The following is a guest blog provided by Stacy Livingstone-Hoyte.
Money plays a role in just about every aspect of our lives – physical, emotional, mental and even spiritual. Whether you are in financial recovery or focused on wealth-building, there are small and simple daily financial actions we can take to significantly affect the outcome of our futures. This starts with a recognition and understanding of three financial planning fundamentals: savings, debt management and long-term planning.
Saving – every little bit helps. Perhaps the biggest stressor on the budgets of working Americans and service members is the onset of unexpected financial emergencies. Auto wrecks and maintenance, home repairs, and family emergencies are a familiar few. Consistently allocating a dollar amount from each paycheck or income source to a savings account dedicated for emergency needs is a crucial first step for anyone wanting to mitigate financial shocks. To build your emergency fund, consider implementing a daily money management philosophy or routine. Some steps may include limiting vending, snack and dining out purchases, credit and debit card swipes, determining in advance how to pay for goods and services by avoiding debt and setting realistic goals for future financial events.
Digging out of debt diligently. Dealing with existing debts and avoiding new ones require planning. For some it could be simple as “staying out of stores (S.O.O.S).” Start by determining your long-term goals (paying off revolving debt, paying off an auto or home loan, etc.) and identify a feasible plan to get you there. What are your spending-triggers and where can you shift funds? For example, you could move some (or all) of your entertainment budget to debt payments. It is important to remember that debts can be effortlessly accumulated. Though spend-tracking may sound like an ominous task, it’s a simple and easy step toward accurately assessing your budget and learning how to comfortably stay within your means. There are several money-management resources for helping to create a level of alertness about financial activities. If you have a smart phone, check out your app store for free and reputable spend-tracking apps, preferably those that include larger goals like savings, debt and retirement.
Looking forward to the future. The future will happen; it always does. The steps you take starting today, in favor of positive financial behaviors are invaluable. Whether you’re just starting out in your career or have been at it for years, contributing to an employer-sponsored retirement plan (if available) is money well spent, no matter how small the starting contribution. These contributions can be pre-tax and are often matched by your employer to increase your return on investment. Speak with a professional about your retirement lifestyle needs, planning contributions and diversifying your portfolio.
Financial challenges are a significant source of personal stress and can impact everything from relationships to job security. While you may not be able to predict every circumstance, taking small acts today can increase your chances of financial security tomorrow and demonstrate responsibility and commitment. It’s often said that the hardest part is getting started, but these steps are sure to simplify the process.
For additional financial security resources or to speak with a personal financial consultant, visit Military OneSource at www.militaryonesource.mil.
Stacy Livingstone-Hoyte, AFC®, is an experienced financial counselor who has worked extensively with U.S. Armed Forces members and families. She is a long-time volunteer blogger for NavyNavStress and previously served at the Fleet and Family Support Center, Millington, Tenn. as a financial counselor. As a military spouse, Ms. Livingstone-Hoyte knows firsthand of the financial challenges and opportunities that face military families across the globe. To that end, she embraces a steadfast belief that financial success can be simple, just not easy.