'Don’t marry for money – you can borrow it cheaper' is an old Scottish proverb that in certain circles has a ring of truth!
I am constantly asked by parents what words of wisdom they should pass on to their children in terms of financial life goals. Children rarely assume the responsibility for their own finances until after their 3rd level education. That means usually starting with the first job and seizing control of their financial destiny. It is at this time they need to set solid financial goals.
To keep it simple, John Lowe, the Money Doctor, shares his top five lifestyle goals:
1. Create a Budget
This is not a scary exercise but should be a liberating pleasure knowing you can control your financial future. Budgeting isn’t a one-time wonder but should be done every year, regular reviews ensure you keep your finances in check and keep on track with your goals.
Before starting your budget, examine all your financial documents and commitments. You can even track your current spending habits on a daily basis with the free Money Doctor app or Money Lover.
Once you know how much is going out (including all those lattés) it is easy to work out how much you have left over or not at the end of each month. Exceeding expenditure means you have to cut costs earn more or prioritise what’s important. You might just have to forego that summer holiday next year.
Once completed, you can then set long-term financial goals and review at the end of each year.
The main goal? Live within the budget guidelines you set for yourself.
2. Save Up an Emergency Fund
You should have totally accessible cash account - a Rainy Day Fund (RDF) - for three very good reasons :
- Emergencies – your car engine blows up.
- Sudden loss of income – you are put on a 3 day week.
- Investment opportunity – buying an Aladdin’s lamp for half nothing.
A fully funded emergency fund should be between 3 and 6 months of your net annual income. You should always have a certain minimum (c. € 1,000) before you repay any debt and never use savings to regularly supplement debt repayments (you will eventually run out). Also, a regular (monthly) saver account should be set up that could provide for holidays, Christmas presents etc.
3. Invest in Yourself
Depending on your career and life goals, you could invest in yourself by going back to 3rd level and get a new degree or finish one up, being entrepreneurial and starting your own business, or just getting a new job.
Other ways to invest in yourself include building skills (public speaking courses, start a sport, take up an instrument), joining networking groups (especially online) and doing something of a charitable nature with no expectation of any reward.
4. Build Credit
We have not followed the US system of credit scoring but it is important we understand 'Big Brother' is out there monitoring us. If you think no one cares about you, try missing a couple of payments!
Irish Credit Bureau, and soon the new Credit Agency, record every financial transaction so one missed payment and it’s there for 5 years, a judgment and it’s there for life.
If you build a solid foundation of paying your rent on time every month, keeping current accounts in order, regularly saving, you will give prospective creditors ample evidence of your financial ability and integrity.
5. Be Financially Responsible
Paying your bills on time, living within your means and reducing debt should all be a top priority when handling your finances.
If you are in a hole now and trying to climb out of debt from financial irresponsibility, just try to do better each month. As they say, the first thing you have to do when in a hole is to stop digging.
Financial responsibility affects every aspect of your life; if you are not taking care of your money, then chances are you are suffering in other areas such as your relationships and/or career. The ultimate goal to go for is making your finances a priority and getting them in order.