Strong Financial Health: 5 Steps for Houstonians

SurpriseMaybe the biggest rookie finance mistake happens when someone from human resources sends you a link or gives you a form to enroll in the company 401k at your first job. There's so much else going on, and the usual response is to put it on the "I'll get to it later" list. When "later" becomes years later, you wonder what might have been if you had signed up right from the start.

We've all faced similar decisions, and some we get right—but others leave us wondering the possibilities of what could and should have been. Forbes' article, "10 Financial Choices You'll Regret in 10 Years," discusses some financial decisions that you'll kick yourself for in 10 years. Let's take a look at five of these now:

1. Starting your budget way too late. Most people think that budgeting means not being able to spend money on the things they really want, but it's really a freeing exercise. You can recognize the areas of your life where you're wasting money on things that aren't important to you. Look at where you can use some money for something that is more desirable. As a result, instead of an expense that you could care less about, you will put your money to better use. If you've been putting off beginning to budget, start today and discover its amazing benefits.

2. Not paying off credit cards each month. Some of us grab credit cards left and right and keep telling ourselves that we can make the payments later. "Later" can become never, and credit card debt can start to pile on to the point of suffocation. Try to pay off your credit cards quickly to keep more money in your wallet instead of giving it over to some large credit card company. If you aren't able to control your credit card spending, stay away from credit cards altogether. You'll be better off.

3. Purchasing a financial product without investigating. It's not that hard to do a quick search online, so don't put your money into investment products you don't understand. Do your homework, get a second opinion, and make sure you understand how the investment works and what the real costs are.

4. Putting the emergency fund on the back burner. Things will happen—that's why we have emergency funds. A good rule of thumb is to have at least six months' worth of living expenses in your fund. Your emergency fund money should be stashed where you can retrieve it quickly without much risk to your capital, such as an online savings account.

5. Buying a new car that you can't afford. Vehicles are important for many of us, but they are a discretionary purchase. It's transportation, remember, and a big car payment can wreak havoc with your retirement goals. Do you know the differences between a car that's three to five years old and a brand new car? Not many, in most cases. So why spend the extra money?

Not every decision you make will be perfect, but if you can master these, you'll be in better shape than many!

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Reference: Forbes (February 15, 2016) "10 Financial Choices You'll Regret in 10 Years"

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