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One of the critical elements for building wealth is patience. Most people’s fortunes don’t materialize overnight; they’re more often the result a solid money-management system that’s implemented once and then modified over the years.
In a recent blog post, financial planner Sophia Bera revealed how her firm, Gen Y Planning, helps new clients set up a system to “get rich slowly.” Bera says it boils down to a three-step process, regardless of how much money a client has or why they’re seeking financial help.
First up, take a simple bird’s eye view of your finances. “Begin by taking an inventory of where your money is now, and where it goes,” Bera writes. Everyone should have a net worth statement, which shows what you own (assets) minus what you owe (liabilities), and a spending plan, she continued. A simple Google spreadsheet or an app like Mint or Personal Capital can help you visualize your cash flow.
After that, it’s time to get more granular. List out every account, debt, and expense you have, including every savings, checking, investment, retirement, and credit-card account. Take a hard look at each account or expense, Bera writes, and ask yourself questions like, “Does this checking account serve me?” and “Am I carrying the right credit cards?” The purpose of this exercise is to cut out what’s unnecessary and streamline what you need.
“Once you make adjustments to your accounts and loans (and this can take a few weeks or even a couple of months, by the way!),” Bera wrote, “you can begin to do one of my favorite things that makes money management easier: automate.”
Bera suggests setting up automatic transfers from a checking account into savings, investment, and retirement accounts, and automatic bill pay for your credit cards and loans. “If you have multiple short-term savings goals (like buying a home in the next year, replacing your old car within two years, or taking a big vacation when you turn 35 in three years), you can even automate money transfers into multiple savings accounts earmarked for each goal,” she wrote.
Bera is hardly the only financial expert championing automation. Bestselling author Ramit Sethi says it’s the key to being good with money and accumulating wealth: “It’s not that hard. It’s not a mystery. It’s not magic. It’s just math. It’s totally, totally understandable,” he told Business Insider.
However, Bera warns, even with your finances on autopilot, you still need to make time for checkups — on your own or with the help of a financial adviser — which can include increasing your retirement contributions, changing your beneficiaries after a marriage or divorce, and reassessing financial goals after big life events.