Behavior, Money Basics

Financial Beginner? Start With These 4 Steps

This article is for financial beginners. The first steps on your financial journey are intimidating, confusing, and stressful.

We’ll fix that today.

So in simple terms, here are the first 4 steps you should take to gain your financial footing.

1) Start a Budget

Last week I wrote:

“Stress is directly related to how out-of-control we feel.”

Does money make you feel out of a control? A budget can help you.

A budget accomplishes two tasks. First, it plans your spending ahead of time. Second, it measures your spending after it’s happened.

That’s it. A budget is simply a planning and measuring tool for your money. That act of measuring will make you feel in control of your money. In control = less stress.

Further reading on budgeting:

2) Build a Small Emergency Fund

Basically, this step equals = “Get $1000 in a bank account.”

This acts as your first safety net against bad luck in life. It’s that simple.

If you have less than $1000 in your bank, focus on this step!

Here’s a fun story about why an emergency can be so important.

3) Pay Down High Interest Debt

Your money is a bucket, and debt is a hole in that bucket.

The higher the interest rate on your debt, the bigger that hole.

This step asks you to find the biggest holes in your bucket and plug them as fast as you can.

“High interest,” to me, is anything above 8%. For example, most credit card debt is in the 16-20% range. That’s a hole you need to plug ASAP.

Most mortgages, car loans, and college debt do not meet this “high interest” criteria. You should worry about them later.

4) Get Your “Employer Match”

Many employers offer retirement accounts to their employees. Better yet, most employers will give you free money if you invest in your retirement account. This is called the “employer match.”

It’s not a gimmick. You should maximize this opportunity.

As I wrote here, this free money is guaranteed to help your financial life.

Then you have to invest that money. Unsure how? Here’s how I invest.

5) What’s Next…?

There are many more steps after this. But these first four will take you from “I am completely lost” to “now I am somewhat found.” That’s a great start.

If you want to go further, download this free version of The Financial Order of Operations. It has many more steps that you can—and probably should—take on your financial journey.

Thank you for reading! If you enjoyed this article and want to read more, check out my Archive or Subscribe to get future articles emailed to your inbox.

-Jesse

P.S. – If you enjoy podcasts, check out the Best Interest Podcast!

P.P.S – I wrote a book! Check out the ebook here and the physical Amazon book here.

About Jesse Cramer

Jesse Cramer created The Best Interest to explain personal finance and investing in simple terms. His writing has been featured by CNBC, MSN, The Motley Fool, and other national publications. He resides in Rochester, NY with his girlfriend and their dog. Follow him on Twitter: @BestInterest_JC
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