth noting that in today’s rampant age of cybercrime and scams, identity theft protection and proper digital precautions can also protect your overall financial health.
Build an Emergency Nest
Debt-free and with adequate insurance is a great spot to be in. But what’s even better is having enough money set aside to cover the unexpected costs that insurance can’t. What if your aging but vital car suddenly needs a new transmission? If you have a high health insurance deductible, are you prepared to pay it should your health become affected? How would you pay for groceries and a place to live for three months if you lost your job? An emergency fund is that pile of money set aside to cover unexpected life costs. These scenarios are difficult enough to handle mentally without financial hardship bleeding into the equation.
Your emergency savings should cover at least three to six months of living expenses, which means you better budget up! NerdWallet offers some practical tips on how to build an emergency fund:
- Set a monthly savings goal.
- Keep what you get back from every $1, $5, and $20 transaction.
- Trim the fat off monthly expenses by cooking at home, carpooling, saving leftovers, and eliminating small daily purchases.
- Get supplemental income from a second job or by selling unneeded items.
- Save your tax refund!
- Reassess and tweak contributions at the end of the month if needed.
It also helps to automatically deduct a portion of your paycheck into your emergency fund so you don’t have to see the money leaving your checking. If you’re wondering where to put your emergency fund, aim for a high-yield savings account that offers at least 1.25% annual percent yield. That way you’re earning more than a traditional savings account but you still have access to your money should you need it.
With a safety net for big expenses in your back pocket, it’s time to craft an overall plan for your long-term financial wellness. For starters, don’t put any more money into your emergency fund or checking account than what’s necessary. All your additional money needs to be generating long-term yield. This means diversified investments, such as contributing as much as you can to your retirement fund (both a work 401k and personal IRA) and putting money into mutual funds and the stock market.
You’ll also want to explore multiple, passive income streams too. Some examples include owning a rental property, running an online side business, or even renting a room out of your own place every now and then with Airbnb.
Do you still think taking a 360-degree approach is a buzzword? Do you feel empowered to take control of your financial life after reading this? By focusing on these four financial areas, good things are on your horizon.