Finance 15 March 2017
You're young free and single, and your 20's are your playground, but they're also a decade in your life that will count a whole lot towards your future. While financial planning may seem boring and unnecessary, the smart, savvy you will recognise the need to plan for a future that could be difficult and one where you may run into some bumps on the road. Here are five relatively easy moves you can make to make your financial future a more stable one.
Write Down Your Goals
Without creating a list of long- and short-term goals, it is impossible to determine if you are making the right financial decisions. Consider things like: ;
How you envision your retirement;
If and when you'd like to become a homeowner;
Whether you plan to have children;
Which debts you want to focus on paying off first
Credit Cards are a necessary evil. Choose yours carefully and monitor your spending with mobile banking apps.
And remember, you don't need to map out your entire life. These goals will change and evolve over time, but thinking about where you want to be in 1, 5, 15 years can help you hone in on what kinds of financial decisions you should be making day-to-day.
Start Saving for Retirement
I know what you're thinking. “I'm only in my 20s, I can save for retirement later, right?" Technically, yes, but it is in your best interest to start now. The sooner you start, the less you'll have to save, because the effects of compound interest will have longer to mature. This means you can contribute less and end up with more than if you were to wait to start saving in your 30s. Check with your employer to see if they have a 401(k) plan that you can make automatic contributions to through your paycheck. If they offer a matching plan, this is essentially free money, so try to contribute enough to maximize the amount they'll match.
Stop Maxing Out Your Credit Cards
Young adults are often guilty of treating credit cards like free money. There is often a “charge now, worry about it later" mentality when it comes to credit card usage. Now is the time to stop. Not only is this hurting your credit score, but it's costing you a ton of money in interest. Your 20s should be a time when you start taking your finances more seriously and thinking long-term. You'll also likely be dealing with a whole new set of financial responsibilities such as rent, utilities, student loan payments, perhaps a car loan – and worrying about how you're going to pay off a high credit card balance is the last thing you need to be thinking about.
Rather than charging a vacation or nights out with friends to your credit card, take some time to create a budget and determine how much you can reasonably spend on your social life and other indulgences, while still being able to save and pay for necessities. A credit card should only be used when you know you can pay off the balance in full at the end of the month.
Take Control of Your Credit Score
Excellent credit takes years to build, so if you haven't started building a credit history, or if you haven't used your credit responsibly, now is the time to start taking charge. Your credit score is calculated based on the length of your credit history, your payment history, the amount of debt you owe, the amount of new credit accounts you have opened, and the types of credit accounts you have. You can check your credit reports and score with each of the 3 major bureaus (Experian, TransUnion, Equifax). It is in your best interest to ensure you are on the path to having a great credit score so that when the time comes to borrow money (such as when applying for a mortgage or a car loan) you'll be seen as an excellent candidate to lenders.
Create an Emergency Fund
Life is full of ups and down and unfortunately that sometimes means unexpected payments. Since funds and income are typically somewhat limited in your 20s, you don't want to suffer a major setback when an unexpected expense comes your way. Instead, open a separate savings account and designate it as your “emergency fund". Ideally, an emergency fund should cover 3-6 months' worth of expenses. While it may take some time to build up, make this a priority so that you have it ready as your “secret weapon" when you need it.
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With a lack of certainty surrounding the future, being and feeling healthy may help bring the security that you need during these unpredictable times.
When it comes to your health, there is a direct relationship between nutrition and physical activity that play an enormous part in physical, mental, and social well-being. As COVID-19 continues to impact almost every aspect of our lives, the uncertainty of the future may seem looming. Sometimes improvisation is necessary, and understanding how to stay healthy and fit can significantly help you manage your well-being during these times.
Tip 1: Communicate with your current wellness providers and set a plan
Gyms, group fitness studios, trainers, and professionals can help you to lay out a plan that will either keep you on track through all of the changes and restrictions or help you to get back on the ball so that all of your health objectives are met.
Most facilities and providers are setting plans to provide for their clients and customers to accommodate the unpredictable future. The key to remaining consistent is to have solid plans in place. This means setting a plan A, plan B, and perhaps even a plan C. An enormous amount is on the table for this coming fall and winter; if your gym closes again, what is your plan? If outdoor exercising is not an option due to the weather, what is your plan? Leaving things to chance will significantly increase your chances of falling off of your regimen and will make consistency a big problem.
The key to remaining consistent is to have solid plans in place. This means setting a plan A, plan B, and perhaps even a plan C.
