Money is a valuable resource that can help you achieve your financial goals and live the life you want. But simply earning money isn’t enough—your money should also be working for you. At Sentinel Financial Planning, we manage investment portfolios and help federal government employees and business owners retire. Here are the top tips we believe in for making your money work for you, not the other way around.
1. INVEST WISELY
Investing in mutual funds and exchange-traded funds (ETF) can be an effective way to start growing your money. Investing in a mutual fund or ETF will provide exposure to investing through a diversified portfolio of stocks or other assets when you have a limited portfolio.
Over time and as your portfolio grows, changing your portfolio composition to use individual stocks and bonds may be a better approach. Utilizing individual securities can offer you peace of mind because you know what you own and you avoid investing in companies you don’t like.
2. TAKE ADVANTAGE OF YOUR EMPLOYER’S RETIREMENT PLAN
If your employer offers a retirement savings plan, such as the TSP, a 401(k), or 403(b), take advantage of any matching contributions. Employer matching contributions are essentially free money that can significantly boost your retirement savings. For example, your employer may offer a 50% match on the first 6% you contribute. If you earn $75,000 and contribute the full 6%, your employer will contribute an additional $2,250 to your retirement account. That’s an extra $2,250 toward your retirement that you didn’t have to earn or invest on your own! Be sure to contribute enough to your retirement account to maximize any employer-matching contributions, as it can make a big difference in the long run.
3. SET FINANCIAL GOALS
The first step is to set clear financial goals; after all, you can’t make your money work for you if you don’t know where you want to go! Make sure your goals are specific, measurable, and realistic. Common financial goals include saving for a down payment on a house, paying off debt, building up an emergency fund, and achieving your ideal retirement lifestyle. Once you have a clear goal in mind, you can create a plan to get there and manage your money in ways that will work toward your ultimate goal.
4. CREATE (AND STICK TO) A BUDGET
Next, you’ll want to create and stick to a budget. If identifying your goals and outlining a plan is the map, your budget is the actual route you take to get to your goals. Budgeting often has a negative stigma associated with it. There’s a persistent belief that only people who are barely getting by need to budget, but this is so far from the truth. Those who consistently budget often make better decisions with their money and achieve their financial goals faster.
To create a budget, you must understand your income and expenses, and allocate your money in ways that align with your financial goals. The first step is identifying areas where you may be overspending, allowing you to redirect the money toward investments or savings.
5. AUTOMATE INVESTING AND SAVING
Automating your finances can be a powerful tool for making your money work for you. Setting up automatic transfers from your checking account to your investment, savings, or retirement accounts allows you to consistently invest and save without having to think about it. You can also automate bills to ensure you never miss a payment and avoid late fees. Automating your finances not only saves you time and effort but also helps you stay on track toward your financial goals. Just be sure to monitor your accounts regularly to keep everything running smoothly.
6. PAYOFF CREDIT CARDS & USE CARD REWARDS
This tip can be a great way to make your money work for you, but it should be used with caution and not as a way to live beyond your means. Many credit cards offer cash back, points, or miles for every dollar you spend, which can add up to significant rewards over time. Using these cards for everyday expenses you have to pay can be a powerful way to make your money stretch further.
It’s crucial to use this strategy responsibly and to pay off the balance in full each month to avoid interest charges and debt. By paying off your balance each month, you can enjoy the benefits of a rewards credit card without incurring any additional costs. Compare different cards and their rewards programs to find one that fits your spending habits and financial goals.
7. UTILIZE A HIGH-YIELD SAVINGS ACCOUNT
One of the easiest ways to make your money work for you is by putting it into a high-yield savings account. These accounts offer competitive interest rates and allow you to earn more on your liquid cash assets (like an emergency fund) without subjecting them to the volatility of the stock market. Start by comparing different banks and their interest rates, fees, and other features to find a high-yield savings account that suits your needs. While the interest earned on a savings account may not be as high as other investment options, it provides a low-risk way to earn passive income on your savings.
8. REAL ESTATE INVESTING
Investing in real estate is another way to make your money work for you. Real estate investing can take many forms, such as buying and renting out a property, flipping houses, or investing in real estate investment trusts (REITs). Owning your home can be a good investment. Real estate can provide diversification or concentration to your portfolio.
However, real estate investing can be complex and requires careful research and analysis. You must understand the local real estate market, the costs and risks involved, and have a solid investment strategy before taking on real estate.
9. AVOID & PAYOFF HIGH-INTEREST DEBT
Put simply, revolving high-interest debt is the enemy of making your money work for you. It’s the villain in your fairy tale story and should be avoided as much as possible. If you have high-interest debt, such as credit card debt, paying it off should be your top priority. If left to accumulate, it can be incredibly challenging to make progress toward your financial goals. Consider consolidating your debt or using the snowball or avalanche method to pay it off systematically.
10. INVEST IN YOURSELF
Lastly, consider investing in yourself as a way to make your money work for you. Whether it’s learning a new skill, taking a course, or pursuing further education, investing in yourself can improve your earning potential and help you achieve your financial goals. By continuously developing your skills and knowledge, you can become more valuable to employers or clients, increase your income, and build a stronger financial foundation for yourself.
Additionally, investing in your health and well-being through exercise or nutrition can lead to long-term savings on healthcare costs and improve your overall quality of life. Be sure to prioritize investing in yourself as part of your overall financial plan.
START MAKING YOUR MONEY WORK FOR YOU
Making your money work for you can seem like a daunting task, but with the right approach and mindset, it can be broken down into easier-to-accomplish steps. Remember that building wealth takes time and effort, but with patience and discipline, you can create a stable financial future for yourself and your loved ones. So, start taking action today, and make your money work for you! Schedule a free introductory 30-minute phone call or reach us at (443) 906-1565 or email@example.com.
Mark Humphries, CFP® is the owner and financial advisor at Sentinel Financial Planning, a boutique, veteran-owned and operated investment management and financial planning firm. Mark focuses on helping federal government employees, military members, and business owners manage their investments and plan for retirement. As a former military service member and federal employee with over 10 years in the financial industry, he is familiar with the Federal Employee Retirement System (FERS) and the Thrift Savings Plan (TSP) and is uniquely qualified to serve his clientele.
Before working in the financial industry, Mark was enlisted in the U.S. Marine Corps from 1999 to 2003, during which he became familiar with the challenges military service members and their families face, especially during deployments. After seven years of working in the financial industry, Mark founded Sentinel Financial Planning to provide a better way for federal employees and small business owners to find reliable financial planning solutions. In addition to the CERTIFIED FINANCIAL PLANNER™ designation, Mark holds a bachelor’s degree in business administration from the University of Central Florida and a master’s degree in personal financial planning from Kansas State University.
Outside the office, Mark enjoys boating, fishing, hunting, and collegiate sports. Additionally, he is a member of the National Association of Personal Financial Advisors, XY Planning Network, Anne Arundel County Pension Oversight Commission, Naval Academy Primary School Board of Trustees, and Warrior Events Board of Directors. To learn more about Mark, connect with him on LinkedIn.