Before jumping straight to whether you're on pace, let's look into what it can take to begin that journey. Everyone's route to financial security and a comfortable retirement may be unique, but consistently following a few of the same guideposts can help. And 'consistency' will be key.
For most of us, it may require a combination of practices to get where we want. The good news is that these steps are individually simple and collectively powerful–consider how these can be incorporated into your lifestyle.
Nailing down those short- and long-term goals
You really can't know if you're on pace for your financial goals if you haven't defined them. Write down and prioritize what your financial goals are and include a timeline. Be realistic but don't leave off any of your 'wants.' If you prepare and execute your plan, you may achieve most or all of your goals. This could be a perfect opportunity to discuss a plan with your Huntington financial advisor.
If you establish the foundations outlined below, you could be in a position to focus on where you want to be in 1, 5, 10 years or as you approach retirement. Understand that you may encounter bumps in the road, but preparing for an obstacle can make clearing it easier.
It's all about consistency
A goal that's well thought out, rational and one you're passionate about might be in reach with consistent behavior. Your roadmap may well include saving money in a checking or savings account as well as investing. This is where a Huntington financial advisor can really help.
While there is no guarantee that past results will be repeated and market fluctuations are certain, it is important to stay on track and focused on your goals even when the market is up and down.
You may improve your ability to achieve your goals if you stay diversified and invested.
Create and follow a budget
Write down your income and expenses and evaluate how and where your money goes. Because what comes in and where it goes is likely to change over time, you should consider reviewing and modifying when necessary.
After tracking for a few months, consider how you're allocating your income. A common breakdown of budgeting money is the 50/30/20 rule, but the percentages may change depending on your situation‡.
It can be important not to deprive yourself to the point where the budget is stifling–don't come to hate it, or you might come to ignore it.
The journey to meet your financial goals may feel like a long one. There'll be countless opportunities to save $1 here, $5 there and maybe more. And if invested wisely, those 'saved' dollars could grow years down the road.
Everyone's budget is unique, so here's another way the 50/30/20 guideline can help. The 'necessities' amount is certain to fluctuate as you move on in life. Because you can control the 'wants,' that bucket should only decrease or at least be proportional to 'necessities.'
If your 'necessities' are more than 50%, reduce your 'wants' that same difference. As an example, if your sister moves in with you while she finishes her senior year in college, your utilities and grocery bills may increase by say, $100 a month. If so, then cut your 'wants' budget by that same amount.
Similarly, if the 'necessities' decrease, such as your sister graduates and moves out, consider adding that $100 to the 'savings' bucket.
Paying yourself while paying off debt
Paying yourself is part of the saving aspect in your budget, but it will be the engine that drives you to your financial goal. Consider an automatic deposit to a savings or investment account, and if enrolled in a retirement plan like a 401(k) or 403(b) at work, think seriously about maximizing your contributions and taking advantage of any employer match.
In the real world, incurring some debt may be inevitable, especially if paying for college tuition, buying a car, or purchasing a home. However, minimizing debt is certainly important. Interest, especially that of credit cards, can quickly become daunting if the debt isn't paid down over time.