financial goals http://www.wisebread.com/taxonomy/term/12382/all en-US How I Erased $70,000 of Debt and Became an Eventual Millionaire http://www.wisebread.com/how-i-erased-70000-of-debt-and-became-an-eventual-millionaire <div class="field field-type-filefield field-field-blog-image"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/how-i-erased-70000-of-debt-and-became-an-eventual-millionaire" class="imagecache imagecache-250w imagecache-linked imagecache-250w_linked"><img src="http://www.wisebread.com/files/fruganomics/imagecache/250w/blog-images/woman-2188028-small.jpg" alt="woman" title="woman" class="imagecache imagecache-250w" width="250" height="188" /></a> </div> </div> </div> <p>Money can give you freedom or make you stuck. You have the power to change your future, and it all begins with your money. You want your money to work for you; you don't want to work for your money. I know, because I learned the hard way. (See also: <a href="http://www.wisebread.com/5-money-lessons-from-millionaires?ref=seealso">Money Lessons From Millionaires</a>)</p> <p>In my early- and mid-twenties, my husband and I always felt broke even though we both had good jobs and were doing the best we could. And to top it all off, I wasn't happy with my job at all because I wasn't in control. I worked really long hours for a video-on-demand company as a project manager, but I realized I was spending too much time and energy on something that I wasn't passionate about. I really longed to do something that I cared about. But I felt stuck because of the choices I had made, and I owed too much to be able to quit my job.</p> <p>Then I had the realization that only I could take control to change my situation. It was up to me and no one else. I could be the hero of my own story. (See also: <a href="http://www.wisebread.com/how-to-make-your-fortune-become-your-own-hero?ref=seealso">Become Your Own Hero to Make Your Fortune</a>)</p> <h2>Be Honest With Yourself</h2> <p>Ignoring your finances is so easy. It's normal to only pay attention when the next bill is due, or when you realize your bank account slipped below $100. We ignore our finances because we feel that it's too complicated to figure out, or we're afraid of what we might find when we actually do peek into Pandora's box. (See also: <a href="http://www.wisebread.com/you-are-lying-to-yourself-about-your-money?ref=seealso">Ways You're Lying About Your Money</a>)</p> <p>But you need to be honest with yourself. And that means uncovering things you don't want to uncover and admitting things you don't want to admit. Being honest is accepting where you are now, exactly as you are.</p> <p>You need to put it all down on paper; it can't just be a number in your head. It may be a hard thing to do but you need to find out how much you actually owe. This is a first step in controlling your money &mdash; you will figure out where the money you do have is going and then you can figure out different ways to bring more in.</p> <p>I did this by adding up all of my debt. I had no idea I owed more than $70,000. In fact, I thought I was pretty good with my money. It wasn't just credit cards either. It was a home equity loan, a new car, and student loans.</p> <h3>Action Item: Look Hard at Your Numbers</h3> <p>Take a hard look at all of your numbers. They are the facts, so take some time tonight to lay it all out on the table. Pull together every number you can, your debt, your income, your assets, and retirement. In the immortal words of GI Joe, &quot;Knowing is half the battle.&quot; (See also: <a href="http://www.wisebread.com/ways-to-track-debt-0?ref=seealso">Ways to Track Debt</a>)</p> <h2>Be Value Conscious</h2> <p>Many millionaires know the value of a dollar. They know because many of them have been broke. Here's a question: What do you value? It's very important to figure out what you want in life and what's most important to you. Most of the time, it's not material items that you value. It's so much more than that. So after you figure out what you truly value, then your spending should reinforce that. You should start spending money in ways that make you happy. Here are a few key principles to make you happy. (See also: <a href="http://www.wisebread.com/29-scientifically-proven-ways-to-be-happier-this-year?ref=seealso">Scientifically Proven Ways to Be Happier</a>)</p> <h3>Buy Experiences Instead of Things</h3> <p>Researchers have found that the happiness derived from experiences instead of things wears off slower. So when we think about that memory, we get to relive that experience all over again. It's like we get more bang for our buck over that &quot;thing&quot; we could have bought instead that loses its importance over time.</p> <h3>Help Others Instead of Yourself</h3> <p>Research also shows that whenever we improve our connections with others, we are happier. So when we get to spend money on others or help someone out, it brings us a sense of fulfillment. I have found a very common theme when asking people why they want to become a millionaire &mdash; it's usually something like, &quot;to help others and give more.