Financial wellness is a term we all probably hear a lot, but what does it mean? In essence, financial wellness means having control over your personal finances in both the short and long-term. Minimizing or controlling debt, saving for the future (whether that be for college or retirement), and being able to cover the cost of a sizeable financial emergency are all good indicators that you have achieved financial wellness. But why is achieving financial wellness important? Studies have found that achieving financial wellness allows individuals to better enjoy life while limiting overall stress levels.
With those indicators in mind, how do you go about achieving them? Evaluating where you are with budgeting, savings, debt and investing is a good place to start.
We know we know… budgeting is one of those topics that can put many of us right to sleep, but you shouldn’t overlook its importance. Having a budget for your finances allows you to see the big picture. Knowing where you’re spending your money can make you more aware on areas that need improvement. A budget helps you reach goals more quickly and should be a top priority for anyone who wants to achieve financial wellness.
Arguably one of the most important aspects of financial wellness is savings. The three types of savings to consider:
Think of emergency savings as the fuel reserves most cars have when they run out of gas. If you find yourself in a financial pinch, you can rest assured knowing that you have a safety net. Most financial experts recommend 3-6 months of living expenses saved but in these uncertain times it may be a good idea to aim for the 6-8 months instead.
If you have children, saving for their education from the time they are young is a surefire way to prevent future financial stress. There are special tax-deferred government accounts made specifically for educational expenses. The two prominent accounts are the 529 plan and a Coverdell Education Savings Account (ESA). Both of these allow you to use the money saved for qualified K-12 and higher education expenses.
Lastly, you may have some purchases on the horizon that you can plan for, like a car, new home, gifts etc. Having savings dedicated just for purchases like these allows you to avoid debt while making sure you have enough money in your checking account for your regular expenses.
With emergency savings in place you can start limiting and paying off any outstanding debt you have. This is a crucial step in achieving financial wellness. Knowing how much you owe and the interest rates associated with each loan will help you form a debt repayment plan. Start by paying off the debt with the highest interest rate and work your way down from there. Another method of paying off debt involves paying off the smallest loans first in order to help you build momentum. Whichever method you choose, just know you are taking the right step in moving closer towards financial wellness and you should be proud of yourself.
It’s never too early to start investing for your future. In fact, the earlier you start the sooner compound interest can start working in your favor. Investing for retirement is a good place to start for most people. Open a 401k account with your employer if they have one and contribute to it regularly. Many employers offer a matching contribution so contribute at least up to the minimum match amount. Another great option is an Individual Retirement Account (IRA). There are two variations of an IRA account: Roth or Traditional. Do some research to see which account is best for you and then contribute regularly for the best long-term result.
Focusing on each of these aspects of financial wellness individually and as a whole allows you to build a well-rounded relationship with your money. Though achieving financial wellness takes some focus and discipline, being certain about your financial future does wonders for your overall happiness.
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