By BENITA HARP

The old adage, “Life is what happens while you are busy making plans” is certainly true. However, that doesn’t mean that we shouldn’t make plans, particularly when it comes to our money. Whether you are just starting out, hitting your stride or nearing the finish line of your career, here are four ways to improve your financial health.


Treat Your Budget as the Living Document it is Meant to Be

When I take a long trip, and use an app to find my way, I don’t just plug the address in and never look at or listen to the instructions provided. Likewise, you should create a budget to guide you along your financial journey and take steps to ensure it remains relevant when life detours happen. By keeping your budget relevant to your life, you can reroute your financial future to get back on track toward an ever-improving financial position when needed. Track your spending on a regular basis, live within your means, and communicate with those who share your budget. View your budget as a living document to be visited regularly, utilized consistently, and amended as necessary.


Know Where You Stand Financially on a DAILY Basis

Closely coupled with treating your budget as a living document is knowing where you stand financially on a daily basis. Not realistic for your life? Then know where you stand weekly. I’m not a clinician, but I’ve seen enough drama on television to know that applying pressure on a wound helps stop the bleeding … and a correctly utilized tourniquet is used if the injury is very severe. No doctor or nurse thinks the bleeding will stop if they simply ignore it. Likewise, by incorporating the discipline of being keenly aware of your financial position on at LEAST a weekly basis, you can stop or minimize the hemorrhaging of expenses that sometimes occur.

One way to be more aware of your financial position is to balance your checking account daily, if you don’t already. Also, be sure to review statements from your financial institution, credit card companies, investment firms, etc. to remain aware of your current interest rate(s), rate of return, balances, and even thwart fraud.
Plan Definitively for Retirement

Nothing compares to having a realistic plan for retirement. An effective retirement plan will show you how much you will need to accumulate for your desired lifestyle, and how much to save each year until then. The plan should also include an approximate retirement target date and what investment choices will help you reach these goals most effectively.

You may have the acumen and desire to do this yourself, but most people need to enlist the assistance of a competent financial advisor to complete this task. As with your budget, you need to assess your retirement plan at least one time, per year. For example, in a Consumer Reports article written by Carla Fried, “If you use a retirement calculator that fills in the expected return based on long-term historical averages, you may be overestimating how big your nest egg will grow.” Read the full article to learn more at http://www.consumerreports.org/retirement-planning/stress-test-your-retirement-plan/.


Partner with the Right Financial Advisor(s) for You

Hopefully, you have excellent financial advisors working for you already. If not, why not? To clarify, a financial advisor is a broad term for a professional who can help improve your financial life by using a variety of strategies and products to both manage your wealth and improve your financial habits. Their role is to find ways to increase your net worth and help you accomplish your financial objectives. There are subsets of this financial advisor group, such as financial planners, stockbrokers, insurance agents, money managers, estate planners, and more. If you do not already have a financial advisor, be sure to perform your due diligence before turning your money over to anyone.

Casey Midgett, financial services officer for Life Credit Union, offers these words of wisdom, “Before hiring someone to help with your finances, make sure to understand what you are paying for. Ask about his or her specific training and qualifications, fee structure and the services they will provide. Develop a list of questions when evaluating a financial advisor. Be sure to check their disciplinary record and references to make sure you’re receiving the best quality financial guidance.”

May the life that happens to you, while making plans, be financially healthy.


Benita HarpBenita Harp is the chief operating officer for Life Credit Union, which is a financial cooperative that is solely dedicated to serving those who work in and for the healthcare community. Life Credit Union partners financial wellness coaches with members, free of charge, to help them plan for a financially healthy life. To find out more, contact Benita at benita@lifecu.org or call 615-230-LIFE, ext. 3477.