The term “personal finance” can be somewhat intimidating to the average person. In truth, there is really nothing to fear, as it simply refers to how you manage your money. Every single financial decision and activity you make will end up affecting your financial health in one way or another.
In order to maintain good financial health, you will need to consider the types of financial habits that you display and determine if they are conducive to your financial future. Fortunately, there are some basic rules that you can live by to help get you on track to achieving whatever your financial goals may be.
Math it out: Calculate your net worth
If you really want to get a clear picture of where you stand and how to achieve your financial goals, then calculating your net worth is a good starting point.
This is the difference between what you own and what you owe. It represents where you are financially right now, and will generally fluctuate over time. To calculate your net worth you must first list out all your assets (what you own) and liabilities (what you owe). Then you subtract the liabilities for your assets.
Assets are items that an individual owns that they can expect to bring them benefits in the future. For example, cash, investments, and vehicles are all assets. On the other hand, liabilities are things that you owe. This can include things like bank debt, tax payments, or mortgage owed.
Here is a simple example:
|Total Net Worth = RM200,000|
Making these calculations once can be invaluable. However, you can get even better mileage from calculating your net worth at least once per year. This can help you track your progress over time and highlight areas where you need improvement. From there, you can start creating a personal budget to help achieve your goals. If you need a little more help with that, you can take a look at this personal budget guide.
Recognising and managing lifestyle inflation
The more money you have, the more spending power you have. As people move up in their careers, their income slowly rises alongside them. However, this can lead to increased spending as well, in a phenomenon known as lifestyle inflation.
There is nothing inherently wrong with lifestyle inflation. It is only natural to want to spend a little more money if your salary increases. However, it can be very damaging if left unchecked as it can severely limit your ability to build wealth over time. The more you spend now, the less you have to spend later; even if you have just higher income.
As mentioned previously, some extra spending comes naturally with higher income. You might need to upgrade your insurance to cover more things. As your family gets bigger, you will probably need more furniture, or even a larger home. As long as you keep tabs on your spending, you should be fine.
Distinguishing between needs and wants
In all honesty, being able to tell what it is that you “need” and what it is that you “want” is the bare basics to ensuring you can budget properly and ensure financial wellness. “Needs” are easy enough to identify. They are the things you have to have in order to survive. This includes things such as food, water, shelter, but can also include other essential things such as healthcare, transportation, and even enough sets of clothing.
On the other hand, we have things that you “want”. These are items or things that you want to have, but do not require for survival. These are a little harder to differentiate than needs since many of these items are already deeply ingrained in our everyday lives. For example, perhaps you have made a habit of taking a gulp of soda in the morning before heading off to work. You might feel like it is a “need” because it is simply just part of your daily routine now. However, the reality is that it is a “want” because it is ultimately non-essential.
The problem that most people might face is that sometimes the lines between “wants” and “needs” gets rather blurred. Transportation is a good example of this. Getting a car is often perceived as a “want”. This is especially true if you can just utilise public transportation to get where you need to. However, if the public transportation system is inadequate, unreliable, or simply doesn’t stop close to your destination, then a car would definitely be more of a “need” to you. There is even an additional layer to this, as those who need a car will now have to decide between a higher car payment and a nicer vehicle.
Overall, your needs should be prioritised over all else. Once you have allotted your money to your needs and savings, only then should you start considering how to obtain your wants.
Start saving early
A simple but invaluable piece of advice. People might often say that it is never too late to start saving. There is a semblance of truth there, but the earlier you start, the better. Thanks to the power of compounding, the sooner you start saving for retirement, the easier it is to reach your financial goals. Basically, the longer amount of time that your money stays in your savings or investments, the more the interest rate compounds and increases its value.
If you want to know more about how compounding interest helps to grow your money over time, check out this insightful article.
Always have a back-up fund
It cannot be understated how important an emergency fund is. Accidents happen. They can strike from anywhere, at any time. Do not go thinking that it will never happen to you. Everyone will be blindsided by unforeseen problems that may cost money at least a handful of times throughout their lives. Your emergency fund can be used for unexpected expenses such as car repairs or an emergency trip to the doctors. It can also help you pay your regular expenses if you so happen to have your source of income disrupted.
The rule of thumb when it comes to emergency funds is to save at least six months worth of living expenses. While this is a good start, it never hurts to have a little more.
Always keep in mind that establishing an emergency fund is an ever ongoing mission. There is always a chance that something can go wrong as you are saving up to hit that six month funding goal, and you may already need it for something. At the very least, you can take solace in the fact that you were already saving up an emergency fund if such an occasion does happen.
If you want to know more about how much of your salary to save, you can try reading this informative article.