The Six Key Steps to Financial Success

Have you often thought that financial success is only attainable for the corporate executives who make high salaries, the children who have been born into riches, the family members who have inherited a large sum of money from a dying relative or the otherwise poor to middle-income individuals who were lucky enough to win the huge lottery?  While these particular situations may all initially seem to be the only easy ways to obtain a financially sound life, the actual truth is going to require more work and a change of mindset about how you manage your money.  With the right mindset, simple advice as I am going to provide you in this article, and a little work on your part, the path to financial success is truly right in front of you, even if your situation seems so dire that you can’t see it right this second.  

For most individuals, there are six key steps to financial success.  Those steps are planning how to spend your money, creating a simple budget, paying off debt, establishing different types of savings accounts for various needs, determining your investment strategy and always maintaining the desire to achieve financial success, even if you may relapse a time or two.  Let’s discuss these six essential and definitely achievable steps that can start you off to a journey towards creating the financially stress-free life you truly deserve.

STEP 1:  PLANNING

The first most important step on the path to financial success is to plan.  Planning involves all of the next five steps, in addition to several other things such as organizing your paperwork and creating the positive mindset that you can overcome all obstacles that may pop up along the journey.  For those who have no idea where to begin with this first key process, please read on to discover some easy ideas on how to get started. 

Embrace a Positive Mindset

As with all things in life, embracing a positive mindset is the most important thing that anyone can do to achieve success and happiness.  Whether you are living in the poorest neighborhood, single-parenting with no child support, attending college while eating $.25 Ramen noodles every day, overcoming divorce or managing through an unexpected medical issue, the absolute key to survival and moving forward is to know that you can and will do it no matter what happens.  As Colin Powell quoted, “There are no secrets to success.  It is the result of preparation, hard work, and learning from failure” (Juma, 2019).

Prepare to Overcome Obstacles

As stated above, a change of mindset is extremely key in acquiring financial success.  Unfortunately, there will be many obstacles that pop up in the middle of your path, usually when you least expect them.  Life stressors such as a divorce, an unexpected medical issue, or being laid off from a job can be enough to send anyone spiraling downward, emotionally and financially.  Other things like a water heater needing to be replaced right before Christmas or just that you couldn’t resist buying that new living room furniture on credit will also set a person back a few steps.  However, with a little mental and financial preparation, you can continuously get yourself back on track and I will discuss this in further detail in Step 6 below. 

Organize Paperwork

Organization is another very important skill to develop in achieving financial and other successes in life.  Many different professional leaders and creatives have promoted this concept as the way to eliminate stress, increase productivity and decrease costs, whether you are an individual or a business.  From Tidying Up With Marie Kondo (Machi, 2019) to 5S, the manufacturing method begun by leaders at the Toyota Motor Company in the early and mid-20th century (Olofsson), the main purpose is to clean up paperwork, homes, and work spaces so that you can focus on easily and quickly completing tasks, in addition to not forgetting to pay a bill on time and more.

Choose Financial Tools

There are many different types of financial tools that can be used for managing one’s finances and they don’t have to be complicated.  Microsoft Word and Excel have many templates to choose from such as check registers, budgets, home asset trackers for things such as furniture and electronics, and many different checklists for planning.  I use Excel for my check register, budgeting and tracking of usernames and passwords to websites where I pay all of my bills electronically.  If Excel sounds scary to you or you don’t have experience using it, there are some other options to choose from. 

One option is the old-fashioned pencil and paper method.  This can still work quite simply and efficiently for those who don’t have very many bills to pay or don’t have access to a computer.  However, if you have many bills, credit cards, investments, etc., this is not going to be the most efficient method.  There are many phone aps and other online resources to use for those who are not an accountant like me and would like something easy and convenient to keep track of everything.  Also, a lot of banks provide an online method to set up automatic bill paying with the click of one button and create budgets for you to stay on track.  My article on Best Tools for Managing Individual Finances will discuss the different options available to you. 

STEP 2:  BUDGETING

Creating a budget is the second essential step to becoming financially successful.  Creating a budget will help you to stay on task with what has to be paid each month, in addition to allowing for vacations, savings accounts and more.  A budget consists of all essential and current bills such as mortgage/rent, utilities, phone/internet, groceries, food, credit cards, entertainment, clothing and more.  Budgeting doesn’t have to be complicated so please check out my article How to Create a Simple Budget https://thedeeperpocket.com/2019/12/30/how-to-create-a-simple-budget/.  Without a sound budget, it is almost impossible to succeed financially and reach your goals.

STEP 3:  PAYING

Can you imagine a life without debt?  How would it feel on payday to only pay utilities, phone, food, gas, etc. and then have everything left to either put into savings or splurge on a nice night out, vacation, clothing or hobbies without worry?  This too is definitely achievable with the right mindset and plan.  Check out my article Breaking Free from the Chains of Debt.  It is truly a life changer.

