“If you stay ready, you ain’t gotta get ready.”
– James Brown
Those are some pretty wise words from the “Godfather of Soul.”
How many athletes, from professionals to weekend warriors, get hurt every year because they try to do too much too fast after a layoff?
Singers can easily blow out their voice if they don’t care for themselves properly, even when they’re not performing.
And financially, folks can get ruined from even a minor setback if they haven’t planned accordingly.
Here are three steps to take now so that you don’t panic should your financial picture change.
Keep six months’ worth of living expenses in cash.
This is common advice, and it makes a lot of sense.
Should you lose your job or have some other emergency, knowing that you can pay the rent and eat for the next six months will mean you have a lot less stress. Save that money before you do anything else with your cash. Only once you have six months’ worth of expenses saved should you start investing.
Know what you spend your money on.
When companies go through hard times, they know where they can cut back to avoid losses. You should do the same.
Track your monthly expenses so that if you lose your income or incur a large unexpected payment, you know what levers you can pull in your own daily life to lower your costs.
I’m not the guy who tells you to stop getting that latte you enjoy. But if you know how much you spend, you’ll know whether you should keep getting the latte or whether there is somewhere else you can reduce spending should you need to.
There are various free budget apps, such as Mint and PocketGuard, you can use to help keep track of your spending.
Understand your assets and income.
If you have investments, knowing how much income they spin off each month or year is very important.
For example, if your investments generate $3,000 per month in income and you lose your job, knowing that you’ll still have $3,000 coming in each month can make the adjustment less stressful. And if you know that you have other investments (like growth stocks) that could be turned into cash-producing assets (like dividend stocks or bonds) to generate even more income, that can go a long way toward lowering your anxiety level.
Update your numbers quarterly so you have a clear picture. I do this in a spreadsheet each quarter. It’s a great feeling to see your money and income grow over the years. And since you’ll have a clear picture of what you have and the income it produces, you’ll be able to invest and make changes accordingly.
These are not time-consuming or complicated steps. There is no reason you should be scrambling trying to figure out what your situation is should your financial picture change.
James Brown was right about staying ready.
Employ the above steps now. Don’t wait.
To quote James Brown one more time, “Get up offa that thing.”