By Deka Wiebusch
For The Bellingham Business Journal
Wealth is often associated with certain highly educated professions or inheritance. However, this isn’t necessarily true. Wealth is more closely related to behavior. I’ve worked with administrative professionals who have accumulated more wealth than doctors, and beneficiaries who’ve spent their inheritance in just a few short years. Wealth can be attributed to a consistent behavioral commitment to basic finance 101 concepts.
Are you cash flow positive? It may seem obvious, but digging into the budget can be extremely eye opening. How much money comes in and how much goes out should be a simple calculation. But few people track how much they spend on discretionary items, and this can really add up. I recently did this task myself when prepping for a personal finance seminar. I, too, was surprised. I was prepared for some expenses: gas, food, utilities, etc. However, what I wasn’t prepared for was the amount of money spent on gifts and school/activity related items for our children. The next step is to look for places to cut expenses and use that money to either pay off debt or save more.
Are you debt free or have low debt to income ratio? Debt is usually a snapshot of financial health. The more you have the more likely you won’t be able to pay it off, and it may drag you and your savings down with it. All debt isn’t bad. It can be used for leverage to accomplish a much larger goal. However, using debt in a responsible way is part of smart financial behavior.
Are you saving regularly? The first place you should have savings is in the form of an emergency fund. Most financial professionals recommend setting aside three to six months of your living expenses. This can help with unexpected costs like the loss of income or your roof that unexpectedly needs to be replaced. Next, retirement savings should be taking place monthly. If you have a retirement plan that has a company matching offer, then at the very least, contribute the full amount to qualify for the match or you will be leaving money on the table. However, this most likely isn’t enough to retire comfortably. There is no right amount to save, but the more you can save the better. A good start is generally 10% of income, but I encourage more. Finally, if you have a child, saving for college may also be important to you. Prioritize saving for retirement first, and if there is room to save for college do this also. There are no loans for retirement but there are loans for college. Saving for an emergency and for retirement should be your main objective.
Savings goals can be easily set, but human behavior can take over and ruin the best of intentions. My advice would be to revisit the topic monthly. Put some time into reviewing your budget and goals frequently. What behavior is it that gets you off track? When you achieve a goal celebrate that success, and get ready to make a new action plan to take the next step to financial security.
Deka Wiebusch CRPC® AIF® is a financial advisor at Skyline Advisors, a locally owned and operated registered investment advisor providing money management and financial planning services. She can be reached at (360) 671–1621 or at firstname.lastname@example.org. Skyline Advisors is located at 405 32nd St., Ste 201 in Bellingham and at www.myskylineadvisor.com This article is solely for informational purposes. Advisory services are only offered to clients or prospective clients where Skyline Advisors and its representatives are properly licensed or exempt from licensure. Past performance is no guarantee of future returns. Investing involves risk and possible loss of principal capital. No advice may be rendered by Skyline Advisors unless a client service agreement is in place.