Achieve your Financial Freedom
Many circumstances in life can derail even the best money management plan. If you have found yourself in a situation where you can’t keep up with your bills, you’ll need to take an inventory of your resources and prioritize your financial obligations.
With limited funds available it may not be possible to pay all your bills in full every month, but by prioritizing your expenses and taking a proactive approach to your finances, you may be able to minimize the consequences until you get back on your feet. 1st Cooperative can assist you.
Below are some practical steps to get smart about money about the importance of credit, developing a spending plan and planning for the future to reach your financial goals.
Importance of Good Credit
Credit reports and credit scores influence our lives in many ways. Your history of credit management can affect the interest rate you pay on a loan, your ability to rent or buy a home, the insurance rates you are offered, and even your future employment opportunities. By understanding the world of credit reports, you can create a positive credit standing that will allow you to achieve your goals quickly and inexpensively.
If your credit score isn’t what you want it to be, 1st Cooperative can review your credit report and provide advice on how to address problems and build strong credit. This service is provided to any credit union member.
Developing your spending plan
Do you ever wonder where your money goes? Preparing a spending plan is a way to take care of obligations and enjoy life. By knowing how much you can spend and save, you will be more secured for the future.
Financial planning begins and ends with a realistic spending plan. If you haven't reviewed your goals, assets, income, expenses, and debt in a while (or ever) now is the time to do it. Sit down and do the numbers crunch.
It is worth the effort.
Once you have an accurate idea of where your money is going each month, take a good, hard look at it. Are there areas you can reduce or eliminate? Just how important is the $4 morning muffin and coffee? Five times per week will run you $80 a month. This is your opportunity to analyze when and how you spend your money - and make positive decisions about what you may want to change.
Track your expenses. It's a great habit to get into, and you may be able to prevent "money leakage" - the fast cash $40 that seems to evaporate before you leave the ATM machine. By plugging the holes now, you can save more efficiently for the times when you will really need it. If you're not completely comfortable with your spending plan, or would like some guidance with this or other financial issues, consider a free and confidential counseling session with a 1st Cooperative counselor.
Plan for the future
You have wants. You have needs. And you have two ways of paying for them - pull out the credit card or use the money you have set aside. Which would you prefer?
It's a safe bet that most people would choose to have a stash of cash from which they could pay for everything from impulse purchases to long-term financial goals. But how do you save when there are bills to pay and a paycheck only goes so far?
Do it now Even without a specific goal, saving immediately will make you feel good. Have debt? Put a little
aside anyway. Acquiring a savings habit as soon as possible is critical. By setting a little aside each month while aggressively paying down your obligations, you will graduate into being debt free with a happy little nest egg in place. And in the event of an emergency you won't have to touch the credit cards and feel like you're driving in reverse.
Set a goal. All achievable goals share the same four factors:
- Really want it - or you won't be motivated
- Know the price - so you know how much to save
- Set a time frame - and break it down into reasonable and consistent deposits
Be flexible - contribute less if you have to, but don't give up
Put it somewhere. How much you have, your time frame, and personal risk tolerance will determine the best home for your money. A few accounts you may consider are:
- Savings account - A great starter account. Interest and risk are low and minimum deposit is small.
- Money Market Account - This savings account pays slightly better interest but may require a higher minimum balance.
- Money Market Fund - A very secure mutual fund account. Invested in high-quality, short-term investments. Higher deposit, interest and risk.
- Certificates of Deposit - Three months to six years investment commitment, CDs offer higher and fixed interest rates, but with a greater initial deposit and penalty for early withdrawal.
For mid to long-term goals, you may opt for investment rather than savings vehicles. After you've saved enough in one of the above accounts, you can transfer your money to mutual funds, bonds, or individual stocks if you wish. Impossible? Not at all. With careful planning, savings is the key to successfully managing your money and getting everything you want.
1st Cooperative offers a variety of free services to help you understand your credit report, design a spending plan, and achieve your financial goals. For more information about how we can help you master your money, call us 803-796-0234.