5 Steps for a Quick Financial Health Check
We drag ourselves out of bed at the crack of dawn to squeeze in a workout, even though we don’t always feel like being morning people. We try mysterious new drinks like golden milk even when we find them intimidating, simply because they promise health benefits. We take care of our bodies, even when it’s not fun or glamorous. Why? Because long term, we know we’ll be glad we did it (and yes, with a line like that, we are all turning into our mothers).
The same is true for finances. Getting our money in order isn’t always a party (honestly, is it ever?), but it’s still a worthwhile investment in time. To celebrate #FinHealthMatters Day (June 27), Alexandra Taussig — SVP of Women Investors at Fidelity Investments — offered us “five money musts” that will serve as the perfect starting point for your financial health exam. If the idea of overhauling your budget and bank accounts feels totally overwhelming, these suggestions are a perfect big-picture road map for assessing your current financial status and figuring out how to get where you want to go.
1. Makeover your budget. Put down your phone, grab a glass of rosé, whip out the old calculator, and come face-to-face with your expenses by adding up how much you’re spending each month on rent/mortgage, utilities, transportation, groceries, and other necessities. Estimate how much your “fun spending” (dinners out, entertainment, shopping, etc.) contributes to that monthly bottom line too. It’s not always easy to address your finances head on, but the only way to determine if — and where — you need to cut back on spending… is to see how much you’re actually spending! Lay out the numbers in black and white, then roll up your sleeves and figure out what adjustments you can make in order to free up funds for chipping away at your student loans, paying back any old credit card bills, or saving for a rainy day.
2. Get a credit check-up. “Your credit health can affect your financial options in the future, so it’s important to do a credit check-up once a year, or when you open a new line of credit,” Taussig says. There are plenty of tools available online to help you access this information on your own time — which will save you a lot of stress and nervous waiting next time you apply to lease an apartment or buy a new set of wheels.
3. Ditch the debt. Once you’ve wrangled your budget, it’s time to figure out how to tackle any outstanding payments on your record. Can you pay off a big chunk of that debt immediately? Great! Do that. If not, commit to giving up your daily coffee habit or putting a pause on your love of shoe shopping so that you can re-route that discretionary spending toward your debts. Once that’s done, Taussig suggests you get proactive and make a plan for avoiding future debt. Fidelity’s money map tool, she says, is one helpful resource.
4. Grow by investing. “Just like results at the gym don’t happen overnight, investing is one of the best ways to help reach your long-term financial goals,” Taussig says. You don’t quit on your cardio (we hope), and you better not quit on growing your wealth with investments! If the concept of investing feels intimidating, don’t stress. There are plenty of resources online and in your community that can help you get the answers you’re looking for and advise on the best ways for you — specifically — to go about this process (for one, check out this investment-savvy #girlboss!).
5. Set goals for retirement now. Retirement may seem like it’s a million years away, but it’s never too early to start planning. Consider starting with a retirement calculator that will help you lay the groundwork for your golden years.
Are there other key financial rules you live by? Tweet us @BritandCo!
(Photo via Getty)