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I started learning about money as a child. My dad always paid his bills first. He worked hard, usually had a couple part-time jobs in addition to his regular job. He had a family to support and take care of, and that was important to him. Mom took care of us, too. There were eight children and she managed the house with all that entails. Watching them manage and handle life, following their values gave me a great start in prioritizing my needs.

We start establishing our values very young. If you weren't shown any discipline around money you have to find ways to teach yourself to be conscious about how much money comes in and what it is spent on.

An important family value we learned was that it was also important to save some of the money we earned. I was so proud when I had $300 in my savings and received a "golden" passbook from the bank. I earned money by babysitting until I was old enough to get a job after school at the local drug store and later as a cook at the Big Steer restaurant. It was important that I save and set goals. It might have been an outfit, a car, school, but the savings had a purpose.

This background set me up for times that weren't easy as an adult. I always made sure my bills were covered first. I looked at my spending needs and worked to cover those while putting together a plan so I wouldn't always have to live that way.

Time goes by either way. Not having a plan is a plan - you are simply choosing to keep life the same. Remember that even costs will increase, so having some type of plan to grow your income and save will help you in the long run.

Keep your eye on the prize. What are your goals? Where do you want to be in 5 years? Will your income needs change in 5 years, 10 years?

Start simple:
• Save $5 per week. Put your change or $1 bills in a jar at the end of each day - you'll be surprised how this adds up.
• Don't charge anything on your credit card that you can't pay off when the bill comes.
• If you have large credit card bills, always pay more than the required payment so that you get it paid off. Make a plan to get rid of that debt.
• If you're partnered or share joint accounts, be involved and know where your accounts are located. Review the statements at least quarterly to make sure you're aware of what's going in and out.

People often ask me, how much do I need for retirement? This number varies as much as people do. It depends on the lifestyle you want to live or maintain. The biggest gift you can give yourself as you head towards retirement is to get rid of debt. Debt can be a huge drag on your retirement plans.

Working with someone you trust to help you understand how you feel about money and get you started on a plan that fits your needs will help you stick to your plan.

Kay Stienessen lives in Minnetonka and is a financial advisor. Securities offered through Harbour Investments Inc. Member FINRA/SIPC.

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