8 Signs that You're Financially Healthy

Laughing woman and her dog.

The basic tenets of financial wellness are simple — spend less than you earn, save what you can, invest the rest, and protect your assets. However, applying these principles to our everyday lives is an entirely different story.

The reality is that many of us are struggling to make ends meet while inflation makes the cost of living rise, while the wealth gap in our country is ever-increasing.

But being financially healthy is achievable (if not something of a challenge). That raises the question: what does it mean to be financially healthy? There is no one metric for financial health, but here are eight signs that you're approaching peak financial health.

1. You spend less than your income

Why is it that there usually seems to be more month than money? To stay within your means, you’ll need a budget. Sure, budgeting is something many people avoid, points out Wilson Muscadin, CFEI, and financial coach and founder of The Money Speakeasy. “It can be time-consuming and it's hard to stay consistent, but it can be different if we change our perspective.“

Instead of thinking of budgeting as a chore, Muscadin recommends thinking of it as a to-do list for our money. “We use to-do lists so we can allocate our most important tasks over a finite period of time, whether it’s a day, week, month,” says Muscadin. “When we don't budget, we can easily overspend and not fund our priorities.”

2. You pay your bills on time, every time

You’ve probably heard this one many times, but automate your bills if you can. Sync up your bill payments to your paychecks. For instance, if you get paid twice a month, one paycheck can go toward rent and your utilities, and the second paycheck can go toward insurance, groceries, and personal items.

It's important to be aware of the advantages and disadvantages of setting up automatic payments, says Muscadin. “We know those bills will be paid and as long as there are sufficient funds in the account, and we don't have to worry about missing payments,” he says. “The disadvantage is that once we automate, we tend to disengage with our bills, so if there is an error or if the bill was higher than expected, we're less likely to question it or catch it.”

If automating all bills isn’t something you’re comfortable with — or you aren’t able to pull it off just yet — Muscadin recommends automating fixed expenses, or recurring expenses that are the same each month — and set several calendar reminders to pay variable expenses.

3. You have sufficient living expenses readily available

The general rule of thumb is to save anywhere from three to six months of your living expenses. You might be nodding your head, while asking, “Umm..how”? Start with a $500 cushion, then build from there.

One tactic to try is to divvy your paycheck to multiple accounts, suggests Muscadin. You can do this by either percentage or dollar amount. “Having multiple checking and savings accounts may seem like more of a hassle, but it can actually streamline our spending and saving,” says Muscadin.

For example, Muscadin’s family figured they could save $200 per paycheck. But instead of transferring the money from a checking account, they had it taken out of their paycheck and put directly into their savings account.

You can also split your paycheck so part of it goes toward an account just for paying bills, and another account solely for personal spending. “This requires budgeting in advance and knowing your numbers, but if our goal is to reduce overspending, having a separate checking account that is strictly for personal spending can help,” says Muscadin.

4. You have sufficient long-term Savings or assets

Once you have enough savings to cover living expenses for a few months, you’ll want to focus on the holy grail, marathon-equivalent of savings: investing for retirement, or acquiring valuable assets like a business or home.

So how do you even get to the point where you have $1 million in your nest egg? Start by getting into the habit of saving, suggests Jackie Cummings Koski, a CEPF®, personal finance educator, and author of Money Letters 2 My Daughter. “No matter how small, just start,” she says. “As your salary begins to increase, so will your savings. The $20 a week you used to save will turn into $50 a week, then $80 a week and so on.”

For long-term goals such as retirement, let the magic of compound growth do the rest of the work by investing in a low-cost index fund, says Cummings Koski. If you’re an investing newbie, get started by using an investing app or discount stock brokerage.

5. You have a sustainable debt load

No matter how much debt you owe, you’ll want to make sure you can afford the payments. If you’re having trouble staying on top of your payments, you’ll want to come up with a debt repayment plan that’s feasible with your budget. When paying off debt, there are several different popular debt repayment strategies, such as the debt avalanche, debt snowball, and the debt blizzard.

Other options include a debt consolidation loan, debt settlement, or a debt management plan. You shouldn’t live the life of an ascetic and eat only ramen to pay off your debt. The key is to balance happiness in the present with paying for your past (aka debt) and planning for the future.

6. You have a prime credit score

Credit scores for consumers range from 300 to 850. A prime credit score is considered a score ranging from 740 to 799. When trying to boost your credit score, the first step is understanding how your credit score is calculated, explains Cummings Koski. The lion’s share, or 65 percent, of your score is made up of two parts: your payment history (whether or not you’ve been making your payments on time), and how much credit you’re using (your debt) versus your available credit (this is called your debt ratio).

