I met with a new financial planner, and I've already made 2 game-changing tweaks to the way I manage my money
- My husband and I recently paid off our credit card debt and decided to meet with a financial planner to establish new spending and saving habits.
- He recommended two strategies: putting money into our savings first, and opening a business checking account for my freelance income.
- It'll take time to build up our savings, but I already feel more secure knowing we have a plan.
- A financial planner can help you spend less and save more. Use SmartAsset's free tool to connect with a qualified professional »
For my husband and me, financial well-being is a top priority after neglecting it for years. We've made our fair share of irresponsible spending choices, which resulted in credit card debt and a lack of savings.Thankfully, since adjusting our budget and increasing our income, we've been able to pay off our credit card debt and make a bigger dent in our student loans. But now that we've removed the elephant that's been in the room for half a decade, we weren't sure how to create habits that would ensure a healthier financial future for our family of four. Advertisement
Our main question was this: What's the next step, now that we're out of debt? To find the answer, we decided to meet with a new financial planner.
A friend connected us to a certified financial planner (CFP) based in Chicago. We had an initial consultation on the phone, and I appreciated the CFP's direct style and sense of humor. He's also a parent, so we felt he could offer helpful insight on how to approach budgeting and saving with kids (and understand how expensive they can be).We decided to move forward with a planning meeting, and we couldn't believe how much we learned in those 60 minutes. Most of the call was going over our personal financial goals, both short and long term, and coming up with habits and strategies that would allow us to meet these goals over time.
My husband and I agreed that we wanted to budget more effectively, save more money for retirement and our kids' college, and set aside as much as we can for emergencies along with spending and travel.Based on our current financial situation, the CFP made two recommendations that we're already starting to put in place: budgeting differently and streamlining my cash flow as a freelancer.
'Pay yourself first'I'll be the first to admit that the way my husband and I have budgeted in the past hasn't worked. For a lot of months, we didn't budget at all - the process either felt overwhelming or we simply didn't make time to sit down and create a plan for our income. Advertisement
Other months, we budgeted in a way that showed us where our money was going, but didn't contribute to our overall wealth. In other words, we didn't prioritize saving.Advertisement
Along with my husband's 401(k) contribution, we plan to start allocating a specific amount to general savings from his paycheck. Since I'm a freelancer, I'll be putting aside a sum for my own retirement. I plan to ask in our next financial meeting the most effective way to invest in retirement as a self-employed person.
Create a separate business checking account
At times, living as a freelance writer means living month to month. All of my clients pay me different amounts at different times, and my workload can also vary drastically in a given month.That said, I've always had clients pay me via direct deposit to our joint checking account, since we generally needed all the money I was making. There's nothing inherently wrong with using the money you make, but for us, having the money available makes us more likely to spend it. Advertisement
Since at this point we don't need all the money I'm making for our immediate budget, the CFP recommended that I create a separate checking account for my business, and pay myself bi-monthly into the joint account. The goal is to be able to budget based on my husband's paychecks and my pre-determined self-payments each month, and to save the rest for estimated quarterly taxes or an emergency fund.
While it might take some time for us to notice a major difference in the state of our finances, it feels good to have a plan in place, and a financial advocate who can hold us accountable along the way. Once we have some savings built up, we're excited to learn more from our financial planner about how we can invest our money in other, potentially more fruitful ways.
A financial planner can help you spend less and save more. Use SmartAsset's free tool to connect with a qualified professional »
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