It’s that time of year. New Year’s resolution time. A great goal is to work on your personal finances. According to Amanda Christensen, a finance expert and Morgan County faculty member, it is important to create a “financial wellness wheel.”
Think about a wheel — in order to work properly and roll, it is important that all spokes are strong.
The eight categories on the Financial Wellness Wheel are:
Do you have financial goals you are working towards?
Do you have a budget that helps you stay in control of your money?
Do you have enough money saved to help in emergencies?
Are you able to pay more than the minimum payment each month?
Living Within Your Means
Do you spend less than you make each month?
Are you contributing to a retirement fund regularly?
Is your score above 700?
Does your insurance cover all your needs?
How to use it a financial wellness wheel
A financial wellness wheel worksheet can be found at finance.usu.edu. The worksheet shows the eight categories on the wheel. Follow the detailed instructions to rank yourself on a scale of 0 (very dissatisfied) to 10 (fully satisfied) that represents your score in each area. Then ask yourself some important questions:
Which of the categories would you most like to improve?
What would it take to have a score of 10 in each category?
What support might you need from others to make positive steps forward?
(See worksheet for more details.)
The final step after completing your wheel is to identify one action for each area where you can take a small step to improve. Below are examples in each segment of the wheel:
Where do you want to be financially in one year from now? How about in 10, 20, and 30 years? Answering these questions can help you determine financial goals you’ll need in order to get where you’d like to be. Financial goals should be consistent with your values. Starting now with a simple, short-term goal will make you more likely to continue with long-term goals.
Dave Ramsey, author of The Total Money Makeover (2013), said, “A budget is telling your money where to go instead of wondering where it went.” At the end of the month, do you look back and wonder what happened to your paycheck? Start by tracking where you spend your money for 1 month. Identify areas you need to improve. Then set realistic expectations. If you usually spend $100 eating out, it may not be realistic to cut that to zero right away. Small adjustments can really add up.
Accumulating credit card debt should not be your emergency savings plan. Having three to six months worth of expenses saved for emergencies will help you have financial peace of mind when everything else seems to be going wrong. If you don’t have an emergency fund yet, start with a goal of saving $1,000 as fast as you can. Make a commitment to yourself that this stash of cash won’t be used for anything other than an emergency.
Have you come up with a plan to eliminate debt as fast as possible? Check out www.powerpay.org to set up a free, debt elimination plan. PowerPay helps you see all you owe in one place and provides you with a plan to pay off everything in the most efficient way — using power payments. When you pay off one debt, add that payment onto another debt payment to double up and soon you will be debt free.
Living Within Your Means
Self-discipline is important to live within your means. Waiting to save up for something you want to buy can be hard. But you’ll never achieve your financial goals if you regularly overspend. If you find yourself living paycheck to paycheck, try looking at ways to reduce your expenses or increase your income.
The best thing to do for your retirement savings is to start now. Even if you can only afford a small amount every month, starting small now is better than waiting until you have more later. Investing early means time is on your side.
There are five components that make up your credit score: Payment history, amount owed, length of credit history, new credit, and type of credit used. Payment history makes up the biggest section, about 35% of your credit score. To increase your credit score, making regular, on-time payments will make the biggest difference.
Take the time to review your insurance needs and decide what you need and don’t need. If you have a major life event, like getting married or having a baby, be sure to consider your insurance. Periodically evaluate your auto and home or renters insurance rates to be sure you’re getting the best deal.
Review and update your financial wellness wheel annually. For more real-life money smarts, resources, and tools view www.utahmoneymoms.com. Check out www.finance.usu.edu for more publications like this one.
Darlene Christensen is an associate professor at the USU Extension – Tooele County office, which is located inside the Tooele County Health Department Building, 151 N. Main, Tooele. She can be reached at 435-840-4404, 435-277-2406 or at email@example.com.