Often when we are told to get our finances in check we either don’t have a roadmap or don’t know where to start. Sure eliminating debt is great but what comes after that? What if your debt is manageable and you just need some actionable steps push you into motion? I’m inspired by many things but when heard a talk from rapper Tobe Nwigwe, he said something that continues to resonate with me. He said if your car breaks down on the side of the road, and you stand there waiting for help, most of the time everyone will keep driving past. But, if people see you trying to push your broken-down car by yourself, someone will stop to help you.” People tend to help people who are trying to work on themselves. You have to help yourself when it comes to financial management, I’m just here to help you push.
I put together my high-level guide to bridge financial management to the investment management. If you can use theses six steps as a roadmap to your wealth building journey, eventually you won’t need me to help push anymore.
Step 1: Use our Financially Present Budget Template
It’s extremely simple to use and it lays everything out in front of you. You have to be honest with yourself about spending because you enter in the numbers (don’t worry because I got something for you on step 3). This will help you have a high-level understanding of your major expenses and the debt that you currently own. It also helps you calculate step 2.
Step 2: Calculate Your FIRE Number
If you did step 1 then its easy to do step 2. FIRE stands for “Financially Independent, Retire early” and it’s a great way to estimate the amount that is needed for when you will retire. This gives you a goal to work towards and measure against. It doesn’t include numbers like your monthly Social Security benefits so whatever that payment ends up being for you when you retire, it will just be additional help. We just can’t guarantee what its going to be at that point in the future.
Step 3: Automate and Track your budgeting using an app like Mint.com
I told you I had something for you. The information that you were estimating in step 1 can no longer be estimates. Time to track your real spending so that you can really begin to own how you spend and save. This will put you in the best position to be realistic with your self and adjust your goals. I use Mint because it is extremely comprehensive but there are several out there. Just know that if you do not understand your spending it will be difficult to put more energy toward saving and investing.
Step 4: Work toward your Ideal budget
We all spend differently but you are at an advantage if you have a framework toward. This is going to keep your eyes on the prize and also let you know when specific costs are throwing you off course. It is perfectly normal to spend years in the 70/20/10 budget and transition to 60/20/20. Its personal so it is different from person to person. Just know that your FIRE number is based off your living costs (needs) so the lower your living costs are the easier it will be to hit that FIRE number.
Step 5: Choose an Investment Plan Combo.
You’ve set up the building blocks, now its time to execute your master plan. Keep investing! For some, This will be your 401k, 403b or 457b plan and for others, it may be a combination of your Roth IRA and a taxable brokerage account. It can be mutual funds, or consistently buying index fund on a regular basis. For those who want it even simpler, it may mean a robo-advisor account where all you have to do is deposit into the automated portfolio. Whatever it is for you, keep doing it.
Step 6: Adjust as needed to make sure you are on track.
This is the part where you make allowances for the changes in life. There are times where you will need to reduce your risk and transition toward a calmer investment choice. You may need to use the money for an extreme emergency (an actual emergency like if your emergency fund is depleted) or for transitioning into a different wealth phase (Wealth Accumulation, Wealth Maintenance, Wealth Distribution). Adjusting can also be a positive experience like if you got promoted to a different job and you are able to contribute more to investing in order to retire sooner. Investment plan adjustments will look different depending on your situation.
When its all said and done its important to make sure that you have a plan and a guide. This guide is a framework that can be used, to help you along that path. The most important thing to remember is to keep on pushing.