Basics of Financial Planning

I think it’s safe to assume most of us have a love/hate relationship with money. Money can be a source of power, security and freedom. However, for many of us, money can be a source of inequality, instability and stress.

I want to help make the topic of finance less taboo. It should be a topic discussed within households. It needs to be discussed with your friend groups and definitely with your romantic partner. Positive relationships with money need to be cultivated at a young age. Many families don’t discuss anything about finances besides the fact they are “broke” or that you need to pursue a career that makes “lots of money”. In reality, it doesn’t matter how much money you make if you cannot manage it. If you are living at or above your means and you do not have an emergency savings fund, if you lost your job tomorrow, you could lose your house, your car and may even have to file for bankruptcy.

Today I want to just discuss money basics and why you should stop ignoring your financial woes and start actively trying to set yourself and your family up for long term financial success. 

  1. BUDGET, BUDGET, BUDGET

When I was first living on my own, I had absolutely no clue what a budget was, let alone how to manage one. As soon as I would get money, it was gone… POOF. I still mentally planned how to pay my bills but I never had a solid budget. I found myself racking up debt because I used credit cards as if they were my savings account. I used them for every financial “Emergency”. These weren’t even real emergencies. The things I considered an emergency at the time were actually things that could have been planned and budgeted for.

I get paid once a month which honestly makes it next to impossible to manage my paycheck without a budget. My partner is self employed so we manage his finances (business and personal) weekly. 

I use an app called Bills Manager to budget our bills each month. This allows me to organize each bill by category and it lets you repeat bills monthly so I am able to have everything planned out a year in advance. I also consider the money I add to our investment and saving accounts as bills on the app. This is a way I psychologically trick myself into saving. I treat it as if it’s something I have to pay or else there will be consequences, just like my other bills.

My partner and I have weekly money meetings where we discuss our current finances, our budget and plan our short term and long term savings goals. We also discuss his business and brainstorm ideas for passive income and growth.

Each week, we look over a list of tasks that need to be completed for us to reach our shorter term goals, which will in the end, help us obtain our long term goals. We look at every week and check tasks off as they are completed. We budget and discuss finances together so we both can be on a similar page. It has honestly done wonders for our relationship and our wallets.

  1. EMERGENCY FUND

I have read so many books on budgeting, investing, savings and financial independence. I follow countless YouTube channels that discuss finance and the one thing I see almost everyone talk about is an emergency fund. This is not just a random coincidence. It speaks volumes about just how important it is to have an emergency savings account.

This needs to be a liquid account, which means you can easily access the money. It can be in a high interest savings account or a money market savings account. You should have at least 3 to 6 months worth of your bills saved up in this account. When I say emergency fund, I mean EMERGENCY.

This isn’t a savings account for vacations or for that new Gucci bag you’ve had your eye on. It is for real emergencies like job loss, medical bills, an unexpected death or accident. These things should be planned for because they will occur at some point. Without this, when life hits you hard (i.e. Covid-19 Pandemic) you can face extreme financial hardship with nothing to fall back on.

  1. OTHER SAVINGS AND INVESTMENT ACCOUNTS

Ahh saving and investing. This is probably my favorite topic to discuss because it has actually become a fun hobby for me.

First things first, savings.

We have different savings accounts for everything. 

  • Travel
  • Car Maintenance
  • House Down Payment
  • New Car
  • Daycare
  • Leisure Spending/Large Purchases
  • Holiday (Birthday, Thanksgiving, Christmas)
  • Certificate of Deposit (CD) for our daughter*

*We are trying to decide if we want to leave it as a CD long term, create a trust fund for her or a 529 education savings account. We don’t want her to feel forced to take any traditional route. She may not want to go to school and/or she may want to start her own business. We could even gift it to her as a down payment on a home in the future. We want to have money set aside to support any route she wants to take.

This ensures all bases are covered if and when these expenses come up. We use Capital One 360 savings accounts because they let you have as many savings accounts as you need. These savings accounts will change as our needs change throughout life and business. My partner and I keep our checking accounts separate and have joint savings accounts for our common goals.

Now, I am by no means an investment genius. I just have a brokerage account through Vanguard that I primarily use to invest into index funds and I invest in individual stocks through Robinhood. I send a set amount of money to both accounts each month and research stocks and index funds I want to invest the money into. It is very exciting choosing investments and watching your money grow. Just remember to diversify your investments. It’s not exciting when you are only investing in one sector of the economy and it tanks.

My advice would be to not watch your investments like a hawk (unless you are a Day Trader). The market is going to fluctuate and you shouldn’t impulsively sell your stock when the market dips for a bit. This also shouldn’t be money you are going to need in the near future, it should be for long-term growth and/or dividend income. The average return on investment (ROI) is 5% when investing in the stock market with a diverse portfolio. Inflation occurs at a rate of about 2% each year so if you aren’t investing, you are losing money.

  1. 401K AND ROTH IRA

The younger you are, the sooner you should be opening up a ROTH IRA or 401k if your employer offers it (especially if they offer an employer match and you plan on working there for at least three years). This money is invested in the stock market and it is guaranteed to grow over the years. 

You shouldn’t wait until you are almost retirement age to plan for retirement.

It seems in society as a whole, if something isn’t affecting us at this very moment, the problem doesn’t exist. Well just know, that way of thinking will always come back to bite you. There is something to be said about just wanting to live in the moment. However, people use this philosophy to justify spending all of their money and then spend many future moments stressing about money.

I worked at a clinic where many patients were living off of just social security $900 a month social security and many had to choose between food and their medications. Your older self with thank your younger self for starting now. 

I have a pension through my job, as well as a 401k and my personal Roth IRA through Vanguard. That means when I retire I will have at least 5 sources of income. 

  1. Social Security 
  2. Pension 
  3. 401k 
  4. Roth IRA
  5. Personal Investment Dividend Income

The more money I make, the more I will contribute to these accounts as well as my savings. I will try my best to avoid lifestyle inflation, which I have already fallen victim to, one too many times. 

This is an outline of what it takes to be financially successful and build a positive net worth. It is definitely not all inclusive and there is much more to learn about each topic. I hope this blog planted some seeds and sparked some interest within you. Just make a plan and start small, even small steps in the right direction, are steps in the right direction.

I didn’t discuss credit and credit card debt, that will be in a future blog. Please feel free to comment below or email me at ripeningfruitblog@gmail.com.

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