9 Skills You Need for Financial Stability

See also: Personal Financial Management

For many people, financial stability is a myth. Many think that economic hardship can derail the best planning, even a tidy trust fund.

Wouldn't it be nice not to worry about money? To have more time to focus on other things in your life? Even if you're not sitting on a healthy inheritance, you can take action to protect yourself from unseen disasters and set yourself up for monetary success.

Discover nine habits you can cultivate to enjoy a more prosperous financial future.

1. Create an Emergency Fund

What would you do if you lost your job tomorrow? If you have money, you will likely struggle financially at one point or another. According to one survey, 40% of Americans can't afford an unexpected $400 expense without going into debt or selling something. In addition, research from Equifax shows that 42% of people in the UK have experienced stress or anxiety due to financial difficulties.

Save three to six months' worth of living expenses for an emergency fund. This goal may seem difficult. However, if you exercise creativity, you can eventually achieve it. Start by opening a separate bank account. Don't link to it any others or to PayPal. Decline a debit card — you're less likely to withdraw money if you must travel to the branch.

Next, find a side hustle. Make it something you love — if you're already working full-time, you don't want to burn yourself out. If you enjoy people, consider driving for Uber or offering consulting services.

Do you prefer independent work? Consider bookkeeping or freelance writing. Funnel the money from your side job directly into your emergency savings account. It takes time and effort, but you can amass sufficient funds to carry you through rough patches.

2. Use Credit Cards Wisely

Many people think they need to avoid using credit cards, which isn't true. You need lines of revolving credit to build a sound history. What you want to avoid is carrying vast amounts of debt forward each month.

Find a credit card with rewards you love. Do you embrace technology? Consider an Apple card that offers 3% back on everyday purchases, plus the chance to save when you upgrade your phone. Do you adore traveling? Get a card like the Capital One Venture, which offers miles. Use your cards but pay them off immediately. Do so at the end of each week to prevent interest from accruing.

3. Max Out Retirement Savings

Changes in the tax code mean you can do more to maximize your retirement savings. Take advantage of your retirement plan's contribution limits to sock some extra dough away.

If you're self-employed, you also enjoy significant benefits. You can save quite a sum in 2020 if you're under 50 and even more if you're 50 or older. These figures are subject to income limitations. Check with your financial planning institution as to what options you have for saving for your golden years. Be careful to avoid excess contributions that can result in a tax liability.

4. Pay Down Student Loans

Some people spend years paying student loans and still owe. Others seem to whittle theirs down quickly. Your income makes a difference, but the way you pay matters, too.

Take the time to consolidate your student loans and lock in a lower interest rate. This practice can save you thousands throughout repayment. When you get an unexpected boon like a bonus, use the majority to pay down debt further. Remember, every little bit counts. If you get a raise, immediately adjust your budget to redirect more toward your balance.

5. Open Multiple Savings Vehicles

If you have a savings account and nothing else, you're missing out on opportunities to make your money work for you. Most traditional savings accounts offer low rates. Once you amass sufficient funds in your regular account, branch out into additional savings vehicles.

Money market savings accounts require higher minimum balances to earn higher interest rates. Once you amass an emergency fund, consider opening one — the more you save, the more you'll make.

Certificates of deposit (CDs) also earn higher interest rates. You invest in a CD for a specified period, generally six months to two years. If you take the money out early, you'll face a penalty. Consider investing in CDs once you have adequate liquid savings to carry you through rough patches.

6. Overcome Fear of Investing

Are you someone who fears the stock market? If so, you're missing out on the best way to keep up with inflation. Historically the market offers the best rates of return over the long term.

If you're not ready to invest in individual stocks, consider opening a mutual fund. These funds invest in a variety of stocks managed by financial professionals to mitigate risk.

7. Buy a Home

If you rent, you don't need to worry about unexpected repairs. Plus, if your career requires frequent relocation, buying a home can prove troublesome.

For most, owning a home represents a primary investment. Every time you pay your mortgage, you build equity. Eventually, you eliminate your housing payment and own the property. This process also aids in retirement planning. After all, you can live on less if you don't budget part of your income to a loan.

Choose the right mortgage to get the most from your investment. If you can afford it, opt for a 15-year term instead of the traditional 30. You'll pay more each month, but you'll own your home free and clear sooner.

8. Insure Yourself Early

Buy life insurance when you're young. The older you are when you purchase a policy, the more you will pay in monthly premiums. Plus, you can take advantage of plans that offer a savings vehicle to protect your loved ones.

Even though you may feel immortal in your 20s, invest in disability insurance if your employer doesn't offer it. It can take years to get a determination from Social Security if you get injured or sick. If you're self-employed, don't risk the security of your income. If you wait until you have a pre-existing condition, insurers will deny your application.

9. Design a Residual Income Stream

If you get injured and can't work, a residual income stream can keep you afloat. It can also help you weather job layoffs or other financial hardships like divorce.

Consider creating an online course or writing a book. If you have a spare bedroom, rent it out on Airbnb. Start a blog and sign up for affiliate marketing opportunities.

Set Yourself Up for Financial Stability

Financial stability doesn't come easily. However, with time and effort, you can stop worrying about money. Create an emergency fund to help you through rough spots. Look into ways to get more out of your savings. You can also invest in residual income, such as through a hobby or skill. Once you're financially content, you can focus on the important things in life.

About the Author

Kayla Matthews is a productivity writer and self-improvement blogger. You can read more work from Kayla on MakeUseOf, VentureBeat, TinyBuddha and Inc.com.