Q: I’m 20 and I’m working my way through college. I’ve never been in debt, and I’ve already got a good emergency fund in place. But it seems like there are so many things to plan for down the road. How do you prioritize and manage saving for a better car, investing, marriage, kids and everything else in life? It all seems so overwhelming.
A: You’ve done a great job so far! I’m glad you’re looking toward the future, too. You’re right, it can be overwhelming if you look at all these things as if they have to be accomplished today. But here’s the good news: You don’t have to do everything right now. It’s great to have a plan, but you’re just 20 years old. You’ve got plenty of time to decide what’s important to you and plan accordingly.
All the things you mentioned are great goals. But in my mind, finishing college is your No. 1 priority right now. Then let’s look at the other stuff. If you have a girl you’re crazy about, marriage may be next on the list. If your car is about to roll over and die, the next step may be a better vehicle.
Don’t be too intimidated. Things are easier to deal with when you break them down into smaller components and address them individually. Nobody can do four or five things at once and do them all to the best of his ability. Just decide what matters most, put it at the top and list everything else in descending order of importance. Then just go down the list and knock them out one after the other.
That’s how you eat an elephant – one bite at a time.
Q: My husband and I are debt-free, and we’ve got a fully funded, six-month emergency fund in place. The problem is that he lost his job last month. I’m still working part-time and bringing home $150 a week. But we’re unsure if we should cut our budget down to bare bones or continue living like normal since we have so much saved?
A: You definitely want to live on as little as you can. This way, the money in your emergency fund will last longer. You may be bringing in $600 a month – and that’s OK for a part-time job – but it’s not nearly enough to run a household.
It’s beans and rice time. This means no vacations, no movies, no restaurants and no $100 sneakers for the kids. In other words, no life until he finds another job and you guys are on your financial feet again. Keep the lights on and food in the pantry. Those are your priorities right now. I’d rather see you go into crunch time now without completely draining your emergency fund before he goes back to work.
This is the living, breathing definition of an emergency. Praise God you guys were smart enough to plan ahead. So yes, use it, but be wise. Spend only when it’s absolutely necessary!
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