If ever there were a perfect time to start building healthier financial habits, that time is now. Whether it is taking advantage of the new year, preparing for a major milestone, or just finding some determination on a random Thursday, according to Financial Wellness Relationship Managers at Regions Bank, if you aren’t already thinking about ways to manage, and grow, your finances, starting as soon as possible is important.
The good news: it doesn’t have to be overwhelming. Resources are available. For example, a financial checkup like this one is a great place to start.
A close review of your habits can help reveal potential missteps. And we spoke with three Financial Wellness pros at Regions about simple steps that can help you make progress.
Go Get Your Goals
Alicia Somers, a Regions Financial Wellness Relationship Manager in Jacksonville, Florida, said clearly spelling out your personal financial goals is an often-overlooked habit.
“I think we all get busy with our daily lives, and it’s easy to forget to take a true assessment of where we are financially and setting goals,” said Somers. “Or we may think of those goals, but we fall short of writing them down. By writing them down and looking at them regularly, it creates awareness and an opportunity to find ways to close the gap between the goals and actions.”
Once those goals are set, Somers recommends creating text alerts for your check card. These not only help detect potential fraud, they also serve as a reminder of everyday spending, building greater awareness.
“If we aren’t aware of our daily expenditures, it makes them invisible. Actually seeing my spending – in text, on my phone – it becomes a visual reminder of habits I may need to change,” explained Somers. “It’s like fast food menus having calories; it makes us much more aware of our actions. When we become aware of our money spending habits and what we’re spending it on, then we empower ourselves to make change.”
Somers added that both being able to pay for a child’s education and preparing for retirement are often top financial goals. And it helps to think of these goals collectively.
“Saving for your children’s education should be done in conjunction with saving for your retirement,” said Somers. “You have to have a balanced approach. Make sure you’re doing your best for your children today, but also providing for your future self.”
Make a Budget
Reaching financial goals can be really hard if you don’t have a budget in place, said Megan Rector, a Financial Wellness Relationship Manager for Regions in Sparta, Illinois.
If you do not know how much money is coming in and going out, you cannot control your financial life.
Megan Rector, Financial Wellness Relationship Manager for Regions
“Not having a budget on paper, written out, prevents you from having a complete understanding of your finances,” explained Rector “If you do not know how much money is coming in and going out, you cannot control your financial life. No matter what your goals are, you must have a plan, and you cannot have a financial plan without a budget.”
This is one of the easiest financial missteps to correct, Rector added. You can use this free online budget calculator to find out how much – and where – you’re spending, so you can make a personalized spending (and savings) plan.
Use Time Wisely
“We tend to know that money is important, but while money is often considered our most valuable resource, I believe time is even more valuable,” said Adam Fuller, a Regions Financial Wellness Relationship Manager in Fort Worth, Texas. “For example, I would much rather have $100 dollars per month to invest for 20 years, than $500 per month to invest for five years. The best time to plant a tree is 20 years ago, but the second-best time is today.”
Fuller emphasizes the importance of beginning your financial wellness journey as soon as possible. He shares three tips to get you started:
- Start putting an emergency fund in place.
- Seeking to become a homeowner? Determine now how much home you can afford.
- Wish to educate your children on money management? Begin introducing them to financial wellness education.
“Make time your ally, instead of your enemy, in planning your financial future,” said Fuller. “Even small changes in our daily financial routine can make a tremendous difference in our long-term financial picture.”
Let Regions motivate you to take positive strides forward at Regions Next Step.
Also, be sure to check out Financial Fitness Fridays. Beginning Friday, Jan. 10, and continuing each Friday through the month, various Regions branches will host events offering financial checkups and personalized, one-on-one advice. More information is available here.