CINCINNATI, OH (FOX19) -
“I would like to have a fund to help my kids through school, not full rides, but just to help them out, and to have our retirement plan at least set, so we know what we're going to be doing and how much we're going to have.”
Cheryl Hernandez's financial goals are similar to those faced by most families: pay off debt, increase savings, save for retirement and plan for children's college expenses.
But Cheryl and her husband, Jose, were struggling to find the right way to meet their financial goals, and asked FOX19 NOW's Simply Money expert Nathan Bachrach for help.
"I'm in school right now and often we're trying to balance out if we're going to have enough money for the month, so I can get through school," said Cheryl.
Cheryl is a student at the University of Cincinnati, on her way to becoming a nurse practitioner. The job will mean more money for her family, which includes her husband and three children.
Money is tight for the Hernandezes. In addition to the regular monthly bills, like mortgage, utilities and food, Cheryl made some common credit mistakes early on,
"I wouldn't have started out with credit cards so young, and putting things like college tuition on credit cards," said Cheryl. "So those are higher expenses that I put on a credit card and ultimately paid way more than I should have."
But Bachrach has a plan to help Cheryl pay down her credit debt quickly.
"The credit cards — you said you're paying somewhere between 27-29% - so you can knock those out in like the first six months of the job, and then that extra money that you'll find that you have each month you can put toward the student loans.”
Bachrach advises paying off high-interest debt like credit cards first, and then tackling other financial goals.
"First, we're going to pay off the credit cards. That's going to be done in 2016; that is behind you. Then we want to add a little bit to your savings account so you have that three months' living expenses sitting in your savings account," said Bachrach.
Once high-interest credit debt is paid down, Bachrach suggests then focusing on building an emergency fund followed by saving for retirement. The kids college fund? That's last.
"They can win scholarships or take out loans. Those things don't exist for retirement."
Bachrach also suggests having specific financial goals to work toward.
"Saying, 'I want to pay down debt,' or 'save more' won't work as well as, 'I'll put $500 toward debt every month,' or 'save $100 per check.'"
Want to monitor your own money and make financial plans? Bachrach suggests the following apps, all free for iPhone and Android smartphone users: