Financial Tips to Help You Get Ahead When You're Just Starting Out

Financial Tips to Help You Get Ahead When You're Just Starting Out

Remember when you were still in school, longing for the day when you could start making real money? Not too long after, you now have rent and bills to pay, all on an entry-level salary. As overwhelming as it all seems, you can enjoy your life and still meet all of your financial responsibilities. Just follow a few surprisingly simple personal financial management tips:

Focus on your goals.

It's a common feeling: the sense that you're just spinning your wheels, trying to keep up with bills or do what you want to do, but not both. To get ahead of that mental trap, author of Make Your Shift: The Five Most Powerful Moves You Can Make to Get Where You Want to Go, Beverly D. Flaxington offers this simple financial tip: make a wish list to clarify your goals and therefore better focus your efforts.

"Figure out what you'd like to do, whether it's take a vacation… rent your own place, buy a car; when you would like to do it; and how much money you need to do it," she says. This isn't meant to be a huge budgeting exercise; it's a financial planning process to help you focus on achieving something that matters a lot to you.

Break down how much you need per month to make it happen in the time frame you've set. Flaxington insists that making a habit of "pausing before purchasing" will be a key tool for the effort. "If you're able to ask yourself, 'Do I really want this more than I want what I'm saving for,' you'll start to master that art," she says.

Get tricky.

Vanessa, 29, of Marikina has learned a little trick to make sure everything is taken care of before she gets to enjoy herself. “I have four bank accounts,” she says. The first is for daily expenses; the second for personal savings; the third for insurance bills; and the fourth for mortgage payments.

This method reduces the risk of using funds intended for other purposes --- a temptation that can be hard to resist, especially in a shopping mall or right in the middle of a well-stocked supermarket aisle. Vanessa says this money-savvy strategy helps beat the urge to splurge: “I always do my groceries every two weeks and make a list before heading to the supermarket to prevent impulse buying.”

Start small, but start.

Even though you've probably heard "The earlier you start, the better!" a zillion times, socking away money in a retirement fund is likely last on your personal financial management priority list. But taking that leap can be much more painless and easier than you think.

Laura Adams, author of Money Girl's Smart Moves to Grow Rich and host of the Money Girl  Podcast, urges taking advantage of an employer's retirement plan. Lee, 23, a civil engineer, points to the value of supplementing future GSIS or SSS retirement benefits with accumulated cash values from an employer-sponsored variable universal life insurance plan (VUL). It's a type of universal life insurance that combines death benefits with wealth-creation opportunities. A portion of your insurance premium is invested in stocks and bonds potentially earning attractive returns over time and accumulating enough cash value that you can dip into in retirement.

If you're working for a publicly listed company, check your employee benefits. Eleanor, a Mandaluyong-based information technology professional, was in her early thirties when she availed herself of an employee stock purchase plan. The installment payment terms consisting of regular salary deductions over a five-year period were affordable enough to allow her and all her regular co-workers from entry-level staff to senior executives to build a handsome retirement fund. It will be quite a while before Eleanor reaches legal retirement age, but already, her stock investment in the blue-chip company has grown from P60 to P180 per share.

Seek new opportunities.

How to earn extra money to afford life's pleasures is a common lament among those just starting out. Vanessa and Lee raise funds for more lavish purchases their regular salaries can't usually cover by using their skills to find freelance work from paying clients.

"Since I am a civil engineer, I render my service doing some designs and plans,” Vanessa explains. “The pay is good and that is what I spend whenever I have a planned vacation or I travel abroad." Lee does the same and sells professional services within her field of expertise.

Car shop online.

Transportation - or lack thereof - is a universal concern when you're struggling to get your life into gear. Getting a reliable car at a price you can afford is pretty important for many twentysomethings, but virtually everyone dreads the haggling and pressure of car shopping.

It's important to shop around in person or online. Browse prices and reviews on comparison websites such as Autodeal. Do your research and make sure you know what car you really want. Then look at a couple of different dealerships and compare.

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