Finding specific ways to take control of your financial future is what Women's Money Week 2013 has been all about. But more generally, what do you need to do to be happy now and at the same time plan for the future? Here are 4 steps to help you take control of your financial future.
1. Know Yourself and Your Limits
Not everyone is a personal finance geek. And even personal finance geeks have limits. Some people know a lot about investing, some are on top of the best retirement strategies, some are coupon queens. Know which areas of finance you like which you shy away from. Being aware of your own limits is the best thing you can do for your future.
2. Learn the Basics (No Matter What)
Knowing that you don't know (and won't know) everything doesn't give you an excuse to not do anything. It's important to have a baseline knowledge of a broad range of financial topics. I recommend hitting your local library and browsing through the personal finance, retirement, and investing books. Choose ones that you might not normally check-out and at least start the book. Even if you don't finish it you'll have a wider scope of what is available.
3. Know When to Ask for Help
At some point everyone needs help. In fact, most regular people probably wait too long before asking for help. Think about the experts you know - lawyers, doctors, engineers - these people almost always consult another professional when they are having a problem in their own profession. They know the consequences if you don't get it right. In your own finances it's important to get a certified financial planner early on, so that you have a plan that you can continue building on.
4. Stay Informed
Part of what contributed to the devastation people saw during the crash of 2008 was because people were paying too close of attention to the news. People panicked and pulled their money from the markets, causing even more panic, and greater loss (long term) for those individuals. You don't want to pay such close attention that you are checking your accounts everyday. That's not healthy.
But you do still need to stay informed. The means having a general sense of what's going on in the broader economy, but also knowing what's happening with your personal finances. If you're not already, start having monthly sessions where you examine your income, expenses, and check the balance of your accounts. If you have set specific goals - whether to pay off debt or to save for certain items - keep a spreadsheet to track your progress.
You should also keep up on the world of personal finance - if only generally. Taking an interest in the broader sphere of personal finance will keep you motivated when things get tough and will provide insight and tips that you might not otherwise think of. Follow some personal finance bloggers (start with any of the blogs participating in this week and read from there) or buy a personal finance book or two.