Can you imagine how your life would be different if you had a trust fund when you turned 18? What if you knew it was valued at two million dollars, but it would be paid annually over your working life, so it would last? Would you feel like a millionaire and take your finances more seriously? I suspect you actually would.

You likely haven’t thought about it, but you are that millionaire. Sure, you didn’t actually get a trust fund, but you have something much better: your ability to earn an income over your working life. 

Think about the fact that the average income in Canada is $42,000. Earning that (and many people earn more) from the age of 18 to 65 adds up to two million dollars. That’s a lot of money that will flow through your life.

The question is: what will you do with it and how much will you hold on to? 

Getting ahead isn’t all about scrimping and sacrifice. It’s about starting small and starting early. That’s what produces a rewarding financial future.

I have Certified Financial Planner® professional , Shannon Lee Simmons, of the New School of Finance™, here to talk about tips she has for those of us just getting started. Here are Shannon’s tips:

There are five really important things that we need to be doing, especially if we’re starting early, so we can get ahead later on..

1. Set goals:

This is a really important tip, especially when you’re starting out, because it can be really overwhelming when you don’t know exactly what you want to do. It doesn’t matter if you’re saving for a trip, to start a family, for a down payment or even retirement―what does that actually look like? Then you can work backwards from there to find out what you need to do with your finances to achieve those goals.

2. Prioritize:

We only have so much money to work with, and we want to do lots of things, but we may not be able to do them all right now. When you prioritize, you can be sure you’re doing the important things to get the biggest bang for your buck with your money.

3. Budget:

I know that everybody hates that word, because that’s where we think that we’re scrimping and scrounging for money. But a budget is just about being mindful about your money and spending less than you make―and that’s where the savings are. And really, budgeting is the only way to move forward financially, because you increase your savings and then you can reach those goals.

4. Automation:

Once you know what you can save, that’s what you want to automate every month. It’s one of the oldest tips in the book, but automating your savings (like a bill) is really important when you start saving. Because when money comes in, you don’t even miss it anymore. And then the next thing you know―boom―there’s your down payment.

5. CFP Professional Advice:

Get unbiased, third-party advice for your financial plan from a CFP professional. This way, you can have someone take a look at the whole financial picture and make sure that you have a good strategy so you can reach your goals efficiently.

That’s great advice that I think anyone can follow. Shannon, thank you for those tips.

To find a Certified Financial Planner® professional in your area that will help guide you financially, use our Find Your Planner tool.

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For more on financial planning and how to get started, watch What is a financial planner? and What is a financial plan?