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5 Steps to Developing Good Financial Health

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5 Steps to Developing Good Financial Health

Financial health is the state of one’s personal financial situation. Financial health consists of many aspects, including the amount of savings you have, how much you’re putting away for retirement, and how much of your income you are spending on fixed or non-discretionary expenses.

Fixed or non-discretionary spending is spending that is required by a budget, contract, or other commitment – which is always going to be there.

Having financial security is important for living without stress and also helps us stay prepared for any unexpected emergency that crops up. Because we are never taught about how to improve our financial situations and what good financial habits to adopt, many people get scared by the very prospect of doing anything.

You need not worry because developing good financial habits is the same as developing any other good habit in your life. 

  • You have to identify the problem areas.
  • Be observing and analytical of your decisions.
  • Deduce the issues you need to work on.
  • Work with determination to bring about the changes. 

Here are some habits you can adopt that will help you improve your financial health and also bring financial stability to your life.

1. Watch Your Spending

5 Steps to Developing Good Financial Health

Once you have an incoming flow, controlling your outgoing flow becomes necessary. Things going out faster than they can come in means the resource is going to dry out.

So, if you want to be financially secure, you have to start out by watching how you spend your money and where you spend your money. Knowing the pattern of expenses is going to help you put in a realistic plan, which we will be talking about in the next section.

You shouldn’t be spending more than you earn – this should be a no-brainer, but people often tend to forget this. There are a plethora of reasons for this to happen – from lifestyle choices to unhealthy habits.

“Before you spend, earn. Before you invest, investigate. … Before you retire, save.”

– William A. Ward

The ease of spending options is a major drawback in this consumerist environment. Credit cards and the option of loans make it far more convenient for people who would otherwise not have enough to spend, to keep spending beyond their means. We get into a habit of spending more. Does that sound wise when you think of the long run? 

To be financially secure, you should assign a certain amount each month for spending. Try to stick to the budget, unless an emergency comes up, your budget should be able to help you. Remember to be careful – not to go over that budget unless it is absolutely necessary.

2. Set a Realistic Monthly Budget

5 Steps to Developing Good Financial Health

Setting a realistic monthly budget needs you to know a few things:

  • Your incoming cash flows.
  • Your non-discretionary spending.
  • Your spending pattern.
  • Your money goals.

It is very important to learn to spend less than you earn, as we have already talked about. Most people fall into a pattern of debts, thanks to more and more options to get more debt, when they do not know how to live within their means. 

One thing you have to remember is that your lifestyle shouldn’t be burning a hole in your pocket; if anything, your earning should be cushioning your lifestyle.

“There is a gigantic difference between earning a great deal of money and being rich.”

– Marlene Dietrich

A realistic monthly budget takes into account not only what you bring in, but also your spending habits. When you have all the facts and numbers laid out, you can make a realistic plan to curb the excess. 

Making a budget and living by it doesn’t mean not spending at all; this is where people are wrong about creating a budget. Having a set budget just makes your spending habits smart and stops you from overspending.

“You don’t have to be a miser, just be wiser with your money.”

– Dorethia Conner Kelly

3. Open a Savings Account

5 Steps to Developing Good Financial Health

We all have a bank account, right? It has become the need of the hour. With more and more digitization of payments, it is hard not to have an account. When you have just one account, it can get a little difficult to save money.

“Don’t tell me where your priorities are. Show me where you spend your money and I’ll tell you what they are.”

– James W. Frick

Having only one account to manage every financial aspect of your life might work just fine, but it is not a smart decision to make. Having all your money in one place makes it easier for you to spend it. Even if you make a budget and decide you do not have enough money to spend on things that can wait. Having access to all that money can make you slip.

  • Make another account just to save money.
  • Transfer money from your regular bank account over to a savings account.
  • Do not use this account to make payments.

This way, you will be less likely to use all of your money. The more money you put aside in your savings account, the better prepared you will be down the road when unexpected expenses pop up.

4. Pay Off Debt

5 Steps to Developing Good Financial Health

We have talked about not falling into the habit of living on debt, but some debts are important and need of the hour. Your student loan, house loan, etc. are significantly important expenses. 

It is okay to take loans for big things, but paying it off should become your priority. Making minimum monthly payments on your credit card takes a significant amount of time and a lot of determination. You need to begin by focusing on putting as much money as you can afford each month toward paying off your debt. This is also why a savings account can be of help if you do not trust yourself to save up enough.

“The man who never has money enough to pay his debts has too much of something else.”

– James Lendall Basford

Living debt-free may seem like an impossible dream, especially as soon as you get out of college with a student loan hanging over your head, but it is achievable if you are willing to work hard enough. 

If you can double or even triple your minimum payments, you will be able to pay off debt much more quickly. This will also make it possible to have more money to put into savings each month.

