People often have a lot of questions when it comes to personal finances, but may feel uncomfortable asking them. But here's the truth: The more you know, the better off you'll be when it comes to thinking about your financial future.
To help, here's a list of personal finance questions and answers to jump start your financial education.
How do I make a budget?
First, sit down and track all of your income and spending over the next few months. Once you have a full picture of your budget, you can start making changes. You'll get an idea of what expenses you can cut and where you can save a little extra or pay toward any debt you have.
A budget isn't static, so make a plan to revisit it once or twice a year, especially if you've had any big changes to your income or expenses.
Should I have an emergency fund?
An emergency fund is there to help you in the event something unexpected happens. If you lose your job or get hit with a big bill, you can use your emergency fund to help get you through until things are back on track. How much should you save in an emergency fund? Some financial professionals recommend having enough in an emergency fund to cover your expenses for at least three to six months, while others say you need enough to cover expenses for up to a year. Ultimately, it is up to you and depends on what you are able to put aside after taking care of necessary expenses. Having any amount ready to help when something unexpected happens is better than nothing.
Should I pay down my debts or save for retirement?
The answer to this question really depends on your financial situation. Your budget can provide some insight. In general, if you can start saving for retirement with a 401(k) through your employer, it's a good idea to start building retirement savings there. Then, look at your budget and see where you can make some cuts so you can also pay down debt. You may consider working with a financial professional to create a plan for paying off debt and saving for retirement.
How much should I save each month for retirement?
Here's another question where a financial professional can help you make a plan that aligns with your budget. Generally speaking, you want to look at your current budget, when you plan to retire and your retirement goals to come up with a savings strategy. You'll want to think about the expenses you'll need to consider in retirement, plus consider costs such as health insurance and long-term care.
How do I save for my children's education?
There's no doubt education is expensive — that's why many parents start planning to save for college costs early. It's something else you can make space for in your budget. One popular option with parents is a 529 College Savings Plan. It allows you to start saving for educational costs even if your kids are still young.
Do I need insurance?
Life insurance is one of the best ways to help protect your family after you pass. It also helps guard against the unexpected. With big life events, such as getting married or having kids, insurance becomes even more important to the financial well-being of your family.
Does my credit score matter?
Your credit score can have a big impact on your life. A low credit score usually means you're offered less attractive terms and rates on personal loans, car loans and mortgages. The better your credit score, the more likely you are to save with more attractive rates.
Maintaining a good credit score is something you should start working on as soon as you can. Paying off debt and not having high balances is one way you can start to improve your score.
You can start today
Getting your personal finances in order doesn't have to be daunting — and working with a financial professional can make the process easier. Together, you can go over where you stand now and your hopes for the future, then come up with a plan.
Ready to learn more? Check out our guide to preparing for the financial realities of life.