There are over 17,600 personal-finance blogs and millions of money websites on the internet. With few exceptions, these sites offer advice designed to fill in the gaps created by Americans’ lack of financial literacy.
Curing financial illiteracy is a noble cause. After all, many of us have experienced illnesses, stress, marital discord and general unhappiness that often accompanies money problems. The need is tremendous, and the spectrum of the financial education gap so vast that even though you might think that everything worth saying about money has already been said, that is far from the case.
However, the plethora of financial websites, blogs, and videos have created an information “weariness” and confusion. This overload prevents many people from absorbing and implementing the excellent advice these sites offer. That’s why it is beneficial to distill some of the copious money advice into four basic financial wisdom tenets. Get a handle on these simple concepts, and you’ll make progress toward whatever financial goals you might have and gain some peace of mind.
With that said, here are three personal finance concepts to help you prosper.
Know thy money: Without financial awareness, everything you try and accomplish with your money will be less effective and more challenging. We live in a transactional society where ATMs and online accounts make it easy to transfer money without pain. That makes it much easier to spend mindlessly because you can’t see the immediate impact on your credit and your net worth.
However, financial well-being is incumbent on how well you know what flows in and out of all your accounts at any given moment. Have a system, whether it employs software like Quicken (many choices are available), uses spreadsheets or is a cloud-based platform that allows you to see all your accounts at once.
Financial awareness is not a budget in the traditional sense but more like a dashboard. It will give you constant readings of where you are and where you are going and warning lights to alert you to potential problems.
Understand your fixed expenses and your variable expenses and optimize them: Once you have achieved a degree of financial awareness, you can take a more in-depth look at your variable and fixed expenses. For example, fixed expenses include your mortgage or rent, utilities, homeowner’s dues, childcare expenses and other monthly bills. Variable expenses include items such as groceries, entertainment, subscriptions and gym memberships. Once you have identified and categorized these expenses you can then look for ways to lower these expenses or eliminate them. Even with fixed costs, such as automobile insurance, you may be able to lower your rates.
You should look at every expense and ask yourself, “Am I getting this at the best possible price?” As your list of expenses grows, you might also decide to eliminate everything you do not use or use rarely.
Build up your emergency and short-term savings funds: The recent COVID-19 pandemic made many people aware of just how important an emergency fund can be. This international emergency highlighted the fact that most of us are ill-prepared for a financial disaster.
For this reason, many financial planners advise having at least six months of living expenses set aside to cope with things such as medical emergencies or the loss of a job. You should also know that there are techniques for turbocharging these emergency accounts to achieve some growth while they are waiting to be used.
Short-term savings funds contain money set aside to deal with major planned expenses like vacations, Christmas shopping or other high-ticket items.
Having cash set aside helps you avoid turning to credit cards or loans other than acquiring other kinds of debt that are not useful.
The Takeaway: Creating a financial life plan does not have to be overly complicated. By following four basic principles, you will create a foundation of financial awareness and will be better able to fix problems that are costing you money.
Breaking free of a transactional mindset will allow you to live a more focused, goal-oriented, and prosperous life and achieve a less stressful, more prosperous retirement.