4 Big Steps to Achieve Financial Success

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Money can't buy happiness, but it can improve your well-being and security. Here are four crucial keys and principles for achieving financial success!

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If you’re a millennial looking for serious financial planning help, it can seem impossible to find someone who seems to understand your unique needs.

Often, financial planners serve an older community such as those who are on the cusp of retirement and have already built their wealth.

It makes sense for financial planners to focus on millennials. Millennials have great potential to grow their wealth with guidance, professional advice, and proper planning.

Luckily, more and more millennials are seeking out financial planners who service young professionals and have plans and strategies to meet the needs of this age group.

It’s important that when you seek out a qualified financial planner that you find one who has the knowledge and tools to give you advice for where you’re at in your journey.

Don’t settle for “well, just spend less money and save more.”

What Does “Financial Success” Mean to You?

Financial planning is critical for millennials. To meet financial goals, you need an action plan and some strategy to guide you. By planning ahead, you can be proactive and have more control over your life.

When you’re organized and know what your money is doing, you can spend your energy on other projects and feel confident that what you’re doing is going to help you be more financially secure in the future.

So what does financial planning look like for a millennial?

Core Financial Steps to Achieve Financial Success

There are many ways you can seek out high-quality financial planning advice, no matter what your financial situation is.

In order to get your finances in check, you should aim to achieve these four goals. If you’ve already achieved one of these goals, congrats! You can move on to the next one.

Be sure to seek out the advice of a qualified financial advisor to properly determine which goal would be most appropriate for you to start at.

Goal #1: Save for a rainy day – Emergencies will happen!

This is the most basic step in financial planning. You need to be sure you’ll be OK if something unexpected happens tomorrow and well into the future.

Those that are just starting out can easily begin to build up an emergency fund. You can start to build your emergency fund by taking what is both the easiest and hardest step for some: spend less than you earn.

Learn to manage your cash flow by controlling your expenses and either increasing or maintaining your current income. The most important thing about this step is just to get started – it often doesn’t require complex strategies, just discipline.

Many experts will give different numbers for your emergency fund. Some financial planners say $1000 is enough to start off with – enough to cover a busted water heater or larger car repair.

Typically after an emergency fund is established, you can continue to contribute to it until you have a larger amount accrued. Three to six months of expenses is usually recommended. This will protect you from an unexpected job loss, illness, or other life events, such as unpaid maternity leave.

Goal #2: Pay off debts – Time to get rid of those student loans!

Getting out of debt can take some time depending on the amount of debt you have to pay off. There are many ways to approach this goal and a financial planner can help you look at your individual debts and create a plan that works best for you.

A popular tactic is to “snowball” your debt. This involves paying off the smallest debt first while only paying the minimum payments on your larger debts, then moving onto the next smaller debt once the smallest debt is paid off. This snowball method is often preferred because it mentally gives you small “victories” as you begin to pay off your smaller debts.

Another popular tactic is to pay off the debt with the highest interest rate first. This is sometimes known as a debt “avalanche”. While this might make more financial sense in terms of paying less in interest over time, many individuals mentally need smaller wins to stay motivated. Depending on your discussions with your financial planner, some sort of hybrid plan may be right for you as well.

Goal #3: Take steps now that pay off later – And might even pay off big!

By this point, if you have your emergency fund in place for a rainy day and you’ve paid off your debts, you know how to control your cash flow. Many millennials have increased their earnings or advanced beyond an entry-level job at this point. An easy step to take in this phase is to contribute to your retirement account, especially if your employer offers a company match.

The main goal in this second phase is not just to survive, but to thrive. If you didn’t meet with a financial planner for the first goal, now is a great time to set up a meeting. Not ready to meet with one? Crediful offers helpful advice and tools to take control of your finances. Planning in this phase should help you learn how to get the most value from the money that you currently have.

In this phase, you should be well beyond just saving more than you spend and contributing to a 401(k). Your financial planner should guide you and help you create a tailor-made, detailed plan that provides you with actionable steps and advice.

If you’ve never taken a dive into investing outside of your retirement accounts, it may be a good time to start. If you’re nervous about beginning to invest in the stock market, don’t be. There are many lower-risk options you can take, though they may or may not give you higher returns.

You’ll need to decide how risk-averse you are before making any decisions. A mutual fund can be an easy place to begin investing your money. Mutual funds are investment portfolios that allow investors, like you, to pool money together to invest in something. One of the best things about mutual funds is that they don’t require a ton of money to get started and are generally diversified for you. Again, meet with your financial advisor to learn about the investment options available to you and make the best decision to meet your personal financial goals.

Goal #4: Build your wealth

In this phase, you’ve probably reached some larger financial goals, such as buying a house or paying off your student loans. You can now focus on larger goals for the future, such as saving to send your kids to college and setting a retirement goal. Your goal might be to become completely financially independent. A financial planner can help you navigate different questions at this phase, such as:

  • Should I contribute to a Roth or Traditional IRA?
  • If I have money left over after maxing out my 401(k), where should it go?
  • Is my investment portfolio diversified enough?
  • Am I on track to meet my current financial goals?
  • Could I afford to start my own business?
  • How much should I be investing annually?

A financial planner can also help you make plans for what should happen if you were to die unexpectedly, or how you can plan to retire early. The advice you receive should be customized to your unique situation, and may even present several different scenarios.

You have the ability to make informed choices that best align with your goals and what you want to accomplish. Often, millennials who have reached this goal are setting themselves up to create wealth that will have a lasting impact on their families, communities, and causes they care about.

This goal might mean that you pay off your mortgage early, or you are easily reaching a percentage of your income being put into your retirement accounts and investments each month. It might mean that you are setting aside enough money to help pay for your children’s college.

For many, it means you can begin to live generously. You may be able to make larger financial contributions to causes that are important to you, or other organizations such as your college (gotta love the alumni perks!). Many will use their generous donations as tax write-offs that are beneficial come tax time.

Getting to this stage isn’t easy – it takes hard work and discipline. It can also be difficult to maintain depending on your personal risk tolerance. There will be more difficult seasons along the way. Maybe you need to decrease the amount you’re investing while you are paying off debts, or paying for daycare expenses. Setbacks are inevitable, but being prepared can make these setbacks easier to handle.

Final Word

Financial planning will allow you to make progress towards the life you want to live. It’s vital to be proactive, not reactive. It’s easier to have systems in place for when things go wrong instead of trying to figure it out along the way, or constantly putting out fires.

Use an online resource, such as Crediful, or reach out to a qualified financial planner to get started. Remember, it’s never too early or too late to take control of your financial future.

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About the author

Jess Holmes
Jess is an associate of Crediful which is a personal finance website that gives advice on credit, debt, loans and other personal finance related topics.