It’s an age old financial dilemma: you want to save for the future – maybe to better prepare for retirement or to help pay for your kid’s college education – but you’re dealing with today’s bills.
So how do you strike a proper balance and juggle current obligations while simultaneously saving for the years ahead?
Here are three strategies to use when you need to pay today’s bills but still want to plan for future financial goals.
Prioritize Your Future Financial Goals
Too many people get overwhelmed with their finances because they feel like there are too many issues to tackle. You might need to get out of debt, improve your credit rating, get life insurance, create a will, save for retirement, and more.
Your financial “to do” list could go on and on. But instead of stressing over the number of items on your list, put each item into various categories, based on when the goal needs to be accomplished.
In reality, it may not be possible to do everything at once – nor is it necessary. So instead of fretting over everything, place each future goal into a “bucket” based on whether it’s a short-term goal, a medium-range objective or long-term mission.
By prioritizing in this fashion, and considering what is most important, you’ll relieve some of your mental financial stress and be best positioned to act on those goals.
Take Micro-Steps Toward Each Financial Goal
Next, don’t fall into the trap of thinking that balancing current and future obligations is an “either or” proposition. Doing one of these things doesn’t mean you have to exclude the other. In fact, you should get into the mindset of knowing that you must do both – handle existing bills and tackle future planning – simultaneously.
The key is to break everything down into chunks and to take small steps, even micro-steps, toward reaching each goal. So if you want to save $5,000, realize that you might not be able to save $500 a month and meet this goal in 10 months. And that’s OK.
But can you save $200 a month or even $50 a month? The point is to take action and work towards the goal. Don’t simply say: “that’s impossible,” because the numbers seem too large. No financial goal is impossible if you break into down and are willing to pursue it – even if through smaller steps.
Once you get started toward trying to reach a goal, it’s easier to keep going as you make progress, build momentum, and see some of the fruits of your labor starting to come to fruition.
Get an Accountability Partner
Many people have someone in their lives that they use as a “sounding board” for different things: relationship troubles, job or career issues, or even problems with kids and relatives. But to whom do you turn when you have money worries?
When you’re trying to meet future financial goals, and still pay all your current bills, it helps to have an accountability partner, someone who will help you stay on track.
For some people, that means getting a trusted financial advisor. They’re often not as expensive as you might think, and a reputable advisor can help you reach your goals in several ways. That individual could give you expert financial advice, he or she might create an overall financial plan for you, or a financial professional may simply point out money-management areas that you’ve overlooked.
For other people, relatives or close friends might serve as accountability partners. As long as they have your best interests at heart, and can be honest with you about when you’re not sticking to your goals, family and pals can be helpful.
Just be careful about taking certain advice – such as investment tips or insurance recommendations – from family members or friends who don’t have expertise in those areas.
In the end, once you realize that today’s bills are a part of life that will never go away, you can use the three strategies mentioned above to balance those obligations with future-oriented planning that helps you create a more secure financial future.