The following is a partnership with SELCO Community Credit Union. All opinions are 100% my own.
Believe it or not, preparing for your future and making the most of your present life are compatible pursuits.
If you’re skeptical, I get it. I was right there with you once.
But even though I’ve been traveling full time for many years now, I still make sure to fund my retirement, save for emergencies, and generally keep the future in mind.
That doesn’t mean it’s always easy.
In fact, good things tend to take at least a little bit of hard work. But good things—like a happy present and comfortable future—are definitely worth it.
Related content: Why I Went With A Credit Union Over A Bank
How to plan for the future while still enjoying the now.
Analyze your current financial situation
No two financial situations are the same, which means financial plans won’t be either. So, taking detailed and honest stock of your personal financial situation is an important first step.
Some questions to get you started:
- Are you happy with your current situation?
- If not, what would you change?
- Do you think you’re saving enough for the future?
Identify your goals for the near future
Now that you know where you are, where do you want to go? What would you like to do more of? What would make you happier? Think about your goals—not what others are trying to do or what you hear you’re supposed to do.
I recommend writing a list so you have something to look back on for motivation (it’s also fun to see how goals can change over time).
This list can include goals for your career, retirement, or fun milestones. Maybe you want to start a family, or buy a house, or visit every state (or country?). Whatever your goals, make them known! What you uncover in this stage might even surprise you.
In my case, I knew I wanted two things: to travel more and to pursue my writing side hustle full time. This meant paying off student loans, fully funding my emergency fund, increasing my income (building my business so that I could do this full time), and cutting expenses. I analyzed my financial situation and realized that some changes needed to be made.
Make it happen
There’s no one-size-fits-all to reaching goals—unique goals have unique paths. But for most goals, these two steps should be part of your journey.
1) Start a budget.
Having a budget doesn’t mean you can’t have fun. In fact, it may help you have more fun because you’re more aware of where your money is going. You may even find you have more to put away than you’d realized.
The big thing is to be mindful of your income and expenses. This way, you’ll know exactly how much you can spend on entertainment or dining out each month, how much you can save for later, and what spending areas may need to be re-evaluated.
Some tips I used (and still do!):
- Put your budget in writing. I don’t recommend trying to budget by memory. Create something you can actually look at.
- Track your income and spending. Don’t just estimate—know what you’re spending down to the penny. The problem with making estimates is that people are usually off, which means your budget won’t be specific enough.
- Keep your partner involved. Even if one person manages the finances, the other person should have an idea of what’s going on. This is important so everyone can stay on the same page and work toward goals together.
- Re-evaluate and tweak your budget when needed. Things change! And when they do, your budget should reflect those changes.
It may take time to find the right budgeting approach, and that’s totally normal. Be willing to evolve your approach, even if that means allocating more money to what you like to do now. Even the strongest willed among us are unlikely to stick to a budget they resent.
2) Give your budget breathing room.
There are many positives when it comes to saving (or making) more money, like:
- Not living paycheck to paycheck.
- Being able to pay off your debt faster.
- Having money to spend on the things you enjoy.
By taking a close look at where my money was going, I was able to cut back on expenses without giving up the small things that made me happy. (Remember, we’re talking about being happy now and in the future.) I planned my meals better so I spent less money eating out, got rid of cable TV, and cut any membership I wasn’t making full use of.
Knowing I wanted to travel full time, I had to increase my business income as much as possible. This meant attracting more advertisers and creating products/services of my own to sell. I also wanted to pay off my student loans as quickly as possible, so I took a lot of small steps that added up, like mystery shopping, joining focus groups, selling items online, and taking on additional freelance clients.
Together, these changes made it possible to pay off my student loans so that I could pursue a digital nomad lifestyle. And because I knew each move I was making was geared toward the future I wanted, it helped put a few of my present wants and needs into perspective.
Don’t go it alone
Even for those with clear goals, it helps to have others who will cheer you on.
This could mean talking to family and friends to see what worked for them. Hearing personal stories can teach you new tricks and help keep you motivated.
There are also pros who can help you reach your unique goals—big or small—based on your specific situation. You might be able to do it on your own, but it probably won’t be as easy or effective.
Credit unions like SELCO Community Credit Union are all about helping you understand your overall financial picture, identify ways to save more, and get started with digital tools. They even have dedicated financial advisors ready to meet over video, by phone, or in-person to talk investments, insurance, and more.
Keep the more distant future in mind, too
As strange as it might sound to someone just beginning their career, it’s never too early to start planning for retirement. (And for those of us well into their careers, it’s never too late either.)
The good news: Retirement planning isn’t as painful as you might think, especially with an expert who’s excited to lend a hand.
SELCO’s advisors can help you understand investment and retirement options that fit your lifestyle, so you can start preparing today without feeling overwhelmed. There’s wisdom in leaning on a pro, especially when you’re just getting started. Whatever questions or concerns you have, they’ve probably heard (and helped with) them before!
What are you doing to plan for the future while still enjoying your present?