As the new year progresses, it is imperative to decide how your financial plan for the year would be. In reality, the financial decisions you make now have lasting implications for the rest of your life. So, even if you don’t have a lot of money to work with, you need to make it work for you.
One of the easiest ways to make sure you get the most out of the money you have is to make sound financial decisions. One poor decision can make multiple negative ramifications. Knowing what you’re getting and what it will cost is vital for sound decision-making. Acting rashly and spending your money unwisely will both literally and figuratively cost you.
Here are 15 of the most important financial decisions you’re going to need to make in your lifetime:
1. Decide on a career path and how you’re going to get there:
If you weren’t on any, thee first thing to consider is what you plan to do with the rest of your life. Your planned career path will give you an indication of the type of money you’ll be earning. If you aspire to earn a lot of money, you need to choose a high-paying career. Your plan might be to work to live instead of living to work. You’ll probably have to settle for less money in exchange for less stress.
Once you know what you want to do, decide on what qualifications you need. Investigate the cost. Make sure that the return on your education investment will be worth it in the long-term.
2. Will you need financial assistance?
Few people get a ‘free ride’ full scholarship to the top colleges in the country. Even with a partial scholarship or financial aid, there are other costs to cover. A part-time job might solve the problem to some extent. Most often, it’s not going to cover all your expenses.
Unless your parents have spare cash lying around, a student loan may be necessary. The cost of getting a good education at the best universities can be astronomical. Have a good understanding of what the repayments will be to make sure they don’t bankrupt you when you start working. Borrow the bare minimum to avoid racking up huge debts.
3. Decide what car you want to drive
One of the first things you’ll want to do once you start working is to get a car to aid mobility. You need a deposit to secure finance. Car repayments should be made regularly to avoid ruining your credit. Many repayment schemes are dependent on interest rates. You should be able to afford an increase in the repayment as well as insurance premiums for the term of the loan. Remember that you can’t eat the rims of your car when your grocery budget runs out! Buy sensibly and wait until you’re more financially stable before you splash out on your dream car.
4. Will you use credit cards?
Having a credit card and paying the instalments regularly is a great way to establish a good credit record. When you apply for finance, your financial behaviour is examined. One of the first things that’s checked is how you treat your credit card repayments. Keeping that in mind, know that it’s good to have credit cards, but it’s important to use them responsibly.
A credit card is not a license to shop! Using a credit card and justifying it by saying you’ll ‘manage’ the repayment is unwise. Whatever you do, don’t use one credit card to pay off other credit cards or another debt. This gets you into a debt trap that’s hard to escape.
5. Are you going to take out short-term loans?
Short-term loans should be avoided wherever possible. The interest rate on repayments is higher and can cripple you financially. While a short-term loan may be necessary, it should only be considered when there are no other options.
One of the important factors to think about is what you need the money for. Taking out a short-term loan to buy ‘toys’ such as a fancy entertainment system is a fool’s errand. You should never finance ‘toys.’ The better approach is to save up for what you want and pay cash. Sure, you’ll have to do without the instant gratification. But keep in mind the fact that non-repayment of a short-term loan can ruin your credit.
6. What are your property plans?
Buying a home will no doubt require a mortgage. The repayments are undertaken over a long-term period. Defaulting on a mortgage can result in you losing your home and all the money you paid for it.
Renting in the short-term before you make any major decisions is a better option. Don’t be tempted to buy a small property with an eye to flipping it in a few years when you start a family. That family may arrive well before you’d planned for and you might struggle to offload your current property to buy a bigger one. Make sure you’re settled in a job and know you’re going to stay in one place before committing to a mortgage.
7. Will you take out homeowner’s insurance?
If you buy a property, homeowner’s insurance is essential. What you ideally want is insurance that covers the building and its contents in the event of a disaster. Make sure it includes cover for staying somewhere else in the event the building is uninhabitable. Household contents should also be insured against theft. Include liability insurance to cover accidents and injuries to third parties in the home.
Not all disasters are covered by standard homeowner’s insurance. Flood and earthquake insurance, for instance, cost extra. Take the area you live in into consideration when evaluating these add-ons. Make sure you have a comprehensive homeowner’s insurance policy that covers all eventualities and caters to your requirements.
