January is Financial Wellness Month, a good time to think about your plan and make needed updates to your financial strategy.
Now is a great time to connect with your trusted financial professional to update them on your financial situation and any lifestyle changes you’ve made. and discuss aspirations for your future. Additionally, it’s a good time to connect to examine the need for updates to your financial strategy.
What does “financial wellness” mean to you? The answer to this question could vary significantly from person to person. Who you are, where you are coming from and your personal experiences with money all affect the answer. Someone who has endured serious financial troubles in their life might have different expectations from a person who has enjoyed a life of relative financial stability.1,2
How, then, should you go about defining this? Start off by asking yourself what you need to feel secure, financially speaking. Here are the questions you ought to consider:
- Where are you at with your debt?
- Would things be simpler if you carried less debt?
- How fluid is your cash flow when it comes to expenses that are not urgent (taking your family out to dinner or on a small trip) versus larger financial goals (such as buying a new kitchen appliance)?
- How much income should you be bringing in each month?
- How much should you have saved?
- Finally (and perhaps most importantly) will you be able to retire at your target age? Financial Wellness Goals
The best way to create financial wellness goals is to start with two simple categories: immediate and long-term. Consider taking the following actions in each category:3
- Have a values-based conversation with the decision-makers in your household. These are the tax-paying adults who contribute income and share responsibility for the bills. This could be your spouse or another family member. Go over the non-essential things you are spending money on and make sure they are lining up with your commitments to meet your financial needs. This is not a “stop getting lattes” conversation; it is a “are we spending money on the things that matter?” conversation.
- Begin automating payments, especially towards regular items, including student loans, credit cards, mortgages, auto loans and other installment payments.
- Calculate how large an emergency fund you need and set it aside. This is usually 3–6 months of household expenses, which will afford you a stable foundation going forward. If that amount seems too ambitious, move it to the long-term category and work towards it by setting money aside a month at a time until you reach your goal.
- Begin making regular contributions to your retirement accounts. Take advantage of any matching contributions you are eligible for from your employer.
- Write down long-term financial goals. If you are thinking in terms of buying a house, for instance, figure out how you can get there.
- Is becoming totally debt-free an achievable goal? It absolutely is, if you make it a priority. That said, being totally debt-free may be a difficult task for most households. For that reason, it may be better for you to focus on your other goals first and make debt freedom a target for a later date: for example, being debt-free by retirement.
These are, of course, not hard and fast rules. As mentioned above, every individual has their own specific definition of financial wellness. Some of the examples above might feel like a long reach for you. Others, you might already be practicing. The good news is that with careful practice and judicious scrutiny, many people can gain a feeling of satisfaction and even pleasure from maintaining financial wellness.
Having your personal financial strategy in place not only can mean a great deal to you in the long term but also may provide you some comfort in the short term. Remember that your trusted financial professional is on your team and ready to help.