Five steps to securing your financial future

Ideas to help you take charge of your spending—and find more to save

When you're ready to take control of your finances, follow these five steps to get started on the way to a happier, healthier future.


Write down your financial goals.

Whether you want to save for a house, build a college fund, put more aside for retirement, or be better prepared for the unexpected, setting specific financial goals—and writing them down—can help you achieve them.

Studies show that people who put their goals on paper are more likely to reach them.1 One even suggests that those who regularly write down and review their goals earn nine times more in their lifetimes than those who don't!2

Look at your spending.

Gather your receipts, bills, and statements to see how much of your income goes toward essentials—like rent or mortgage, utilities, groceries, gas, insurance, and health care—and how much you spend on non-essential items. Don't forget to list costs automatically deducted from your paycheck, checking account, and credit cards, and don’t forget to note monthly interest charges.

This inventory can help you find places where you can cut back on some non-essentials—like fancy coffee or extra movie channels—to save more for your goals. Or, if you're spending a lot on credit card interest, it might be time to focus on paying off the debt or consolidating your debt so you can pay a lower monthly rate.

Decide what's realistic for your savings.

 When you have a better idea of where your money is going, you can calculate how much you need to save to meet the specific goals you set in step 1. Even if extra money is hard to come by, putting away just a little every month can build up your savings over time. 

Don't forget your insurance needs.

You also want to make sure that you have adequate insurance to keep on track toward your goals, including:

  • Disability insurance
    Disability insurance may provide monthly checks that replace a portion of your income to help you meet expenses and avoid dipping in to long-term savings if you can't work due to a covered disability (e.g., an injury or illness or maternity leave).
  • Dental insurance
    Dental insurance is an affordable way to make sure that you and your family members have access to dental care so you can stay healthy.
  • Life insurance
    Life insurance is a way to protect the financial security of your loved ones when you can’t be there. The benefit payment can be used to meet day-to-day expenses so your family members can maintain their lifestyle.

Create a realistic plan for saving as well as spending.

Your monthly budget—or "spending plan"—will be based on your income and expenses as well as the unique savings and financial goals you've set. For some help managing your finances and staying on track with your expenses, check out the managing your monthly budget worksheet.

Remember, when you take the time to set specific financial goals, you are more likely to achieve them. But as with most things, your goals and budget are bound to change over time. So remember to re-evaluate them regularly and make any adjustments along the way.

1. Dominican University of California, “Study Backs Up Strategy for Achieveing Goals,” accessed January 10, 2014, http://www.dominican.edu/dominicannews/study-backs-up-strategies-for-achieving-goals

2. Duke Student Publishing Company, “Reflections of a compulsive goal-setter,” accessed January 10, 2014, http://www.goalsgonesocial.com/ggs2/blogs/write_down_goals.

SLPC 24889 04/15 (exp. 04/17)

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