Everyone has a personal definition of self-care, such as exercising regularly, getting a manicure, spending time meditating or getting together with friends — it’s the routine you do to keep yourself sane and happy. As August is Wellness Month, it’s important to not only reflect on these habits, but also your financial wellness routines.
Financial wellness can be roughly defined as being able to confidently and healthily manage your money for the short and long term. Another way to define it is to live within your means, be comfortable and knowledgeable about your financial goals for now and in the future and actively monitor your progress.
In honor of Wellness Month, I want to share the top six things you can start now that will help bring you financial peace of mind.
1. Set a budget AND review it.
Understanding where your money is going and how much you must spend monthly will set you up for financial success and give you the freedom to save and spend where you desire. This should be something that everyone in your family understands and talks about regularly. Even as young as 3 and 7, my boys know what a budget is and why we can’t purchase everything their little hearts’ desire. (Read more about how I’m teaching them about money in my article Three Ways to Teach Your Kids to Save Money.)
Learning to live within your means gives you the freedom to spend without worry, while also securing the future you desire. Finding this place of mental ease comes from regular check-ins with your budget, and there are great resources available (such as Mint) that help you track credit cards and brokerage accounts all in one place. It’s one thing to set up parameters or spending goals for each category, but it’s essentially useless if you aren’t reviewing it regularly.
Schedule an appointment with yourself to review your transactions on a weekly or monthly basis and code them to the categories in your budget. Then review this with your partner or your family so everyone is on the same page. Try this for a couple months, and it will likely make you rethink some of your spending habits or adjust how you’re handling certain expenses.
Making these check-ins part of your regular financial wellness routine is the same as practicing yoga or meditation — the longer you do it, the more benefits you will see!
One of the easiest ways to create a healthy financial routine is to automate your finances as much as possible. Doing so is not only a significant time saver, but it also keeps you committed to your savings goals, regardless of what else is going on in your life. Here are some examples of where you should set up automation to save you time and money down the road:
- Have a portion of your paycheck automatically deposited into your retirement account (if you have one).
- If you are saving for your kid’s college fund, have it automatically transferred to a 529 account.
- Ensure all your bills are paid on time, such as a car payment, mortgage, insurance premiums, etc., so you don’t miss due dates and get hit with late fees.
- Automate money to be moved from your checking account to your savings account to ensure you have additional savings (more on that below!).
Obviously, life happens, and sometimes the pay date needs to be adjusted, or it’s not feasible to save a certain month because of an emergency, but most months or even weeks it will work out if you’ve created a healthy budget to start with. Make these adjustments as needed, but keep the automation in place.
3. Create an emergency fund.
Life is full of curve balls — especially financial ones! Since you can’t automate these moments, the next best thing to set yourself up well is to prepare for them. Nothing offers peace of mind like having a rainy day fund for those unexpected, large expenses like car maintenance or a major house issue or even facing a potential job loss.
There is no need to panic if you don’t have one yet, but try to have at least three to six months of living expenses in your emergency fund. Start small and set aside a certain amount from each paycheck until you reach your goal. Don’t forget, you can also automate this process!
4. Don’t forget the fun!
An important factor in budgeting that I believe we often forget to do is save for fun stuff! Whether that’s a big trip, a new bike, some expensive exercise classes or a favorite wine — decide on a treat that you are saving for. Finding a way to fit your hobbies, both new and old, into your financial picture shouldn’t be stressful.
Setting goals — and a clear way to get there — is part of any healthy financial wellness journey.
Don’t forget to automate it, though! Each month, a certain amount should be automatically transferred to the “fun fund,” and you’ll achieve your dreams without any stress or worry.
5. Create a routine.
Financial wellness can never be “set it and forget it,” because things are always evolving. From personal goals to the stock market, life is fluid and ever-changing. Because of this, creating a regular financial routine is essential to ensure your dynamic financial situation is in step with your life goals. Here are some examples of what you should be reviewing regularly:
- Make it a point to review your 401(k) asset allocation and contribution amount a couple times a year to ensure it still makes sense for your long-term goals. Any changes in your income, from a raise to a job change, should signal a check-in.
- Cancel any monthly subscriptions you are no longer actively using. You may be paying for something that just isn’t working for you anymore.
- Don’t just pay your annual home, auto, umbrella insurance premiums — make sure you ask questions and ensure you aren’t eligible for a lower fee or a bundle discount. Even shop around to make sure there isn’t a better rate out there.
While your financial wellness routine is your own, you and your partner should be in sync with these changes. Schedule a financial date night where you intentionally discuss any financial adjustments over dinner or a glass of wine. These types of regular, honest conversations can help strengthen your connection and supercharge your long-term goals together.
6. Ask for help.
It’s so important to actively manage your financial life and be present in your financial decisions. If you don’t have time or don’t feel you have the self-discipline — hire a financial adviser to help you stay on track.
Setting goals, investing your assets, reviewing your premiums, budgeting and so much more are all things an adviser will help you do at any stage in your life. When we struggle with our mental health, we often turn to professionals to give us tools or help set us on a healthy path. Much like that relationship, an adviser can be a lifelong or temporary relationship to help guide you in your financial journey.
Creating healthy financial habits helps build toward financial wellness, which can sound intangible, but is also attainable. Much like healthy eating and workout habits, they can be challenging to establish but rewarding once routines are in place. Focusing on your financial well-being is the best investment you can make for now and the future.
Kelli Kiemle is the Managing Director of Growth and Client Experience at Halbert Hargrove and has been with the firm since 2007. Kelli earned her Bachelor of Science degree in Business Administration-Business Communication/Marketing from the Marshall School of Business at the University of Southern California in 2006.
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