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Financial Fitness

Budgeting: 50/15/5 Guide

50% essential expenses — this includes the roof over your head, your car, your food, health care, child care, student loans, and other minimum debt payments.

Tips for reaching the 50% target:

  • Shop around for the best possible utility rates
  • Have a game plan when you go to the grocery store to avoid impulse purchases
  • Take public transportation to work to cut back on gas

15% Retirement — Fidelity recommends putting 15% of your paycheck (before taxes) aside for the future. Tips for reaching the 15% target: meet your employer match first (you don’t want to leave “free” money on the table). Increase your contribution by 1% each year.

5% of your paycheck goes to Short-Term Savings

First: Build an emergency fund that covers 3-6 months of necessary living expenses in case something unexpected happens like your car breaks down, or you have a medical emergency

Next: Plan for other one-time expenses. (i.e. being asked to be in a wedding, accidentally put your phone through the laundry.)

Tips for reaching the 5% target:

  • Resist the temptation to fund these types of expenses with credit cards, which could get you into trouble
  • Think about putting your emergency fund into a separate account so you’re not tempted to touch it.
  • If you already have an emergency fund, and haven’t had any unplanned expenses this year, you can always redirect the money to retirement savings.
  • Save for an emergency—consider saving enough to cover 3 to 6 months of expenses
    • Consider a health savings account if you’re eligible, and contribute to your workplace retirement plan
    • Pay down debts with the highest interest rate first.

Make sure to pay at least the minimum required—and on time—to keep all loans in good status.

Defaulting on credit cards, car loans, student debt, or home mortgages can destroy your credit rating, and risk bankruptcy.

What is a 401(k), Anyway?

Additional Financial Resources