Getting started is hard. Once we get started, keeping going and finishing is also hard. These realities are what keep us from doing meaningful things because meaningful things are often difficult to do.
So, the purpose of this post is to help you get started with saving and investing. I’ve also made a promise to help you do it without spending a lot of time or money and I’m confident I can deliver on that promise.
Here’s where I’m coming from: I’ve been helping people create positive financial habits for 20 years in my work as a financial advisor and I’m personally financially successful.
Let’s get started.
While I don’t love the term adulting, it’s certainly an accurate one. Managing all the tasks that we’re responsible for is a lot of work, and the thought of adding another task to an ever-growing list probably doesn’t sound awesome. It’s for this reason that I’m going to break down how to get started and finish into three simple steps. It will be super manageable.
- Mindset goals and priorities.
- You need to believe you’re someone who can be financially successful, because you are. Wherever you are, success can be yours in the future.
- You have to know your goals and priorities. Over the next three years, what do you want to accomplish financially? What about in 10 years? How about the long-term (10+ years)? Don’t just think about these, write them down!
- Get your facts right.
- Understanding your cash flow means knowing how much money is coming in and going out every month. Go back over the last six months and review all of your transactions. You must know where your money is going.
- Budgeting is simply having a plan for your money and it’s essential to your financial success. This isn’t some BS talking point. Without a budget, you will have a hard time being financially successful.
When you complete those two steps, you’ll have a good sense of where you want to go and where you’re starting from. Now it’s time to finish.
A quick note on finishing: There’s a massive and ever-growing graveyard where New Year’s Resolutions go to die in February and March. I’ve certainly laid many well-intentioned resolutions there myself. You’re not going to fall victim to that. Here’s the finishing step.
- Open a brokerage account. You can open a free account with one of our Partners, such as M1 Finance. Here comes the obligatory disclosure: While this certainly isn’t financial advice, here are a couple rules to keep in mind.
- Individual taxable accounts are a smart place to save for short- and mid-term goals.
- Within this account type, you can save up to pay down credit card debt and/or build up your emergency fund. You can invest for the down payment on a home or your children’s tuition payments.
- IRAs are smart places to save for long-term retirement goals.
One of the things I really like about M1 is how intuitive it is. Follow the prompts, answer the questions, and get started saving by “funding” your account, which simply means that you’ll put money into it. Probably my favorite thing about M1 is that there are no fees to invest with them…amazing! I can’t encourage you enough to set up automatic, recurring payments. The more we can automate our finances, the better. And just like that, you’re saving and investing money! You’ve taken action toward achieving your financial goals and priorities.
Have I oversimplified this? Are there more details to talk about and go over? Sure. But there are always more details and stuff to talk about and go over. The original idea was this: get started.
As always, I encourage you to talk with someone about what you’re working on to get better. Talk to a friend, coworker, or your favorite cousin. Don’t feel like doing that? Get info on financial coaching.