For Mark Roberts’ Use: At the end of each month, do you ever find yourself wondering where all your money has gone? If you’re like most people, you sometimes let your spending get out of control. But the good news is that you can easily take back control of your budget, and you will probably discover that you have more money than you thought.

A systematic and disciplined approach will help you to better manage your cash flow. But it doesn’t have to be complicated. Devote a few minutes each week to analyzing your finances by following the Four As:

Accounting. Gather all relevant financial information and create an organized filing system. Include items such as mortgage records, credit card statements, personal and auto loan information, and documentation of all investment accounts. Getting organized is the first step to taking control of your finances.

Analysis. After accounting for your income and expenses, you will find that you either have a shortfall or a surplus in your budget. Look for ways to reduce expenses, which will give you more cash to invest or pay down existing debts.

Allocation. Ask yourself about your financial priorities and goals, involving your spouse in the discussion if you have one. Talk about the difference between needs and wants, and make sure your needs receive top priority. Allocate your cash flow according to your order of priorities.

Adjustment. Review your income and priorities on a regular basis, and make adjustments to your budget based on changing needs. For example, a new grandchild may warrant shifting your priorities toward establishing a fund for private school tuition. A sudden illness may necessitate a change in spending habits to cover new medications.

Keep the Four As in mind going forward, and you’ll stay on track toward meeting your long-term goals.


The information in this article is not intended to be tax or legal advice, and it may not be relied on for the purpose of avoiding any federal tax penalties. You are encouraged to seek tax or legal advice from an independent professional advisor. The content is derived from sources believed to be accurate. Neither the information presented nor any opinion expressed constitutes a solicitation for the purchase or sale of any security.