When the world’s top athletes showcase their skills at the Winter Games, it’s always a great spectacle. The speed, flips and challenging maneuvers keep fans around the world on the edge of their seat. Somehow, the athletes make it look easy! But it’s no secret they’ve been training to be the best in the world their entire lives.
While there isn’t a competition for world’s best money manager at the Winter Games, it’s easy to feel like you’re staring down a mountain when it comes to your finances. The truth is, we all want financial security – but it takes practice.
If you’re just getting started, think of it like learning to ski. Your basic savings account is like a bunny slope. Before you move on to a more advanced slope – or ways of managing your money – you have to master the basics.
Bunny Slopes: Beginners
Every great skier started on the bunny slopes. This gives them an easy place to practice their technique and build confidence. When it comes to managing your money, you’ll need a similar strategy.
Start by developing your techniques and building confidence. That means identifying how much you can put into a savings account each month, while maintaining funds in your checking account to cover bills and other expenses. Your savings account, at a minimum, should have enough to cover an unexpected emergency. That’s usually 3 to 6 months’ worth of pay.
The bunny slope of savings may sound easy – but over half of Americans don’t even have $1,000 in savings. So, get a one-up on the competition and start socking away money in a savings account. Pretty soon, you’ll be on to more exciting courses.
Blue squares: Intermediate
The first test of skill starts on the intermediate course. Here’s where you get a taste for what it’s like to blaze through the trails and obstacles of the mountain. But don’t forget what you’ve learned so far.
Keeping your basic skills in check is important as you grow in your financial life. There’s a good chance you’re using a credit card at this point, or you have debt from somewhere else like an auto or personal loan.
Balancing your debt and keeping your savings in check is your first big challenge. You may consider consolidating your debt to simplify your payments or lower your interest rate. Or maybe it’s time to adjust your budget to make sure you’re maximizing your contributions to savings, or see if there’s any wiggle room to contribute more to paying off any loans. Either way, you’ll want to maintain a healthy status of your checking and savings as you manage debt.
Black diamond: Expert
The black diamond is a sign of a challenging path ahead. These courses can have moguls, trees, jumps and almost vertical slopes.
These obstacles symbolize more complex financial products you’ll encounter as you grow. Depending on your goals, you could be looking at advanced ways to save, investing or even owning a home. Solid footing on the path to any of these requires a good understanding of the tools that can help you get there. For example, a longer term certificate is a great option to explore if you’re saving for a down payment, or if you’re ready to purchase, you’ll need to determine which mortgage option is right for you.
If you’re feeling unsure, your best point of reference is your bank or credit union. Behind every great athlete is a great coach. Your financial institution can be your partner ahead of any major financial decision. You may even want to meet with a financial advisor and use any resources your institution puts online.
See you on the podium!
With your basic techniques in check and a firm grasp on your debt, you’ll have no problem navigating the path toward financial success. Remember your financial institution is here to help. Check out any tools they might have, like Making Cents, if you’re looking for specific regimen to prep for the slopes of life. Once you’ve mastered the skills, you may even find yourself going back for more!