Five steps to financial wellness

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To put the "pay yourself first" idea into practice, enroll in your retirement plan or consider contributing more today.

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The hardest part is getting started

As with exercising regularly and eating nutritious foods, healthy financial habits are good for you. But getting into the routine of managing your finances takes time and effort. These five tips can help you make positive money habits part of your everyday life.

1. Consider your reasons

Think about why you want to create better money habits. What financial goals are you trying to achieve?

  • Are you building an emergency fund, saving for retirement or both?
  • Do you want to buy a new car or home?
  • Are you striving for financial freedom by eliminating debt?

Knowing your goals can motivate you to set aside time and money to achieve them. Try writing them down and putting them somewhere you can see them.

2. Create a budget

Having a budget is one of the best ways to track your finances. It's easy to get started with our budgeting tips and worksheet. A budget will allow you to:

  • See where your money goes each month so you can prioritize how to spend and invest it
  • Find optional expenses you can reduce to make more room for savings; for instance, you could make coffee instead of buying it and use the money you save toward an emergency fund
  • Create categories to set money aside for major goals and purchases, like retirement, a child's college fund or vacations

3. Start investing early

The earlier you begin saving for a long-term goal like retirement, the better off you’ll be. That’s because the sooner you start regularly adding to your account, the longer your money has to grow, thanks to a concept called compounding.

Here’s what it would look like if an investor saved $250 a month, earning an average annualized 7% rate of return on their investments.

As you can see, waiting just 5 years could make a tremendous difference in the amount you have available when you retire.

potential account value at age 67 - age 22 $1,028,697; age 27 $718,686; age 32 $497,652; age 37 $340,058; age 42 $227,696; age 47 $147,583; age 52 $90,464; age 57 $49,739

This illustration is hypothetical and is not meant to project the results of any specific investment. If fees and expenses were deducted, the results would have been lower.

4. Pay yourself first

Pay yourself first by contributing to retirement and other savings accounts before spending money on non-essentials. An easy way to do this is to make saving automatic. You’re less likely to miss money that you don't see in your checking account first. You could:

  • Make regular contributions to your retirement account that are taken out of your paychecks
  • Sign up for direct deposit and request that a certain amount go directly into a savings account (check with your employer to see if this feature is available)
  • Use mobile apps that save and invest your spare change when you make purchases

5. Focus on debt

By eliminating what you owe, you can take the money you're putting toward debt and use it for savings instead. When you make only minimum payments, it can take years to wipe out loan and credit card balances. To get rid of debt faster, pay more than the minimum amounts due. Also, consider using the amount you’d been paying on one debt toward another as each debt gets paid off.

Remember, small steps have a big impact

Though it may seem slow at first, making financial wellness a priority will reap benefits over time. You may find that you’re less stressed because you know where your money is going. You may even find that you can afford things you couldn’t before as you keep an eye on your spending.

Start creating financial wellness habits now. Your future self will thank you.

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Ready to put the "pay yourself first" idea into practice? Enroll in your plan or increase your contributions today.

To learn more about investing concepts and investing through your plan, visit our resource center.