The Single Most Important Financial Step

Starting Line

14 comments

in Budget,Cornerstone Series,Retirement,Savings

Here it is the secret to untold success with your personal finances and it involves only one step: starting. Frankly this is the secret applies to so much more than you finances such as your job, your weight loss plan, your spiritual health and your education. It’s so easy to focus on the the things we could be doing rather than actually doing them. There are simple easy steps that you can take right now no matter where you might be in your personal finance journey to focus your intensity and win with your money.

A Word About Failure

But what if it doesn’t work? Then you’ll know quickly and you can try something else. Failure is an answer to a question at that particular point in time. If you were unable to get yourself out of credit card debt that doesn’t mean you can’t do it right now but you learned some important lessons last time that will help you be successful this time. Failure is a tool that can be used to course correct your journey. Don’t let that be the reason you never start.

Take Steps Today to Win with Your Money

No matter where you might be in your financial life there are some steps you can take today that will help you achieve your goals. And perhaps that’s step number one. Think about what your goals might be and right them down. “I will retire comfortably at the age of 62.” “I will pay off my house in 6 years.” “I want to be debt free in 2 years.” Think about your current financial status and we’ll cover some different aspects of your financial life. If you’ve got a section covered move on to the next and choose your own adventure. If you’ve got all of these areas covered than maybe you should contact me because I’m sure the readers would love to benefit from your experience.

1. Start a Budget

If you have no idea where your money is going this is the best step you can take to set you up for success with the next steps. Managing your budget and looking at your past spending is going to give you the best idea of what money you can direct towards your goals. Write it down and live it for at least 3 months. You will see results. This step was life changing for my wife and myself on our journey. Actually living on a budget is allowing us to win.

2. Start an Emergency Fund

If you don’t have a stockpile of anti-calamity money squirreled away bust one today. Start selling stuff on eBay or craigslist today. Pick up a seasonal job. Anything to get you a solid foundation with which to get your plan in gear. If you’ve got outstanding debt I would recommend starting with $1000 and moving on to tackling your debt but you might be more comfortable with a larger stash. Here’s how I saved $1000 in a month, actually we did it in about 2 weeks truth be told.

3. Pay Down Debt

Relieving yourself from the yoke of debt could radically change your financial life. Again start today. Get out some paper or use this fantastic spreadsheet to get a clear understanding of where you stand. Then start attacking it with reckless abandon. Everything you didn’t sell building your emergency fund is next. I’m a huge proponent of the debt snowball because it breeds action. Small steps made today cascades into huge strides tomorrow.

4. Start Saving for Retirement

If you have a 401k plan at work it’s time to kick that into gear. Go to their website or talk to your HR representative on how you can have that come out of your paycheck today. If you’ve done your budget you should know what you can comfortably direct towards your investment. This is especially a good deal if your company matches some of your contributions. Everybody loves free money. If you don’t know what investment choices to make right now choose an index fund option that mirrors the Standard and Poor’s or similar stock market index. This is a good choice and will give you time to investigate your plan’s other offerings all while taking positive action.

5. Fund your Kids College

You may be all for Johnny and Sally paying their own way through higher education or you might not have kids at all then move on. Otherwise you can again setup automatic contribution plans to build their education fund. There are couple of investment choices here and I breakdown the different options of the Coverdell ESA vs . the 529 vs . Coffee Cans in the backyard.

6. Educate Yourself

If you are looking for some advice beyond FiscalGeek which I highly recommend you can frequent some of my fellow writers in the left sidebar who will offer a collection of helpful advice all of their own. Head out to your local bookstore or order online two of my favorite books. The Total Money Makeover: A Proven Plan for Financial Fitness a fantastic start through most of these steps. And for those looking for more towards investing The Bogleheads’ Guide to Investing I have found no better primer for most any investing related topic.

That’s it. START! Get out there and start winning and be sure to share your success stories with us heree.

Photo Courtesy Jon_Marshall

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{ 9 comments… read them below or add one }

Kevin@OutOfYourRut 2010/03/08 at 7:22 am

I totally agree that getting started is the single most important step with anything. But it’s also important not to spread ourselves too thin by taking on too many plans.

We’re all creatures of habit, and the more we deviate from those habits, the lower the chance of success in implementing change. Best to take on one plan–debt reduction, budgeting, whatever–focus all attention on that one, and then take on new plans only after the first becomes a habit that we no longer need to force ourselves to do.

As I’ve gotten older, I’ve come to see realize that multi-tasking, however necessary it may be in many situations, is NOT OUR FRIEND when we’re trying to accomplish anything life transforming.
.-= Kevin@OutOfYourRut´s last blog ..Build Savings or Payoff Debt ““ Which Comes First? =-.

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paul 2010/03/08 at 9:00 am

Absolutely agree Kevin, the only way I’ve been able to make headway with my goals is some serious singular focus otherwise it’s too easy to get overwhelmed.

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Matt Jabs 2010/03/08 at 8:08 am

Those who never start and never try never finish and never succeed.

I find that there are two big hurdles… starting, as mentioned here, and maintaining. After you’re a year into the process maintaining can get tough. How can we keep ourselves motivated? Make sure you reward yourselves for each milestone reached, and automate your finances… set your savings and your debt repayment on autopilot so most of it happens with no monthly effort from you.
.-= Matt Jabs´s last blog ..DFA Weekly Link Rally: What is your favorite bank? =-.

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paul 2010/03/08 at 8:59 am

Well said Matt and you alluded to the second portion of next weeks post, great minds I tell you what.

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Forex Manager 2010/03/08 at 5:20 pm

Starting young and early can definitely give a person an advantage as he gets more leverage and becomes open to more options early in his life. Plus, the idea of inculcating the right financial values to young people cannot be over-stressed.
.-= Forex Manager´s last blog ..Isunia: Steady Rise =-.

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myfinancialobjectives 2010/03/09 at 4:49 pm

Great points! Though it was not the focus of your topic, I really liked the Word about failure bit. I would ALWAYS (OK mostly) rather try something and fail to have never of tried at all. That’s how we learn and grow as individuals! So yes, do not be afraid of failure, it’s lessons for your next endeavor.
.-= myfinancialobjectives´s last blog ..Chile Earthquake =-.

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Tom @ Canadian Finance Blog 2010/03/10 at 8:34 am

Good point about just simply STARTING something. While I’m as guilty about procrastination as anyone, my best successes have come from things and didn’t sit around and over think… I just did.
.-= Tom @ Canadian Finance Blog´s last blog ..A Quick QuickTax Online Review =-.

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Kyle C. 2010/03/11 at 9:21 pm

It is funny how so many people forget that the biggest step is starting on the path. I know starting changed my perception for ever, that and education. The availability of free education (your library) is an awesome thing to have on your side.
.-= Kyle C.´s last blog ..A Lesson in Customer Service =-.

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Raul Yanda 2010/06/24 at 2:51 am

I confess, I have not been on this blog in a long time. nonetheless it absolutely was yet another pleasure to see your great content.

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