“Hey, are you ready?”
A common question among friends before a sports game or a night out.
But have you asked yourself, Hey, are my finances ready — ready for the future?
Are you paying attention to money or is it coming and going a bit like people’s interest in kale? Do you need to “catch up” with your money sooner than later?
Money is an interesting thing. No one wants to spend tons of time thinking about it or worrying about it, but it does affect almost every day of your life. The small choices you make daily affect your ability to make future, larger choices.
So are you getting ready? Getting ready financially?
Prepare for three key life stages to ensure a solid financial future. It’ll benefit you, your purpose and anyone else God may add to your story.
Are your finances in the best position for dating?
Your season as a single is a great time to evaluate your finances. No one is looking over your shoulder, but are you looking over your own shoulder? Are you taking steps toward financial understanding and independence?
If you’re praying that God will bring someone special into your life, have you thought about what that means six months from now? Are you getting your money ready for yourself and that special someone?
If you’re not already, start covering the basics:
- Have steady income.
- Establish an emergency fund, typically three to six months of living expenses.
- Take steps to control your spending — a good rule of thumb is 50 percent of income is spent on necessities, 25 to 30 percent on wants.
- Give a portion of your income to further God’s work.
- Wisely build your credit.
Also, create long-term savings for your future plans. You don’t have to sock away hundreds or thousands each month to make it count. Little by little, a savings account can grow with consistent care and the power of compounding interest (a boring-economics-class-sounding term, which basically means time is your friend). You can start small, but … start.
Finally, make sure you’re dealing with student loan or credit card debt. If you have debt that you are ignoring or if you are consistently piling up debt, you are not getting “money ready.”
Debt isn’t fatal. According to Student Loan Hero, the average college graduate reported $39,400 in student loans, so it’s not something to be ashamed of. But it is something to be addressed.
What’s your plan to eliminate debt? Now is a great time to evaluate your spending and find those few areas you can cut back to chip away more intentionally at your debt. Also, draft a plan to begin a lifestyle where you aren’t acquiring any additional debt. Making some small changes now adds up to freedom in the future. For more on debt, read “Don’t Let Debt Ruin Your Future.”
Before you start dating, have a date with your finances. Set aside some focused time to get realistic about where you are and where you’d like to be.
2. Getting married
Money and marriage can be a tricky combination. Combining two people’s attitudes toward money offers some challenges, though it sure is nice to finally add another direct deposit to the account.
Money can be a bit like sushi. You love it or you hate it; there is no gray zone with rolled-up raw fish. Likewise, people have distinctive attitudes toward money. There are some people who hate to spend money. They feel pain when they spend more than they think they should. And there are those who love to spend money. They love the whole experience and feeling of letting it go. There are also those who never even think about money.
Whether you like to think about it or not, money is a necessary part of life. And it’s something couples need to discuss before they’re married. Before becoming Mr. and Mrs., serious couples should work side by side on significant financial issues such as wedding expenses, how/when to merge accounts and in many cases, developing a plan to handle consolidated debt.
Wedding planning in particular offers a giant test to a couple’s money relationship. According to The Wedding Report, the average wedding in the United States last year cost over $25,000, so this is a sizable financial opportunity for couples to start planning well together. Questions to discuss include:
- Have you jotted down a budget for all parts of your wedding?
- Do your parents intend to contribute financially in any way?
- Do you anticipate needing a loan of any sort (even from friends or family) to cover expenses?
- Is there a portion of your savings you want to use for the wedding?
- Have you thought about the honeymoon expense in light of the wedding budget?
- Are you willing to reconsider some of the more expensive items on the list or find other ways to create them without as much expense?
- What is most important to you on your wedding-day list?
- Do you feel like you’re both understanding and honoring the other’s wishes for this special day?
Years ago, we endured a painful meeting with a wealthy couple who had decided to get a divorce “over money.” They had millions in the bank, but were fighting daily over money — the little stuff. He liked good coffee at the drive-thru; she wanted him to brew it at home and save the cash. She pinched pennies day in and day out, but would blow it all on a friend’s birthday. They had conflicting approaches to money and didn’t realize the damage it did to their relationship until they felt it was too late.
We were crushed that they were divorcing over their money squabbles. We knew this problem could be solved; it didn’t have to be a marriage-killer.
Managing your money isn’t the same as amassing money. You definitely don’t need excess wealth in a marriage to be happy. You certainly can’t buy happiness. In fact, we know from Scripture that excessive wealth can be a burden and a hindrance in our walk. Don’t buy into the myth that riches equal happiness.
Know your strengths and weaknesses and be wise about the “Money Personalities” you work well with and those that will present a bigger challenge.
3. Buying a home
Whether you’re single with no dating prospects or you’re planning a wedding, have you thought about getting money ready to buy a house?
Getting ready to buy a home is kind of like losing weight. You can’t do it overnight. Steps you take now have a huge impact on your ability to successfully purchase a home. It takes years of preparation to build an excellent credit score and the savings necessary.
The type of loan, your ability to get approved, and your rate of interest are all tied tightly to your credit score. Start building a healthy credit score today by doing the following:
- Establish credit by opening a credit card account.
- Pay your bills on time (credit card, rent, student loan).
- Have credit available to you that you’re not using.
Also start saving for the goals that go along with your welcome mat:
- Set aside funds for your down payment, which ranges from 3 to 20 percent of the home’s purchase price.
- Anticipate closing costs, which are typically 2 to 5 percent of the home’s purchase price.
- Factor in moving expenses, which American Moving and Storage Association says is on average $4,300 for an inter-state move and $2,300 for an intra-state move.
Finally, if you’re single, now is a great time to determine where you’d like to put down roots. Researching new places online. Take some time to dream and pray about where you would like to be. It is much easier to move yourself to a new place now than to convince someone you meet in Chicago to move to Little Rock.
No matter where you find yourself today, take positive steps to get “money ready” right now. Ask God for His wisdom to meet you right where you are. And be patient! Getting your money in order takes time. But you’ll get there, and you’ll be glad you did.