By Michael Joyce, First Merchants Bank—
MUNCIE, IN—Financial planning can be a stressful topic for many young adults and teenagers. It’s hard to find a starting place. How much money to put into savings? Where are safe places to save my money? How much money is needed to provide for my life? These are just a few of many questions that pop into the minds of people just starting their financial journey. It’s important to know everyone must start somewhere and rarely is one starting with a lot of money. No matter the time of year or what age you are, the best thing to do is to start.
As the proverb goes, the best time to plant a tree is 20-years ago, the second-best time is today. The same can be said for starting your journey to financial wellness.
Now is the perfect time to instill these financial priorities with your children while all together for the holidays and new year celebrations.
YOUR FINANCIAL JOURNEY RESEMBLES PAINTING A PICTURE
So how does one begin their path to financial wellbeing? Well, imagine your financial journey like an artist’s sketch before they put paint to canvas. Take a mental image of where you are now. How much money do you have in your bank accounts? What are your assets and liabilities at the current stage of your life?
Got all that? Great – now where do you see yourself in say 5, 10, 15 and even 20 years from now? As we draw near to the end of the year, where do you see yourself in the new year? What does your sketch include for your future self? Those questions are how you begin painting your financial journey. Financial planning is all about where you see yourself in the future and making the decisions that will help you get there. Like a painting that takes time and diligence to become a masterpiece, reaching your financial goals requires the same.
Some people say, “I don’t have enough money to save.” Think about your daily routine and ask, “Are there things I could do without?” Maybe you only get a latte a few days a week rather than every day and now you have $10.00 to put into savings. Create habits that will allow your money to grow over time.
VALUE OF CHECKING IN
Once you start your financial journey, there are important considerations to determine your approach. The three concepts below are crucial to making smart decisions on your journey to financial prosperity.
Keeping track of your money and making it work in your best interest is all about making smart decisions. And those decisions need to balance your short term and long-term objectives.
When building your plan, delineate between your short-term, medium-term and long-term goals. Short-term goals, such as building a cash reserve account, should involve investments with the least risk while longer-term goals, such as retirement, allow for greater amounts of risk.
Asset allocation and asset location must always be considered. Learn how to save, whether that be in a savings account, 401(k), Roth IRA, mutual funds or a 529 plan and consider the timeframe and tax treatment of each option.
When building your plan, address your short-term and immediate cash flow needs first. When you feel secure there, it’s time to start planning for medium and long-term financial goals and objectives.
Your next question is: do I save or invest? This moves us to the third consideration – age.
Money decisions are inextricably linked with age and highlights the importance of this section being titled “value of checking in.” Often, life become busy, and we lose focus of what’s important, including our finances, priorities, future plans and more. How we view money should evolve as we grow older.
Age gives context to help with your decisions: Are you looking for a house or opting to rent? How does that affect the next step? Do you have kids to save for and provide for? As a parent, are you going to cover their college tuition? Do you take the glitzy vacation now or a less extravagant vacation to save for emergencies or retirement?
Real life application: You are sending a child to college, or you yourself are a young adult going to college. As a family, sit down and look at the options of how to pay for college. Are there savings? How much will it pay for? What is the future earnings potential of a chosen career path? What is the trade-off for an out-of-state or private college choice that may be higher priced? If you must take out loans, what is the best payback option in the future?
Systematic investing is a time-tested approach. After you consider your objectives and timelines, you are ready for the next step. You can do this with confidence when you have planned wisely and can put money in places that will help you well into the future.
This comes full circle to the idea of sketches we discussed earlier. No matter your age, it’s smart to take a picture of your finances and compare to the sketch as it helps you see the context in your life more clearly.
I hope you found this encouraging as a young adult or teenager. As we start to think of new year goals for our best self, we must evaluate where we are now. The best thing you can do for your financial wellbeing is become comfortable with talking about money. Don’t be afraid to learn as much as you can and talk about it with people you trust like parents, teachers or even someone at a bank branch near you.
You should never feel intimidated by others’ financial journeys and know that everyone has their own story. At First Merchants Bank, we are here to empower you to take the first step in financial wellbeing. Learn more on our resource page with FREE tools to help you grow confidence and guide you down the path to financial well-being far into the future.
About First Merchants Corporation
First Merchants Corporation (NASDAQ: FRME), with assets of more than $18 billion and operating in Indiana, Illinois, Ohio, and Michigan, is the parent company of First Merchants Bank and is the second-largest financial services institution based in Indiana. The Muncie, Indiana-based bank is committed to providing exceptional financial services while making meaningful contributions in each community it serves. First Merchants Bank promotes economic mobility through its five community pillars: Employee Empowerment; Community Investments and Charitable Giving; Financial Wellness; Community Home Lending; and Diversity, Equity and Inclusion. The company has been honored for its excellence in banking by Forbes, Newsweek, and S&P Global Intelligence and attributes this recognition to a mission-driven team passionate about helping you prosper. To see how First Merchants Bank is making a difference, go to (www.firstmerchants.com).