&quot; (See also: <a href="http://www.wisebread.com/25-easy-ways-to-make-someone-happy-today?ref=seealso">Easy Ways to Make Someone Happy</a>)</p> <h3>Buy Many Small Pleasures Instead of a Few Big Ones</h3> <p>Does eating one 12-ounce cookie give us twice the pleasure as eating a 6-ounce cookie? Studies show the answer is no. In fact, eating two 6-ounce cookies gives you more satisfaction. So the lesson here is to learn to break up your spending into smaller pleasures.</p> <h3>Acting on My Values</h3> <p>I realized that I was acting so out of control with my money. I would go to the store and not remember what I bought a day later (though I remembered spending over $100 on the trip!). I started to cut out all of those pieces that didn't really matter.</p> <p>I found that I really cared for experiences, so it was the act of going to the coffee shop that I liked. So instead of an expensive sugar-laden latte, I just bought the cheapest tea on the menu. We put in place a budget for extras (when we were getting out of debt it was $25 per month each!), and I learned how to stretch that $25 for the whole month.</p> <h3>Action Item: Identify What You Really Care About</h3> <p>Write down the last 10 items you purchased. What really made a difference to you? Was it being able to go to your favorite coffee house, or do you not care about coffee at all?</p> <h2>Numbers in Your Head Don't Count</h2> <p>To understand one's finances means that you understand the meaning behind the numbers, not just the basic figures themselves. We all need to seek to understand our finances. That means knowing the basics like your income and expenses and having them written down. But it's also knowing what those numbers mean to your life and goals. (See also: <a href="http://www.wisebread.com/6-steps-to-achieving-all-your-goals?ref=seealso">Achieve All Your Goals in 6 Steps</a>)</p> <h3>Know Your Net Worth</h3> <p>The first number to figure out is your Net Worth. Your net worth is all of your assets minus all of your liabilities. This is simple math, just addition and subtraction. It just takes some time to find all of the numbers. It might be disheartening to see it in black and white after you figure this out, but at least you know where you stand and are being honest with yourself.</p> <h3>Develop a Budget</h3> <p>The second number to figure out is your Income and Expenses &mdash; a Spending Plan. No matter how much money you have coming in and going out, I firmly believe that understanding your finances is vital to having a healthy relationship with money. In other words, create a budget. (See also: <a href="http://www.wisebread.com/for-a-better-relationship-with-money-make-plans?ref=seealso">How to Have a Better Relationship With Money</a>)</p> <h3>Know Your Current Spending</h3> <p>The third number is your Current Spending. You need to know how much your spending matches the budget you set out for yourself. Budgeting helps you become very clear on your spending habits so you can start to predict what the future will look like.</p> <h3>My Results</h3> <p>We ended up realizing that the new car was a huge piece of the debt ($19,200). We also looked to see how long it would take us to pay off all of our debt. If we took out big chunks like the car, the number of months it took would be a lot less.</p> <p>So we first started to look at bigger chunks. We got rid of the new car and bought a cheaper $8,000 car. We also sold kayaks, a jeep CJ7, and just about everything we could.</p> <p>Then we looked at the smaller things in the budget. We did the standard things like canceling cable and negotiating our rates. Plus we really tried to raise our income every single month. My husband took on odd jobs. Every time we did a little more the length of time we had to do it got smaller. That was a <em>huge</em> motivation for us. (See also: <a href="http://www.wisebread.com/9-ways-to-maintain-motivation-when-the-going-gets-tough?ref=seealso">How to Stay Motivated When the Going Gets Tough</a>)</p> <h3>Action Item: Establish the Finish Line</h3> <p>Figure out your three numbers (or update them if you haven't lately!). Figure out that magic date, the day you will pay off all of your debt, or be able to quit your job, etc. It will set the goal in stone, and help you realize there is an end in sight!</p> <h2>Control Your Money</h2> <p>Now that you have all of the numbers in place and a plan of attack with your budget, you'll need to figure out what to do with your excess money! The goal at first is to reduce your expenses and increase your income so that the excess amount gets bigger.</p> <p>You need to take a hard look at everything and see what and where you can cut things. Be deliberate with your money and know where every penny is going. And remember, these cuts are a temporary way to creating the best setup for you to move forward on your goals.</p> <p>Keep reading sites like this one and finding stories similar to yours. That's how I persevered in getting out of debt. And that's how I'm on my way to a million dollars right now. I am interviewing millionaires who can tell me their stories of how they have done it, which inspires me to keep moving forward toward my goals.