Personal Finance 101: The complete guide to managing your money – CNBC

Creating a financially secure life can feel like a daunting task that requires the skills of expert mapmaker and GPS programmer. You need to figure out where you are today and where you want to get to. As if that’s not a big enough lift, you’re then in charge of finding the best route to get from here to there without veering off into costly detours.

Take a deep breath. Relax your shoulders. 

It’s just seven steps, and that’s doable.

Some goals will take years — if not decades — to reach. That’s part of the plan! But you also get an immediate payoff: a whole lot less stress starting the minute you dive into taking control of all the money stuff that’s gnawing at you.

According to a 2019 survey, 9 in 10 adults say nothing makes them happier or more confident than having their finances in order. This guide is your ticket to joining in.

How to read this guide

This guide lays out the seven key steps to focus on to get you working toward long-term financial security. Follow along from start to finish, or jump to the section(s) you want to learn more about.

Set short-term and long-term goals

Building financial security is an ongoing juggling act. Some of the money balls you have in the air are going to be goals you want to reach ASAP. Other goals might have an end date that is a decade, or decades, off but require starting sooner than later.

Creating a master list of all your goals is a smart first step. It’s always easier to plot a course of action when you are clear on what you’re looking to achieve.

It’s up to you whether your list of short- and long-term goals is on a spreadsheet or pencil to paper. Just be sure to give yourself some quiet time to think it through. Here’s a simple prompt: Money-wise, what would make you feel great? At its heart, that’s what a financial plan delivers: the means to help you feel safe and secure, so you can focus on living, not worrying.

Possibilities to consider:

  • Short-term goals to reach in the next year or so: Build an emergency fund that can cover at least three months of living expenses. Keep new credit card charges limited to what you can pay off, in full, each month. Hint: Create and follow a budget. Pay off existing credit card balances.

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