Written and provided by Veronica Grant

Last week, I was chatting personal finance with a friend. She told me that she’s already accepted her future: she’ll be broke in retirement, living off ramen noodles. She claimed there is zero way she can save now + in her line of work, she’ll never make enough money to build a nest egg.

Can you relate?

I mentioned last week that I’ve never made that much money, but I’ve been able to make big-ticket purchases because I’ve been 100% intentional + mindful down to every penny I spend.

This week, I want you to be just as intentional + mindful down to every penny you save. {If you want some ideas on budgeting, check out last week’s post where I shared how I decide where to spend my money.}

If you want to start saving, be more strategic in how you save, or if you have debt + think saving isn’t for you, keep on readin’.

Make a goal to save 20% of your income.

That sounds crazy if you’ve got credit card or student loan debt, live in an expensive city, or don’t make a lot of money. But that doesn’t mean you get a get-out-of-jail-free card. 20% is a goal. You have to start somewhere.

Now, you’re not just gonna stash that 20% under your mattress, let’s take a look at how to make the most of it…

 

your personal finance road map:

Step 1. 401(k) – aka, Free Money

If your employer has a 401(k) match, this is the first place to put your money, even if you have debt. If you do not meet your employer match, you literally leave money on the table. Want a quick + easy raise? Get that match.

Contact your HR about your company’s 401(k) plan. In this step, only invest up to the match. If your employer matches up to 5% of your salary, then invest 5%. If you do not have an employer match, still invest, striving to hit the 5% of your salary mark. Even if you have other debt, your money will grow + compound on itself, beating out interest rates on most debt you have.

 Step 2. Emergency Fund – Protect yourself

An emergency fund is exactly how it sounds, and should ideally provide for 6 months of bare bones living. If a 6 month fund seems like light years away, start with a goal of 3 months. Once you hit 3 months, continue putting money into this fund, but you can move to step 3.

What to do if you have debt: If your debt is student loan, then you’re most likely better off meeting the minimum payment, then putting the rest toward an emergency fund. If you have credit card debt, you’ll want to pay that off quicker, but it’s usually best to still be working toward an emergency fund.

In the end, go with your gut. If your debt keeps you up at night, then go ahead and pay it down as quickly as possible. Just keep in mind that you’re risking not being financially prepared in an emergency.

Step 3. Meet my friend, Roth.

If you’re meeting at least your debts’ minimum payments, have some money going toward an emergency fund, funded your 401(k), AND you still have some money left over, it’s time to open a Roth, friend.

I freaking LOVE Roths.

They are my favorite + I can nerd out about them all day long. They rock because you put your after-tax money into them, and you never have to pay taxes on that money again, not the earnings, not when you withdraw. Nada. Nothing. Zero.

You can contribute a maximum of $5,500 {$6,500 if you’re older than 50} per year. Just know that you can’t take out any earnings on your money until you’re 59 1/2 without penalty. You CAN take out the money you put into the account, so it could be a great place to stash your emergency fund.

{More about investing is coming up next week, make sure you don’t miss out!}

Step 4. Revisit our old friend, 401(k)

You still got mo’money? Then head back to your 401(k) and max it out. As of 2015, an individual can contribute $18,000 per year, and if you’re over 50, you get to add $6,000 to that.

Step 5. Regular ole investing

Still got more money? It’s time to open a regular ole investment account. Regular investment accounts are different from retirement accounts because they aren’t tax-free. I’ll talk more about investing next week, so stay tuned.

 

psst…this road map isn’t entirely linear.

I’m still working my way through step 3, but I also have a non-retirement investment account. I really wanted one, I have an emergency fund, and I’m contributing a good amount to my retirement, so I think that’s okay.

As long as you are putting something into retirement, {even $50 a month can make such a HUGE difference later on}, working toward an emergency fund {again, $50 a month=huge}, and keeping up with debt payments, you are so ahead of the game!

But, whatever you do, you gotta know this:

No one will care more about your money than you do.

Ever. I care about my readers like crazy, but I do not have the capability to care more about your money than you do. You can read + learn + hire fancy financial advisors, but at the end of the day, you gotta do what feels good to you.

 

whatever you do, don’t put this off.

This roadmap has given me a huge sense of peace, security, and direction. I hope it does for you too. You don’t have to do everything now, just take one small step to secure your finances. Your future self will love you for it.

Please share this post with someone you know who could benefit from my action steps. And if you loved the content, I’d be honored for you to join our lil’ community here.

In the comments below, I’d love to hear what step you are at now, and by the next time tax season rolls around, where do you want to be?

 

Still have questions or need someone to walk you through these steps? Contact Family Strengthening Network to set up your 30 minute session with one of our trained Family Advocates. Since we are a nonprofit, all services are free! Contact us today!

 

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