Finances are an issue for millions of Americans, with about 27% of the population just $400 away from a financial crisis. This startling statistic acts as a sobering reminder of the importance of getting your finances under control and planning for a more secure financial future. Keep reading to learn more about how to secure your financial future and keep yourself out of the depths of financial ruin.

Improve Your Credit Score/History

One of the first steps you’ll want to take in securing your financial future is addressing your credit history and score. If you have collections, unpaid or late balances, or other negative marks on your report, it’s time to address them so they can be removed. It will take some time before negative marks are removed from your credit report, but paying off balances and maintaining punctuality with your payments is a good first step toward credit recovery.

Credit reports are utilized by lenders to determine your creditworthiness for car loans, mortgages, and other often essential funding that you may need access to during your lifetime. It’s always a good idea to have a credit score that’s in good standing should you need an emergency loan or simply want to purchase your first home.

Pay Down Your Debts

If you’re drowning in debt, it can seem almost impossible to get it paid off, but it is possible to dig yourself out of such a financial hole. Debt can be devastating to your credit score and adds up quickly within your monthly budget. The more debt you have, the less you can pay towards individual debts; racking up late fees, interest payments, and more…furthering your already crippling debt amount.

Start with your smallest debts first and pay them off entirely. Did you get sent to collections for $130 for a medical bill? Pay off the collections company as soon as possible. This “snowball effect” as it is called is often used by those who are thousands in debt and see no way out. You’ll start with your least expensive debts, working your way up to larger debts like credit cards or vehicle loans.

Let’s fast forward to when you’re 65 and ready to retire; do you want to have a twenty-year-old credit card bill looming over your golden years? Retirement can quickly turn sour if you’re attending to debts that should have been paid off during your working life. Don’t jeopardize your retirement and your current financial health by not paying down your debts.

Learn To Budget Effectively

An effective budget is one of the greatest tools available to those looking to secure their financial future. Budgets help you understand your finances better, identifying expenses and giving you control over where your money goes every month. If you’re not sure why your checking account seems to be hemorrhaging money, setting up a budget is probably your best bet for gaining control of your money.

A good budget doesn’t have to be anything fancy, but it is important that you stick to it and keep it updated on a monthly basis. A budget means nothing if you don’t follow and update it as your financial situation changes; for example, if you have an increase (or decrease) in income, you’ll need to adjust your budget accordingly.

Budget templates can be found all over the web, and there are even apps available to help you create a digital budget; in some cases even linking the app with your banking app for maximum accuracy and spending alerts. You can also seek out the advice and guidance of a financial professional if you’re unsure how to get your finances under control. You can find the best financial advisor on Carefulcents.com.

Know the Difference Between Needs and Wants

We’ve all been caught in the need vs. want trap at one time or another. It’s easy to think “I need this new electronic” at the moment, but once you spend the hundreds or thousands of dollars on it, you might discover you didn’t actually need it at all; and your financial health was in no condition to cover the cost of your purchase.

Impulse buying can become a bad habit rather quickly, especially if you’re using credit cards to do it. The interest alone can make the cost of the item skyrocket, but with funds at your fingertips, sometimes the temptation can simply be too much.

It’s a good idea to wait a day or two or even up to a week before you make any purchases. You might find that after some time, the item you thought you couldn’t live without actually isn’t as alluring any longer.

Save up an Emergency Fund

Most financial experts advise that you save up at least three months’ expenses as an emergency fund. Should you become injured, unemployed, or encounter financial hardship/sudden expenses, your emergency fund will help you cover the costs and reduce the stress associated with falling behind.

Unfortunately, anything can happen at any time; and even our jobs aren’t guaranteed. What would you do if you were laid off for a few months? Do you have enough in savings to cover your living expenses? Without an emergency fund, it’s foolish to even think of investing money, as it won’t matter how many investments you have if a financial crisis finds you. Even Wall Street in New York can experience financial setbacks, so the average person certainly isn’t immune.

Conclusion

Securing your financial future should be a priority at any age, whether you’re securing your first job or you’re a few years from retirement. Planning for the future will provide you with insight and funds to navigate any financial crisis you may experience, and keep you on track to a secure financial future.