April is Financial Literacy Month. The goal of Financial Literacy Month is to help Americans become savvier when it comes to their money. From creating a budget to learning about investing, this is an ideal time to pause and evaluate your family’s level of financial knowledge. CFNC.org has several free online courses and materials to help users of different ages learn to better manage money.
If you find that your financial health is not ideal, consider these steps to put your family on the right path.
Laying out a plan and setting financial objectives is the best way to stay in control of your money. Generally, this takes the form of a budget. Simply taking time to create a budget helps to alleviate financial stress because it offers a clearer picture of where you are today.
Of course, sticking with your plan can be challenging. To help maintain your budget, share your new-found commitment with your partner or a close friend and document your plan. Then, be sure to check in on your progress regularly.
Hopefully, your budget will include savings for emergencies, retirement and college, among other goals. As you implement this plan and begin to see these savings grow, you will further reduce your stress. This is because you are gaining confidence in your ability to handle the future.
Like most things, saving can be challenging at first, but building a routine can help. For instance, if your savings goal is to add to a college savings account, make a firm decision about when you’ll add to it. Perhaps you will contribute on the first of the month or when you pay your bills. Find a routine that works best for you and your lifestyle. Then, set a reminder on your phone or write a note on your calendar so that you remember to add to the account at the same time every month. By incorporating a routine, you remove the guesswork and procrastination from savings.
The cost of big ticket items, like higher education, can seem overwhelming when you look only at its overall cost. But saving for larger items seems more achievable when you take baby steps. For example, the North Carolina National College Savings Program (NC 529® Plan) allows you to contribute as little as $25 at a time to your account. This number seems far more manageable! Of course, you can always contribute more to your NC 529 Account, but thinking about the cost of college in smaller, incremental amounts removes some of the anxiety.
Taking baby steps like this can really add up in the long-run, making those larger goals feel far more realistic. Try using our savings calculator to see how savings can add up over time.
Investing may help your savings increase over time. When you are saving for long-term goals, like your child’s college education, investments can be useful tools. Before investing, it’s important to fully understand how the vehicle works and the various options that it provides. For instance, the NC 529 Plan offers a complete program description that we encourage everyone to review before enrolling. If you are considering any investment option, be sure to get complete details before contributing to it.
This Financial Literacy Month, take time to think about your family’s financial fitness. Follow these guidelines to build a solid financial future for yourself and your family. Visit CFNC.org for more tools to help your family learn about managing money. And consider opening an NC 529 Account so that you can feel more confident about your child’s future college education.