I am finally completing my series on stewardship. I saved the hardest topic for last: Stewardship of your finances. I think it is the hardest, because I am not very good with finances. There are three things I do with money: spend it, spend it, and spend it! However, it is good to have your finances in order. No matter if you make minimum wage or more money than you know what to do with, the wise thing to do with your finances is to create a budget. Keep track of where each dollar goes each month. Since I am not a financial expert, I am going to rely heavily on some things I have learned from reading Dave Ramsey’s book, Total Money Makeover and from one of his financial conferences I attended. Here are some steps (Dave Ramsey’s baby steps) to get you on the right track with your finances:
- Budget your after tax monthly income EVERY month. Think of everything that you need to spend money on and make a category with a specific spending amount for everything. Make sure you set aside money for savings, charitable giving AND paying off debt. Check out these forms by Dave Ramsey to help get your budget in order. *Keep in mind that it may take a couple of months of calculating and recalculating to get your budget right for you.
- Build up an emergency fund. This fund should have at least $1000 and should be easily accessible. This will be for those “Oh no, the car broke down and we have to get it fixed” emergencies, not the “I need a new pair of shoes” emergencies.
- Pay down debt. If you have debt, then immediately stop adding to that debt and start paying it off. Start by paying off your smallest debt by increasing you minimum payments with as much as you can and just pay the minimum on all the other debts. Do this with credit card debt, student loans, bank loans, car payments, etc. until you have only your house payments.
- Build up a secondary emergency fund. This emergency fund should be the amount of 3-6 months worth of income in an accessible account. This emergency fund should be used for loss of job.
- Invest 15% of your income for retirement. Since I am no financial expert, this is where you will need to look for outside help. Dave Ramsey is a great resource for information of retirement investments.
- Save for kids’ college.
- Pay off your mortgage. Now that you have your emergency funds and all your other debts are paid off. Start paying off your mortgage. It is important to be free of your mortgage before retirement, and the sooner you are done with house payments, the more money you will have for investing for retirement.
- Continue to build your wealth. Mutual funds are a great way to build wealth over time. (Again, I am no expert, so please seek sound advice from an investment broker.)
If these are new concepts for you, I highly recommend checking out Dave Ramsey‘s books, workshops and radio show for a more comprehensive explanation of financial responsibility.
Why is being responsible with your money so important? I could give you many reasons, but the ones that are most important to me are providing for my children and being able to give to people who have needs.