</p> <p>To me, an Eventual Millionaire is someone who has the goal to be a millionaire, eventually. But they want to do it on their own terms; they want an enjoyable business and an enjoyable life.</p> <p>I am an Eventual Millionaire.</p> <p><em>Which action step will you be committing to today?</em></p> <a href="http://www.wisebread.com/how-i-erased-70000-of-debt-and-became-an-eventual-millionaire" class="sharethis-link" title="How I Erased $70,000 of Debt and Became an Eventual Millionaire" rel="nofollow">ShareThis</a><div class="field field-type-text field-field-guestpost-blurb"> <div class="field-label">Guest Post Blurb:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>Jaime Tardy is a Business Coach and a Speaker who helps entrepreneurs to achieve their goals. She's the Founder of EventualMillionaire.com, a website that features a new millionaire interview each week and focuses on personal finance and entrepreneurship. You can grab The Eventual Millionaire Book at <a href="http://eventualmillionaire.com/book">TheEventualMillionaire.com</a> and also download the Eventual Millionaire Starter Kit for free right on the site. You can also listen in to all 100+ interviews with millionaires free on EventualMillionaire.com.</p> </div> </div> </div> <br /><div id="custom_wisebread_footer"><div id="rss_tagline">Written by <a href="http://www.wisebread.com/jaime-tardy">Jaime Tardy</a> and published on <a href="http://www.wisebread.com/">Wise Bread</a>. Read more <a href="http://www.wisebread.com/taxonomy/term/"> articles from Wise Bread</a>.</div></div> Debt Management budgeting debt debt elimination financial goals Mon, 24 Feb 2014 10:36:17 +0000 Jaime Tardy 1126855 at http://www.wisebread.com Ask the Readers: What Are Your Short-Term Financial Goals? http://www.wisebread.com/ask-the-readers-what-are-your-short-term-financial-goals <div class="field field-type-filefield field-field-blog-image"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/ask-the-readers-what-are-your-short-term-financial-goals" class="imagecache imagecache-250w imagecache-linked imagecache-250w_linked"><img src="http://www.wisebread.com/files/fruganomics/imagecache/250w/blog-images/shopping-4306003-small.jpg" alt="shopping" title="shopping" class="imagecache imagecache-250w" width="250" height="170" /></a> </div> </div> </div> <p><em>Editor's Note: Congratulations to <a href="http://www.wisebread.com/ask-the-readers-what-are-your-short-term-financial-goals#comment-738891">Megan</a>, Nicholas, and Thomas for winning this week's contest!</em></p> <p>When it comes to financial goals, most of us share the biggies: paying off loans and credit card debt, saving for retirement, building up an emergency fund, and the like. But what about the short-term goals that are more specific to your wants and needs, like a new oven or a vacation fund or a bag that you've been eyeing for ages?</p> <p><strong>What are your short-term financial goals?</strong> Do you have a game plan for reaching those goals? How long do you think it will take?</p> <p>Tell us about your short-term financial goals and we&#39;ll enter you in a drawing to win a $20 Amazon Gift Card!</p> <h2>Win 1 of 3 $20 Amazon Gift Cards</h2> <p>We&#39;re doing three giveaways &mdash; here&#39;s how you can win!</p> <h3>Mandatory Entry:</h3> <ul> <li>Post your answer in the comments below. One commenter will win a $20 Amazon Gift Card!</li> </ul> <h3>For extra entries:</h3> <ul> <li>You can tweet about our giveaway for an extra entry. Also, our Facebook fans can get an extra entry too! Use our Rafflecopter widget for your chance to win one of the other two Amazon Gift Cards:</li> </ul> <p><a id="rc-79857d71" class="rafl" href="http://www.rafflecopter.com/rafl/display/79857d71/" rel="nofollow">a Rafflecopter giveaway</a></p> <script src="//d12vno17mo87cx.cloudfront.net/embed/rafl/cptr.js"></script></p> <p><strong>If you&#39;re inspired to write a whole blog post OR you have a photo on flickr to share, please link to it in the comments or tweet it.</strong></p> <h4>Giveaway Rules:</h4> <ul> <li>Contest ends Monday, January 13th at 11:59 pm Pacific. Winners will be announced after January 13th on the original post. Winners will also be contacted via email.</li> <li>You can enter all three drawings &mdash; once by leaving a comment, once by liking our Facebook update, and once by tweeting.</li> <li>This promotion is in no way sponsored, endorsed or administered, or associated with Facebook.</li> <li>You must be 18 and US resident to enter. Void where prohibited.</li> </ul> <p><strong>Good Luck!