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HERE WE ARE, living and working in Japan, enjoying our lifestyles and occasionally overcoming the barriers and peculiarities of day-to-day life in a foreign country. Whatever you do for a living, everybody should take advantage of saving his or her hard-earned  cash. The Japanese are the world’s greatest savers. As foreigners here, we also have that chance. All you have to do is take control of your financial situation.

Firstly you must consider what you want to achieve from a financial point of view. Here are some examples to get you thinking.
• To ensure you have enough money for your long-term future, i.e. a pension fund for retirement
• Savings to provide for your children’s education
• Savings to start your own business
• To build a property portfolio
• To set aside a “cash nest egg” for emergency purposes
• To protect your income or your family in the event of sickness, disability or death
• To take care of estate planning matters

Think about these issues and make a list of your own financial objectives. Dream a little bit — but be realistic too!

Next to each financial objective, decide on your timescale — when you want to achieve each goal. To help you do this put your life on a time line starting with your current age. Retirement could be 20 or more years away. The first year of education for your first child may be five or 10 years away. Family protection and health issues should be immediate.

Sort your goals in order of priority. This may also help you to focus on your career objectives in terms of earning power.

Decide how much money in today’s terms will be sufficient to achieve each objective.

Time to be brutally honest. After taking account of all your expenses, how much do you have left over each month to save? How much have you managed to accumulate in your bank or other investments so far? Some may feel this is pretty basic stuff; others haven’t a clue. Don’t worry — this can be changed. Either way, make sure you consider whether your finances are structured properly to take account of tax matters, future residency and many other important financial planning issues.

Decide what spare surplus income or accumulated capital you are willing to commit to achieving your financial objectives.

Review your financial objectives, the time period by which you want to achieve them and the amounts of money you need. Ask yourself — are you being realistic?

The key questions you need to answer are:
1. How organized are your finances?
2. Are you in control?
3. Do you know where you are heading?

Whether you share your finances with a partner or just look after yourself, you need to be sure of what you want. This is a start to understanding and taking control of your own financial situation.