5 simple steps to start taking control of your finances right now

Carmen Perez is a money guru and founder of Make Real Cents, a blog dedicated to helping readers achieve financial independence and freedom.

The financial specialist learned a lot from her own experiences with money — like when she paid off $57,000 of debt in two years and nine months. No big deal.

But Perez isn’t a certified financial planner and admits she wasn’t even a top student. 

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“While I worked in finance, I actually really sucked when it came to managing my own money,” she told In The Know. “I have made a few wrong turns in the area of personal finance and want to teach people the valuable lessons I’ve been able to learn along the way.” 

In 2009, she graduated with a bachelor’s degree in finance which left her with a ton of student loan debt. Perez thought she would work on Wall Street, get rich and retire at 36 years old. She was wrong.

“The moment that I knew that I had a problem when it came to my personal finance is when I actually started getting sued for my student loan. It was a $30,000 loan. That was my wake-up call,” she said. 

Perez knew she was in trouble because she had less than $3,000 in her savings. Fortunately, she was able to get out of the tough situation and is now able to bestow her knowledge upon In The Know. 

Identify your goal

Perez believes money is a long game and there are no shortcuts. 

“Do you want to pay off student loan debt, travel the world, get a headstart on saving for a home?” Perez said. “Write that goal down. Nothing is too big or too small.” 

Take stock of the big picture

If you’re afraid of what digging into your finances might reveal, Perez has got another tip. 

“Write down your fears around the problem, think about it and ask yourself: Is this the worst-case scenario? Or is this inevitable? The answer is gonna be, ‘No and no.’ Write these down and take relief in crossing them off. Finish by writing down a manageable solution,” Perez said. 

Identify the low-hanging fruit

She recommended solving the easiest financial issues first. 

“In the case of debt, is there an outstanding balance that you’ve been ignoring? Perhaps, that you can pay off easily? Tackling the small problems will give you the confidence that you need to make a major impact on how you approach the bigger hurdles,” she advised. 

Layout your biggest obstacles

Next, identify what your biggest money challenges are.

“Look at the big stuff — the crushing student loan debt, a high-interest auto loan, you name it,” Perez said. “Let’s make these your long-term goals and remember to respect the fact that they’re going to take a little bit longer to achieve.”

Create an ideal timeline 

She suggested creating a timeline to hit financial milestones but not to get too upset if it doesn’t work out that way.

“Anything can be fixed, but not by crying or ignoring your problem,” Perez said. 

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