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7 Effective Ways to Navigate Major Life Milestones—Financially and Otherwise

Steering a course through major life milestones can be akin to navigating rapids. Both are best accomplished with the right tools and can be enjoyed much more with a little preparation. Financial stressors that sometimes accompany those milestones are usually easier to manage and more likely to have a positive impact on your wallet when there’s a plan in place to handle them.

1. Look Inward—and Be Critical!

When you think about the future, are you anxious or optimistic? What’s your decision-making style? Are you someone who goes with their gut, or are you a planner? Money management is subjective and personal, so if you don’t have a good understanding of how you approach life’s big changes, you could miss the boat financially.

Think back on changes you made in the past and dig deep into how you handled them. Often, a partner or supportive friend can help you gain insight into how you engage in change and where you might get stuck as you move through the process.

2. Shine a Bright Light on Your Values

Now’s the time to really think about what’s meaningful to you. Let’s say you’d like to buy your first home. What’s important about home ownership to you? Do you need to live in a neighborhood close to work or public transit, or in a good school district for your children? Will your purchase be an investment opportunity that will provide you with greater financial stability? Maybe you’re looking to put down roots and invest in a home that’s yours instead of a rental. Make a list, focusing on your values and how you want to live your life—your goal is to determine the “why?” behind your milestone.

Recommended: Why Debt-Free Living Leads to More Happiness

3. Research

Information is critical to success. So what do you need to reach your milestone? Career advice? Help paying down student loans? Home buying advice? Legal support? Maybe you just don’t know yet, which is totally normal. Research online and consider different perspectives, but stay clear and grounded in your values. If you identify as an anxious planner, you may find yourself getting stuck in this step, or trapped in a circle of research. So pick the brains of optimists who have been in your position and who can help you make a decision and move on to the next step.

4. Strategize

How you manage your transition could mean the difference between success and failure, so you need a strategy that considers different angles and paths. For example, how will starting a business play out financially in the short term and as you move through life? Will you have to keep your day job for a while? How long? If you’d like to start a family, look now into the details of your employer’s maternity leave benefits and consider taking better advantage of your employer-matching 401(k) plan. Visualize the future you want, and then create a chart that includes various approaches to designing it.

5. Consider the Changes You’ll Have to Make

To reach your milestone, financial adjustments will have to be made. For instance, if you’re starting a new job with a better salary, you may be able to put a little bit more toward retirement and add to your emergency fund. You may not see the same people every day, so maintaining important relationships might take some extra work.

If you want to buy a home, you might have to cut spending to afford a new mortgage, so take the time to modify your budget. If you’re planning to expand your family, you’ll need to consider new expenses, including childcare and additional healthcare costs, and start saving for your child’s education. Big life shifts translate to financial modifications and can be more successful with preparation.

Recommended: Tips for College Seniors

6. Taking the Leap

Change can be scary, regardless of how gutsy you are, but with information gathered, a plan in place, and a support system surrounding you, it’s time to make a decision and take the leap. If you tend to make decisions based on gut instinct, you may stumble here and worry in retrospect about whether you made the right one. But don’t panic even if you do, because you can always make changes down the road.

7. Fine-tune When Needed

It’s a fact of life: Not everything will go according to plan. So, there will be times when tweaks are necessary. Maybe you’ll have to adjust your budget or your timeline for achieving certain financial or personal goals. Staying positive and remembering that navigating life’s milestones is all about growth will help you control the shape of your financial future, and there will always be opportunities to correct missteps.

The Takeaway

Big changes represent exciting—and sometimes challenging—times. But by being true to yourself and your values, and by understanding exactly what you need to reach your biggest goals, you’ll empower yourself to succeed on your terms. SoFi members can access experienced career coaches who can help you determine what success means to you.

Learn more about career coaching and other member benefits offered by SoFi.

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5 Important Investment Tips for Trying Political Times

Regardless of your opinion of President Trump, his administration, and the infighting in Washington, times like these present real financial challenges to Americans. Are we in for higher inflation or another recession? What will happen to interest rates? Will unemployment grow or shrink?

Everyone is feeling this uncertainty, particularly young people who are making investment decisions for the first time. Here are a few ways to take control of your money, and avoid making some common money mistakes.

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6 Steps to Improving Personal Cash Flow, So You Can Be Like Your Own CFO

Picture this: It’s the end of the month, you’ve paid all your bills, and even had a little fun. You’ve made ends meet, as you always do, but your savings account isn’t growing and there’s nothing left to fund an emergency should one arise. Sound familiar? If you’re just breaking even—or worse, excess spending (spending more money than you’re taking in)—you’ve got a personal cash flow problem.

Maybe you’ve been living this way for a while, and it now feels normal. But here’s the deal: Without a positive cash flow (meaning you earn more than you spend), it’s hard to get ahead financially. Until you’re in the black, you could be shut out of good financial opportunities—including getting low interest rates on personal loans, or a mortgage loan, or even student loan refinancing. You’re also missing out on the money you could be earning by investing what you save.

The good news is, it’s possible to turn that around. You’re the Chief Financial Officer of your life, so it’s up to you to learn exactly how to improve your monthly cash flow. It will take some work, but by increasing your income and lowering your expenses—both fixed (rent, utilities, and car payments), and discretionary (entertainment and clothing)—you can make dramatic shifts in your financial life. Follow this six-step plan, and you’ll see your monthly cash flow move from negative to positive even faster than you’d expect.

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4 Money Moves to Make Before Your Next Move

You’ve been offered a fantastic new job with the company of your dreams—and, on top of that, it’s thousands of miles away. Along with the excitement and anticipation that comes from uprooting your life and starting over, you’ve got to think about how this will affect you financially.

Should you accept the position, you’ll need to make some major financial decisions and changes. So you can breathe easy while working on the other aspects of the move that will keep you busy—like packing away your whole kitchen into a few boxes—try these four money moves to help you avoid any financial bumps on your road to relocation.

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How Good is your Financial Health Right Now?

Editor’s Note: This new series on Financial Fitness comes from personal finance expert, and new SoFi content partner, Dr. Tony Pennells, founder of The Freedom Club. Using proven tools and systems, Dr. Tony demystifies “financial freedom” with common sense solutions to help people create true wealth (the type that makes money that you don’t have to work for!).

Do you have every intention of setting money aside for your future, paying down debt or creating an emergency buffer, but never quite seem to get there? Do you find that no matter how much money you earn, by the end of the pay period you have almost nothing? If so, you’re not alone. A recent study showed that 47% of Americans couldn’t come up with $400 to cover a financial emergency (via The Atlantic)

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