Published in: Banks | Nov. 16, 2019

Prepare for Your Financial Future in 15 Minutes (or Less) a Day

By:  Dana George

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If you're intimidated by the idea of preparing for your financial future, don't be. Here's how you can take control in just minutes a day. 

Time is valuable, no matter how you look at it. Feeling pulled in several directions sometimes means not finding time for the things you need to do to prepare for the future.  

The Ascent looked into how much time people spend on financial planning and found that, on average, Americans spend less than two minutes a day managing their household finances. About 48% of us say we want to be financially prepared for the future, but 97% of us aren't making the time.

If taking control of your financial future feels daunting, you may be overthinking it. We have some simple steps to get you started and then some quick and simple ways to stay on top of it all.

A woman writing out a to-do list at a desk next to a laptop and cup of coffee.

Image source: Getty Images

Getting started

There is no single recipe for laying a financial foundation, although there are basic steps that will make anyone's life easier. For example, it's worth creating a budget that allows you to quickly see what has been paid and what needs paying, as well as coming up with an achievable plan to pay off debt. Set some savings goals so that you know how much you need to put aside for your kids' education, retirement or your next vacation. Work out how much you should be saving each month and if you don't have an emergency fund, factor that into your savings plan too.

You can also simplify your financial life by signing up for automatic deposit if your employer offers it, automating as many payments as possible (including rent, mortgage, utilities, and student loans), checking once a year to make sure you're still on the best health plan available, and contributing to your company's retirement plan.

Keep on top of your finances

Once you've got your bases covered, you need to put in a bit of time each day and each week to keep things ticking over. Here's a checklist of regular financial housekeeping tasks that will keep your finances under control and allow you to achieve your financial goals.

Frequency

Financial Housekeeping 

Time Needed

Every day

Do a quick scan of your checking and savings accounts. Make sure you recognize all the transactions. If you don't, get in touch with your bank as soon as possible to report the problem.

5 minutes

As required

Pay bills the day they arrive in your mail or inbox. This ensures everything is paid on time. Remember to mark each bill off your budget as soon as it's paid. 

10 minutes

Once a week

Look over your written budget. Make sure you've paid everything that was due and that you're not overspending in any categories. Check that you are achieving your savings goals and adapt your spending if necessary.

5 minutes 

Once a week

Log in to your credit card accounts online, just long enough to make sure you recognize all new charges. If there are any that seem fraudulent, contact your credit card company and report them.

10 minutes

Twice a month

Look for places to trim the budget. Have a subscription to BritBox or Openfit you no longer use? Now's the time to drop unused subscriptions. Have you looked into cutting cable and getting your entertainment fix through a streaming service to save money? What about your cell phone bill? If you own your phone outright, you are eligible for low-price "bring your own phone" services offered by some carriers. 

15 minutes

Twice a month

Review your debt repayment plan to get a sense of where you are in the debt retirement process and if it's time to begin tackling the next debt.

10 minutes

Twice a month

Check your investments online. It's a good way to see how compound interest can work on your behalf, right there in black and white.

10 minutes

 

Keep things ticking over

As long as you know how much is coming in and going out and are doing the following, you have the majority of bases covered:

  • Paying off debt
  • Working towards your savings goals
  • Putting money away for emergencies and retirement

After that, it takes minimal effort to keep on top of your finances, and then you can even move on to more detailed planning. But to paraphrase Scarlett O'Hara: You can think about it tomorrow. Today, just focus on staying on top of the little things.

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