How can you know where you are going if you don't have a plan? This is one of the most important steps you can take if you want to get your finances under control.
It doesn't have to be difficult. Just think about what your goals are. Where do you see yourself in 5 years, 10 years, 25 years? It doesn't matter whether you make a list on your computer or write it all down on paper. Just do it!
Do you want to pay off your debt or save for a down payment on a home or a rental unit? Do you want to save an emergency fund so that every time you have an unexpected expense, you don't pull out a credit card? Is it important for you to save for your children's college education? Do you want to travel and when? Do you want to take one vacation a year or travel the world in retirement? When do you want to become financially independent or retire? Do you want to pay off your mortgage early?
Then just simply put an end date next to each item or how many years you want to spend reaching these goals. For example your list might look like:
- Be debt free in 5 years
- Save for a home down payment by September of 2018
- Be financially free within 25 years
- Pay off your mortgage in 10 years
- Take a vacation yearly
- Help pay for daughter's college education in 9 years
It shouldn't take you very long to jot down this simple list. Then look at your list and number them in the order of importance to you. This will be your plan.
We made our first plan when we were 19 years old. Our income was only a little over $6,000. annually. My husband was in college nights which was costly. Our first plan looked like this:
- Pay off our car loan as quickly as possible
- Save a down payment for a home within 2 years (our second investment)
- Be able to pay husband's college until he graduates (our first investment)
- Be financially independent before we are 65
We paid off the car loan within a year and saved the necessary down payment for a new home within a year and a half. My husband finished his B.S. in Electrical Engineering in 9 years. It wasn't easy for him going to college nights while working 40 hours a week. But he did it so that our family could make more money to accomplish our goals in life. We retired 11 years before age 65.
As time passed and goals were accomplished, we made new lists every couple of years.The lists changed when our children were born to add their college needs to our goals. But we always had a plan for where we were going.
Without a list of our goals, we would have been going no where. We would have been meandering through life spending what we wanted on things that really didn't matter that much to us in the long run.
Whether you are 19, 42, or 55, I beg of you to make that list every couple of years and keep your eye on your goals. Because the one thing I am sure of is that we only have a finite number of years to live and they pass very quickly. We never know when we will come to the end of the road. You don't want to spend them meandering aimlessly and then wonder why you didn't accomplish what you wanted to in life.