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9 Useful Financial Planning Tips For 2018

The following is a guest blog post by Adam from Financial Planning Platform as their editor for content.

I’ve always been passionate about financial planning. I love using my knowledge and skills to craft plans that can work for others. As a financial planner, I’ve seen first-hand the benefits that a sound financial plan can bring. At the same time, I’ve also witnessed the problems that can occur due to bad advice or inadequate planning.

In fact, when I was younger, I set up college accounts for my children. But I didn’t realize that these financial plans would become inadequate with the changing times. In order to keep any financial plan current, there is plenty of follow-through needed. In situations such as these, it is essential to read as much as you can and stay updated with current trends. For more information on the different stages of financial planning, take a look at the infographic below.

Please include attribution to financialplanningplatform.com with this graphic.

Life Stages of Investment

Here are 10 useful financial planning tips to help you start the year on a good note. They will help you create a roadmap to balance your current expenses and plan your economic future.

1. Assess Purchases by Cost Per Use

You may think that you’re saving money by buying a trendy low-priced t-shirt, rather than a more expensive, basic shirt. But by doing this, you may be forgetting the quality aspect. A good thing to ask yourself when deciding whether to purchase an item of clothing, tech toy or kitchen gadget is how many times you’re likely to wear it or use it. You could even take this a step further when it comes to experiences by considering cost per hour.

I prefer a capsule wardrobe with a limited number of core, high-quality pieces. This way I can mix and match these quickly to put together outfits.

2. Manage Your Debt

It is necessary to have a strategic debt management plan to put an end to accruing debt that you can’t get out of. One strategic approach to debt management is paying off the most expensive debt first. Get rid of any credit card debt first and then begin paying off your personal loans, student loan debt, and housing debt. In order to avoid future liabilities, look for areas to cut back on spending and learn to spend smarter.

I used to find myself ordering in for dinner or buying a coffee every day. I put an end to this cycle by buying a coffee machine or cooking more often at home. Doing this helped me save tons of money in the long run.

3. Save In Tax-Efficient Ways

The money you save is more important than the money you earn. Whether you’re saving for retirement or to withdraw the money at a later date form your accounts, always opt for tax-efficient ways of saving. With the help of a financial planner, determine how to save to meet your various objectives. Given all the different types of investments, products, and accounts you can use, it is important to choose the right saving methods.

4. Try Not to Tap into Your Retirement Account Early

Unless you absolutely must, do not dip into your retirement funds. Doing this will affect your financial standing dramatically. You will negate all the hard work you’ve done saving so far and prevent the money from being invested. Secondly, you’ll be charged a substantial penalty for early withdrawal. Additionally, you’ll have a tax bill to deal with for the money you take out. Keep all these factors in mind and make cashing out early your last option.

Only dip into your savings if you have one of the following emergencies occur: you lose your job, your car needs repairs, you have medical bills, your home requires emergency repairs, or you have unexpected funeral expenses. Otherwise, just say no, if you can’t afford it.

5. Have an Emergency Fund

You’ve probably heard this one many times before. But it’s wise to keep this in mind. No matter how much debt you’ve built up in the form of student loans or credit card bills, it is important to put some money aside every month. This could be a small amount, but it will serve as your emergency fund. It can get you out of any financial tight spots and keep you out of trouble. You will also be able to sleep better at night, knowing that you have a backup plan. To get into the habit of saving money, start treating it as a non-negotiable monthly expense. By doing this, you’ll soon have enough money saved up and may even be able to take that long-overdue vacation.

I didn’t just hide my emergency fund under my mattress. I put it away in a high-interest online savings account to ensure that inflation didn’t erode the value of my savings.

6. Direct Deposit to See Your Money Grow

If the money you set aside for your savings, never comes to your checking account, you probably won’t miss it. Even though you know the money is part of your paycheck, it will make you feel like it comes out of thin air. You may even be pleasantly surprised by how much your savings grow over time. This is also an excellent way to get your emergency fund started.

7. Don’t Forget Your Estate Planning

Estate planning for families is an important aspect of comprehensive financial planning. In the case of premature death, there must be enough assets to take care of expenses and family needs. The amount of money necessary and the amount that needs to be liquid will be determined by the time frame of these requirements. To provide for the needs of your family, there are different types of savings you can consider such as life insurance policies, personal savings and employee benefits. Your will, beneficiary designations and individual assets must be reviewed periodically to ensure that your family needs will be matched by the funds available.

8. Discuss Money with Your Loved Ones

Couples sometimes hide their finances from their partners, and this can have a negative impact on their relationships. Take the time to talk to your partner about your plans for the future and financial goals. Come up with a shared vision of what you want your future to look like. If you’re a parent, spend time teaching your children about money. They pick up on money messages based on how we handle money whether we teach them deliberately or not. Even a small conversation can go a long way.

