Source/Contribution by : NJ Publications
A new year is a fresh beginning - a time when we can reflect on the past and look forward to the future with a fresh perspective and a desire for a positive change, which motivates us to make New Year's resolutions. While resolutions allow us to envision the best version of ourselves, most of them are abandoned in just a few weeks.
In managing personal finances, too, this scenario is all too familiar. So, as we stand at the onset of 2024, perhaps it is time to revamp our approach to financial well-being. Instead of relying on financial resolutions, make small changes in your lifestyle and embrace the power of atomic habits. Let’s look at some habits we can adopt for our financial future.
- Goal-based investing - To begin with, it is important to set financial goals. Everyone has the desire to be wealthy and financially independent. However, setting such vague goals brings ambiguity and uncertainty. In order to achieve a financial goal, one must set goals that abide by the SMART acronym - specific, measurable, achievable, realistic, and time-bound. Setting SMART goals can help build a practical plan through which you can set deadlines and derive an optimal investment amount to achieve your goals.
- Budgeting - Creating a monthly budget is a systematic method to ensure the timely settlement of payment obligations and maintain a consistent trajectory towards financial goals. Just setting a budget, however, is not enough. One must track spending to ensure whether the budget is being followed. Moreover, regular tracking of expenditures provides invaluable insights into financial habits, allowing for informed adjustments to the budget as needed. This would not only reinforce discipline but would also allow strategic decision-making, ensuring the achievement of financial goals.
- Emergency fund & insurance planning - The only thing certain in life is uncertainty. Hence, one must always have a plan in hand to cater to these uncertainties of life. In the absence of an emergency fund, one might have to opt for loans or, worse, break the funds created for specific needs, bringing a hurdle to your wealth creation journey.
While an emergency fund is necessary for immediate liquidity for unexpected expenses, insurance is also essential to mitigate the long-term financial impact of significant perils of life, such as accidents, illnesses, or the unfortunate loss of the breadwinner. Both insurance and an emergency fund serve as a pillar to fortify your financial health and safeguard against unforeseen events that can potentially derail your financial stability.
- Expenses to investments - “Do not save what is left after spending, rather spend what is left after saving.” One must track all their expenses and ask oneself a question - ‘Is this out of necessity, or is this something that can be avoided?’. Upon doing this, one can cut down on unnecessary expenses and make changes to lifestyle. For instance, if you spend a total of Rs 10,000 monthly on leisure activities, then just cutting down by 10% and investing that Rs 1,000 can make a huge difference. To give you a perspective, an SIP of Rs. 1,000 in equity mutual funds started 15 years ago would have helped you build a fund of Rs 5,64,120, a gain of 14.01%. (Source: Sensex TRI)
- Timely servicing of debt - Unsecured loans and unpaid credit card dues can be detrimental to wealth creation and are often categorised as ‘bad debts’. It is crucial to clear these bad debts or any other overdue payment obligations in full as and when they arise. This not only impacts your overall financial health but also plays a pivotal role in establishing and maintaining a good credit score. Untimely payments and delinquencies can be toxic for your credit score, making it difficult to bag good interest rates or, worse, get a loan in the future.
- Automated investment - Setting up automated investments like a SIP in mutual funds can empower you with financial discipline and consistency. With an SIP in mutual funds, you can invest small amounts towards your financial needs and build a fund methodically over time. Moreover, SIPs relieve investors from the need to remember to invest each month consciously. The convenience of automation allows you to stay on track with your financial needs without having to intervene in the procedure. The inherent benefits of SIPs, such as rupee-cost averaging, power of compounding, accessibility, and affordability, furthermore make it an attractive investment option.
- Retirement planning - As per a survey conducted in 2020 by Nielsen, 51% of Indians do not have a retirement plan ready, and barely one in five takes inflation into account while planning for retirement*. This sheds light on the unpreparedness of Indians for retirement. Moreover, many still rely on their children for retirement. With the shifting mindset and growing trend of nuclear families, it is very important for every individual to plan for their retirement. Retirement planning is a cornerstone of financial freedom, which is of utmost importance to make you self-reliant and ensure a dignified and stress-free lifestyle during the golden years of retirement.
* Source: Business Today
- Seek financial guidance - Making the right investment decisions might seem like a daunting task. To get guidance in this journey, one can consult a financial advisor. A financial advisor can understand your financial needs and risk profile and support you in your wealth-building journey. When opting for the mutual fund route, one can leverage the knowledge of a mutual fund distributor.
Cultivating positive habits for your financial health can prove to be pivotal for your financial success. Even subtle adjustments in lifestyle and savings practices can make a huge difference, for one good habit can create a ripple effect. Bringing discipline and consistency to your investment pattern and following fundamental financial health practices such as goal-based investing, budgeting, timely payment of debt, and insurance planning can lead you to a financially prosperous future.