The most common question I am ever asked about personal finance is “How do I get started?” That question should be answered in different ways for different people but I’ll tell you parts of how I got started combined with what other “experts” say about it.
1. Figure out what you want and envision the destination
Almost all personal finance and “success” literature discuss the need to envision your riches or final destination before you can start the journey to acquiring them. There are a lot of different techniques that are used to get the appropriate mind set–the various techniques work differently on different people with different motivation. I recommend simply writing down what you want to be, accomplish, and have in life. It’s easy to do this in a page or two of writing… it’s most fun for me when I write like my life is over and someone is talking about my accomplishments, almost like an obituary. I include how many children I would (currently) like to have, where I’ll live, etc. The more specifics you include the better.
While you are starting to figure out what you want I recommend you start reading as much as possible. I would start with the following books:
- Five things a Millionaire Taught me about Life and Wealth – by Richard Paul Evans
- Think and Grow Rich – Napoleon Hill
- The Millionaire Next Door – Thomas Stanley & William Danko
- The Richest Man in Babylon – William S. Clayson
I’ve read each of these books several times and find them extremely valuable. As you read jot down notes about things you’re currently doing well as well as things you can do to improve your financial outlook.
You should also decide on what is most important to you in life besides money and think through how to obtain those things while you proceed with making financial goals (see my article on the SPOIFS method).
2. Know where you are
Once you know what your goals are you should take a financial snapshot of your own life. By this I mean, figure out what you are worth. If you’re still a student like me, you likely have a negative net worth (you’re worth more dead than alive).
3. Do something about it
Start saving, investing, talking to people, more reading
Write down your short term, medium term, and long term goals