</strong></p> <a href="http://www.wisebread.com/ask-the-readers-what-are-your-short-term-financial-goals" class="sharethis-link" title="Ask the Readers: What Are Your Short-Term Financial Goals?" rel="nofollow">ShareThis</a><div class="field field-type-text field-field-blog-teaser"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Tell us about your short-term financial goals and we&#039;ll enter you in a drawing to win a $20 Amazon Gift Card! </div> </div> </div> <br /><div id="custom_wisebread_footer"><div id="rss_tagline">Written by <a href="http://www.wisebread.com/ashley-jacobs">Ashley Jacobs</a> and published on <a href="http://www.wisebread.com/">Wise Bread</a>. Read more <a href="http://www.wisebread.com/taxonomy/term/"> articles from Wise Bread</a>.</div></div> Giveaways Ask the Readers financial goals Tue, 07 Jan 2014 11:37:42 +0000 Ashley Jacobs 1107202 at http://www.wisebread.com Best Money Tips: Achieve Your Financial Goals http://www.wisebread.com/best-money-tips-achieve-your-financial-goals <div class="field field-type-filefield field-field-blog-image"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/best-money-tips-achieve-your-financial-goals" class="imagecache imagecache-250w imagecache-linked imagecache-250w_linked"><img src="http://www.wisebread.com/files/fruganomics/imagecache/250w/blog-images/4618883292_ced746cee5_z.jpg" alt="winners on podium" title="winners on podium" class="imagecache imagecache-250w" width="250" height="190" /></a> </div> </div> </div> <p>Welcome to Wise Bread's <a href="http://www.wisebread.com/topic/best-money-tips">Best Money Tips</a> Roundup! Today we found some awesome articles on achieving your financial goals, signs you could be in financial trouble, and sticking to a budget.</p> <h2>Top 5 Articles</h2> <p><a href="http://www.20sfinances.com/2013/02/12/five-ways-to-achieve-your-financial-goals/">Five Ways to Achieve Your Financial Goals</a> &mdash; To achieve your financial goals, tell someone about your goals so they can help hold you accountable to your goals. [20's Finances]</p> <p><a href="http://www.budgetsaresexy.com/2013/02/15-signs-youre-in-financial-trouble/">15 Signs You Could Be In Financial Doo-Doo</a> &mdash; Do you ignore your debt collectors? If so, you could be in financial ruin! [Budgets Are Sexy]</p> <p><a href="http://www.genywealth.com/sticking-budget">Sticking to a Budget</a> &mdash; Help yourself stick to a budget by making a list of things you like to do that don't cost money. [Gen Y Wealth]</p> <p><a href="http://youngandthrifty.ca/expenses-to-consider-when-selling-your-home/">Expenses to Consider when Selling Your Home</a> &mdash; Be prepared for property gains taxes and bank fees when selling your home. [Young and Thrifty]</p> <p><a href="http://www.marcandangel.com/2013/02/08/9-unconventional-habits-of-extraordinary-success/">9 Unconventional Habits of Extraordinary Success</a> &mdash; If you want to have extraordinary success, accept exactly where you are, wherever you are. [Marc and Angel Hack Life]</p> <h2>Other Essential Reading</h2> <p><a href="http://www.savvysugar.com/Surprising-Places-Network-22391431">5 Surprising Networking Locales</a> &mdash; Public transportation can be a great place to do some networking! [SavvySugar]</p> <p><a href="http://yesiamcheap.com/2013/02/allocating-an-anniversary-budget/">Allocating An Anniversary Budget</a> &mdash; Save up on anniversary gifts so that you don't have to feel stressed when your anniversary rolls around. [Yes, I Am Cheap]</p> <p><a href="http://www.dumblittleman.com/2013/02/5-ways-to-overcome-mental-blocks.html">5 Ways to Overcome Mental Blocks</a> &mdash; To overcome mental blocks, try changing your environment. [Dumb Little Man]</p> <p><a href="http://bargainbabe.com/2013/02/07/for-sale-by-owner-sell-your-home-yourself-and-save-2/">For Sale By Owner: Sell Your Home Yourself and Save (Part 2)</a> &mdash; When selling your home on your own, remember to check your emotions at the door when negotiating. [Bargain Babe]</p> <p><a href="http://parentingsquad.com/6-out-of-the-box-ways-to-celebrate-valentines-day">5 Out-of-the-Box Ways to Celebrate Valentine's Day</a> &mdash; This Valentine's Day, commit random acts of kindness. [Parenting Squad]</p> <a href="http://www.wisebread.com/best-money-tips-achieve-your-financial-goals" class="sharethis-link" title="Best Money Tips: Achieve Your Financial Goals" rel="nofollow">ShareThis</a><br /><div id="custom_wisebread_footer"><div id="rss_tagline">Written by <a href="http://www.wisebread.com/ashley-jacobs">Ashley Jacobs</a> and published on <a href="http://www.wisebread.com/">Wise Bread</a>. Read more <a href="http://www.wisebread.com/taxonomy/term/"> articles from Wise Bread</a>.</div></div> Personal Finance best money tips financial goals goals Wed, 13 Feb 2013 11:00:33 +0000 Ashley Jacobs 967827 at http://www.wisebread.com Happy (Financial) Independence Day http://www.wisebread.com/happy-financial-independence-day <div class="field field-type-filefield field-field-blog-image"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/happy-financial-independence-day" class="imagecache imagecache-250w imagecache-linked imagecache-250w_linked"><img src="http://www.wisebread.com/files/fruganomics/imagecache/250w/blog-images/3721680792_ec2031169f_z.jpg" alt="woman waving flag" title="woman waving flag" class="imagecache imagecache-250w" width="250" height="188" /></a> </div> </div> </div> <p>Today, let&rsquo;s take a vow to be financially independent.