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MONEY: Happiness is about enjoying the journey

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I want you to stop thinking that you will only be happy when you retire. You must be happy now and enjoy the journey.

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Often people hold themselves back by living in the past, ruminating and worrying about things that are out of their control. The secret to success is not that difficult. You simply need to focus on managing your future. I am not asking you to defer happiness until you are retired. Instead, I want you to start making yourself happy now by improving your financial situation and providing more opportunities for your family and for your own personal growth.

Here are five foundational steps that are crucial to ensuring that you reach your monetary goals.

Step 1: Create a Lifestyle Budget

Get a piece of paper and make a list of all your monthly expenses and debts on one side of the page and then on the other side list your monthly income. Is there enough? Can you pay all your monthly expenses without turning to credit? Are there funds left over to save, and if not, are there things you can cut out, compromise, or change to begin saving? When you do not have enough money month to month, it is hard not to feel helpless.

Leave the past in the past, with all the regrets and memories of broken plans. Start today to make the necessary changes in your life or career and begin a new lifestyle budget to take control of your savings.

Step 2: Limit Your Bad Debt

There is a difference between good debt and bad debt. Good debt is what you take on to acquire an appreciating asset such as a home or investment. You could even argue that school debt is good because it will ultimately increase your long-term earning potential. Bad debt is debt collateralized on a depreciating asset or on revolving credit. It includes car loans, lines of credit and credit card debt carried month to month.

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Bad debt does absolutely nothing to improve your financial situation. It decreases your cash flow, holds you back and generally gives you no future opportunities to earn money, save or increase your net worth.

Step 3: Invest Your Savings

Once you have established a savings portfolio, you need to get your money making more money. That is done by investing in the stock market or in real estate, or perhaps by simply contributing to your company’s savings or pension plan.

Don’t get too fancy here. You do not have to invest in some high-tech product or employ a complicated strategy to feel like you are in a better position to monetize your money. Often the simplest way of doing things is the best. You want to start saving systematically, and often the easiest way to get started is to have a set amount deducted from your income automatically.

Step 4: Keep Track and Keep Planning

Continually analyze your net worth to monitor your ongoing saving success. Consider partnering with professionals who will help you get where you want to go. Remember: “you don’t know, what you don’t know.” Make a plan to acquire the knowledge you need to improve your financial situation and create new financial habits that will help you wipe out your debt. Write out your goals and targets, set out a plan to achieve them and then put time limits on when you plan to accomplish them.

Step 5: Estate Planning – The Last but Most Important Step

Good estate planning means planning for the inevitable and making a Will is one of the most important and most responsible things you can do to ensure your hard-earned assets are taken care of according to your wishes when you die.

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If you have children, it is even more critical to protect your estate for them and to have some say in their future care.

You should not forget to plan for your death when you are planning for your life.

Insurance is another part of the planning puzzle that can ensure you are protected against unexpected negative circumstances. Most people know that they need to have life insurance, but the average person typically does not have enough insurance, either because of the cost or because they think nothing will happen.

Good luck and best wishes

Christine Ibbotson

Written by Christine Ibbotson, author of three finance books and the Canadian best-selling book, “How to Retire Debt Free & Wealthy”. Go to www.askthemoneylady.ca or send a question to info@askthemoneylady.ca .

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