Personal Finances

Personal Finance Tips

 

At FirstMerit, we understand that everyone’s path to financial health is different depending on your goals, unique circumstances, and lifestyle choices. But regardless of the challenges ahead, everyone’s personal financial journey begins with three simple but essential questions:

  • Where am I now? 
  • Where do I want to end up? 
  • What’s the best way to get there?

 

As you answer these questions, here are a few thoughts to consider about managing your personal finances:

 

Budget…budget…budget!

Working out a detailed budget is important regardless of how much you make. Controlling where your money is going enables you to establish spending parameters and create a plan to stay out of debt and maximize your monthly savings. First, define your major spending categories (e.g., food, housing, transportation, entertainment) and log what you’re spending on each. It should be apparent what areas could use some thoughtful pruning. Once you have a budget, stick to it but remain flexible. You’ll need to adjust where you allocate expenses as your money situation changes.

 

Are you spending more than you’re earning?

Take a hard look at where your hard-earned dollars are going. Trimming expenses here and there can really add up. How much do you spend eating out at lunch? Are there more budget-friendly options for your daily purchases? What about ways to save on gas? One way to closely monitor your spending habits is to designate a specific amount of cash from your paycheck for each major spending category. So, for example, whatever money you earmark for entertainment needs to last you until the next paycheck. Ask the difficult questions; make smart, budget-conscious choices; and start seeing the results. You may find that you can sacrifice a little to save a lot.

 

A penny saved

Maintaining a savings plan takes focus and foresight, but it’s definitely worth the effort. Ask a professional to help you establish what you can comfortably take out of your salary and then set it aside as savings or for investments.  You can also choose to have a specified amount automatically deducted from your paycheck and deposited in a separate account. When calculating your savings goals, it’s worthwhile to take some time to look toward the future. Make a list of foreseeable expenses: perhaps a new driveway, braces for the kids, a cross-country family reunion, or new furniture in time for the holidays. Estimate the cost of these larger expenses and make them part of your savings plan.

 

Expect the unexpected

Proper planning and wise saving can help you avert financial hardship brought on by life’s unexpected occurrences. If you can, set aside money each month for an emergency fund, so when the roof leaks or your car’s transmission fails, you have the means to mitigate the problem without going into further debt. You may consider placing the emergency fund in a separate, high-yield savings account.

 

Get a handle on credit card debt

Take steps to reduce or pay off your credit card balance. It takes discipline to resist incurring more debt, but you will be rewarded for your diligence. Paying more than the minimum payment on your debt is a good idea. By paying even a small amount above the minimum, you can make a positive impact on your credit card balance. Whether using online, mobile, or traditional methods, making regular, on-time payments helps you bring down your debt and avoid late fees.

 

Say OK to your 401(K)

Be sure to explore the financial rewards of contributing to your employee 401(K) plan at a level with which you are comfortable. Then adjust the amount of your contribution accordingly as your financial situation changes. If you haven’t signed up for the plan, talk to an advisor about the long-term benefits of participating.

 

Have a question? Don’t be afraid to ask.

Need help getting control of your finances, establishing attainable goals, maximizing your savings, consolidating debt, or setting the right course for the future? You’re not alone. Many individuals and families seek guidance from trained financial advisors. Don’t be afraid to ask for assistance. It could be the smartest financial move you’ve ever made.

 

Our financial experts are ready to serve your needs

It pays to have a trusted financial advisor working in your best interest.  Our financial advisors take the time to understand your unique circumstances and find custom solutions. Learn more about what we can do to help you with your financial future.