</p> <p>I&rsquo;m posting this on the Fourth of July &mdash; Independence Day here in the United States &mdash; but this works any day. Whether you need to work to become financially independent or just want to maintain the independence you&rsquo;ve already gained, today, let's set some goals. (See also: <a href="http://www.wisebread.com/how-to-save-without-goals">How to&nbsp;Save Without Goals</a>)</p> <p>Here are mine:</p> <ul> <li>To never financially rely on my parents, my friends, or most certainly, a credit card. <br /> &nbsp;</li> <li>To be able to make the truly important decisions in life &mdash; about things like family, where I live, and the work I do &mdash; based on my desires, not the sorry state of my finances. <br /> &nbsp;</li> <li>To not be in debt. <br /> &nbsp;</li> <li>To be able to use money as a tool to create wonderful experiences &mdash; but know that it's far from the only tool necessary. <br /> &nbsp;</li> <li>To not worry about what would happen to me if I'm faced with a financial emergency.</li> </ul> <p>Some of these goals I&rsquo;ve achieved. Some of them I'm still working at (curse you, student loans).</p> <p>Of course, in order to actually achieve big-picture goals, you'll need to make smaller, more manageable goals.</p> <p>But...for many of us, today is a holiday &mdash; a time for that all-important relaxation (especially if you're one of those people who has been passing around this recent <a href="http://opinionator.blogs.nytimes.com/2012/06/30/the-busy-trap/">New York&nbsp;Times op ed about being busy</a>). Take the rest of the day off, if you can.</p> <p>When you come back tomorrow, you can better define and break down your goals with the help of these articles:</p> <p><strong>Defining Your Goals</strong></p> <ul> <li><a href="http://www.wisebread.com/defining-what-financial-success-means-to-you">Defining What Financial Success Means to You </a></li> <li><a href="http://www.wisebread.com/financial-independence-is-more-than-just-a-number">Financial Independence Is More Than&nbsp;Just a Number</a></li> <li><a href="http://www.wisebread.com/feeling-stuck-100-ways-to-change-your-life">Feeling Stuck? 100 Ways to Change Your Life</a></li> <li><a href="http://www.wisebread.com/goal-setting-defined-and-deconstructed">Goal Setting, Defined and Deconstructed</a></li> <li><a href="http://www.wisebread.com/deciding-what-you-want-out-of-retirement">Deciding What You Want Out of Retirement</a></li> <li><a href="http://www.wisebread.com/how-much-money-will-you-need-to-retire">How Much Money Will You Need to Retire?</a></li> </ul> <p><strong>Taking Action</strong></p> <ul> <li><a href="http://www.wisebread.com/5-steps-toward-financial-independence">5 Steps to Financial Independence</a></li> <li><a href="http://www.wisebread.com/how-to-start-fighting-debt-today">Start Fighting Debt &mdash; Today</a></li> <li><a href="http://www.wisebread.com/25-frugal-changes-you-can-make-today">25 Frugal Changes You Can Make Today</a></li> <li><a href="http://www.wisebread.com/37-savings-changes-you-can-make-today">37 Savings Changes You Can Make Today</a></li> <li><a href="http://www.wisebread.com/the-first-step-to-budgeting">The First Step to Budgeting</a></li> <li><a href="http://www.wisebread.com/8-tips-for-improving-or-starting-a-budget">8 Tips for Improving or Starting a Budget</a></li> </ul> <p>Don't see an article for the action you want to take listed here? Just search our site using the field in the top right.</p> <p>Happy Independence Day, everyone &mdash; national, financial, or whatever else you might be celebrating.</p> <a href="http://www.wisebread.com/happy-financial-independence-day" class="sharethis-link" title="Happy (Financial) Independence Day" rel="nofollow">ShareThis</a><br /><div id="custom_wisebread_footer"><div id="rss_tagline">Written by <a href="http://www.wisebread.com/meg-favreau">Meg Favreau</a> and published on <a href="http://www.wisebread.com/">Wise Bread</a>. Read more <a href="http://www.wisebread.com/taxonomy/term/"> articles from Wise Bread</a>.</div></div> Personal Finance financial goals financial independence Independence Day Wed, 04 Jul 2012 10:36:09 +0000 Meg Favreau 938632 at http://www.wisebread.com Diagnose and Improve Your Financial Health: A 10-Item Checklist http://www.wisebread.com/diagnose-and-improve-your-financial-health-a-10-item-checklist <div class="field field-type-filefield field-field-blog-image"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/diagnose-and-improve-your-financial-health-a-10-item-checklist" class="imagecache imagecache-250w imagecache-linked imagecache-250w_linked"><img src="http://www.wisebread.com/files/fruganomics/imagecache/250w/blog-images/iStock_000008544183XSmall.jpg" alt="Doctor with money" title="Doctor with money" class="imagecache imagecache-250w" width="250" height="166" /></a> </div> </div> </div> <p>Most people usually want to do one of three things every January: They want to lose weight, improve finances, or quit a bad habit. Since this is a personal finance blog, I guess we ought to focus on the goal to improve your finances.