Taking inventory of your financial health
Only 28% of Americans are financially healthy, according to the U.S. Financial Health Pulse. Most others will have difficulty reaching long-term financial goals and are more vulnerable to the threat of financial shocks, such as car trouble, unforeseen medical bills or job loss.
Regardless of income or wealth, the road to financial health – how you are able to manage your day-to-day financial life while building for the future – can be a lifelong journey. What you do today can build toward or detract from your long-term resilience and ability to pursue opportunities. Whether you want to take that dream vacation, prepare for retirement or save for college, financial health takes effort to build.
“An overwhelming majority of the country is experiencing financial challenges that have lasting effects on people’s lives, on their ability to weather the inevitable ups and downs and on their chances to pursue their dreams,” said Jennifer Tescher, CEO of the Center for Financial Services Innovation (CFSI), the nation’s authority on consumer financial health. “Each year, CFSI and MetLife Foundation join forces on #FinHealthMatters Day to highlight the importance of financial health, especially for the 180 million people who are financially vulnerable.”
These questions can serve as a starting point to take inventory of your financial health:
- Are you spending less than you make? Regardless of your income level, it can be difficult to get ahead if you’re among the 47% of Americans that are spending more than or equal to what they earn, according to the U.S. Financial Health Pulse. The ability to manage cash flow directly affects your ability to build savings and deal with unexpected expenses.
- Do you pay your bills on time and in full? Falling behind on bills, including credit card payments, can be a significant hindrance to improving your financial health. If all your bills seem to come due at the same time each month or don’t appropriately align with paydays, consider staggering bills based on their priority level with rent and utilities taking precedence over any less necessary items like cable television or subscription services, which could even be eliminated altogether. The ability to keep up with payments shows how well you’re able to manage cash flow and daily financial obligations.
- Do you have sufficient liquid, short-term savings? The ability to draw on savings is important for coping with unexpected expenses such as car repairs or medical bills or a setback such as being laid off from a job. Having six or more months of living expenses in savings is considered financially healthy, but 45% of Americans don’t have enough savings to cover even three months, according to the U.S. Financial Health Pulse. Try setting aside 5-10% of your monthly income to build up both your emergency fund and long-term savings account.
- Do you have appropriate insurance coverage? Along with sufficient liquid savings, having appropriate insurance can help you withstand an unexpected expense, such as the death of a loved one or a medical emergency. Shop around for the best rates and coverage on everything from homeowners and car insurance to life and disability policies.
- Do you plan ahead for expenses? Planning ahead shows you are future-oriented and proactively managing your financial situation, a behavior that is strongly correlated with financial health. Proper future planning behaviors include using a budget, coding expenses, setting up automatic savings transfers and using financial management apps, among other habits.
For more tips to focus on your future financial health, follow #FinHealthMatters on social media or visit cfsinnovation.org/news/finhealthmattersday.
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Center for Financial Services Innovation, Features