The "B" Word
No, I’m not talking about that “B” word! I’m talking about that curse word known as a BUDGET. I commonly refer to your budget as “Lifestyle”. Now, I’m not talking about a budget in the sense that everyone has to have an itemized spreadsheet or spend countless hours a week micromanaging transactions. In generalities, a budget is having an idea of how much income is coming in and how much in expenses are going out. Typically, most households run their budget on a month-to-month basis for simplicity. This gives us an idea of how much money is left over each month. To be frank, when you retire not only will you have to know your budget, but you will also have to live within it. Otherwise, you run the risk of running out of money. At some point, you will need to carefully manage income and expenses, so why not start practicing today?
For some, budgets are viewed as tedious and intimidating. However, having an idea of income and expenses is the foundation that I base many of my recommendations on. When starting to develop a financial plan there are many questions we’ll explore: Should I start a Roth? What about saving for college expenses? Do I defer more into my retirement account at work? Should I pay down “x” amount of my debt? My job is to ensure I am putting my clients in the best position possible to be successful. Without a good understanding of excess cash flow each month none of the above questions can be answered. In fact, I don't believe a solid financial plan is possible without a budget!
Let’s talk for a minute about balance. There needs to be a balance between lifestyle and savings. That's really all a budget is, understanding if your lifestyle is outpacing your income. It is hard to sacrifice lifestyle now for a reward that will be 10-30 years down the road. That's not how we human beings are wired, which is why I bring the discussion back to a budget. Do you know roughly what’s coming in and what’s going out every month? How much extra do we have on average? The answers to these questions allow for not only solid recommendations but putting you in the best position possible to have long-term success.
“I meant to start saving years ago” is a phrase I hear all the time. What is the solution? Start small and increase savings in small increments. I believe 401(k)’s are so successful because they make savings easy through payroll deduction, and it can be marginal saving every paycheck. Few notice $50 or $100 missing from paycheck to paycheck. Before long that account balance is in excess of $50,000, $100,000, or even $1,000,000+ in some cases. Those assets weren’t accumulated overnight. It takes time, patience, persistence, and an understanding of your cash flow. There are many websites and budgeting software tools out there to help assist in developing a working budget. Some are complicated and others minimalistic (IE Mint’s 50/20/30 Rule for Minimalist Budgeting) “Lifestyle” as it relates to your income is a determining factor in where we start. Why not examine your lifestyle today and start saving for your future?
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This article is written by Kyle Cooper.