</p> <p>The problem with trying to improve your finances is that it is awfully broad. Where do you need to be focusing your time, effort, and attention? J.D. Roth suggests you <a href="http://www.getrichslowly.org/blog/2010/12/27/one-problem-one-correction-how-to-set-new-years-resolutions-youll-actually-keep/">focus on one task</a>. That&rsquo;s probably a good idea, but what one task is worthy of your intense focus?</p> <p>I&rsquo;m going to put 10 financial tasks in order. It&rsquo;s just like a triage list. If you answer &quot;no&quot; to any of the following items, don&rsquo;t move onto the next until you can answer the question with a &quot;yes.&quot;</p> <p>Think about it: A guy comes into the hospital with a nail in his leg and a runny nose. Which do you treat first? You address the most serious issue first, and then once that problem is resolved, you address the second issue.</p> <h2>Insert your own number: Are you regularly giving to your church or a favorite charity?</h2> <p>Wow. This was an extremely hard one to place on the list. Giving is a very important part of being financially healthy. But it&rsquo;s more, too; it is part of being a good citizen, and it also significantly impacts your spiritual life. Personally, I recommend that people start giving as soon as they try to improve their finances. Developing this healthy financial habit early makes it easier to continue. However, I know not everyone will agree with putting it as number one, so I&rsquo;ll let you plug it in as you see fit.</p> <h3>1. Do you have, keep, and maintain a budget?</h3> <p>Since I wrote a book about budgeting, I tend to be one of those geeks who thinks budgeting is one of the most important financial habits. If you don&rsquo;t know where your money is going, and you don&rsquo;t know how much disposable income you have, it will be very hard to create any type of a decent financial plan. If you don&rsquo;t have a budget, then you should make it your goal to learn how to budget and start right away.&nbsp; In the process, you&rsquo;ll want to be sure you have the right budgeting tools. Find the best personal finance software that matches with your needs and goals.</p> <h3>2. Could you get your hands on $1,000 in 48 hours?</h3> <p>Financial management requires that you cleverly balance offense and defense. This is a defensive move. Since you don&rsquo;t know what could go wrong this year, you want to be prepared by saving enough money for a little emergency fund to handle any hiccups along the way. Use your budget to help you save enough money to get $1,000 of spare cash sitting in your bank account.</p> <h3>3. Do you have appropriate levels of the right kinds of insurance?</h3> <p>Review your health, auto, life, and disability plans. Do you have insurance? Do you have adequate amounts? Unfortunately, it would take an entire blog post to help you determine adequate levels and types of insurance. Here&rsquo;s an article that helps you <a href="http://articles.moneycentral.msn.com/Insurance/AssessYourNeeds/give-your-insurance-a-checkup.aspx">evaluate your insurance needs</a>. At the very least, be sure you have minimal insurance in place.</p> <h3>4. Do you have any credit card debt or other non-secure debt? Do you have a car payment?</h3> <p>All right, I&rsquo;m going to cheat on my list of ten things and turn this into a two-part number:</p> <p><strong>4a.</strong> You can&rsquo;t run until you cut off whatever is weighing you down. We all know that trying to get financially healthy with credit card debt is tough. That&rsquo;s because the math of credit card interest works against you. Thus, your next step (and yes, it could take years) is to pay off your credit card debt and other high-interest debt that you have.</p> <p><strong>4b.</strong> A car payment is another lead weight that holds people back. Once you&rsquo;ve taken care of credit card debt, you should have some extra dollars available to help you take care of that nasty car payment. What&rsquo;s wrong with a car payment? It sucks up way too much of your income. Get rid of it.</p> <h3>5. Do you have three-to-six months of expenses in your bank account?</h3> <p>Now it&rsquo;s time to adjust to <a href="http://www.wisebread.com/6-false-assumptions-about-debt-free-living">debt-free living.</a></p> <p>This money is typically called an emergency fund. You never know when you might lose a job or have a serious medical condition. This is another defensive move, but it is very important.</p> <h3>6.&nbsp; Have you started investing for retirement?</h3> <p>Once you have paid off your debts, start seriously focusing on investing. Learning how to start investing will be your next major stage. This will be a stage when there are lots of questions &mdash; what is the best retirement option, how much should you be saving, and what type of investments are best?</p> <h3>7. Are you saving anything for your kids&rsquo; college?