Do you remember that movie where the distraught girl wanders down the dark hallway toward what is certainly her demise lurking in the corner? Man, that movie gives me nightmares. Not because of the creepy music and the pile of characters, who met an unfortunate fate in the previous scene, but it’s not knowing what’s hiding in the shadows that makes me uneasy. She’s walking down a dark hallway with no knowledge of what her future will bring, and she just keeps on walking, hoping for the best. It’s crazy.

But for many of us, that’s how we handle our financial future. We wander down dark, unfamiliar hallways, and leave ourselves vulnerable to unknown circumstances. Steve Jobs once said, “My favorite things in life don’t cost any money. It’s really clear that the most precious resource we all have is time.” And, I agree with that. Money may not be the most important thing in the world, but having a smart plan will help you take care of yourself now and in the future, regardless of how scary it may be.

Here are three ways to make sure you’re secure while venturing down the dark hallways of life.

1. Invest in your health: budget to relieve stress.

It’s no surprise that one of the most common symptoms of debt is stress. A study by the American Psychological Association says one quarter of us are stressed about money “most or all of the time.” They can’t sleep. They can’t eat. “Eventually, the stress prevents them from functioning at work, at home, and in their daily lives,” Bill Fay, a money expert, says. “Persistent stress of this kind can also lead to serious physical and psychological problems.”

A helpful way to take the mystery out of our finances is a budget. The simple act of tracking your money gives you knowledge, and knowledge is power. “With this knowledge, you’ll be able to start the real work of re-allocating your money to whatever expenditures are most important to you,” Kimberly Rotter, a personal finance expert for, says. “Watching your progress toward financial priorities not only relieves stress, it also brings great joy.” Rotter added that we can’t make smart choices about how to spend our money if we lack an understanding of where it goes.

2. Create a personal economy.

In a society where anything can be purchased at the moment with a finance plan or credit, we thrive on instant gratification. But what about your long-term financial goals? Where do you want to be financially one year from now? Ten years? If you want to shed some light on that dark hallway, you need to decide today where you hope to be tomorrow. “You can choose to thrive in your own personal economy by implementing sound financial principles,” said Michael Isom, an investment and wealth protection expert. Your personal economy is built on making smart spending choices, optimizing the earning potential of your money, investing in personal growth, and designing a plan that moves you toward financial goals.

3. Secure your future.

As a movie fan, we hope for a happy ending. Fortunately, we don’t have to rely on chance to secure a happy future for ourselves. The goods news is that Americans are living longer. But that also means we need to prepare for that longevity to ensure financial security. “With these longer lifespans, it’s important to create an income stream that you cannot outlive,” said Clint Brown, a partner at BCJ Financial Group. One of his available tools is an annuity. “Using annuities as part of your income strategy takes longevity risk off the table and can help eliminate other types of risk,” he said. Social Security and pensions are great examples of lifetime income annuities.

Another important tool is life insurance. Securing life insurance today can protect against unforeseen hazards in the future. You want to be there for those who depend on you, but if you can’t, you will know that those you love will be protected with a smart life insurance plan. Talk with a trusted expert to determine the best plan for your family, based on health, assets, lifestyles, etc.

Long-term investing is another option. No drama. No aggressive stranger waiting to take a jab as you round the corner. Long-term investing is a simple, solid practice you should start now to reap the financial benefits later. “In the long run, you’re going to see your portfolio grow in value, especially if you focus on high-quality businesses,” said Devin Peterson, an investment advisor with The Norden Group. He added that focusing on long-term stocks also allows for compound investing, which gives you the option to reinvest your profits over time to generate even greater profit potential.

The future is unknown, but that doesn’t mean it has to be scary. By establishing a budget, defining a personal economy that moves you toward financial goals, and investing in a secure and optimistic future, your story can have a fairytale ending.

Originally published at