Keeping up with the Joneses is a dangerous game, especially if the Joneses are now the Kardashians, which is happening as more people become fascinated with reality TV and the lifestyles of today’s socialites. There’s the car, the clothes, the trips, even your children’s education can be a decision made by adult peer pressure. (Do you know the top 7 Purchases Commonly Made Because of Adult Peer Pressure?)
Spending spontaneously and not following a budget can lead to a lot of debt. And it can happen quickly. Research shows that many families struggle with credit card debt, expensive student loans and even face bankruptcy in some cases.
When you find it difficult to follow a budget and defer your spending, we have found that one of the best ways to maintain the motivation to stick with your goals is to focus on the reasons the goal is important to you. For example, when approaching budgeting decisions, think about what you are trying to accomplish and why. What purchases do you want to make? What would the consequences be if you didn’t follow your budget? Are you willing to pay that price?
This thought process can help you decide and recommit to your savings goals.
Managing Your Own Finances
Your first priority in creating a financial plan should be ensuring that you (and your spouse) have proper funding to support yourselves now and throughout retirement. No matter how generous you wish to be, you cannot help your children, your preferred charities or anyone else if you cannot first support yourself.
You likely have a range of goals for your finances, including both short-term and long-term goals. Make sure that you establish the priority of each goal so that you have a specific target to work toward, and progress to the next goal when you have accomplished the previous one.
Some critical financial goals include:
- Establishing an emergency fund. If you lose access to your credit cards, your income or any other source of funds, you need to be able to rely on your savings to cover critical expenses such as utilities or car payments until you are able to re-establish yourself financially.
- Once you have your emergency fund in place, turn your focus to your savings account. Keep these funds separate to help ensure they will be accessible when you need them.
- Paying off debt in order of highest interest rates first. (This might include prioritizing paying off credit cards, followed by student loans, car loans and/or mortgages.) Alternatively, you can pay off your debts in order of the smallest balances first, using the snowball technique to achieve small financial victories first and maintain your momentum in paying off all debts.
- Saving for retirement. Set a goal for a percentage of your income to contribute to your retirement, such as 20 percent of every paycheck, rather than a certain figure, so that your savings amount will increase as your income increases. Consult with a financial advisor before establishing a retirement account and investment account to make sure you can reap the rewards of asset growth and dividend and interest payments as your money grows over time.
Once you have addressed these priorities, you can begin to plan for lifestyle expenses that you desire but are not mandatory, such as purchasing a more expensive house, a new car or establishing a vacation fund.
When faced with adult peer pressure to “shift your priorities” and spend freely, tell them that you’re paying yourself first! Have a percentage of your income deposited immediately into a savings account, preferably through direct deposit so that the money never enters your checking account. Many employers allow employees to designate multiple bank accounts into which they can deposit different percentages of their earnings.
If you are uncertain how much you can reasonably save monthly, begin saving a small amount first and evaluate how it affects your cost of living. You may find that you automatically adjust to having access to less money every month. Increase your savings amounts over time until you reach the point that you are building an adequate emergency fund, paying off any high-interest debts and saving for retirement.
If you still have questions, contact PAX Financial Group to see how we can help.
Planning for Future Expenses
For all non-urgent expenses, it’s better to save that amount before you spend it, rather than relying on credit cards to fund the purchase and incurring interest rate charges. You should avoid falling into the habit of reaping rewards before you’ve earned them. Treat these savings amounts like any other monthly expense, and do not miss payments unless an unavoidable expense arises.
To avoid being overwhelmed by large savings goals, break down the total amount into monthly contributions instead of focusing on the larger amount you want to reach at the end of the year.
This approach can also help you prioritize how you spend your non-essential expenses. For example, no one wants to forgo restaurant purchases for the next six months “just to save,” but if it means you will be able to afford a family vacation next year, and you can see that, either in writing or in setting up your funds, eating at home may not be so hard. Not succumbing to adult peer pressure can also be easier.
Budgeting allows you to set your own priorities so that you do not feel deprived at any point. Conversely, if you do not want to sacrifice your current spending habits, simply set the date of the planned purchase further into the future so that you can save a more manageable amount each month for it.
Common major expenses many people will make during their lives include:
- New child expenses, such as hospital, midwife or adoption expenses
- Wedding expenses
- Major vacations, such as anniversary or honeymoon trips
- Home upgrades, such as roofs, major electrical appliances, renovations or swimming pools
Helping Your Children or Other Loved Ones
Though you may want to prioritize financially assisting your children, you will not be helping them if you need to rely on them for care or financial support during your retirement years. Once you ensure that you are on a solid track for managing your expenses, saving for retirement and paying off any debts, you can begin considering your children’s non-essential needs. Some financial goals you may consider for your children include:
- Paying for all or part of your children’s weddings
- Saving for your children’s college funds
- Providing financial gifts to your children
- Establishing a trust fund for your children
- Providing gifts to your grandchildren
Your financial future is only as solid as your financial plan, and establishing budgeting and spending goals can offer you security that your financial future is in your own hands. When you give in to adult peer pressure, you give that control to other people.
You may also want to work with a financial advisor who can help create a financial plan that is reasonable for you and establish appropriate savings amounts that will be enough to reach your goals. A financial advisor can also help you invest your funds for longer-term expenses, from retirement accounts to college savings funds for your children. If you view budgeting as a tool and not a chore, having the help of a financial advisor can be huge. Everyone can benefit from an accountability partner.
This material is provided by PAX Financial Group, LLC. The opinions voiced in this material are for general information only and are not intended to provide specific advice or recommendations for any individual. The information herein has been derived from sources believed to be accurate. Please note: Investing involves risk, and past performance is no guarantee of future results. Investments will fluctuate and when redeemed may be worth more or less than when originally invested. This information should not be construed as investment, tax or legal advice and may not be relied on for the purpose of avoiding any Federal tax penalty. This is neither a solicitation nor recommendation to purchase or sell any investment or insurance product or service, and should not be relied upon as such. All market indices discussed are unmanaged and are not illustrative of any particular investment. Indices do not incur management fees, costs and expenses, and cannot be invested into directly. All economic and performance data is historical and not indicative of future results.