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The state of affairs in the wake of the COVID pandemic has been a grim reminder to take the very important matter of personal finance very seriously.
It is a given that nothing can beat the rush of getting your first salary and thereafter month on month. That first taste of independence and sense of financial freedom it gives you is unmatched. In pre-COVID times it was so easy to get carried away on that high and go on a spending spree for the first couple of months where you ran out of money before it was time for your next salary. There was no shortage of avenues to spend, all competing for a share of your wallet. Availability of credit made it even easier to spend money before you had even earned it and live beyond your means.
However, the state of affairs all over the world in the wake of the COVID pandemic has been a grim reminder to many that it is essential to be in control of one’s finances and to take the very important matter of personal finance very seriously.
On a daily, weekly and monthly basis, calculate, keep track of your money. To begin with, group them into ‘recurring’, ‘non recurring’ and ‘indulgences.’ Identifying them will easily make you aware of where you need to pay attention and where to cut back. It may be as simple as taking a packed lunch from home to eating at the cafeteria or something bigger like buying fewer shoes or clothes.
Clearly identify and put your financial objectives down in writing. Maybe you want to pay off a student loan, or be able to buy a house in 5 years or save for a down payment on a car or save for a trip around the world when things improve. Whatever it may be, putting it down in writing helps to build the next steps in working toward it.
Spend some time making a realistic budget for yourself. What you learned from monitoring your spending will be a valuable input while making a budget. This will also help you identify if and how much you have available to put away every month. If you are in the red, the budget will help you identify areas where you need to steer things around to help you meet your objectives.
This sounds like something ‘older’ people would have to worry about. But the best time to start saving is as soon as you start earning. This is a precious time when you take the first steps to cultivate healthy financial habits and build a more secure future. If you tend to procrastinate, it would be a little bit harder to just get started on savings. By starting early you can also harness the full power of compounding and the money has more time to grow.
The key to saving enough is saving regularly. Be disciplined and put away money every month. You can try automating it to make it easier. There is no dearth of ways in which you can automate your savings. The sooner you start, the more time the money has to multiply.
Build an emergency fund. Anything could count as an emergency from losing your job to a pay cut to unforeseen expenses and there are many things that cannot be anticipated (such as a pandemic) but can be handled better if you don’t have to worry about money. The amount you require as an emergency fund may be smaller or bigger depending on various points such as how much you earn, how many people you support, your financial obligations etc.
Insurance is an essential tool in managing risk and emergency. Consider how much coverage you have from your employer and then consider buying your own insurance policy to cover things like medical expenses. Also don’t forget life insurance to protect your dependents and insurance for your assets.
Some additional pointers:
When you’re in your twenties and thirties, your risk appetite is higher. Choose investments wisely and stay invested longer to give your money a greater chance to weather storms and grow.
Take the help of a trusted financial advisor if needed to help identify the products best suited to your requirements and situation but also do your own homework. You will find that by reading up and staying current, the world of personal finance is not rocket science.
Image source: Unsplash
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A former finance professional who now writes.
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