Tip 2: Stay active for both mental and physical health benefits
The rise of stress and anxiety as a result of the uncertainty around COVID-19 has affected everyone in some way. Staying active by exercising helps alleviate stress by releasing chemicals like serotonin and endorphins in your brain. In turn, these released chemicals can help improve your mood and even reduce risk of depression and cognitive decline. Additionally, physical activity can help boost your immune system and provide long term health benefits.
With the new work-from-home norm, it can be easy to bypass how much time you are spending sedentary. Be aware of your sitting time and balance it with activity. Struggling to find ways to stay active? Start simple with activities like going for a walk outside, doing a few reps in exchange for extra Netflix time, or even setting an alarm to move during your workday.
Tip 3: Start slow and strong
If you, like many others during the pandemic shift, have taken some time off of your normal fitness routine, don't push yourself to dive in head first, as this may lead to burnout, injury, and soreness. Plan to start at 50 percent of the volume and intensity of prior workouts when you return to the gym. Inactivity eats away at muscle mass, so rather than focusing on cardio, head to the weights or resistance bands and work on rebuilding your strength.
Be aware of your sitting time and balance it with activity.
Tip 4: If your gym is open, prepare to sanitize
In a study published earlier this year, researchers found drug-resistant bacteria, the flu virus, and other pathogens on about 25 percent of the surfaces they tested in multiple athletic training facilities. Even with heightened gym cleaning procedures in place for many facilities, if you are returning to the gym, ensuring that you disinfect any surfaces before and after using them is key.
When spraying disinfectant, wait a few minutes to kill the germs before wiping down the equipment. Also, don't forget to wash your hands frequently. In an enclosed space where many people are breathing heavier than usual, this can allow for a possible increase in virus droplets, so make sure to wear a mask and practice social distancing. Staying in the know and preparing for new gym policies will make it easy to return to these types of facilities as protocols and mutual respect can be agreed upon.
Tip 5: Have a good routine that extends outside of just your fitness
From work to working out, many routines have faltered during the COVID pandemic. If getting back into the routine seems daunting, investing in a new exercise machine, trainer, or small gadget can help to motivate you. Whether it's a larger investment such as a Peloton, a smaller device such as a Fitbit, or simply a great trainer, something new and fresh is always a great stimulus and motivator.
Make sure that when you do wake up well-rested, you are getting out of your pajamas and starting your day with a morning routine.
Just because you are working from home with a computer available 24/7 doesn't mean you have to sacrifice your entire day to work. Setting work hours, just as you would in the office, can help you to stay focused and productive.
A good night's sleep is also integral to obtaining and maintaining a healthy and effective routine. Adults need seven or more hours of sleep per night for their best health and wellbeing, so prioritizing your sleep schedule can drastically improve your day and is an important factor to staying healthy. Make sure that when you do wake up well-rested, you are getting out of your pajamas and starting your day with a morning routine. This can help the rest of your day feel normal while the uncertainty of working from home continues.
Tip 6: Focus on food and nutrition
In addition to having a well-rounded daily routine, eating at scheduled times throughout the day can help decrease poor food choices and unhealthy cravings. Understanding the nutrients that your body needs to stay healthy can help you stay more alert, but they do vary from person to person. If you are unsure of your suggested nutritional intake, check out a nutrition calculator.
If you are someone that prefers smaller meals and more snacks throughout the day, make sure you have plenty of healthy options, like fruits, vegetables and lean proteins available (an apple a day keeps the hospital away). While you may spend most of your time from home, meal prepping and planning can make your day flow easier without having to take a break to make an entire meal in the middle of your work day. Most importantly, stay hydrated by drinking plenty of water.
Tip 7: Don't forget about your mental health
While focusing on daily habits and routines to improve your physical health is important, it is also a great time to turn inward and check in with yourself. Perhaps your anxiety has increased and it's impacting your work or day-to-day life. Determining the cause and taking proactive steps toward mitigating these occurrences are important.
For example, with the increase in handwashing, this can also be a great time to practice mini meditation sessions by focusing on taking deep breaths. This can reduce anxiety and even lower your blood pressure. Keeping a journal and writing out your daily thoughts or worries can also help manage stress during unpredictable times, too.
While the future of COVI9-19 and our lives may be unpredictable, you can manage your personal uncertainties by focusing on improving the lifestyle factors you can control—from staying active to having a routine and focusing on your mental health—to make sure that you emerge from this pandemic as your same old self or maybe even better.