9. Stay Motivated

Most of us experience some amount of stress when it comes to our financial situations. When this stress is money-related, it can feel overwhelming. Find ways to deal with these feeling and stay motivated no matter what. One way to do this is by writing down the various reason why you’re stressed out. Focus on the problems that are bothering you the most and try to find solutions for these. For instance, if you’re stressed out that you never pay your credit card bill on time, try setting a reminder on your phone or opt for automatic payments.

Conclusion

You don’t need a particular educational background or fancy degrees to be able to manage your finances well. Do your research, stay aware of changing trends and consult a financial planner if necessary. If you follow the tips mentioned in this article to manage your finances, you can find stability and prosperity. So, get started now to secure your future financial wellbeing.

Author Bio

 

Yes, We Actually Gave Someone $100 To Start Investing

If you’ve seen our little pop-up or emails, we made a deal with our readers. We promised if you signed up for our email list, we’d do a drawing and a lucky person would win $100 to start investing. We’re doing this!

Remember these pop-ups?

Why Are We Doing This?

Lots of websites do different give-a-ways to encourage people to join their email newsletter. We wanted to try this, but actually, do something cool.

We didn’t want to create a “90 Ways To Save Money” pdf to give away or anything like that for new sign-ups. Frankly it was overdone and in reality, the easiest way to save money is not to spend it. There, that’s my free pdf.

So I asked myself, what do our readers actually want. Well, they want more money to invest with and pay off bills. So what if we gave (PayPal) someone $100 to use to invest. If they used that money to invest, it would grow to a lot more than $100.

I liked this idea.

How The Competition Worked

It was easy, if you signed up for our email list at any point, and still a member by the end of 2017, you would be eligible to win. We would do a drawing at the end of 2017 (actually this week) and whoever was selected, we would PayPal you $100 to do whatever they wanted.

Yes, you could use that $100 to invest, pay down bills or buy new shoes. We obviously can’t control what you will spend that money on, but we will STRONGLY encourage you to invest it. Investing is cool!

Either buy stocks with the Robinhood App, have all your investing done automatically with Betterment or lend it and make interest with Lending Club. It’s completely up to you!

How We Selected A Winner

I’m going to do something no one ever does. Share how many email subscribers they have. It’s a bit scary sharing this because if it doesn’t seem like a lot, you can easily judge us based on how many other people subscribe. So vulnerable moment, go!

We currently have 290 email subscribers to Wallet Squirrel. All of them are eligible to win the $100!

To select a winner, I went to Mailchimp and reviewed the complete list of email addresses we had. This is how I discovered we had 290 email sign-ups. That is freaking awesome!!!!!

Then I went to Google’s Random Generator, basically, just typed “Random Number Generator” in Google, try it here! At the top of the page, there is a generator where you enter the min/max amount and hit “GENERATE. I got “17”.

So at this point, I scrolled down Mailchimp’s list to locate number #17.

 

I’m now shooting them an email to let them know they won! Plus to see if this email works for their Paypal account. So check your email because I may have money for you!

Is The Competition Now Over?

Not even close, I REALLY like this idea. It’s a great way to encourage people to sign up for our email list and everyone gets a chance to win some money to do what you want (investing suggested). =P

In 2018, we’re doing this again but it’s for a chance to win $200 at the end of the year. Sign up and enter!

Happy Holidays from Wallet Squirrel – A Look Back at 2017

Happy Holidays from Wallet Squirrel – A Look Back at 2017

Fun fact. Did you know there are a total of 29 holidays celebrated between Thanksgiving and New Years Eve?

So on that note, we at Wallet Squirrel, would like to wish you a Merry Christmas, Happy Hannuka, or any other holiday you might be celebrating!

Andrew and I personally would like to thank every single one of you for an awesome 2017!

Because of you, in 2017 we saw a tremendous amount of growth of interest in our journey to becoming financial guru’s, investing ninjas, and financially free. You all have decided to join us on this journey as we all learn together from our personal experiences.

Today, I would like to take a look back at our more popular and well-liked posts of 2017. Let the reminiscing commence!

Side Hustling

We, like everyone else, love to find new ways to earn more money and to see how others are making money. This is why we started searching around the globe for new awesome ways to earn more money outside of our 9 to 5 jobs.

How Andrew made $1.88 Selling Stock Photography in 10 Days – Both Andrew and I wrote several articles about stock photography throughout the year. His about how he made $1.88 within 10 Days of being accepted performed the best. I still own the title for making the most money off of one photograph though, $1,000 and counting.

Earn Money While Working Out With the Achievement App – Achievement is a fun application that syncs up with all of your activities, including your tweets. You earn more points the more you walk, workout, sleep, tweet healthy thoughts, and so on. Let the point earning begin!

