By MARSHA BARNES, Financial Literacy Coach
Many have sat thinking that their Prince Michael, Prince Charles, or even Prince Charming may arrive and sweep them off their feet, before making the decision to take a knee deep approach in reviewing and understanding their personal finances. Even if your Prince were to appear, it would not be their burden to carry your financial woes. Hey, who knows, you could land a zillionaire, but do we really want to roll the dice on that one?
There are two key factors to remember when thinking this over. One, a man is not a financial plan and two, as quoted by Clara B. Luce, “A woman’s best protection is a little money of her own.”
While the economic state of the United States may appear to be getting stronger, there is no better time than the present to become acquainted with the basics of credit, saving, and budgeting, we’ll just refer to them as Finance 101:
Create a financial snapshot
Do not allow the numbers to frighten you. Women across the globe are tied to massive amounts of debt that include student loans, mortgages, car loans and those dreadful interest eaters that we refer to as credit cards. The truth is, many of the liabilities mentioned are necessary debts. Student loans prepare us for our careers. Home ownership is great as long as we can afford it, and let’s be honest all states aren’t equipped with public transit systems therefore, a car payment may not be optional. Understanding where you stand with your finances is the first step towards financial empowerment.
Who and what is FICO?
Can you imagine what life would be like if there were no rules. FICO is the acronym for Fair Isaac Corporation, which is a credit scoring model. A person’s FICO score is used by lenders to determine their credit worthiness and to analyze risks. While this reporting system may not seem fair, bearing in mind that it may allow someone to get a loan or better interest rate over the other, ask yourself, how many times would you lend money to an individual that historically has not paid you back?
Credit scores range from 300-850. Keeping your debt low, and making on time payments will assist in keeping your score well balanced. A good credit score has a range of 680-719, followed by an average score being 620-679, and a poor score range of 580-619. Any numbers below 580 are recorded as bad. Where do you fall?
Fluff your Buffer
We all know how life works. Everything seems to be going fine. Great job, great opportunities, an increase in your networking connections and a nice nest egg to fall back on in case of emergencies. Suddenly, a layoff happens rears its horrid head, your engine blows, or your air goes out in the sweltering 100 degree weather.
It is important to fluff your buffer by increasing the percentage of funds allocated to your emergency account. This may seem ridiculous to hear, and I’m certain that you have heard it on many occasions, but your ultimate goal should be to have at least 3-6 months of living expenses, or 3-6 months’ worth of your salary, in your LIFE HAPPENS account often referred to as an emergency fund. In an unstable economy it typically takes longer than 90 days to land a new job, however, it may come with a lesser paying salary than you are not accustomed to. Avoid becoming discouraged and throwing in the towel if you don’t see the possibilities in obtaining this goal. Aim at a number that works for you and gradually make increases month over month.
Tell your money where to go
A budget is intended for you to set financial goals, while helping you to stay within your spending limits. Tell your money where to go without stressing about where it went. Let’s generalize a sound budget approach. What’s your spending plan?
In the examples listed above, put into perspective that these are only the basics. There are additional nuances that can be captured in the world of finance. Starting is the success pre-requisite to the end.
What’s your strategy in balancing the basics of finance?