According to recent studies, Americans are more concerned than ever about their finances. Unfortunately, most are doing nothing about it.

A common misconception is that in order to conduct any type of financial planning, you have to have lots of money. Nothing could be further from the truth. In fact, the more limited the funds are, the more important it is to ensure that they’re being used wisely.

Although you may not be ready to hire a professional financial planner, there are steps you can take yourself. Here are some very basic ideas to get you started.

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1. You need a plan. Without a plan, there’s no way to evaluate the situation or make changes. A plan, including a budget and a short- and long-term savings plan, is imperative.

2. Record everything. Keeping a written record of where your income goes is the first step to successful money management.

3. Know what’s important to you in life. If your values propel you to give significant amounts of money to worthy charities, you may want to settle for a smaller home or simple vacations as a trade-off. By establishing what’s important to you, you’ll know how you’ll have to allocate the funds available.

4. Make a list. Unless your income is unlimited, you probably won’t buy everything you’d like to. Very few people do. But, by planning what’s most important, you’ll get what you really want, without losing it to something much less important – just because you didn’t take the time to think about it.

Simply list everything you want at this stage of your life, including long-term goals such as saving for a down payment on a house. Now, number everything in order of importance. If the house tops the list, you may want to forgo other, less important goals for that. Without a list, it might not have been so obvious.
5. Do it together. If you’re married, work together with your spouse to plan your future. If your assets are joint with another person’s, it’s going to be very difficult to plan without the cooperation of your significant other. Include him or her from the very beginning to ensure that you are both on the same page.

6. Leave a cushion, save and invest. Spending every penny that comes in is never a good idea. And, hey, you don’t have to pay an expert to tell you that.

 

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