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The complete guide to managing your money

According to a 2019 survey, 9 in 10 adults say nothing makes them happier or more confident than having their finances in order. This guide is your ticket to joining in.


Creating a financially secure life can feel like a daunting task that requires the skills of expert mapmaker and GPS programmer. You need to figure out where you are today and where you want to get to. As if that’s not a big enough lift, you’re then in charge of finding the best route to get from here to there without veering off into costly detours.

Some goals will take years — if not decades — to reach. That’s part of the plan! But you also get an immediate payoff: a whole lot less stress starting the minute you dive into taking control of all the money stuff that’s gnawing at you.

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Set short-term and long-term goals

Building financial security is an ongoing juggling act. Some of the money balls you have in the air are going to be goals you want to reach ASAP. Other goals might have an end date that is a decade, or decades, off but require starting sooner than later.

Creating a master list of all your goals is a smart first step. It’s always easier to plot a course of action when you are clear on what you’re looking to achieve.

It’s up to you whether your list of short- and long-term goals is on a spreadsheet or pencil to paper. Just be sure to give yourself some quiet time to think it through. Here’s a simple prompt: Money-wise, what would make you feel great? At its heart, that’s what a financial plan delivers: the means to help you feel safe and secure, so you can focus on living, not worrying.

One way to analyze your current cash flow is to run it through the popular 50/30/20 budgeting framework.

Possibilities to consider:

  • Short-term goals to reach in the next year or so: Build an emergency fund that can cover at least three months of living expenses. Keep new credit card charges limited to what you can pay off, in full, each month. Hint: Create and follow a budget. Pay off existing credit card balances.

  • Longer-term goals: Start saving at least 10% of gross salary every year for your retirement. Save for a home down payment. Save for a child’s (or grandchild’s) education in a tax-advantaged 529 Plan.

Create a budget

Not exactly a sexy topic. Agreed. But creating a budget happens to be the one step that makes every other financial goal reachable.

A budget is a line-item accounting of all your income — salary, maybe a side gig, perhaps income from an investment — and all your expenses. The whole purpose of a budget is to lay everything out in front of you so you can see where everything is going and make some tweaks if you’re not currently on course to meet your goals.

One way to analyze your current cash flow is to run it through the popular 50/30/20 budgeting framework.

With this approach, the goal is to spend 50% of your after-tax income on essential costs (e.g., rent/mortgage, food, car payments) and 30% on other needed expenses (say, phone and streaming plans) or “nice to haves” such as dining out. The final 20% is for savings: building your emergency reserves, socking away money for retirement and saving up enough funds for a down payment on a house or your next car.


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