5.  Improve Your Credit Score

Talking about large payments, your credit is what enables you to make large and expensive purchases such as houses and vehicles. When doing so, your credit score is one of the important deciding factors. 

“If you don’t take good care of your credit, then your credit won’t take good care of you.”

– Tyler Gregory

  • If your credit history is poor or limited, you will not qualify for great loan types or interest rates, making it difficult to buy the things you need or want. 
  • When you have a higher credit score, you qualify for better rates and loans, so you end up paying less interest – meaning the burden is less on you. 
  • Raising your credit score takes time, but it is well worth it in the long run.

Final Thoughts

Improving your financial health is based on adopting good financial habits. While you can invest in a variety of channels and learn all there is to grow money – if you don’t know the basics of saving, then you will anyway be struggling.

“Many folks think they aren’t good at earning money, when what they don’t know is how to use it.”

– Frank A. Clark

Start small – Begin by managing your income and expenditure. Learn to make the most you have before you start to multiply what you have.

Money

Finance – Taboo, Importance, and Everything in Between

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Finance - Taboo, Importance, and Everything in Between

I have been reading a lot about finances and the different branches it touches, one thing that got me thinking was how little we discuss it in real life. Finance is a topic that most of us are scared to talk about. Money somehow used to be a taboo subject – I never understood why because it is in everything. 

Everywhere you look, every aspect of your life is affected by it. I am glad the money talk isn’t that difficult now. We have so many resources available to us to talk about money matters.

“You must gain control over your money or the lack of it will forever control you.”

-Dave Ramsey

No matter what you need to learn about when it comes to this area – investing, budgeting, ways to spend, apps, tax filing, retirement plans, managing debts, taking loans, etc. – you will find something on it. Books, videos, articles, podcasts – so many ways to learn about things that affect a great part of our lives without feeling the embarrassment of asking questions to people and feeling stupid.

Not knowing things shouldn’t make us feel stupid, especially about finances and dealing with your financial situation, it’s not like we were ever taught about it in schools. Neither the school nor home prepares us for all of these things. It is surprising considering money management is one of the integral parts of our adult lives, which also makes it one of the leading causes of anxiety in people.

“It’s not your salary that makes you rich, it’s your spending habits.”

-Charles A. Jeffe

Anyway, being financially secure is our responsibility. In today’s day and age, with so many sources of learning, we really have no excuse to not know how to deal with our finances. Maintaining our financial health is in correlation with maintaining our own health.

Financial health is the state of one’s personal financial situation. Financial health consists of many aspects including the amount of savings you have, how much you’re putting away for retirement and how much of your income you are spending on fixed or non-discretionary expenses.

Fixed or non-discretionary spending is spending that is required by a budget, contract, or other commitment – which is always going to be there.

Having financial security is important for living without stress and also helps us stay prepared for any unexpected emergency that crops up. Because we are never taught about how to improve our financial situations and what good financial habits to adopt, many people get scared by the very prospect of doing anything.

“Too many people spend money they haven’t earned, to buy things they don’t want, to impress people that they don’t like.”

-Will Rogers

Credit cards and the option of taking a loan makes it very easy for people to keep spending beyond their means – it makes it easy for people to not be aware financially – but that is not wise in the long run. When you do not pay with hard cash, it sort of does not feel like spending money which is why people tend to spend more on cards.

Finance - Taboo, Importance, and Everything in Between

To be financially secure, you should allow only a certain amount each month for spending. Try to stick to the budget you have made, it will help you be financially aware. Unless an emergency comes up, you should be able to hold your budget.

So, even if you are new to learning about finances, there are two things you need to be doing before you start investing and making big decisions. You need to keep track of your spending and you have to set a realistic budget.

Document Your Spending

Knowing how much you spend will give you the power to determine your spending pattern. You will learn what you spend the most on – do you spend more on your needs or wants.

“The slightest adjustments to your daily routines can dramatically alter the outcomes in your life.”

-Darren Hardy

This is the first thing to learning how to be conscious of your finances. If you want to be financially secure, then understanding your monthly cash flow is the base to what you build your budget and saving strategy on. 

You shouldn’t be spending more than you earn – this is something very basic and we all grow up listening to this but it only hits home when we start earning. By that time, it is late to not let it affect our lifestyle.

Set a Realistic Monthly Budget

Finance - Taboo, Importance, and Everything in Between

It is very essential to learn to spend less than you earn. When you start earning, it is natural to want to buy things you couldn’t before, but it also brings into perspective what goes into earning that much money.

Most people fall into a pattern of taking debts and financing their lavish lifestyle. When they do not know how to live within their means, they are taking financial security away from their future selves. People often forget that their lifestyle shouldn’t be burning a hole in their pockets, rather their earning should be cushioning their lifestyle.

