Just like making dinner for a hungry family, planning for your financial future requires flexibility and creativity. Begin with where you are and what you have. Map out where you want to go. Design plans A, B and C to help you get there with grace as you find some ingredients missing from time to time. Who knows, those last minute substitutions could be the makings of a wonderful new recipe.
At first it may seem complicated, but if you spend time studying the items on your pay statement, you will be better informed about your income, your deductions and your taxes. You can compare your own calculations to the IRS withholding calculator and feel empowered to take charge of your pay stub!
When I meet or talk on the phone with someone who is experiencing a financial crisis, such as the loss of a job or spiraling debt, I try to bring the focus toward immediate next steps that can help bring relief. It is not until after this crisis is addressed that we can move on to bigger picture goals. The first thing to do is to recognize that you are not alone in your experience and that there are steps you can take to make things better day by day.
No doubt about it, being the parent of a young child is exhausting. I remember when my three children were all in the single digit age range looking with envy at the parents with older kids, how they could cross the street without holding your hand, actually help with the shopping instead of randomly pulling things off shelves, really help with dinner... What I did not realize was how parenting work continues well into the young-adulthood phase (and beyond).
Life skills are no joke! These days it seems that there should be a course taught in high school that covers everything that young adults will be required to do, from setting up online accounts, protecting online security, registering for courses, dealing with the DMV. Then there is just basic organization, like where to keep track of all those important documents. These are not specifically "financial" skills, but they dovetail nicely into developing healthy financial habits, like checking bank statements and credit reports to signing up for benefits when you land that first good job.
As an avowed non-helicopter parent, I still have a hard time sitting on my hands while I watch my kids struggle with the "grown up" stuff they need to deal with. However, I have learned from experience, that it is best to let them figure it out with minimal interference and to seek out opportunities for them to practice at responsibility whenever possible.
Just this week I stood by while my oldest navigated health insurance decisions, my middle one figured out how to log in and pay his own cell phone bill and my youngest figured out how to apply and pay for a parking permit for the summer school class he is taking at the local college. As I witnessed all of these events, I was struck by how much there is to navigate, how far each of them has come and how far each still has to go before they will be fully confident and I can say they have officially launched into adulthood.
I am so proud of each of my three different, amazing children. I feel honored to have been given the blessed opportunity to share in each one's unique journey so far. As they spread their wings, I will still worry, but I have no doubt that they will each find their way.