Learn How to Manage Your Money and Live Within Your MeansFollow these simple steps to create a budget you can stick to

A right hand uses a calculator to input numbers.

If you are looking for employment and following these articles, they could help you gain traction in finding a job. Since we started this series, I have assisted several neurodiverse candidates in finding employment. I can tell you firsthand that people are finding jobs using the techniques and information that have been the core of my articles to date. This article is dedicated to those employed for the first time. Congratulations on getting to this phase of your career!

For the first-time job holder, revisit our third article- Navigating Your First 100-Days of Employment. The article presented a three-phase approach to navigating your way around the company, building confidence and finally feeling that you belong. Since it didn’t cover anything about finances and how to manage your money, we will dedicate this article to doing just that.

Managing your money is not easy, especially if this is your first job and you want to spend your earnings on things that you may have been dreaming about for a while. There will be a lot of surprises, especially when you see your first paycheck, for example. You knew there would be deductions, but they can be overwhelming if you live in California or New York, where taxes are very high.  Let’s break down the deductions into taxes and personal deductions. Taxes are required, with little chance of changing how much is taken out of your paycheck. Basic taxes consist of social security, Medicare, state, federal and possibly city taxes. These taxes could consume a whopping 10-25% of your paycheck, depending on where you live and how much money you make.  Personal deductions are more flexible because you can decide on which deductions you want to make. For example, you can choose what healthcare plan you want and if you wish to invest in a 401k or 403(b) savings plan. These plans can help you save for the future, especially if your company matches your contributions. Your employer will supply information so you can make the best choice for your situation.

Check out this article on how to read your paycheck.

Now that you know that taxes will affect your paycheck, we want to help you develop financial planning skills to “Manage to Your Means.”

The following Financial Wellness Tools can be found on the National Disability Institute’s website.

  1. Start with a short assessment. The Financial Fitness Tool will ask you ten questions about how much you save now, how well you budget and if you pay bills on time. If you score below 16, you should continue these steps to learn more about managing your finances.
  2. Step two is to create a spending plan. This plan will itemize all the things you spend money on. As you go through the list, you should identify what expenditures are needed to live on and others that are discretionary. Rent is a necessity while buying a daily cup of coffee is not and can be less expensive to make yourself. Add up all the expenses, subtract your monthly take-home pay, and you’ll see if you have extra or not enough money.
  3. Step three is to set you’re your spending goals. Knowing whether you have enough, or not enough money will guide how you set your financial goals. If you find yourself spending more than you earn, you’ll need to create a plan to reduce your expenses over time. If you have extra money, you should allocate it towards added savings or paying expenses you have put off. Surplus cash can also be used for other discretionary expenses to treat yourself to something good, like dining out every once in a while, or maybe even a vacation.
  4. The fourth step combines the need to track what you are spending your money on, meal planning and shopping. A Spending Diary tool can help you track how you are spending your money. You will need to do this for a month or longer to see the changes that you made to stay within your means. If you are tight on money, meal planning is a great idea, so you have a plan for the food you need each week. Reminder: don’t go to the store when you are hungry because you might buy things that you may not need.

These four steps will get you on the right track to managing your means.  Additional tools are available for choosing a bank, disability benefits counseling and financial education.

Let’s look back at all the articles written this year to help you on your journey of finding a lifetime of employment.

  1. Finding a Lifetime of Employment on the Spectrum
  2. Navigating Applicant Tracking Systems for the Neurodivergent Job Seeker
  3. Navigating Your First 100-Days of Employment
  4. Making Meaningful Career Connections with Neurodiverse-friendly Employment Services
  5. Employee Accommodations for the Neurodiverse
  6. How do you bridge the gaps with education and training to enhance your employment opportunities

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Part 7 of the series, “Finding a Lifetime of Employment on the Spectrum,” is here! In this edition, Catalight’s contributing editor and certified career coach, Dan Middleton, talks about living within your means now that you have found a job. Be sure to check out the other articles in this series on our LinkedIn page. hashtag#Catalight hashtag#neurodiversity hashtag#autism hashtag#employment hashtag#career