“A budget is telling your money where to go instead of wondering where it went.”

-Dave Ramsey

A realistic monthly budget takes into account your spending habits and gives you a way to curb the excess without sacrificing much. Making a budget and living by it doesn’t mean not spending at all – this is where people are wrong. Being conscious of your money doesn’t stop you from spending on things you enjoy, it just makes your spending habits smarter and stops you from overspending.

Final Thoughts

You don’t have to be ashamed if you do not know much about managing your finances and you definitely shouldn’t feel embarrassed to ask questions about it. Your 20s is the time you figure this stuff out. When you step into the real world, you will have to ask questions to learn. While money talk can be difficult to many because it is not openly discussed, we need to start the discussion somewhere.

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Entrepreneurs

Why Starting an Online Business is a Good Idea in Current Times

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Why Starting an Online Business is a Good Idea in Current Times

We live in a digital age. Everything, from socializing, to office work, to shopping is shifting to the online space. The advent of inexpensive (and fast) internet and smartphones has meant that now no matter where you go, you are always connected to the cloud. And, that invariably, you end up turning to this messianic network to satiate your every need.

Smart companies are busy embracing this very change. The workplace of the future is not one of a unified brick-and-mortar structure. Employees can now sit thousands of miles away and still collaborate successfully on a project. This is not just something I’m pulling out of thin air. Dave Coplin, Chief Envisioning Officer at Microsoft, postulates that if only more organizations embrace the immense power of the internet, they would be able to streamline their operations and ensure a happier and more productive workplace. You can listen to his amazing, thought-provoking and insightful talk in the video given below. 

Personally, I have always been an advocate of the work from anywhere culture. Partly because of the time it saves me (which I can then spend on any one of my myriad other hobbies), and partly because it frees me up to travel the world. 

What does one have to do with the other? Well frankly, the kind of location independence afforded by the advent of Skype has made it possible for anyone to interact with their colleagues no matter where they are. Like I pointed out earlier, not being restricted by a physical office means you can be just about anywhere in the world, and still get work done.

However, there is another facet of this digital revolution which has fascinated me even more. Honestly, it is something which seems to be staring you right in the face, but it is surprising how many people still fail to (or is it a refusal to?) connect the dots and use technology to their advantage. What is this facet I talk about? Well, it is the ability for just about anyone (yes, I mean anyone) to become an entrepreneur.

“But,” you contend, “entrepreneurship isn’t really for me. It takes time and money, and really, where’s the job security in entrepreneurship?”

I would have agreed with you if I myself didn’t know better. For the past many years, I have bet big on online entrepreneurship and reaped great rewards. Frustrated and sensing the endless possibilities afforded by the internet, I quit my regular 9-to-5 job and decided to start my own online business. As an added challenge, I left just about enough money in my savings account to last me one year. The very fact that I’m happier than ever right now bears testament to the fact that, when done well, online entrepreneurship can give you the freedom you deserve.

Why Starting an Online Business is a Good Idea in Current Times

When you come to think of it, the market hasn’t ever been better for an online business. It is now possible to get your own website started for less than $50/year. And even if you don’t know a single word of coding, you can have your very own, professional-looking front-end, thanks to the power of content management systems like Drupal, WordPress and Joomla. Don’t like the plain vanilla look they offer? One Google search, and hey bingo! Thousands of themes and skins to choose from! Are you into e-commerce? No worries, mate! Payment gateways like PayPal and its ilk have you covered. Don’t have money to invest? That’s alright. Start a free website on Wix.com. Or, just start hawking your wares on Facebook.

My point is that in this day and age, there really is no excuse to not have your own business. You don’t even have to have the next big Facebook killer to be successful as an e-entrepreneur. I know of enough people selling junk jewelry (sourced from their local flea market) on Facebook/eBay/Etsy. And guess what? All of them seem to be doing really well for themselves. How well? Well enough to not have to work for anyone else to earn their living.

Why Starting an Online Business is a Good Idea in Current Times

All that you really need to succeed online, in essence, is the will to actually take the plunge and just start something. It really is as easy as that. I’m sure even you have a killer interest you’ve always wanted to exploit. A love for movies perhaps? Or expertise in minting long-form articles your current job has no use for. Or, even an insane desire to turn every song you listen to into a minimalistic poster. Yep, I just gave you three solid ideas for online businesses. Yep, you don’t necessarily have to sell something to be an online entrepreneur. Even Google AdSense revenue from your movie blog counts. Or, commissioned works your Facebook and Behance design pages fetch you.

If you still aren’t really sold on the entire concept and ease of online entrepreneurship, maybe you should actually ask yourself whether you’re actually happy with your day job; whether it fulfils you. If you, like me, happen to be like the majority of the working population, chances are you aren’t really satisfied with what you’re doing. 