8. Do you plan on taking out health insurance?
Relying on free health services can result in endless hospital and doctor’s bills that can get you into a lot of debt. There are different healthcare insurance options available to the buyer. They rely on your needs, age, and the number of dependents. Another factor is what services you need from your healthcare insurance.
Shop around for healthcare insurance policies to make sure you’re getting the best deal you can. Premiums differ from one service provider to another. Read the fine print and make sure you understand the terms and condition of the healthcare insurance policy. Get help from a financial advisor to make sure you’re going to get what you pay for.
9. What about life insurance?
You need life insurance to make sure that, if you die, your debts are paid off and don’t become the responsibility of others. As you get older and have a family, you’ll need life insurance to provide financially for them in the event of your death. No one likes contemplating their death. It can seem very unpleasant. But your life can end in a split second, and you need to make sure you’ve left your loved ones with sufficient money. Death is inevitable, so be financially prepared.
Cheaper policies contain loopholes that allow the insurance company to refuse payment after your death. Get a good policy from a reputable insurer for your own peace of mind.
10. Do you plan to augment your income?
Taking on a second job to pay the bills becomes an unfortunate reality for a lot of people. However, that shouldn’t be the only reason you look to supplement your income. A side gig such as blogging, freelancing, or renting out your house can help you to save. Don’t let it take over your life. You still need time for rest and relaxation as well.
Never get too comfortable and tell yourself you’ve got ‘enough’ money. There’s no such thing as ‘enough.’ Use any realistic opportunity you can to earn some extra money. That money can save you from having to use credit cards and short-term loans to maintain your lifestyle.
11. Would you consider improving your qualifications?
As you advance up the career ladder, you might find yourself needing to improve your qualifications. Better qualifications can help you to earn more money which is to your advantage. How to pay for your studies is an important financial decision. There are a lucky few whose employers finance their studies.
If you’re still up to your neck in student loan debt, going into more debt to study is not a wise course of action. You’ll be better off making some budgetary sacrifices to pay for your studies in cash. Giving up some luxuries will be worth it in the end when you get that big promotion. You’ll soon see the return on your educational investment.
12. Do you have plans to save for your retirement?
One of the biggest financial mistakes people make is putting off beginning to save for their retirement. People are living longer meaning that the term of their retirement is prolonged. Insufficient retirement savings means that the money might run out before you do.
Retirement savings should begin from the moment you get your first job. Get the help of a financial advisor to make sure you’re making adequate provision for your retirement. Be disciplined and invest in additional retirement savings products. After working for so many years, you’re meant to enjoy your retirement. You shouldn’t need to eke out an existence with little or no money due to a lack of planning.
13. How many children do you plan to have?
Having children is awesome, in every sense of the word. As much as it’s wonderful, it’s also a massive responsibility. Kids cost money. From the time they’re born until they move out of your house (if you’re lucky) they’ll factor into your budget. The money your children cost you goes well beyond diapers and formula.
You need to have enough money to feed, house, and clothe your children. You might want your children to attend a private school which will be an additional drain on your resources. Plus, there’s that all-important college fund. When you work out how much money having a child costs, you may reduce your wish for four to two!
14. Will you have an emergency fund?
This should be a no-brainer. Of course, an emergency fund is necessary. Life is full of curve balls that come when you least expect them. Most of them will cost you some money. You might not know when the rainy day will be but remember that it is going to rain! This is the time that people incur debt because they don’t have an emergency cushion to get them through a tough time.
Debt needs to be paid back with interest. Putting a small amount of money aside each month will keep you debt-free and able to deal with a crisis. Start off small and build up the amount you save for a rainy day.
15. Are you going to play the market?
Investing in stocks is an excellent way to make yourself some extra money. The only problem is that the market can be a bit like a casino. Investment in the stock market is a gamble. Don’t invest every last cent you have hoping the market will provide you with a massive windfall. Determine what you can afford to invest and stick to it. This must be money you may need to do without in the event of the stock crashing.
Playing the market on your own is dangerous. The stock market is complicated and full of complexities. Secure the services of a broker with a good reputation who can make your money work for you.