Building A Financially Stable Life

Owen Winkelmolen

Financial planner, personal finance geek and founder of PlanEasy.

Financial stability is so important. Having your finances in order can be a huge stress relief. It lets you focus on the important things in life. Even small financial changes can have a big psychological impact.

Unfortunately, financial stress is the number one stress factor in our lives. This is especially true for young people.

For young people, personal finances cause more stress than family, health, or work. We obsess over our finances weekly, daily, over even hourly.

There are many aspects to consider when building a financially stable life. Things like budgets, emergency funds, maintenance funds, saving rates and debt reduction.

It also takes motivation. You need to have a goal in mind. This provides you with the motivation to make changes to your daily routine.

Building a financially stable life is possible. Any financial situation can be improved. There are just a few things to consider…

Don’t Rush. It Takes Time.

This is important. You can’t build a financially stable life overnight.

Often it takes months or years to reach financial stability. It takes time to make all the required changes. Having the wrong expectations is setting yourself up for disappointment.

Setting the wrong pace can also lead to burn out. Making financial changes takes time and energy. This time and energy comes from other areas in your life. Making these types of changes can be exhausting. Doing too much at once can lead to burn out. Don’t do this. Take your time. Think tortoise, not hare.

Only make a few changes at one time. Focus on 2-3 changes per month. Give yourself time to integrate these changes into your routine. Normally it takes us about 20-30 days to build a habit. Stick with 2-3 changes per month. Give yourself time to build strong financial habits.

Prepare For Twists And Turns.

Life always seems to throw surprises at us. Often these surprises have a financial impact. Car repair. Roof repair. Basement leaks. Illness. Medication expenses. Dentist bills. Etc etc.

Preparing for life’s twists and turns is an important part of building a financially stable life.

An emergency fund is something everyone should have. It helps act as a buffer when the unexpected happens (and it does). The minimum emergency fund should be 3 months of expenses but this can be as high as 6 months when you have a mortgage/kids or even 9-12 months when you have an unpredictable income or precarious employment.

On top of an emergency fund, planning for infrequent expenses is another important aspect of building a financially stable life. Car maintenance and home maintenance should be a regular part of your budget. Extra money should go into a savings account to help fund future expenses. This is on top of your regular emergency fund. Budget 1% of your home value for repairs each year. Budget $0.05 per km for vehicle maintenance.

Another thing you can do is make an emergency budget. Prepare for the worst by planning now. Take your budget and cut out all the frills. This is your emergency budget. Aim for an emergency budget that is 70% or less of your regular spending. If the worst should happen an emergency budget can help you quickly cut down your cash outflow. This will make your emergency fund last longer. Hopefully you never need it, but it will feel good to have a plan.

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Find The Opportunities.

Find out what you spend today. If you don’t have a budget then it’s time to make one. If you regularly go over your budget then it’s time to track your spending in more detail and update your budget accordingly.

Review your budget and know what you’re willing to sacrifice for financial stability. Your should target a 20% savings rate. That means 20% of your take home pay should be going towards savings and/or debt. Your other spending should be in-line with the simple 50-30-20 budget.

Decide what you’re going to change and when. For example, moving might be a great opportunity to reduce your expenses but it’s a big change that requires planning. Don’t rush into big changes. Take your time.

Prioritize the low hanging fruit. Find those things that can be done quickly and for little effort/cost. Get the ball rolling before you tackle bigger and more difficult changes. For example, changing your food budget is easy to do and you’ll see results immediately.

“Financial stress is the number one stress factor in our lives. Having your finances in order can be a huge stress relief.”

Find Motivation.

Finding the right motivation is an important part of achieving any goal and it’s an important part of building a financially stable life.

Determine your financial goals. What matters to you? What do you want to accomplish?

It could be getting out of debt. Getting out of debt helps free up cash flow which makes you financially flexible. Rather than being locked into minimum payments you can redirect that cash flow to wherever it’s needed. Getting out of debt is a great goal.

Maybe your goal is to stick to a budget. Budgets can help you make ends meet and they can help you achieve other financial goals. Strive to build a realistic budget. Your goal should be to hit your budget most months (shit happens, you wont hit your budget every month).

Strive towards a fully funded emergency fund. This is an important aspect of building a financially stable life. After your debt has been eliminated, an emergency fund should be a high priority.

Start saving for the future. Starting early makes saving easier for the rest of your life. It could be saving for a down payment or it could be saving for retirement. Whatever your reason, saving for the future is an important long-term goal.

It’s very motivating to have a goal. Whatever your goal may be, make sure it’s a SMART goal. Know what you want and when you want it. Break down your goal into monthly “chunks”. Print out pieces of paper with those “chunks” written on them. Every month, when you hit your goal, take down a piece of paper and throw it away. This is a great way to track your progress.

Execute!

Make it happen. Remember to review your goals and your plan regularly. Things change over time. Adjust when necessary, things never go 100% according to plan.

Revisit your plan at least once per year (we review our financial plan every 4 months). Go through and see if you can make improvements. Building a financially stable life becomes easier over time. You’ll find more and more opportunities to improve. Take advantage of these opportunities by reviewing your plan regularly.

Owen Winkelmolen

Financial planner, personal finance geek and founder of PlanEasy.

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3 Comments

  1. DC @ Young Adult Money

    This is all really good advice and I’ve seen this play out the past seven years since I started working after college. I’m glad you stressed that things can’t happen overnight. Slow and steady saving, investing, and paying down debt can make a huge difference in even 5 or 10 years.

    Reply
    • Owen

      Yes! Slow and steady wins the race and when it comes to personal finances that couldn’t be more true.

      Reply
      • DC @ Young Adult Money

        I think this is also why we are seeing more and more 20- and 30-somethings interested in side hustles. If you can make a little extra money it can help you speed up the process of paying down debt, investing, etc. It also gives you bigger opportunities sometimes to REALLY speed up the process. At the end of the day, though, you just have to take it slow and steady and leverage your 9-5 income.

        Reply

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