Suggestions for Long-Term Financial Health

Sometimes simple is best. Many of us tend to complicate our financial situation; overthinking our options while ignoring the basics.

But like anything else, the simplest rules are often the most important ones; and the ones most likely to be ignored. How many of these rules do you follow?

  • ALWAYS spend less money than you make. This may be the cornerstone of financial rules and it’s certainly the one that lends itself more to common sense. But as a society that thrives on material items and keeping up with our neighbors, it’s also one of the rules that is most frequently broken. That’s why the average credit card debt carried in U.S. households is up to $5,700. Stop worrying about what the neighbors have and start buying only what makes you happy.
  • START saving. This includes saving for an emergency as well as saving for retirement, because you need both. You need access to cash in the short term should you or your spouse have their job eliminated. You also need to start saving for retirement as early as possible, which gives your money the time it needs to grow. Start both today.
  • ELIMINATE all high-interest debt before you start to invest. Any money you invest will be immediately offset by carrying high-interest debt, so aggressively paying you’re your debt will do more for your long-term financial health than investing will.
  • BUILD a budget and use it. There are so many budget tools available that can be used on a smart phone or tablet that can help you keep track of your monthly income and expenditures. But using an Excel spreadsheet will work just as well. The important thing isn’t to just create the budget, but to actually use the budget. For instance, knowing how much you’ve spent eating out for the month will allow you to curtail any future plans if you’re close to exceeding your budgeting amount. It takes some time and effort to actually use a budget, but you’ll be surprised at how quickly it can make a difference.
  • PURCHASE a fuel-efficient vehicle. While many North American auto makers are shifting their attention away from sedans to SUV’s and trucks, (which I think is a mistake) remember that just because gas prices are low now does not mean that they will remain low. Gas prices always go up. Do you really want to drive a truck that gets 11 miles to the gallon, when you can drive a mid-sized vehicle that can get up to 30 MPG? Unless you need a truck for work, or have a large family that needs to be driven around, a mid-sized car should be sufficient.
  • STOP listening to product advertising. Watching a kid’s cable channel opened my eyes to just how manipulative and sometimes false, advertising can be. Like anything else, advertisers work on emotion, and they do an excellent job of convincing us in 30 seconds that we absolutely need the product that they’re selling. Just stop listening and you won’t be tempted to buy something you have no need for.

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