I might be the only one who loves making lists and ticking off accomplishments but I’m fairly certain i’m not alone in this. Below are 15 financial milestones that you should hopefully reach by the time you are 35. I’m only 28 and i’m not doing too bad with these…
1. You have (and use) a budget
You finally have a budget that works for you and you are able to stick to it.
Figure out realistic goals based on your income and spending habits. Create a detailed spreadsheet of expenses. How much of your income goes to rent and groceries? How much goes to travel and fun? And how much are you putting away in savings? The right answers will differ for everyone, but keeping these questions in mind will help you put an emphasis on saving.
2. You learnt to say no
Picture this… You get invited to go on a trip. A cruise to a place you’ve always wanted to go…You don’t have anything in your calendar and you know you can get the time off work.
Looking at your budget however, the only way you can afford this trip is by putting it on a credit card. You think hard about it. In the end, you just say no.
You know it’s not worth going into debt for.
3. You learnt how interest works
Interest is one of those magical things that the banks all know about and the average Joe has no idea about. Learning about how interest works can change everything.
Do you know how much interest you pay on your loan or mortgage? Most people don’t. You may notice that your debt balances go down but not by much, and then you get hit with interest and the balance goes back up!
One day you Google “Debt Repayment Calculator.” That’s when it all hits you…how much that debt is costing you. Making the minimum payment on your loans, at a 5% rate, means you’ll pay more then ten thousand dollars in interest on top of the original balance. On high interest debts such as personal loans — it’s even worse.
4. You pay off debt early
The attitude most “normal” people have is “Why pay it off early, I make the minimum repayments”. When really you know that if you only pay off the minimum payment you end up paying a lot more in interest.
Take for example credit cards. If you only pay the minimum on your credit card it can take more then 20 years to pay off the balance due to the interest! On a mortgage you’ll find you can cut years off your debt just by making repayments weekly and not monthly. These little tweaks make a huge difference.
5. You start to enjoy personal finance
I was never interested in money before starting this journey…and now I have a blog about it. Who knew! I find that once you start to get involved in your finances it becomes an addiction, or is that just me? Now that I’m saving money it’s become like an obsession to get my savings to the highest number, like a high score!
6. You have an emergency fund
An emergency fund is essential! It’s the first step of most finance programs like “Barefoot Investor” or “Total Money Makeover”. An emergency fund (EF) helps you when unexpected expenses come up (and they will). Initially it’s a good idea to start with around $2,000. You might choose that you need more then that, it’s very personal. After debt is paid off I recommend saving a 3-6 month emergency fund for the bigger events e.g being made redundant, large unexpected expenses. The EF saves you having to go into further debt when these emergencies come up.
7. You voluntarily contribute to your superannuation
This is something I don’t currently do but I am going to in the future. For my American followers superannuation is equivalent to 401k. As someone in their late 20’s I hadn’t really thought much about my retirement. Around 80% of retirees in Australia need the pension to survive. Even with rent assistance, it’s less than $500 a week which sits around the Australian poverty line. Doesn’t sound great?
After starting this journey I now know the balance of my super and even moved the fund it was in in order to get lower fees.
Making voluntary super contributions is a great way to boost your retirement nest egg. The extra money can compound (there’s that magical interest again), and then you can retire with less financial stress. Be aware there are sometime caps on how much you can contribute though, in Australia it’s $25,000 per annum (including your employers contributions).
8. You track your net worth
“Wealth measures the value of all the assets of worth owned by a person, community, company or country. Wealth is determined by taking the total market value of all physical and intangible assets owned, then subtracting all debts”.
When you’re spending less than you earn each month — your net worth can grow fast. Mine was in the negative and now is in the positive. I keep track of it every month along with my credit score.
You can calculate your net worth here
9. You have no consumer debts
Consumer debts are the biggest money sucker. Interest on loans is generally pretty high. Mine was 14.4% on my personal loan. Without consumer debt and minimum payments there is more money for you to save.
You hustle and pay as much as you can and eventually, you’re debt free. No credit card, no car loan, no personal loan. It wasn’t easy at first but once you started throwing everything you had at debt, you couldn’t stop.
10. You track your credit score
Credit scores are a bit of a sensitive topic. As someone who doesn’t yet have a mortgage I know the banks use them and that’s why they are important to me.
This is why a high credit score is important. A high credit score helps you:
- Pay the lowest rate on your mortgage
- Rent an apartment
- Get a loan (although we don’t want any new loans)
- Lower your home and auto insurance premiums
- Even get a job (some employers check credit)
What determines your credit score is your credit history. Lenders then use your credit score to determine how likely they will be repaid and weigh up the risk. A low credit score is a red flag to them. Lenders will either deny someone with a low credit or charge them a higher rate. Credit Scores are a love hate relationship…but it’s handy to know about them.
11. You prepare for future expenses
Before Barefoot Investor I used to never save for the large expenses that come around yearly. If my car registration was due I would just pay for it out of one pay and then I would end up being poor for weeks and most likely putting things on my credit card. These days i’m more prepared and have money put away every fortnight in ‘sinking funds’ so that by the time the bill comes around I have the money already put aside and there’s no stress.
12. You buy a house
One lesson we’ve learned is that it’s important to buy a house that is within YOUR budget. This will differ by person. With no debt, you can qualify for a large mortgage, it’s tempting. However, you go with a home you can absolutely afford.
You use a good rule of thumb like this one from the man himself Dave Ramsay such as:
Limit your mortgage payment (including insurance, fees and taxes) to 25% or less of your monthly take-home pay on a 15-year fixed-rate loan.
13. You learn how to invest
Learning how and where to invest is still something i’m working on personally. There’s several options; shares, bitcoin, real estate etc.
Investing the money that you save allows your money to grow to a larger sum, increasing your net worth. Investing your money into bonds, shares and savings accounts builds wealth slowly over the course of time. Quarterly or annual interest is added to your original sum to grow your money. Of course there’s always risks in investing but that’s something each individual needs to weigh up.
You can find the top 10 reasons to invest here
14. You have insurance
Just like your emergency fund having insurance is essential. Insurance is your last resort protector. If you haven’t read ‘The Barefoot Investor’, the opening of the book starts with Scott Pape’s home going up in flames and him telling us how it changed his thoughts about life and money. Home insurance or at least contents is essential in my eyes. Health insurance is still one i’m debating.
15. You have a will
It’s something everyone needs to face: If you die, what will happen to your money or your assets? Even when everything seems to be going right, you never know when your time is up. You should make sure you have a will and listed any beneficiaries on any bank accounts, superannuation and insurance. Not doing so can create even more pain and difficulty for those around you. Remember to revisit this every few years.