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Four Steps to Take Charge of Your Finances Now By Olga Ismail

In our busy lives, it is not uncommon to put off for tomorrow the things we do not have time for today. This is especially true for those things that make us uncomfortable or that require a significant commitment of time and effort to squeeze into our already hectic schedules. However, by sweeping these issues under the rug, you are essentially losing valuable time you can be spending to improve your circumstances, not just today but far into the future.

When it comes to planning for long-term financial security, both men and women find it difficult to know where to start. Should they begin by paying down debt or building an emergency fund? Should they save for their retirement before or after a child’s college education? While there is no one answer that will apply to every individual equally, the one rule that always proves true is that the sooner you address these financial issues, the sooner you can create a step-by-step plan and begin adapting new habits to help you achieve your financial goals.

Step 1: Change your Mindset

Rather than considering all the reasons you do not have time to focus on your finances right now, picture all the things you will be able to do with a little planning and financial discipline. For example, saving for your retirement will allow you the freedom to enjoy your golden years with friends, traveling or playing on the golf course or tennis courts. Building an emergency fund will enable you to afford a much-needed new roof or other big home repair without putting a dent in your monthly budget or sacrificing your lifestyle. When planning for your long-term financial security, start small. Set goals for yourself and your family, share them with your loved ones and map out a plan you can stick to.

Step 2: Pay Yourself First

Whether you are looking to increase an emergency fund or accumulate assets for your retirement, you must begin by making a habit of paying yourself first. This means that you put aside a small amount of your paycheck each pay period and slowly readjust your budget to increase the amount you save over time. Once you decide on the amount you can afford to save at the current time, set up an automatic transfer of funds from to your savings account every time a paycheck is deposited into checking account. Not only will you begin to accumulate savings for a big purchase, such as a new car or vacation, you will also be building an emergency fund to help you pay for all of life’s unplanned expenses, such as a car repair, medical bills, etc.

When it comes to your long-term retirement needs, the best and easiest way to begin saving is to participate in your employer’s 401(k) retirement savings plan and automatically defer a portion of your wages to that account. Again, you can start small, saving less than 10 percent of your wages and working your way up to larger contributions as your pay increases. Two important benefits of saving through a 401(k) plan are that 1) your contributions reduce your taxable income in the years of funding and 2) your contributed amounts can grow significantly thanks to compounding interest and market gains.

Step 3: Address your Debt to Find Flexible Dollars

Credit card debt and the accompanying interest on unpaid balances can devastate even the most well-thought-out financial plan. The sooner you pay off your debt, the more flexible dollars you can find in your budget to allocate toward your savings goals.
Get started by putting away your credit card until you can make a dent in your debt. Evaluate your spending habits against your budget of must-have required expenses and work toward eliminating non-essential purchases until you can begin to whittle down your credit card balance and alleviate much of your financial stress.

Step 4: Put Your Plan into Action

One of the best ways to assess your current financial picture and develop a plan for achieving your longer-term retirement and estate planning goals is to work with financial advisors. These seasoned professionals can help you quantify your financial commitments in retirement and determine what you will need to begin saving now to live comfortably in the future, based on your projected Social Security benefits and a conservative 4 to 5 percent rate of withdrawal from your retirement savings.

About the Author: Olga Ismail is a retirement plan consultant with Provenance Wealth Advisors (PWA), an Independent Registered Investment Advisor affiliated with Berkowitz Pollack Brant Advisors + CPAs, and a registered representative with Raymond James Financial Services. For more information, call (954) 712-8888 or email

Provenance Wealth Advisors (PWA), 515 E. Las Olas Blvd., Ft. Lauderdale, FL 33301 (954) 712-8888.

Olga Ismail is a registered representative of and offers securities through Raymond James Financial Services, Inc., Member FINRA/SIPC. Raymond James is not affiliated with and does not endorse the opinions or services of Berkowitz Pollack Brant Advisors + CPAs. PWA is not a registered broker/dealer and is independent of Raymond James Financial Services. Investment Advisory Services offered through Raymond James Financial Services Advisors, Inc., and Provenance Wealth Advisors.

This material is being provided for information purposes only and is not a complete description, nor is it a recommendation. Any opinions are those of PWA and not necessarily those of Raymond James. You should discuss any tax or legal matters with the appropriate professional. The information contained in this report has been obtained from sources considered to be reliable, but Raymond James does not guarantee that the foregoing material is accurate or complete.

401(k) plans are long-term retirement savings vehicles. Withdrawal of pre-tax contributions and/or earnings will be subject to ordinary income tax and, if taken prior to age 59 1/2, may be subject to a 10% federal tax penalty. Investing involves risk, investors may incur a profit or loss regardless of the strategy or strategies employed. Future investment performance cannot be guaranteed. Matching contributions from your employer may be subject to a vesting schedule, please review your retirement plan documents or consult with a financial professional for more information.

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Posted and Updated May 6, 2021