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Balance between Lifestyle and Finances

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If you’re a bit financially strapped at the moment, consider it a temporary situation and focus on the future. If you have a job and are making enough money to support yourself, you’re off to a great start. Sure, there’ll be things you’d like to have that you can’t afford-but that’s okay. Keep telling yourself that you’ll be in better financial shape next year and enjoy the experience of being out on your own.

finance and lifestyleTo stay on the right financial track, remember these two things:

1. Resist the temptation to use credit cards to buy what you want, but can’t afford. You’ll get yourself in a huge rut if you do this and end up with less in the future.

Be patient and know that eventually, you’ll have more buying power.

2. Be aware of financial opportunities, and take advantage of them when they’re available.

Many people miss chances to improve their financial positions because they don’t know what’s available to help them do so. By reading this series, you’ve shown that you’re interested in your personal finances and are willing to take the initiative to learn how to get, and keep, your finances healthy.

We’ll look closer at these areas of financial opportunity later in this series, but it’s important that you know what opportunities to look for. The sooner you start making the most of your money, the more money you’ll have later.

  • 401(k)plans. We’ll get into more detail about these little goldmines later, but suffice it to say that 401(k)s are a great way to save money. If you’re eligible to participate at work, make sure you do. IRAs and the new Roth IRAs and other retirement plans also are good vehicles for saving.
  • Compounding interest.Starting to save even a little bit of money when you’re young will pay off big time because of time. The longer money is invested, the faster it grows. That’s called compounding, and it’s a great way to see your money grow.
  • Lower interest rates. If you’re paying 18 or 20 percent interest on your credit card, you might be able to get a significantly lower rate just by shopping around and asking. A couple of points can make a big difference.
  • The best possible bank accounts. If you’re paying big bucks in bank fees, you’re not making the most of your money. It takes some work, but it’s worth it to look around and compare what’s available.
  • A budget. Most people wouldn’t consider a budget a financial opportunity, but it definitely is. Preparing and using a budget gives you a chance to see where your money goes and an opportunity to cut back and save.
  • Learning opportunities. There is a wealth of financial information around for anyone willing to take the time to find and study it. Books, magazines, pamphlets, seminars, and the Internet are full of financial advice and learning opportunities.

These two steps, resisting credit card debt and taking advantage of financial opportunities, will go a long way in moving you toward your financial goals. Ask for help if you’re confused about a financial matter. Many issues concerning money, investments, and so on can be confusing, even to people who study them on a daily basis, so don’t be discouraged if some financial issues seem confusing at first. They’ll become clearer as you learn more.

But be sure you take all the financial advice you’ll get with a large grain of salt. If you follow the advice of every financial guru who comes along, promising on one talk show or another to quadruple your investment in six months or less, you’re likely to end up losing some serious money along the way.

Remember that if you seek advice from a friend or family member, you’re likely to hear what’s worked best for him. What worked best for him, however, just might not be what will work best for you. Nobody wants to sound like a dummy (or a complete idiot), so you’re likely to hear about the good financial move your brother made back in ‘96, while he completely skips over the bonehead deal he struck in ‘97.

Once you start looking, you’ll see financial advice all over the place. Check out the number of financial magazines sometime; you’ll be surprised at how many there are. Financial columns run daily in many newspapers, and there are newspapers that deal solely with business and finance. Take a look at the financial section the next time you hit Barnes & Noble, or tune into a financial show on TV or radio such as Wall Street Week or Moneyline, both popular TV shows aired nationally. Personal finance is a hot topic among Americans these days.

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Balance between Lifestyle and Finances

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