</h3> <p>As the cost of college continues to increase, you&rsquo;ll want to be sure that you are setting savings aside for their future education. The amount you save should increase the older your children are when you start saving. The three major options are 529 plans, Educational ESAs, and the Roth IRA for college savings. You can check out <a href="http://www.fool.com/college/compare.htm">this helpful chart</a> to decide which is best.</p> <h3>8. Do you have a home mortgage?</h3> <p>There are a lot of financial and non-financial incentives for paying off your mortgage. I tend to focus on the non-financial elements and do recommend that people pay off their homes early.</p> <h3>9. Do you have big goals for how you can change the world through generosity?</h3> <p>Earning money, saving money, and investing money gets old. Why not do something truly meaningful and spectacular with money? Set a goal or plan to do something significant as you continue to give, earn, save, and invest. I like this <a href="http://christianpf.com/my-strategy-for-giving-away-millions/">plan to give away millions</a>.</p> <p>Now that you&rsquo;ve got the skeleton of the pieces you need to put together for financial health, it&rsquo;s time to get out there and start working vigorously on completing as much of the checklist as possible before another year slips past.</p> <a href="http://www.wisebread.com/diagnose-and-improve-your-financial-health-a-10-item-checklist" class="sharethis-link" title="Diagnose and Improve Your Financial Health: A 10-Item Checklist" rel="nofollow">ShareThis</a><br /><div id="custom_wisebread_footer"><div id="rss_tagline">Written by <a href="http://www.wisebread.com/craig-ford">Craig Ford</a> and published on <a href="http://www.wisebread.com/">Wise Bread</a>. Read more <a href="http://www.wisebread.com/topic/personal-finance">Personal Finance articles from Wise Bread</a>.</div></div> Personal Finance financial goals financial health new year's resolutions Wed, 05 Jan 2011 14:00:10 +0000 Craig Ford 434249 at http://www.wisebread.com Making Personal Finance Fun while Fighting for Financial Freedom http://www.wisebread.com/making-personal-finance-fun-while-fighting-for-financial-freedom <div class="field field-type-filefield field-field-blog-image"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/making-personal-finance-fun-while-fighting-for-financial-freedom" class="imagecache imagecache-250w imagecache-linked imagecache-250w_linked"><img src="http://www.wisebread.com/files/fruganomics/imagecache/250w/blog-images/20somethingfinance.jpg" alt="financial freedom" title="financial freedom" class="imagecache imagecache-250w" width="250" height="166" /></a> </div> </div> </div> <p>This is my introductory post as a WiseBread staff writer. And I must admit, coming up with a topic was somewhat of a daunting task. I've been blogging for over two and a half years over at <a target="_self" href="http://20somethingfinance.com">20somethingfinance.com</a>, but I'm not running out of ideas. I just wanted my first Wise Bread post to be something special, you know?</p> <p>So I sat down with a pen and a blank piece of paper and started jotting down ideas. There were the &quot;top 5 list&quot; ideas, the &quot;7 reasons why&quot; ideas, oh, and a few of the &quot;things your (fill in the blank with any professional who comes in contact with your money) doesn't want you to know&quot; posts. Nothing felt 'BIG' enough though.</p> <p>Instead, I decided to scrap it all and give my story of how I got into this crazy world of personal finance blogging in the first place and where I'm at philosophically on how personal finance is symbiotic with quality of life. If you think you can relate, I'd encourage you to subscribe to my <a target="_blank" href="http://www.wisebread.com/ge-miller/blog/feed">Wise Bread feed</a> or check out my <a href="http://www.wisebread.com/ge-miller">Wise Bread page</a> for future posts.</p> <p><strong>Starting at the Bottom</strong></p> <p>Through college and a good portion of my twenties, I was obsessed with money. I graduated at a time when the economy was stagnant and nobody was particularly interested in hiring someone with a generic business degree like marketing who had no real-world work experience. So I unsuccessfully applied for over 200 jobs that I should have had a realistic chance at. FINALLY, after one year some schmuck offered me a sales job. It was a low profile sales job that didn't require a college degree, but I didn't care. I was tired of living at home and being broke. I took the job, worked hard, performed well, and after 10 months I was promoted to manage five co-workers and a three state territory.</p> <p>One day after my promotion, I turned down the higher income and quit that job to enter the idealist non-profit world, where I stayed for three years. The low profile sales job and move to the non-profit sector resulted in me making no more than $40,000 a year for the first 5 years post graduation. At the same time, I decided to buy a house with a 15-year mortgage, finance a car, and pay for a wedding (and engagement ring) two years into that. Plus, my wife had $20,000 in student loan debt. Aye!