January is a hot month for hiring. If you are starting a new job, you may feel that excited, jittery sensation imagining how this opportunity will transform your life, career, and finances. Before you get carried away imagining how you will spend your first paycheck, why not give some thought to building a healthy and secure financial future?
Discover Your Financial Truth
“Speak your truth” is all well and good, but are you living your financial truth?
Clearly, you made a tremendous impression in your interview! That expensive couture “look,” combined with an impressive resume, paid off. But do you own your clothing, car, and lifestyle, or does the bank? With your new job, higher salary, and benefits, why not apply a little truth-seeking by digging into your financial situation so you can become the new responsible you?
Steps to Financial Transparency
First, believe that you can get out of debt. Before you freak out at the numbers, create a mental picture of yourself – out of debt! Imagine less stress, no credit card bills stuffed down the cushions, or harassing collections calls. Imagine a realistic debt-free target date and write it down.
Next, check your credit rating. Three different agencies collect your financial information and assign a credit score to show your risk as a borrower. A rating of 0-560 means lending to you is risky, under 640 is bad, 640-700 if fair, 700-750 is good and 750-850 is excellent! The goal is to achieve as high a score as possible.
Never pay a company for your credit score! Credit monitoring agencies must give you one free credit report every year, so once every four months, download one report from either Experian, Equifax, or TransUnion®. If you detect fraud or your information is incorrect, take swift action.
Take a clear financial picture. With your credit history in mind, time to dig into the numbers. Debt.org’s Bill Fay reports that credit cards (20%) and student loans (21%) are the highest sources of debt for millennials, with 40% of income spent on non-essentials (e.g., bars, cosmetics, video games). If this is you, do not be discouraged. Own your mess, but change starts today. That 40% can go a long way toward paying down your debt.
First, figure out your net worth. Take your income and assets (things you can sell) and subtract your debts and liabilities. To calculate, add all your debts (loans and credit card balances, but not rent). Take note of the interest rates. Next, add up all income (salary, bonuses, other income). Subtract your debts from your income.
Hopefully, the result is only a “Yikes!” moment, but if it provokes an “Oh, %*#!” reaction, breathe. This is where “speak your truth” requires honesty. A financial mess may be yours to own, but you are not alone. The good news is millions of people are digging themselves out of situations worse than yours!
Financial freedom is on the horizon!
When liabilities overwhelm assets, take these actions today to begin living a life of financial freedom:
- Adjust your “get out of debt date” to set a realistic course. Celebrate your intention with someone who can help you stay on course.
- Access an online budget program or app and track your living and discretionary expenses, so they fit within your monthly income. Get stubborn with your money. Tell it where to go, and make sure it gets there!
- Set a goal to save at least $1,000 for an emergency fund that you don’t touch unless necessary. Applying the difference between your old salary and new is one way to get there.
- Live on less than you make, pay cash, and direct all extra income to your debt. Be intentional! Instead of your average $28 weekly Starbucks fix, brew your coffee and apply the $28 to debt. In a year, you will have paid down $1,400!
- Free up cash. Got overconfident and bought a new car? Sell on the open market and pay off the loan. Use public transportation or buy an older model. Sell anything of value that you no longer need.
- If your rent is more than 40% of your income, you are paying too much. Sometimes this can’t be helped, but if possible, move, get a roommate, or see if you can move into Mom’s basement for six months and hammer on that debt!
- Renegotiate credit card interest and past-due loans (see Resources below).
- If you are married, try living off the highest wage. Many working couples use the smaller income to build a cash cushion, pay off college and even home mortgages. When debt-free, boost retirement savings and pay for family vacations, knowing that the family is secure if one job is lost. If impossible to live on one salary, work toward half or a quarter of one income set aside for emergencies.
A healthy financial mindset that says good riddance to debt doesn’t happen overnight. So, when a big opportunity comes your way, like your dream job with a terrific new salary, use that momentum and increase in income to launch a secure financial future today!
If you are a job seeker and wish to join the ranks of those who have found the job of their dreams, contact Partnership Employment today. Browse their extensive job listing or speak with one of the industry’s most experienced career experts who will work hard to help you meet your professional and financial goals.