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5 ways to measure your financial health

What we'll cover

  • What financial health is

  • How to check your monetary vitals

  • Tips to boost your financial health

Like your physical health isn't determined by one single factor, your financial health isn't measured solely by your income, assets, expenses or spending individually. Understanding either type of health requires assessing several aspects of your lifestyle.

You don't need to be a money expert to have an idea of where your current financial health stands. But you do need to know which factors to look at and what those numbers mean for you.

1. Check your credit score

Because it shows lenders how well you handle and pay back debt , your credit score is a solid indicator of your overall financial wellness. This three-digit number (usually between 300 and 850 if you're using FICO, the most common scoring system) determines how likely you are to be approved for a loan and qualify for a lower interest rate.

Excellent credit scores begin at 800, scores between 740-799 are considered very good, and a score in the 670-739 range is good. You can check your credit report for free from all three of the three nationwide credit reporting services (Equifax, Experian and TransUnion) by visiting .

Your level of financial health is an ever-fluctuating measure — so don't be discouraged if you see areas that could use a little improvement.

2. Determine your ideal debt-to-income ratio

Your debt-to-income ratio (DTI) measures how much of your gross monthly income (your paychecks before taxes) goes toward paying off debt . Mortgage, credit card, student loan , auto or other monthly payments are included in your debt.

To calculate your DTI ratio, add up all your monthly debt payments and divide that number by your gross monthly income — or try a DTI ratio calculator . In general, the highest DTI ratio a borrower can have in order to qualify for a mortgage loan is 43%, but lenders prefer to see DTI ratios below 36%.

3. Assess your net worth

Your net worth provides a quick snapshot of your financial health by looking at the total value of all your assets (what you own) minus your liabilities (what you owe).

Assets include cash (checking, savings, money market , etc.), retirement accounts, investments, real estate, collectibles (things like jewelry, art or antiques) and other items you fully own. Liabilities are debts , like mortgages, auto loans, student debt, credit card debt , etc. To calculate your net worth, add up all of your assets and subtract your liabilities.

4. Build your emergency fund

Nobody is immune to the possibility of a random accident, job loss or health scare. By having your emergency cash accessible, like in an Ally Bank Savings Account , you're better prepared to handle any financial surprises.

An ideal emergency fund will cover three to six months' worth of living expenses (you can calculate that here ), but don't panic if yours isn't as robust as those benchmarks suggest.

Set an attainable goal (maybe two weeks' worth of living expenses, a month of rent or a dollar amount, like $1,000) to begin. Then, use automated features, such as recurring transfers and the Surprise Savings booster in an Ally Bank Savings Account, to optimize your savings strategy and get closer to your goal — without even having to think about it.

5. Strengthen your retirement savings

Whether it's a 401(k) through your employer or an individual retirement account (aka an IRA ), a retirement fund helps prepare you for the future. The earlier you begin, the more time your money has to grow.

Experts recommend saving about 15% of your pretax income annually in a retirement-specific account. If 15% is unmanageable right now, start with a percentage you can handle (and take full advantage of an employer match if you have the option), then add another 1% each year until you've reached 15%.

Another way to take a temperature check on your retirement savings is to think about it by age . A rule of thumb is to aim to have socked away one times your income by age 30, two times your income by 35, three times by 40 and so on following the same pattern.

Build your financial muscle

Your level of financial health is an ever-fluctuating measure — so don't be discouraged if you see areas that could use a little improvement. By staying on top of your money, practicing smart and thoughtful habits, and looking holistically at your finances, you can whip your financial health into shape.

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