</p> <p><strong>An Intense Focus on Finances</strong></p> <p>With my inability to make financial gains on income alone, I had become INTENSELY focused on my personal finances. I had no wiggle room for error, and very little savings to show for all of the hard work I was putting in to my career.</p> <p>I began to read a lot of personal finance books and magazines and became somewhat of a self-taught personal finance guru (at least amongst my closes friends and family). With this intense focus on finances, bordering on the brink of obsession, I started to realize that the non-profit salary wasn't bringing me any closer to my goals. I didn't really have the first inclination of what those goals were. I just knew that I wasn't getting any closer to them.</p> <p><strong>Finally, Some Breathing Room!</strong></p> <p>So I left the wonderful world of non-profit work to take a job with a big corporation, increased my salary by 50% overnight, and started <a target="_self" href="http://20somethingfinance.com">20somethingfinance</a> having never so much as even read another personal finance blog with the idea that I could join two hobbies - writing and personal finance.</p> <p>I had to sell my house and move to a more expensive home near my new job so my mortgage and property taxes were higher, but the jump in income more than made up for it. I finally had wiggle room!</p> <p>So, what did I do?</p> <p>This is the part of the story where you may be expecting me to say that I spent it all and went back to ground zero. I didn't. I had learned to live on a lower income, and with the financial hardship behind me, I&nbsp;was grateful to finally be saving money towards undefined future goals.</p> <p><strong>Saving for Saving's Sake</strong></p> <p>We're back to this goal thing. A lot of people save a lot of money for the future. Many of them die without ever spending a dime of it. So that's what I started doing - saving for the future with no real goal in mind other than that I wanted to pay off my house and retire someday. I was saving money for the sake of saving for future goals that were decades away. I was in good financial standing, relatively speaking, but something didn't feel right. The money had no real value in my life. The goals were too distant. I hadn't really enjoyed any of my jobs because I was viewing them as a means to an undefined end. I was in a rut.</p> <p><strong>Finding Purpose in Personal Finance</strong></p> <p>Then a funny thing started happening. I started to enjoy writing about personal finance. Better yet, I&nbsp;started enjoying personal finance. The 'game' was becoming fun. That car I financed? I sold it via Craigslist for the same amount that I bought it for two years earlier and started taking the bus to work. The mortgage? I started looking at it as a goal to pay it off in a few years time versus 15 years. Grocery bill? Cut it in half. Cell phone bill? Cut it in half as well. I started to become <a target="_blank" href="http://www.wisebread.com/philip-brewer">Phil Brewer</a> before I even knew who Phil Brewer was.</p> <p><strong>Defining a Realistic Goal Made Personal Finance Fun for the First Time<br /> </strong></p> <p>With short-term goals in sight, personal finance became fun for the first time. And while I was having fun, my blog started making a little side income. It was then that my longer-term goal started to become crystal clear: limit my monthly expenses to the point that I feel the freedom to do whatever I want to do for income. To leave the rat race, if I so choose. With that goal realistically in sight, life has taken on a little bit of extra meaning. There's a little bit of added passion in all of the work that I do now and in the financial decisions that I&nbsp;make.</p> <p>So that's where I'm at - on the brink of something that I've passionately been fighting for - and as motivated as ever to get there. I have a plan to get there. I'm sure it's not flawless, and I'm also sure I'll fall on my face along the way, but my writing will be geared towards the execution of that plan, and hopefully it will bring us both one step closer to that ultimate goal. I'll be chronicling my journey to get there on my <a href="http://www.wisebread.com/ge-miller">WiseBread page</a> and on <a href="http://20somethingfinance.com">20somethingfinance</a>.</p> <p>That's my story. What about yours?&nbsp;</p> <a href="http://www.wisebread.com/making-personal-finance-fun-while-fighting-for-financial-freedom" class="sharethis-link" title="Making Personal Finance Fun while Fighting for Financial Freedom" rel="nofollow">ShareThis</a><br /><div id="custom_wisebread_footer"><div id="rss_tagline">Written by <a href="http://www.wisebread.com/ge-miller">G.E. Miller</a> and published on <a href="http://www.wisebread.com/">Wise Bread</a>. Read more <a href="http://www.wisebread.com/topic/personal-finance">Personal Finance articles from Wise Bread</a>.</div></div> Personal Finance Budgeting Personal Development financial freedom financial goals personal finance Tue, 17 Aug 2010 12:00:06 +0000 G.E. Miller 205847 at http://www.wisebread.com