Growing up means taking responsibility for many things. You may find yourself cooking healthy meals and exercising rather than buying take-out and watching TV. But being a financially savvy adult means more than simply paying your bills on time. Here are six money goals you should be working toward, starting today.
Maximize Your Income
By now, you should be making well over entry-level pay, especially if you are working in your chosen career field. However, you may not be making as much as you can. Furthering your education can pay off handsomely. Some firms require college degrees for promotions or advancement; others prefer job-specific certification. Inquire at your workplace, then take the steps necessary to move up. Once you have gained the required skills, be bold about taking on new responsibilities and asking for appropriate pay raises.
Minimize Your Debt
As you begin making more money, be smart about how you use it. Pay off debt, starting with high-interest credit cards. Keep up with payments on secured debt such as vehicle payments to avoid repossession. Paying double the minimums on personal loans can take years off the repayment periods. Experts often advise allocating up to 20% of your income to debt servicing; when all debt is paid off, you can reroute that 20% into saving and investing.
Become a Property Owner
Housing is often an adult’s largest monthly expense. When you rent, you are all but throwing that money away — you will never see a penny of it again. When you own your property, you do still have a significant monthly housing expense called a mortgage. But it is better by far to have a mortgage than a rent payment. First, depending on the type of loan, the mortgage payment remains the same from one year to the next. Compare that to rent, which can be raised every month. Second, each mortgage payment reduces the amount of money you owe, which means that over time you build equity in your home. Eventually, the mortgage payments end and you own your home outright.
Have an Emergency Fund
Experts have long advised having a savings account with several months of living expenses, to insulate you from major tragedies like a job loss or medical disability. However, a much smaller amount can protect you from common emergencies. A recent economic report stated that the magical number is $2,467. You can find your own sweet spot, but keep in mind that the idea is to prevent unforeseen issues from derailing your budget. For some, as little as $500 in savings can accomplish that. Alternatively, start with one month’s housing expense, then add an extra $1000 for each vehicle you own and $500 for each pet.
Follow an Investment Strategy
You work hard for your money. Investing it wisely can make it work hard for you. If you are like most people, you want to retire with a bit more than your superannuation. If you participate in Kiwisaver, you can set aside as much as 10% of your gross annual income, with your employer matching up to 3% every year. Do not turn this money down. Once you have an emergency fund set up and your retirement needs taken care of, look into intermediate-term investing. You can invest in property, stocks or bonds; a balanced portfolio may have all three. A good financial advisor or investment course can start you on your way to a prosperous future.
Create an Estate Plan
If you have dependents, you need life insurance. Buy enough to replace your income for five years or more. Term insurance is often quite affordable. Purchase a policy that covers you until your dependents are old enough to earn a comfortable income of their own. Next, if you have any assets, you should draft a will. That way, you determine who inherits what, rather than leaving it for the legal system to decide. Each situation is different; see an estate planning specialist for the best advice.