If you’re a young professional and you’re visiting this website, you’re already ahead of the majority of your peers. It truly is never too soon to start planning for your future, and much of your success rests on your ability to make smart decisions now.

As you begin to put together a healthy financial future, think about the following insights and tips and how they relate to your current status:

Start planning for retirement with your first job:

At the first chance you get to sign up for your company’s retirement plan – do it. Many companies or organizations offer a retirement plan that will differ by the type of company you work for. These include a traditional 401(k), Roth 401(k), or a 403(b). If your employer has no plan available, be sure to check out Individual Retirement Accounts (IRAs), Roth IRAs and other vehicles. Simplified Employee Pension (SEP), Savings Investment Match Plans for Employees (SIMPLE), and Keogh plans are viable options if you are self employed.

Get familiar with your employee benefits:

Knowing what your company offers in terms of benefits and how you can best use them is critical to your success. These benefits may include health insurance, short and long-term disability insurance, life insurance and any Health Savings Account (HAS) or Flexible Spending Account (FSA) dependent care options. Additionally, you can supplement these benefits with insurance your purchase for yourself.

Use credit cards responsibly:

Sure it’s easier to grab the plastic instead of paying with cash, but what will the impact be of that purchase one month from now? Two months? A year? But it’s not just about how you’re using your credit, it’s also about the tools that provide you with that credit. There may be a card better suited to your needs than the one you’re currently using. Comparison shop for your cards and keep in mind that you will be depending on the money you earn in the future to pay for the purchase you make today. Ideally you should minimize your monthly balance to avoid paying interest at higher rates.

Set goals for savings:

Always pay yourself first. Even beginning with something small like 5-10% of your gross income will get you into the savings habit. But, sometimes saving for the sake of saving isn’t that much fun. Instead, try saving towards a specific goal like a down payment for a new home, retirement savings, college funds for your new baby and an emergency fund.

Plan for emergencies:

And no, an emergency is not that you forgot your anniversary and have to take your wife out to a big dinner. You need to be prepared for true emergencies like the loss of your job or medical expenses. Plan today by stashing enough money away to reach three to six months worth of your living expenses. You can put this money into an accessible account like a money market fund, savings account or checking account.

Put your estate in order:

You’re young, you have time on your side, but what if you didn’t? Would your spouse know what to do with your things? What if you’re single? Do you have children? Get to know the four basic estate planning documents that your family will need after you are gone: will, general durable power of attorney, medical power of attorney and a living will (also known as a medical directive).

Identify all income tax credits and deductions due:

Thanks to computer software designed for your tax returns, you can now accurately obtain all of the credits and deductions on your income tax return that are applicable to you. If your tax needs aren’t met by these standardized software systems, you should consider meeting with a tax advisor or Certified Public Accountant (CPA). They will be able to assist you in this process and provide some tax strategies to help you come back with the best possible outcome.

Get an investment strategy and save for the long-term:

When it comes to investing, it’s all about risk tolerance, time frame and overall goals. Emphasizing diversification is key to achieving a successful portfolio that works for you.

Teach your kids about financial literacy:

Saving budgeting and growing your money over time are critical skills best learned at a young age. Your children will learn and acquire their own family financial planning skills by watching how you handle your finances.

Money is one of the most important subjects of your entire life. Some of life’s greatest enjoyments and most of life’s greatest disappointments stem from your decisions about money. Whether you experience great peace of mind or constant anxiety will depend on getting your finances under control.

– Robert G  Allen