For the last couple of weeks, I’ve provided a series of blog posts to show you what you should be spending on different categories. First, I shared guidance on paying for housing costs. Last week, I provided insight on the many costs that eat up our budgets each month. Finally, I want to talk about the essentials.
Retirement. There are no loans to take out for retirement, so you should be setting aside some money today. A good amount to strive for is 10% to 15% of your take-home pay. If your employer matches your 401k contributions up to a pre-determined amount, put in at least that amount. This is free money, so it’s too big to pass up. In fact, it can cut the amount of time you will need to work before you’re financially stable enough to retire. Short of that, contribute to a Roth IRA up to 15% of your income or the max of $5,500 per year.
Debts. Spend as much as you can to pay off your debts, which includes credit cards, student loans, loans from friends and family members, outstanding medical bills, car loans, past due bills, and anything else due to another outside of your mortgage or rent (unless either are behind). At a minimum, put 5% of your take-home pay toward your debts. Think about it: This category impacts how much you have available to spend in the areas that truly enrich your life. For guidance on how to take one of the most empowering steps of your financial life, see my post on 6 Steps to Getting Out of Debt.
Savings. The sky’s the limit here. The more you can save, the better. While you can start with 1%, this is the single most important category in the entire spending plan. Together with retirement and lack of debt, savings will determine your quality of life and peace of mind. Regardless of your financial position at a given time it’s important to keep your savings muscle working, which means putting something away at all times. It can be as little as $1 -- whatever the amount, put it somewhere that you know you won’t access except in an emergency. To discover innovative ways to save, check out my post, Increasing Your Savings is (Literally) a Phone Call Away.
As I always say, personal finance is personal, so you can amend these as you see fit. Just make sure you plan carefully for all of the financial priorities in your life, and you’ll see your prosperity continue to grow.
And so it is.