Lost?  Check Your GPS.  Need Financial Direction?  Set a Goal and Make a Plan!

By Lila Quintiliani, AFC®
Military Saves Assistant Coordinator

If I need to find a particular place, I look it up on Google maps. Or enter it in the GPS.  Occasionally, because gadgets can get it wrong, I look at an actual paper map. The point is, I wouldn’t think of starting on a journey without at least some idea of where I was going. But that’s what millions of Americans are doing every day when it comes to their money. A new Planning and Progress study released by Northwestern Mutual last week found that a whopping 45 percent of Americans have no financial plan at all. Zip, zilch, nada. If you are one of those hapless folks, then it’s time to dig out your road map and at least figure out where you’re going.

Get Some Goals
Creating a financial plan sounds complicated, but in reality, it all starts with having an idea of what your goals are. Do you want to own a home? Do you want to go on vacation? Are you saving for your child’s education? Do you want to pay down your debt? Everyone should have a list, whether it’s on the back of their hand or in an Excel spreadsheet, of several long and short term goals. It’s much easier to achieve a specific – and realistic -- goal (“I want to save $200 a month so that I can have a down payment for a car”) than a vague goal (“I want to be rich”).

So Now What?

Now that you know where you want to go, and hopefully have a rough idea of how much money you need to get there, it’s time to figure out how exactly you’re going to do it. Do you know how much income you have each month? Do you know what all your expenses are? It’s crucial to have a handle on this so that you know how much you can afford to put toward your goals. For tips on creating a spending plan, you can check out the FINRA foundation’s website.

So Can I Go Buy My 64GB New iPad 4G LTE Already?
Well, maybe. If you’ve written down your goals, tracked your spending, and decided that you have a sufficient surplus to attain your wants, then I would still tell you to hold on a minute and go through the following checklist:

  • Do you have an emergency fund? Ideally it should be $500-1000. Completely liquid (a stash of cash, not your Aunt Irma’s china set) and set aside in a separate account so you’re not tempted to mess with it.
  • Do you have adequate insurance coverage? I have counseled people who decided to cut expenses by not carrying homeowner’s or renter’s insurance. All it takes is one overflowing toilet in a second floor bathroom to give you an appreciation of your insurance policy. Trust me on this one.
  • Is your goal is a short-term one, do you at least have *some* long-term goals (retirement, education, homeownership) on the horizon?

If you can answer all these questions with a “yes”, then congratulations: you are no longer wandering lost in the woods. You have a plan.

Tip of the Day

  • Written by Guest Blogger | March 11, 2014

    The first step in getting out of #debt is to stop borrowing. Get tips on how to begin at http://ow.ly/tMA0N

Saver Stories View all »

From Shopaholic to Saver

Written by Jackie Toops | January 13, 2021

Many of us spend too much money on things we don’t need, but we don’t always know why. It’s easy to get a quick fix from retail therapy, but before we know it, our hard-earned money is gone. Oftentimes, when we engage in a “shopaholic” lifestyle or sporadic shopping sprees, we still experience feelings of emptiness, but to make it worse, we now have debt, too.

Khanmany was a shopaholic who turned everything around. She is active duty Navy and shares, “I was spending too much on things I didn't need. I was going shopping for no reason and was trying to fill a void. I was running up every credit card I owned to include Victoria's Secret, Military Star, Navy Federal, TJ Maxx, JCPenney, Macy's, USAA, and was only paying the minimum payments.”


When You Start Small, Saving is Easy

Written by Lila Quintiliani | August 12, 2019

When Attiyya first got married, she and her Marine husband had just graduated from college and were focused on paying off student loan debt. They had both attended private schools and had sizeable loans. Then three months after the wedding, the couple found out they were pregnant with their first child.

The first year of their marriage, says Attiyya, was a balancing act between paying down debt and saving for the future.


Building a Six-Figure Savings While Enjoying Life

Written by Jackie Toops | November 13, 2020

Does the idea of saving up hundreds of thousands of dollars seem impossible? How about doing it while still living an enjoyable lifestyle?

For military spouse Martina and her husband, an E-5 in the Navy, accumulating a six-figure savings has become a reality. One might think that in order to save this much, it would take a great deal of sacrificing and forgoing a certain quality of life, but Martina and her husband would disagree. “Over the past few years (about five), we've managed to save almost $120,000 while mostly living on one income. We've learned so much about easy ways to save money and live a good life,” shares Martina.