For some folks financial intelligence is built in but, for me it is not. I am learning how to create a financially simple life for myself as I explore the world of adulthood. Throughout college I was completely dependent on my parents but I have just completed my first full year of financial independence. It was tricky to navigate my money matters but I feel proud that I did it successfully. Some things I have learned from my younger sister (who is much better at this stuff than I am) but I have also learned from my experiences over the last year. Here are some approachable tidbits of advice that I am sure can help most people starting out.
Disclaimer: I am no expert but, we all have to start somewhere!
Open an Investment Account
Opening a brokerage account is probably one of the more straightforward things you can do. I was intimidated and did not feel confident about investing but opening the account is the first step. Usually the minimum investment needed to open an account is $1000 but there are funds that have a smaller minimum. As for choosing a brokerage firm, there are plenty–but, a couple of popular ones are Vanguard and Charles Schwab. All of the sign-up process can be done online and in a matter of minutes. Once you open your account there are many online “how to” guides that you can browse. I’m sure they are helpful but, I remember feeling pretty overwhelmed. Instead I read, The Bogleheads Guide to Investing. This was a really great and extremely approachable book about how to allocate your money based on your age, background and goals. I would highly recommend at least skimming before investing your money.
Pay Off Loans, Debts and CC Statements
It seems that loans, debts and credit card statements haunt many people in their 20’s. If it’s a loan, set up a plan for yourself to pay things down in a set number of months. Make regular payments and a bit more!
Last year I bought a car and will be paying it off for at least another 3 years. In addition to my monthly payments, I am trying to pay a little bit extra off every year. To make it easier on myself, instead of pocketing my tax return, I put it towards my loan. It worked out nicely since the tax return felt like money that was already lost or spent but instead it helps me reduce my debt.
As for credit card bills–there are always mixed reviews about whether paying in full or partial helps with your credit score. In my opinion, you will build credit over time so don’t worry about building credit by paying partial statements. Pay cc bills in full–you do not want to spend the money you do not have!
Set Financial Targets
Budgeting and goal setting are things that I have the most trouble with but setting short term as well as long term goals is important to be financially healthy in the long run. Personally, I have created 6month, 1 year, 3 year and 5 year goals for myself. For example, my 6-month goal is to create an emergency savings fund and my 3 year goal is to have my car completely payed off. You can add in increments for whatever suits your personal finances but it is important to think beyond a couple of years. I met someone while traveling who told me that she and her husband saved up $100,000 over the course of a couple years solely to spend on a year long vacation abroad. Whatever it is you want to do or spend your money on whether its graduate school, buying a car, or getting married, it is easier to manage if you have planned your finances ahead of time.
Ask for Money Back!
This is one of the easiest money savings tips! In the last year, I have had countless occasions where I have received money back by just asking for it. If you like shopping like I do, most stores do price adjustments. If you buy something full price always check back. Most of the time things goes on sale and you can get a refund for the difference. I had a similar experience when I was renewing my car insurance. I admit that it’s a little bit of a nuisance to call the insurance agent every 6 months but, the last time I called I got a $50 price reduction in my payment! The small savings will add up in the end so do your due diligence!
Hope these tips were helpful and approachable! Save on!