Finance professionals aren’t just for high-income earners.
- Financial planners help their clients budget, develop debt repayment strategies, and achieve their financial goals.
- If your financial situation has changed or you’re having trouble managing your finances, it’s a good idea to talk to a professional.
I had the opportunity to work with a Certified Financial Planner® (CFP) by accident just a few months ago. We met on social media and decided to trade professional services, with me agreeing to edit two books he was writing and agreeing to him to provide three months of financial planning and advice services in exchange. I had never spoken to a professional about my finances, so I wasn’t sure what to expect.
Career change leads to financial paralysis
In 2021, I made a career change from museum operations and management to digital content. After 12 years of only making enough money to focus on the present – and still often just passing by – I suddenly had more earning potential and was working from home. It’s easy to think financial literacy doesn’t matter when you’ve never had much income to worry about.
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To make matters worse, I felt a little freaked out about what the rest of my life was going to be like. I’m in my late thirties, I don’t support anyone else with my income, and I’m not financially dependent on anyone else at this point in my life.
I had a hard time figuring out what I should do first. As a tenant, my first instinct was to try to buy a house. Surely it made sense for me, a person with no real savings to speak of and with credit card debt, to plan a jump into the currently overheated real estate market, right? Well no.
Pay off the debt
The job of a CFP may be different for different clients. In my case, I wanted to learn how to use my earnings to improve my life in the way I care about. This includes paying off debt, saving for emergencies, saving to buy a house, and planning for my retirement. I didn’t know in what order to tackle these problems. We started by discussing budgeting and reviewing my income, bills and debts.
Debt repayment was the first order of business. I already knew from experience that I got a lot of satisfaction from paying off individual debts (for example, I was thrilled to pay off my car loan in 2014). So we decided that the debt repayment snowball method was going to be my plan for this area, with a goal of being debt free within a year, if possible.
Thinking about buying a house
We also discussed the benefits of putting at least 20% down on a home, including qualifying for better mortgage rates and avoiding having to pay for private mortgage insurance (PMI). I took the home ownership route early in my museum career, with the help of my family, an FHA loan, and additional income in my household. Being fired and divorced two years later meant that this particular adventure ended badly for me, with a short sale and a return to renting.
Hiring made more sense for my previous career; Museum positions are both competitive and location-based. This meant that every time I wanted to change jobs, I had to move, resulting in multiple trips between states and usually time zones.
So I took my chances with landlords and housing situations, more than once agreeing to rent a house or apartment without seeing it in person. It’s hard to look ahead to rentals when you’re moving over 1,000 miles, on a tight moving budget. Under these circumstances, you can probably understand why buying a house again has such appeal for me, a perpetual nomad. And with my new remote career and love for the area I now live in, I hope to start saving that 20% down payment in 2023.
Working on the present to improve the future
My CFP also gave me great advice on how to improve my current situation, instead of just hoping and saving for the future. After listening to me talk about how much I wanted to buy a house so I could make it my own, he encouraged me to make my current apartment a place I like to live and work while I pay off my debts and save to buy a house .
I decided to turn a spare bedroom in my apartment into a home office. This involved adding comfortable furniture and a coat of paint. Working from this space has been wonderful for my productivity. When I feel good in my environment, I do more work.
For all these reasons and many more, I can definitely say: working with a financial planner has changed my life. For the first time, I feel optimistic about my financial future and the achievement of the goals I have set for myself. If you’re struggling to make sense of your finances and want to create a plan for a happier, more secure future, I encourage you to talk to a financial professional and get on the right track.
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