I’m not a financial advisor. I don’t like telling people what to do with their money. It’s a very personal decision. Keith would probably tell you that I spend too much money on shoes. But I did run across an article in Real Simple magazine about money and retirement planning that I thought could apply to anyone and at any point in their retirement journey. The three things the article mentioned were:
Set financial goals (and get a second opinion). First things first. One of the ways we reach our financial goals is by having some. Want to save money? Have a goal. Want to invest money? Have a goal. This doesn’t mean that our goals are etched in stone and won’t change. But having a goal staring us in the face can keep us on track. I remember when Keith and I faced the reality of needing a roof on our house. They’re expensive! So, we set a goal to save a certain amount each month. Some months we saved less and others we saved a bit more. In the end, we met our savings goal.
The other big step we’ve made to help us with our financial planning was getting outside resources (i.e. accountants and certified financial planners). It’s important to build relationships with people you can trust. That doesn’t mean you have to agree with everything they suggest. Ask questions. Understand the answers.
Learn more about investments. Accountants and certified financial planners can provide you with some education about the investment market. So can bankers and real estate professionals. Another place you can look for information is educational institutions. Years ago, Keith and I took a university course on financial planning. It wasn’t to become a financial planner. But to learn the basics of how investments work. For example, what’s an annuity and why someone might want to invest in annuities. Or how the stock market and bond market differ. Even if you’re not currently investing in these areas, it does make sense to understand them. Because what happens with the investment market impacts other things.
The next time your employer has a 401(k) meeting, make it a point to attend. Learn more about your options. Ask the representative covering the meeting where you can get some additional information.
Be mindful about money. My takeaway from this is simple: think about how much money you’re making and how much you’re spending. Keith and I have a monthly financial meeting where we talk about not only our business expenses but our personal spending. We compare our spending habits over time. We talk about conducting experiments to see if we can reduce our expenses, like the time we started grocery shopping at Target versus the local chain and saved ourselves 50% on our food bill. (And that’s not a typo.) Granted, we haven’t totally “cut the cord” yet…but we did get rid of our landline when we moved to Gainesville. Life didn’t come to a screeching halt. I can’t imagine adding it back.
Being mindful about money also includes conversations about credit. How much credit is good to have? What are the best credit cards to hold? What’s our credit rating? It includes pulling our credit report annually – it’s free – and making sure our credit report is accurate.
You work hard for your money. You want to know that your money is going to work hard for you. That means getting educated about how money can do that over time. All of the little money moves we make can add up to a big result.
Image captured by Sharlyn Lauby while exploring Duval Street in Key West, FL