Answering your top five personal finance questions
1. How should I track my personal spending?
The simplest way to track your spending, especially your cash, is the low-tech way, with a notebook and a pen. By carrying around the notebook with you, you can actually track exactly where every dollar is going—from a small coffee on your way to work to a spending splurge at the mall. If you’d prefer, on a daily or weekly basis, you can transfer your handwritten notes to a computer spreadsheet.
2. What financial reports should my family have?
Each family should spend some time tracking their financial progress, and the best way to do that is to develop a few financial reports that you’ll update monthly or semi-annually. These reports include a family budget and a balance sheet.
3. When do I create and update my personal budget?
Individuals should start budgeting and tracking expenses as soon as they begin their first full time job. Revisit your budget every few months, and whenever significant life changes occur, such as raises, marriage, the birth of children, and divorce.
4. What financial professionals should I consider working with to help manage my personal finances?
If you find that you need help with your finances, professionals such as tax advisors, credit counselors, financial planners, and lawyers can help. Before working with any financial professional, be sure to check their credentials. You may choose to ask your friends and family if they have any trusted financial partners that they recommend. Ask specific questions about their history and areas of expertise. Finally, be sure that you are comfortable with the advisors you choose; ideally, you will be financial partners for life.
5. Why is a personal balance sheet important?
A balance sheet calculates your net worth by comparing your financial assets (what you own) with your financial liabilities (what you owe). The difference between the two is your personal net worth. Don’t be discouraged if your net worth is negative—keep in mind that this should be an accurate depiction of your financial situation. Setting goals is much easier once you know what your current net worth is.