You are not a kid anymore. It’s time to start acting like an adult, especially with regard to your money. Procrastination won’t help you on the path to financial freedom, so it’s time to grow up, and examine whether you’ve been avoiding these adult money moves.
1. Bolstering your emergency fund
When you are young, you may not need a lot of extra cash on hand. After all, you may feel like your life is simple enough that very few emergencies would result in financial ruin.
As you get older, though, there are more costly events that can crop up. You may own a home and face major, unexpected repairs. You may have children with unexpected medical needs. And because your overall expenses are higher, you’ll be hurt more if you or a spouse loses their job.
While it’s important to invest for the long-term, it’s also crucial that you keep enough cash on hand to cover emergencies. At least three to six months’ worth of income is a good rule of thumb. Without this savings, you may find yourself in debt or tapping into retirement savings to get by.
2. Tracking your money
When you’re young and living large, you have no idea where your money is going. You are too busy having fun to worry about it. But now you’re an adult, and it’s time to actually assess what you are spending your cash on.
It’s impossible to budget and save if you have no idea where to cut expenses. To begin tracking your money, analyze your bank and credit card statements to view all of the purchases you’ve made. Enter these into a spreadsheet, or use an account consolidation website such as Mint.com to help you. Once you start tracking, you’ll have a good idea of where you’ve been wasting money and where you can start cutting down on your costs.
3. Sticking to a budget
Once you get a handle on where your money is going, it’s time to develop a system that will allow you to save money. The only way to avoid debt and save for the future is to keep expenses below what you earn. This may mean making tough decisions and reducing nonessential spending.
You may have to eat out less. You may need to cancel your cable TV or baseball season tickets. You may need to forgo that trip to the Caribbean. Set a budget for groceries each week, drive less, and clip more coupons. None of this is fun, but it’s what adults do if they want to achieve financial freedom.
4. Getting your credit card debt under control
Early on in life, your credit card debt may just seem like a number you can hide from yourself. But at a certain point, it’s something that truly impacts your ability to build wealth and obtain financial freedom.
When your debt is high, this impacts your credit score, which in turn impacts what you will pay for things like a mortgage and auto loan. In essence, debt can become a downward spiral of pain if you don’t nip it in the bud early. Be an adult, and start paying down that credit card debt.
Try to go after the debt with the highest interest rates first, then go from there (otherwise known as the avalanche method). Begin using cards more sparingly and rely instead on good old cash as much as possible. Soon, you’ll see your credit score rise and your overall financial picture will look much rosier.
5. Saving for a home
Homeownership isn’t for everyone, but there will likely come a time in your life when it makes sense to build equity in real estate rather than spend money on rent. Owning a home gives you a sense of pride, a sense of stability for your family, and is a good financial move in the long run — as long as you can manage the monthly payments.
To make a sensible home purchase, traditional expertise has advised saving enough money for a down payment of at least 20 percent. So if you are eyeballing a $250,000 home, for example, that means amassing $50,000 — a sizable amount. While you aren’t required to put 20 percent down, doing so can help you avoid having to pay private mortgage insurance, or PMI, until you build up equity in your home. Saving for a down payment is not an easy task, and may take many years, so it’s best to start as soon as possible.
6. Investing toward retirement
The notion of saving for your 60s might seem ridiculous when you’re in your 20s. But you can’t put off retirement savings forever, and this procrastination can really hurt you down the line. The earlier you start saving, the more money you will have when it’s time to leave the workforce.
If you’re into your 30s or 40s and have little saved for retirement, you need to start socking money away right now. Take advantage of your employer’s 401(k) plan and any of your company’s matching contributions. You can also open an individual retirement account (IRA). Max out these accounts, if possible. The sooner you start investing, the more time your money has to grow.
7. Saving for your kids’ education
It’s hard to imagine saving for college when you have no children yet, or your kids haven’t even left elementary school. But with college costing tens of thousands of dollars, and getting more expensive every year, you shouldn’t put off saving for too long if you plan to help your children with some of the expense.
It’s possible to begin saving before your child is even born, and there are many investment accounts, including the popular 529 college savings plans, that offer great tax advantages to those that save for education. It’s not wise to save for college costs at the expense of your own retirement, but if you have the ability to put aside money for both, do it sooner rather than later.
8. Getting properly insured
Proper financial planning isn’t just about accumulating wealth, but protecting it. The best way to protect your assets is by insuring them at appropriate levels. Do you own a home? Make sure you have homeowners insurance to protect the structure and everything inside. Do you and your family members have health insurance to protect against illness or injury? And do you have life insurance so that your family will be financially OK if something were to happen to you?
Insurance can sometimes seem like a waste of money if you don’t use it. But when something bad does happens, you’ll be massively grateful you have it.
9. Crafting a will
Do you know who gets your assets if you unexpectedly pass away? Do you know who will take care of your children if you are no longer around? Have you given any thought to whether you’d like to be kept on life support if you are the victim of an accident? These are unpleasant things to think about, but they are important considerations.
In the absence of a will or other documents that outline your wishes, family members may be left to make challenging decisions. The money and assets you wished to pass on to specific relatives may not be passed on according to your plans. Writing a will may not seem like a crucial thing to do when you are young, but it becomes more important as you get older, expand your family, and accumulate assets.