Personal financial planning helps you develop a spending plan around your lifestyle and financial goals. With this in mind, it’s hard to believe that roughly 77% of Americans live paycheck to paycheck. (1) It doesn’t have to be this way. Crafting a personal financial strategy gives you the roadmap to manage your money and ultimately achieve the goals that are unique to you.

Follow these 4 key steps to build the personal financial strategy that works best for you:

1. Keep It Simple

Financial planning is viewed by most as an intimidating, time-consuming process. The preconceived visions of one sitting across from a professional planner or accountant preparing for tough questions and complicated documents, has made many weary of the process. Not to mention, there’s an intimacy about finance that can make for difficult and uncomfortable conversations. Yes, financial planning often involves a professional coach, but it doesn’t need to be as complex. It can be as simple as you need it to be. You can break up the strategy into simpler, more attainable plans.

2. Set Goals

Simply knowing where you want to go and outlining the steps to get there is the foundation for any strategy. Write up your financial goals with actionable steps that can be measured in some way. It’s always a good idea to create SMART – Specific, Measurable, Actionable, Relevant, Time-bound goals when dealing with finances. For example, set the goal to “save $50 at the end of every month to spend on what I want” or “pay off $1000 of debt in 12 months.” Take the time to identify short, intermediate, and long-term goals for you to track throughout the plan as well.

3. Build a Budget

Budgets are central to your financial strategy as they help you focus on the important things you want in life and how you will pay for them. It’s not surprising, though, that 56% of American adults don’t have a budget.(1) A good budget will help you save, invest and spend according to your lifestyle expenses. It’s how you will be able to take control of your money and make it work for you. Just remember, a budget will not succeed if you don’t stick to it and follow it through to the end.

4. Reward your Success

Throughout your strategy, build in incentives to motivate yourself to continue moving forward. As you reach different milestones, reward yourself for making it thus far. Whether you treat yourself to new shoes or dinner with friends, positive reinforcement will inspire you to keep going. Hold yourself accountable to stick to your strategy and don’t cheat just so you can be rewarded. It’s inevitable that you will fall short of some goals. Don’t divert, just reevaluate your budget, change the time-specificity of the goal and reward yourself once you finally reach it.

It’s your financial strategy so it needs to be understood by YOU, followed by YOU and as simple or as complex as YOU want it to be. Don’t increase your stress by developing a strategy you can’t comprehend or follow. The bottom line is to focus on these four suggestions to build and optimize the financial strategy you need to succeed.

Ready to boost your personal finance strategy?

The Financial Fitness Group, a purveyor of comprehensive online financial education programs, has the many resources you need to be a financial success. We offer unbiased online, interactive instruction in personal finance, financial planning, investing and much more. Learn more about our online resources or to schedule demo today.