By Rachita Sharma
People often (correctly) say that money is not the key to happiness. Whether or not you have a lot of experience managing your finances, you have probably noticed there is another side to this coin: poor money management can be a significant source of unhappiness and stress.
We all know people who exemplify good money management and others who let their finances spiral out of control. You might have observed that having money management skills can make a big difference in a person’s sense of security and ease in life, especially as they get older. Building such skills when you are young makes sense because as any older person will tell you, doing so will reduce your stress every year of your life thereafter.
The truth is that managing money well is about balance, and all you need to do to achieve that balance is acquire simple competencies surrounding earning, spending, saving, investing, borrowing, and protecting your money. This isn’t rocket science, yet it can be the key to achieving many of your financial goals, including intangible goals, such as achieving peace of mind. Importantly, it can also put you in a position where you don’t have to rely on others for financial support.
No matter what your income level currently is, you can give yourself a meaningful advantage by educating yourself about money. So what’s the first step in building your financial IQ? Creating a personal budget.
“When implemented effectively, a budget provides a flexible blueprint for how to achieve your financial and life goals,” says Roy Jones, CFP, co-founder and chief operating officer of Everspire Global. “The base framework for anyone’s financial well-being includes managing income, expenses, and spending patterns. This element of the financial planning process empowers families with the confidence to make more informed decisions on the road to financial independence.”
Why create a personal budget?
People with poor financial literacy skills tend to go into debt and not know how to get out of it. They also tend to be unprepared for retirement when it comes. A personal budget gives you a plan for how you should spend your income today so that you can be secure both now and in the future. Having a plan for your money will help you make smarter decisions than someone without a plan would.
Creating a budget also gives you a monthly reality check. Many of us don’t put much thought into the cumulative effect of our spending habits, but even small expenditures will add up. The depth of some people’s denial about the amount they spend on “fun things” is amazing. They receive their bank statements, but don’t want to look at them—after all, wanting to avoid something that could be a source of stress is just human nature.
Budgeting brings all the relevant information out into the light so it can be understood and dealt with. Although the process may be uncomfortable at first, the benefits are worth the discomfort. With clarity on your income and expenses, you can make more informed life decisions and take steps toward financial independence.
You might be surprised to learn just how much of an advantage you will have in life if you start budgeting and learning other personal finance strategies early. According to one study, only about one-third of the global population is familiar with the basic concepts of financial literacy. What is even more shocking is that this one-third statistic remains constant across affluent and non-affluent countries, and even among affluent and non-affluent people within each country. Another troubling trend is that fewer young people and women have learned these skills.
It is safe to say that people from every walk of life could benefit from focusing more effort on budgeting.