Financial Planning: Where to Start When You Don’t Know Where to Start

I recently received an email with the following statement:

 

“I’m feeling lost on where to begin with my financial future.”

 

To which I immediately replied, “You’re not alone.”

Haven’t we all experienced that feeling in some way or another? It might not always be about finances, but there are so many times in life when we feel like we’re facing a gargantuan task and we have no idea where to start.

But, when it comes to your financial future, I actually have a simple answer for you when taking that first step:

Just do something.

Anything. Chances are, it will be the break you need to then take many more steps in rapid succession. Once you begin to take control of your finances, even small ways, those actions can lead to big changes.

Here are three good places to start:

 

Start an emergency fund.

You really can’t mess that up, so it’s a great place to dive in and build some confidence in yourself. Open an account that earns interest, like an online savings account. Then start an automatic monthly or weekly contribution to the account. The best thing about an emergency fund is the flexibility it provides. Buy a house? Check. Need a car? Check. Lose your job? Check.

 

Start getting rid of bad debt.

The advice differs on the best methods for paying down credit card debt, but here’s the truth: as long as you’re actively making progress on debt, it’s a good thing. My preference is always to start with the debt that carries the highest interest rate and pay it down first. Why? Because that’s the biggest bang for your buck. I think paying off credit card debt is like getting in shape. It isn’t easy, it isn’t fast, and no one likes to go through the pain. Oh, but it’s so worth it! Just get started.

 

Start saving for retirement.

Again, almost anything you do is a good thing. (Seeing a pattern yet?) Retirement is probably the biggest financial mountain you have to climb, so you better get going. Don’t think about it in terms of the millions of dollars you’ll eventually need. Think about it in terms of the tens or hundreds or thousands of dollars you should save now. Our brains can wrap around hundreds. Millions? Not so much. If you’re not enrolled in your employer’s 401k, sign up. If you’re already enrolled, increase your contribution by a percent or two. No employer plan? That’s ok. Start an IRA or a Roth IRA. Calculators are available online to help you choose. Just do it. Then schedule a regularly reoccurring contribution. Boom. You’ve started.

 

Still feeling overwhelmed, frustrated, or completely helpless? It’s okay. It’s probably time to start with the help of a professional. Certified Financial Planner™ professionals are uniquely qualified to help you create a plan that considers all of the mountains and roadblocks you face in your life. Ask a friend for a referral to a planner they trust, do a little online research, and then pick up the phone. Just get started!

 

Andrea Blackwelder Financial Planner

Andrea Blackwelder is a Certified Financial Planner ™ Practitioner and the co-founder of Wisdom Wealth Strategies, a fee-based financial planning and investment advisory practice. Andrea looks at your complex financial planning puzzle and assists you with the best options and financial strategies that align with your financial needs. To contact Andrea, email andrea.blackwelder@wisdomws.com.

 

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