Whether you have little to massive amounts of debt, develop a plan to pay it off.  My best advice would be to use Dave Ramsey’s Snowball Method (Ramsey, 2019) as it helps to achieve a quick mental state of achievement which then drives the motivation to continue on without easily giving up on the process.  Another way to pay off debt is to do what I did earlier this year by refinancing my home and using the extra equity to pay the debt off.  Even though I had to pay refinancing costs, they were still much cheaper than the interest rates that I would pay on my credit cards over time, plus helped me to achieve that satisfaction of paying it all off, with only one monthly mortgage payment remaining.  The added motivation boost from doing this helped to ease my stress of paying multiple bills with even higher interest rates.

STEP 4:  SAVING

In my opinion, everyone should have at least 3 different types of savings accounts.  The first one would be an overdraft savings account, the second would be an account for emergencies, and finally a long-term savings account equivalent to six month’s salary.  Most banks only require $5 to $25 to open a savings account so this should be a fairly easy check mark off your financial goals to at least start one and then move forward from there. 

As stated above, the first and easy savings account to establish would be an overdraft savings account, which would help cover any of those time when you accidentally spend more than what is currently in your checking account.  Check with your current bank on how much it takes to open and maintain an overdraft account.   

The second savings account would be for emergencies, such as the unexpected dental bill from a root canal or the kid’s traveling sport’s team who makes it to finals and you have to do more travel than originally planned.  There is no set amount for establishing an emergency saving’s account but more based on what you foresee as potential emergencies for yourself and/or your family.  The way that I started was to designate $10 to $25 per month that I transferred out of my checking account to my saving’s account every payday.  Then whenever I got a small bonus from my employer, I would go ahead and put that amount in there.  With a small amount of willpower, I easily reached my first goal of $1000.  Now I never allow this account to go below $1000.  If it does go below my goal of $1000, then I quickly replenish it as soon as possible.   

Finally, the third type of important savings account is a long-term savings account.  This account should ultimately be six months of your gross salary.  This one is the most difficult to achieve but the one to show one’s true financial success.  The purpose of a long-term savings account is to allow for any type of serious life emergency such as loss of a job, unexpected medical emergency such as cancer or heart surgery, divorce, etc. 

On a final note, there are many other types of savings accounts, including your employer’s 401K retirement savings account and many different bank CD and money market options.  However, I suggest starting with the first three types then moving on to the more complex types.

STEP 5:  INVESTING

Just hearing the words investment strategy is sure to bring some anxiety to a lot of you.  However, there are some very simple investment strategies that can bring great financial success.  These include buying and selling a home, purchasing and renting a rental property, acquiring an education, which then boosts your career and paychecks.  Since most investments can require a lot of time and money, my suggestion would be to decide on just one, accomplish it, then move on to another. 

Some of the greatest investments include obtaining an education beyond high school, which will then open up better paying career opportunities, buying and/or selling a primary residence and renting out a second home.  Even though a lot of people think that going back to school as an adult with a full-time job, family and more can seem extremely daunting and almost impossible, it is possible if you truly want and desire it.  Do you think you can’t afford it or don’t have the time to devote to it?  I totally agree that it can be a very difficult thing to juggle with all of the other responsibilities in life but it is all possible with the right thinking, knowledge, resources and sacrifice.  Coming from my own experience as a single mom of teenage boys, combating breast cancer and more, I still was able to complete my Bachelor’s Degree in October, 2019.  At 44 years old, I never thought that the day would come when I truly finished but I did.  It definitely was not easy at all but I wanted it badly enough.  That is all it will take for you to achieve this too, and your career will almost 99% positively get a huge boost in salary too.

Another great way to invest is to buy a home.  If you think that buying a home is impossible because you do not have enough of a down payment, closing costs or good credit, please think again.  There are many ways around all of this.  Check out my article First-Time Homeowner the Second-Time Around https://thedeeperpocket.com/2019/12/27/first-time-homebuyer-the-second-time-around/ or contact me for more assistance on how to buy your first home, no matter what your current situation is.

STEP 6:  MAINTAINING

The final step to obtaining financial success is to keep maintaining the positive mindset that you will eventually achieve it.  Even if you hit roadblocks, all it takes is the willingness and drive to combat and maneuver successfully through them.  Unfortunately, setbacks are a part of life; however, the main goal is that you keep striving for what you want the most, not what you want or have happening to you now.  Therefore, my greatest advice in all of this is to always know that it is inevitable that the journey will be sometimes very difficult but can be overcome with the positive thinking that it will all eventually work out.  It is possible to achieve the financial success that you desire.

References

Juma, N. (2019, February 20). 40 Colin Powell Quotes Praising Preparation and Hard Work. Retrieved from EveryDayPower: https://everydaypower.com/colin-powell-quotes/

Machi, T. (2019, February 19). Marie Kondo 10 Amazing Tips | Tidying Up with Marie Kondo | Konmari Method | Marie Kondo. Retrieved from YouTube: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=d4J6CpeN7Lo

Olofsson, O. (n.d.). 5S at the office. Retrieved from World Class Manufacturing: https://world-class-manufacturing.com/5S/office.html

Ramsey, D. (2019). How the Debt Snowball Method Works. Retrieved from Dave Ramsey: https://www.daveramsey.com/blog/how-the-debt-snowball-method-works

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