When the ball dropped marking the beginning of 2014, many people made resolutions. Some pledged to exercise more or eat healthier and others to grow their businesses, get out of debt, or add to their savings to help secure an exciting future for themselves and their families. Recently I was in Florida with my family riding the roller coasters at Universal Studios. As we rode the “Hulk” and the “Rock-it” I couldn’t help thinking about folks that resolve to get their financial house in order only to let life get in the way allowing the sickening ups and downs of their financial roller-coaster to continue. Most people can’t get off the financial roller-coaster alone because changing the way we relate to money – intellectually, emotionally, and spiritually can be too difficult without support and guidance. Here are some helpful tips:
1. Gather your data (statements, tax returns, etc.)
Gather the most current statements for all your accounts: banking, savings, retirement, credit cards, loans, insurance plans and mortgages. You can go online and download your most recent statements, or call the institutions to get updated statements sent to you. Also get a copy of your most recent tax return. While you are doing this, take an extra few minutes to be sure your personal information is up to date with each of your financial vendors. Check that your current address, phone number, passwords and email are on file. You should also double-check that your beneficiaries are up to date, and ask if there are any new online services that would be more convenient for you to access your accounts.
2. Outline your financial position (income/expense, assets/debts)
A good way to get started is to collect all your financial data by tracking your expenses and income and confirming your assets and how much you owe. This can be as simple as drawing up a few lists, or as complex as using a more formal budget tool.
3. Prayerfully consider your financial goals
Now for the fun part: prayerfully consider your future and your goals. How has God wired you and what dreams has He given you? Do you want to pay off debts? Are you ready to have a family? Thinking about going back to school? Preparing to retire? Want to invest in property? The whole purpose of financial planning is to help you steward your resources wisely en route to those goals, promoting contentedness, gratitude, joy and generosity now while preparing for the future God has for you. Take some time and write out your short-term life and financial needs, as well as your long-term goals.
4. Lay out a plan (spending plan)
You can use online calculators such as Mint.com or the federal government’s MyMoney.gov, which has budget templates and other tools to get you organized. But if you aren’t a technology wizard, don’t let that stall you—a simple list is all you really need to get started. The important thing is to try to be as comprehensive as possible so you can get a full picture of where you are financially.
5. Turn to Your Team
Folks who say they’re going to get to the gym more often know that a good path to success is getting a trainer to keep them honest, and this strategy holds true for finances as well. Those of us at the Good Sense Movement want to be on your team and Freed-Up Financial Living can be a sound trainer to help you “lay out a plan”…..to “take hold of the life that is truly life” (I Timothy 6:19b)! Or perhaps you are at a point where your children are ready to go to college, or you are nearing your retirement and want to be sure you have a game plan in place to help make good choices for the future. Freed Up in Later Life, Raising Financially Freed Up Kids, and Freed Up from Debt can help you make informed choices: http://goodsensemovement.org/