I recently read the 8 smartest things to do with your money on Business Insider and instead of being encouraged I finished the article overwhelmed. All of these financial suggestions are wise but how do you prioritize them? Some are obvious like taking the free money your company offers with a 401k match, but what about the less obvious ones? After thinking of my own situation, I came up with 3 questions that can help you prioritize financial goals:

1. What is YOUR plan?

I feel the pressure to invest in a Education Savings Account (ESA) for each of my children, but how do I decide what amount to invest each month? Money invested here is money NOT invested in my Roth IRA or paying off the mortgage, so how do I decide? First, consider how much your monthly contributions will cover for your children’s education. You might learn that what you are currently contributing monthly will only be enough to cover 2 years of college by the time they graduate high school. Are you okay with that?

My husband’s parents sent all 5 of their kids to college and paid for the entire degree. My parents paid for my sisters’ and my first year of college and then we were on our own. There’s no right or wrong way to do this but you can’t compare yourself to others in this situation. Where does this land when you prioritize financial goals? What can you realistically contribute to your child’s education? For us, we are fine contributing $100/month per kid toward college starting at birth, which will likely equate to about 1 year’s worth of college 18 years from now.
prioritize financial goals

2. Are there any significant upcoming events planned?

When you prioritize financial goals, think to yourself, “Are there any significant upcoming events planned?”

My daughter is 19 months old and we are due with our second daughter this November. Hospital bills are inevitable in this season of life, so for this reason we’ve increased the amount deducted from my husband’s paycheck that goes toward our Health Savings Account (HSA). Why not avoid the tax on your money if you have the option? If your kids are older or the only healthcare bills you have are from occasional illness then you’ll probably be fine just setting aside a small amount each month.

Another example when you prioritize financial goals – if you don’t already have kids and plan to, I suggest setting up your life insurance NOW. I am paying the same amount as my husband but my policy is much less. The reason for this is because my first pregnancy caused my heartbeat to become irregular and it stayed that way after pregnancy. It’s nothing serious but since it’s not “normal” it raised a red flag and made my premium go up. If I had set up life insurance before I got pregnant I may have been able to get the lower cost I was initially quoted since my heart was perfectly normal before pregnancy.

3. What are the obvious goals to start with?

You aren’t taking full advantage of your company’s 401k match? Set that up ASAP. You don’t have life insurance yet? It only gets more expensive the older you get. Do you plan to have kids soon? Divide by 12 months and start funding that HSA according to the amount you’ll likely need to pay the bills for that year. Do you plan to put your kids in daycare? Just like the HSA, start funding a Flexible Spending Account (FSA) to avoid throwing extra money away to taxes when you have an option NOT to pay taxes on it. Once you knock out some of the obvious financial decisions, then you can see how much you have left and prioritize from there.

Investing and saving are wise things to do, but it can still be difficult to prioritize financial goals. Asking yourself these 3 questions can help you put your financial priorities in order so you are doing what is best for YOU and your family.