If you’ve just finished school and landed your first real job, you likely have multiple financial commitments and goals. While it might be a priority to start paying down debt and maybe even reward yourself a little for starting your career, now’s also the time to lock down good financial habits that will stick with you for life.
Cynthia Kett, a Certified Financial Planner® professional and principal of Stewart & Kett Financial Planning, an advice-only financial planning services firm in Toronto, suggests some financial moves to consider now.
Coordinate the moving parts in your financial picture
Clients in their twenties or thirties tend to have lots of financial priorities, many of them conflicting and vying with each other for your first regular paychecks. Buying a first home, building a business, starting a family, or paying down debt are all major life changes that can benefit from the help of a financial planning professional.
Aim to live well below your means
Free up the funds you need to reach your goals by getting in the habit of spending less than you make. Even a small amount can make a big difference later in your life. Having a financial plan will help you track your progress and remind you of the important things you decided to save for.
Prioritize your goals
Chances are, you won’t be able to reach all of your financial goals at once, especially if you’re just starting your career. An important part of financial planning is setting short, medium, and long-term goals and then prioritizing them. Your priorities are a personal and individual decision, so there is no catch-all recommendation anyone can make without knowing your full financial picture.
Live for today—and tomorrow
Lifestyle and experiences are sometimes a higher priority than accumulating material wealth when you’re young. But don’t focus on one at the expense of the other. A good financial plan will help you make the most of your individual financial situation, and a qualified planner can provide a road map for what you need to do now to reach your financial and life goals.
For example, you may want to save up to take a year off once every five years, as well as putting a little aside for retirement. A financial planner can help you sort out if that’s realistic and how to make it happen.
Start thinking about insurance
You might not be thinking about the “what ifs”, but don’t dismiss the importance of insurance. A big loss or health incident could potentially derail your financial security, today and far into the future. Your employer may offer group benefits that include some insurance options, but your financial planner can help you find any gaps in your plan that you need to fill.
You’re never too young for estate planning
If something happens to you and you die without a will, your property and assets are distributed by the government according to your family relationships. Even if you don’t yet have any assets, a power of attorney for personal care is important to ensure that the right people can make health decisions for you.
Don’t set it and forget it
Once you’re working with a professional financial planner, it doesn’t end there. It’s important to have regular financial “checkups”: in-person or telephone meetings where you and your planner can review how things are going and make any necessary changes. Things may change with your job that will require changes to your financial plan―you may receive a raise, switch companies, or see a shift in your benefits. Just as you would go to a doctor for a physical, it’s important to give your finances the same attention. Take the time to invest in your financial future now and you’ll reap the rewards throughout your life.
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