First list your assets and break them into two categories, Use Assets and Invested Assets. The Use Assets are what you use every day and the Invested Assets are the assets that will help you achieve your goals.
Next, list your liabilities. This is the money you owe; mortgage, credit cards, etc. You subtract your liabilities from the assets. Hopefully it's a positive number. A negative number means too much debt and it's probably credit cards or an upside down mortgage. House values in some areas still have not recovered.
Now for your cash flow. You'll want to figure out where your money goes each month. What comes in is usually easy; your salary, child support, commissions, social security.
Now calculate what goes out and where it goes. Spend a month doing your cash flow. Don't forget those annual bills and the ATM withdrawals. You subtract what goes out from what comes in.
And you want a positive number here. You want to spend less than you earned for the month. That's a positive cash flow. You are creating a budget. Less than 30% of individuals have a budget.
If you are living paycheck-to-paycheck that's not bad but you will need to do better if you want to have money left over to invest or save.
Do you have more month than money? Are you spending more than you are earning and using your credit cards to supplement your income?
You have got to figure out a way to get a handle on your credit card debt and eliminate it. Carrying credit card debt month to month will not allow you to reach your goals.
While we are looking at your cash flow you also need to tuck away an emergency fund. A rainy day fund for the day the dodo hits the fan.
Couple more things:
If you cannot do it alone seek some help. Consumer Credit Counseling is a good place to start.
Worksheets can be found on my website.
To find a financial planner to help you achieve your goals and dreams in your area contact the FPA, the Financial Planning Association's local Boston chapter.
You can hear Dee Lee's expert financial advice on WBZ NewsRadio 1030 each weekday at 1:55 p.m. and 3:55 p.m.
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