Pick up a magazine and you’re bound to find a plan for improving something — eating healthier, losing weight, clearing clutter, you name it! But here’s a plan that can really make a difference. Follow the steps and you’ll be on your way to a better financial life. 1. Set Goals. Think about what you’re saving for. A new home, college for the kids, your retirement — having clear goals in mind and a time frame for reaching them can help you stay focused. 2. Design a Spending Plan. Before you come up with a plan, figure out your exact income and expenses. Your checkbook or bank statement can help. Once you know where your money is going, sit down with your financial professional and work out a spending plan. Be sure to earmark money for savings. 3. Determine Your Net Worth. Your net worth — your assets minus your debts — is a snapshot of your finances at any given time. Net worth is constantly changing, so you and your financial professional should do the calculations annually, or whenever there’s been a major change in your financial picture. 4. Establish an Emergency Fund. An unexpected expense can wreak havoc on your finances if you’re not prepared. Keep at least three to six months’ worth of living expenses in an account that allows you to access the money quickly and without penalty. 5. Pay Down Debt. Paying off high-interest credit cards brings automatic savings, since eliminating your balance means you won’t be paying out all that money in interest. As you pay down your cards, start putting the extra money into a savings or investment account. 6. Follow an Investment Strategy. Your financial professional can help you choose investments for your portfolio based on your goals, risk tolerance, and time frame. Make sure you review performance at least once a year and make any necessary changes to your asset mix.