Excel Formula To Calculate Current Age From Date Of Birth Quick Guide to Starting Your Personal Financial Plan – Assessing Your Financial Health

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Quick Guide to Starting Your Personal Financial Plan – Assessing Your Financial Health

Unfortunately, unless you were lucky enough to have parents or a mentor to teach you how to make smart choices with your money, you were left learning on your own. However, the basics of financial planning aren’t hard to learn, and you can easily master a basic plan yourself with just a few hours of research and a few online transactions a year. This article will guide you as the first step in creating a personal financial plan by assessing your financial situation.

The first step in assessing your financial situation is to calculate your total net worth. Gather all your account statements (checking, savings, investments, 401k, IRAs, etc.) and all your current bills/debts (credit cards, student loans, car loans, etc.). Next, do some basic math. Add up all your assets (except your home if you own it) and then subtract all your debts/liabilities (except your home loan). I advise people not to include their home unless they absolutely plan to sell it later as part of their financial plan, but that’s a matter of personal preference (remember to include your mortgage as a debt when you include your home equity as an asset). This number is your current net worth and is the starting point of your financial journey.

Now figure out where your money is going. If you’re like most people, you spend a little more than you earn. Deficit spending may be good for the government, but for you, the number one rule of making responsible money choices is to spend less than you earn. Pull out bank statements, credit card statements, phone bills, etc. and write down how much you spend each month. Quicken and Mint both offer good budgeting software, or you can just do it in Excel or by hand on notebook paper. Don’t forget to include rent/mortgage, car payments, eating out, pet bills, gas, holiday/birthday/anniversary gifts (average of six), etc. Another method is to track every dollar of yours religiously. spend a month or two. This step is pretty tedious, but once you’ve done it and settled on your budget, you’ll need to review it and make minor changes about once a year. Now compare your monthly expenses to your monthly take home pay. If the number is positive, congratulations. If it’s negative, you have some work to do. Either way, if you look closely at where your money is going, you can almost always find areas where you can cut back. Do you REALLY need super-fast internet or will a somewhat slower plan work? Do you REALLY need a $5 super caramel mocha frappuccino caffeine bomb every morning? Do you smoke? For more than $4 a pack, it’s a great way to improve your budget and your health.

Next, request a copy of your credit report. Go to https://www.annualcreditreport.com to request a free copy of your report. This is the only site authorized by the government to fulfill your free credit report requests, all other sites are scams and usually try to sell you expensive credit monitoring as part of the free report. You can request it from each credit agency every 12 months, so it’s a good idea to request it from a different agency every 4 months to keep track of your credit throughout the year. Review your report for errors (they happen often) and ask for corrections if you find them. You can also include explanatory information about derogatory marks in your report. It’s a good idea to pay for your credit score when you first start, and every few years thereafter (it’s not included in your free report). You can usually get it for less than $10 if you go directly to a credit bureau (Experian, Transunion, Equifax). If you have less than stellar credit, it’s a good plan to roll all your bills into car payments going forward (most banks offer this), so you don’t have to worry about whether you remembered to pay something last month.

Although not necessary, it’s also helpful to calculate your debt-to-income ratio. Add up all your consumer debt (car loans, credit card balances, store credit card balances, basically anything you bought with credit that you don’t expect to be worth) and divide it by your annual after-tax income. If the result is anything more than about 15%, you’re entering the danger zone and should consider using cash to make your purchases until you’ve paid off your balances.

Now write down all these numbers and keep them somewhere safe. You refer to them as you develop your financial plan, and as the years go by, you use them to track your progress.

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