Maybe, ok, it manages to pay your bills, but it’s either the rigidity of the corporate world, or a bad boss, or the endless commute to-and-fro, or even the nature of the work itself, which gets to you. And, I also know that much like the majority of the workforce today, you too have a secret desire to be your own boss and just do something for yourself. It’s all about the right day.

The right day, frankly, is on us. We are firmly in the middle of the small and medium enterprise revolution. The parity of opportunity between the big fish and the startup has never been greater. In the coming weeks, I will guide you through the various kinds of online businesses you can start and how to actually go about setting them up. Like me, you too can earn a good living running your own business.
Welcome to the age of the e-entrepreneur. Welcome to the best time in human history to start your own business and be your own boss in the true sense – the good and the bad.

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Money

How Money Management Can Help You Battle Anxiety

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The latest Stress in America survey cited money as the top stressor for 64% of adult respondents. It’s high up there with work.

How Money Management Can Help You Battle Anxiety

Come to think of it. The rest of the stressors in the above image all relate to money. Economic and health concerns are aggravated by money problems. And this kind of stress can lead to anxiety. Not having enough money can make you feel agitated. Your brain may switch to fight or flight mode even if the threat isn’t tangible.

Of course, I’d suggest you seek professional medical help to handle this. But while you’re here, know that you can also do something to curb anxiety. You can start by taking the following money management steps:

Get A Realistic Grasp Of Your Financial Status

Many people get trapped in a cycle of debt because they don’t live within their means. This is the truth that scares most people. But it keeps on happening because something isn’t being done. I won’t pretend to know the reason why some resort to borrowing money. This is also not to judge anyone.

However, let me help you break out of it if I can. One of the things that have helped me manage my finances is a simple equation. Income = Expenses (Recurring and Immediate) + Investment + Savings. The math is simple. If you spend more than you earn, you’ll end up borrowing money to fund those excessive purchases.

Now, the equation may appear lopsided in your case. So you have to evaluate your financial status right away. For a start, do the following:

  • Track your debt – How much money do you owe banks and lenders, other people, and other credit sources? List all of them in a spreadsheet or a text editor. You can also use a money journal beginning today. It doesn’t have to be expensive. Just find a notebook you can turn into a financial diary of sorts.
  • Monitor your expenses – Google Sheets or Excel should do the job for you. Whenever you spend cash or credit on an item, service, utility, or the like, make an entry in your document. Divide the entries into needs and wants or non-negotiables and negotiables. You can also download budget tracker apps like Mint for faster consolidation.
  • Create/revise a budget – Use the debt and expense data to revise the budget you already have. If you don’t have a budget, create one now. It’s not too late to start this habit. Every month, review your financial documents and assess your progress.

Use Cash

If you’re suffering from money anxiety, paying your bills can possibly overwhelm you. Just looking at your credit card debt can induce panic from within. Such cases can also be true if you’re having money issues in general. So, in addition to the first step, strive to pay off your debt first.

This entails ditching the plastic cards. You don’t have to cut them and throw them away. But avoid using them except in emergency situations. And you have to strictly define what “emergency” means for your situation. The rationale here is that your income should be able to tide you over until the next payday. That is, if you follow your budget religiously.

How Money Management Can Help You Battle Anxiety

Consider the Minimalist Lifestyle

Here’s a different tactic: watch a Netflix show. And not just any show. Watch Minimalism: A Documentary About the Important Things. It features Joshua Fields Millburn and Ryan Nicodemus, the duo who call themselves The Minimalists. These guys present a movement, lifestyle, or whatever you call it as an alternative to the consumerist ways we’re accustomed to.

It’s not a self-help crash course on making money or whatnot. But both the show and the site provide resources that will guide you to achieve sustainable living. And these days, sustainable living is not just trendy. It’s actually becoming necessary. Two of the main goals minimalists pursue are financial freedom and mental wellbeing.

Take Advantage of the Gig Economy

Sometimes, no matter how you compute things, the numbers always fall short. Maybe because you’re not earning enough. Or you’re the family’s sole breadwinner. Or some economic factors have driven up the prices of basic goods. If you think it’s still humanly possible for you to take on side jobs, do it. 

The gig economy has been growing in recent years. This is thanks in part to advances in digital technology. If you have coding, production, or artistic skills, there are plenty of jobs you can apply to online. If you’re an expert in a field, you can even offer your services as a consultant. 

Dealing With Your Anxiety

There are ways to deal with the root cause of your anxiety. If money is the problem, you don’t have to feel hopeless. Proper money management is just one way to keep this #1 stressor at bay. Don’t be afraid to try the strategies and opportunities presented here. Work on them one step at a time. And reach out to others if you need help. 

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