The other factors that impact your score are new accounts, credit mix, and length of credit history. “To really make an impact on your score, make sure you’re in good shape with your repayment history and your amounts owed,” says Cummings Koski.

You can order a credit report for free — one from each of the three major credit bureaus — by going to annualcreditreport.com. As for scores, a handful of free credit monitoring services and credit card companies now offer your score for free. “Dispute any errors, because those mistakes could be causing you points on your credit score,” says Cummings Koski. “And keep track of your credit score so that you can quickly address any issues that pop up.”

7. You have appropriate insurance

In a nutshell, insurance is designed to protect your assets and family in case something terrible happens. And the type of insurance and coverage depends on your unique needs and situation. If you’re single and don’t own a home, you probably don’t need life insurance. But if you are a homeowner with a family and pets, you might want to look into life insurance, setting up a pet trust, and homeowners insurance.

8. You generally plan ahead for expenses

Planning ahead for expenses ties in to having a budget. Besides your ongoing monthly living expenses, such as your rent, groceries, and gas for your car, you’ll want to plan for times during the year that are more expensive — summertime, back to school, and the holidays.

And of course, plan on only using money you already have. One of the biggest mistakes people make is spending money they thought they were going to get, explains Cummings Koski. For instance, the supposed tax refund that ended up being a tax bill, or the bonus check that wasn’t quite as much as expected. “This could derail even the best planning, so the first tip is don’t spend money unless you have actually received it,” says Cummings Koski.

It is important to plan for the expected and unexpected, she adds. Besides automating your savings through direct deposit or banking transfer, Cummings Koski suggests naming your bank accounts for specific savings objectives, like “The Hawaiian Vacation Fund 2020” or “Baby Fund”.

Need one-on-one help addressing any (or all) of these eight areas of financial health? MMI offers free financial counseling 24/7, online and over the phone. Whether you're struggling with debt, poor credit, overwhelming expenses, or something else entirely, our experts are here to provide guidance and support.

Tagged in Budget tips, Reducing expenses

A corporate headshot of Jackie Lam.

Jackie Lam is an L.A.-based personal finance writer who is passionate about helping creatives with their finances. Her work has appeared in Forbes, Mental Floss, Business Insider, and Bankrate. She's also a 2022 Financial Literacy and Education in Communities (FLEC) award winner. You can find her at heyfreelancer.com.

  • Better Business Bureau A+ rating Better Business Bureau
    MMI is proud to have achieved an A+ rating from the Better Business Bureau (BBB), a nonprofit organization focused on promoting and improving marketplace trust. The BBB investigates charges of fraud against both consumers and businesses, sets standards for truthfulness in advertising, and evaluates the trustworthiness of businesses and charities, providing a score from A+ (highest) to F (lowest).
  • Financial Counseling Association of America Financial Counseling Association of America
    MMI is a proud member of the Financial Counseling Association of America (FCAA), a national association representing financial counseling companies that provide consumer credit counseling, housing counseling, student loan counseling, bankruptcy counseling, debt management, and various financial education services.
  • Trustpilot Trustpilot
    MMI is rated as “Excellent” (4.9/5) by reviewers on Trustpilot, a global, online consumer review platform dedicated to openness and transparency. Since 2007, Trustpilot has received over 116 million customer reviews for nearly 500,000 different websites and businesses. See what others are saying about the work we do.
  • Department of Housing and Urban Development - Equal Housing Opportunity Department of Housing and Urban Development
    MMI is certified by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) to provide consumer housing counseling. The mission of HUD is to create strong, sustainable, inclusive communities and quality affordable homes for all. HUD provides support services directly and through approved, local agencies like MMI.
  • Council on Accreditation Council On Accreditation
    MMI is proudly accredited by the Council on Accreditation (COA), an international, independent, nonprofit, human service accrediting organization. COA’s thorough, peer-reviewed accreditation process is designed to ensure that organizations like MMI are providing the highest standard of service and support for clients and employees alike.
  • National Foundation for Credit Counseling National Foundation for Credit Counseling
    MMI is a longstanding member of the National Foundation for Credit Counseling® (NFCC®), the nation’s largest nonprofit financial counseling organization. Founded in 1951, the NFCC’s mission is to promote financially responsible behavior and help member organizations like MMI deliver the highest-quality financial education and counseling services.