How do you feel about your finances? Do you feel like they're robust enough to handle an emergency, or are they running tighter than a fiddle string?
More often than not, that answer leans a bit more to the tight side of the spectrum, and if you're answering that question that way, just know that there are ways to bulk up your financial security. But where do you start?
Simply doing a web search will yield a substantial amount of results, and a lot of them say the same thing, just in different words; you need to cut excessive personal spending and start excessively saving. Personally, I'm a big advocate of Paying Yourself First. It's a simple process of being honest with yourself and making a true budget (don't fluff any numbers to make it look better) to determine what you can afford to put away each month or each paycheck. Then, make saving that amount an automatic reaction to getting paid. It's not exciting at first, but if you practice this for a few months, you'll start to hit your savings goals, whether it's to get a comma in your savings (hitting $1,000+), build six months of living expenses or save enough to buy that camper or boat with cash. Whatever that goal may be, practicing Paying Yourself First is key to making that goal a reality. Save before spending, don't save what's left after spending, it'll make quite the difference.
Once you've setup a good cushion in your personal savings account(s), it's time to start looking to the future of your finances. Next up on the ladder is your retirement savings. There are employers that provide access to 401K accounts, and oftentimes also match funds that you set aside. Make sure to maximize that option, as that's free money that you're receiving! If your employer doesn't provide this option, that's OK, as you still have access to setup an Individual Retirement Account, or IRA. These products are very similar in nature, and both provide the ability to have compounding interest go to work for you.
Remember, the only beneficiary to you practicing good savings habits is yourself, and who better to invest in but yourself?
Well, I can think of something, or someone, that may take precedence over you being the sole benefactor - your family! However, since you've been practicing good savings habits, developed an emergency cushion and started saving for retirement, saving for your family will be an easy transition! Now you can start to move monies to your child(ren) but what does a baby need money for? I don't think they'll be buying anything on their own for a while, but they'll be encountering the same hefty expenses in the future you may have experienced in your younger years (I'm mainly talking about college). Putting money aside to help take away the burden of student loans will help your child(ren) out tenfold! It's like having them hit the ground running as they enter the workforce.
But how do you do that? Well, just like there's a plan for a retirement account, there's also a plan for a college savings account, or a 529 plan. Opening one is as easy as opening your retirement account and will oftentimes be done online either through a state program, or a program through a financial company. The money will also grow at a substantially higher rate than a savings account.
At the end of the day, there are a lot of options and methods to take in order to develop a hearty financial standing, but if you're doing something, you're ahead of the majority of people, and it's never too late to start! Happy saving!
Osakis Voices is a rotating column written by community leaders who share their thoughts in their field of expertise.