How to Sell Something on Craigslist and Make Money – Andrew was able to sell some old stuff on Craigslist. He walks us through the whole process from posting his items to meeting up with the buyer. Pretty cool!

I believe he sold his old guitar. Now that he has a girlfriend, I guess he doesn’t need to walk the streets of Denver serenading women anymore.

Investing

3 Reasons Why Monthly Dividends are Better – Andrew talks about why he believes that monthly dividends are better than other dividend stocks. He walks you through why you should think they are awesome too and how to find those stocks that hand out monthly dividends.

Come learn how you can learn extra money on top of the normal gains of investing.

Cost-Benefit Analysis Example to either Pay Off My Car or Invest? – Andrew was not sure if he should pay off his car or invest the extra money he had. Enter the cost-benefit analysis. He walks through his thought process and how to properly perform a cost-benefit analysis. Check out the article to

see what he ended up doing.

Latest Stock Purchases – Andrew informs us throughout the year about the latest stock purchases he makes. This is intended to help inform us all about new stocks that might interest you. This is one example of those articles.

You can look at his entire portfolio in the investments page.

Personal Finance

How to Pay Off Your Car Loan Faster – Paying off our car early freed up $405 a month! This money has been great so we can be more aggressive at paying off our student loans. This article walks through the different ways we were able to apply to pay off $7,000 in only three months.

How and What to Teach Your Kids About Money – A lot of us have young kids. One question I had was, “How should we go about teaching them about money?” So I did some research and this is what I found out.

9 Bad Spending Habits that are Killing Your Budget – We all have bad spending habits that we need to drop ASAP. For me, I had a lot! Luckily, I have a loving and patient wife that has helped me break most of these bad spending habits.

What are your bad spending habits?

Blogging

How to Start a Blog – I could not believe blogging was still so hot! I thought I was caught in an episode of How I Met Your Mother where Barney was only focused on his own blog. Well, the blogging world is still massive and still hot! It is time for you to start your very own blog!

50 Amazon Affiliate Website Examples – The money that can be made off of affiliate marketing is amazing! This article provides 50 examples to get the ideas flowing in your mind.

Are you planning on starting an affiliate niche website in 2018? Andrew is doing one!

An SEO Strategy – What Works and What Does Not – We saw a 1,500% in traffic growth during 2017. This growth mainly comes from our SEO strategy (also our Marketing Strategy). This is the perfect next step after you start your very own blog!

A New Year

I love the end of a year as it is a great time to look back on the goals you succeeded at and failed. This is the time of the year to prepare how you will concur the upcoming year.

For me personally, I do not succeed at every goal on my list. I am alright with that as long as I learn from my mistakes to make the next year the best year yet!

Next week I will dive more into this concept.

 

Cheers!

Adam

Personal Finance – How and What to Teach Your Kids About Money

Personal Finance – How and What to Teach Your Kids About Money

THIS POST MAY CONTAIN AFFILIATE LINKS. PLEASE READ OUR DISCLOSURE BELOW FOR MORE INFO.

No parent in the history of parenthood has ever been perfect at parenting and that is okay. No matter how much you teach them, there is always going to be one subject left out. And that is okay too.

I figure you are doing a great job if you are teaching them how to spit watermelon seeds, throw a water balloon properly, and how to ride their bike through a big water puddle.

Do not get me wrong, my parents were amazing at raising me and my siblings. I had a great childhood with lots of fun playing in the cornfields of Iowa.

But one thing I wish they would have talked more about was personal finances, specifically budgeting and saving.

This is what we will talk about today.

To be honest, this is me talking out loud to prep myself for when I need to start teaching my little one-year-old in a few years. So be sure to comment below with more ideas and thoughts!

What to Teach Them

You do not always get what you want immediately: We, as adults, always want to get the latest gadget and we want it now. Well, our kids get these same emotions, only worse as they do not know how to control them.

I suggest starting to teach your kids the concept that they do not always get what they want right away. This concept does not always have to revolve around money. For example, it could be as easy as having your child wait in line before going down the slide at the playground.

Delaying this instant gratification will show them the idea of patience. With money, this will help kids understand that they need to have patience with saving their money to buy the toy they would like.

Choices are to be made: Between smartphones, tablets, games, and the hottest toys of the month there are so many cool gadgets to be bought. Sadly, we cannot have it all. This is another great concept kids also should learn.

To help your kid, teach them to set a priority list of the different toys they would like. Then teach them how to stay focused on that list. If a new toy comes on the market, where does it fit on their list? Walk them through the thought process asking, “Is it really better than the other toy?”

Saving can turn into more money: I first learned about the stock market back in my early years of high school. Boy, it was fun to do all of the research and buy a stock that could potentially double my money.

I would save my money up just so I could buy more stocks. The prospect of gaining more money was great motivation.

Depending on the stocks you are looking to purchase the market can be pretty risky. In fact, I ended up losing more than I did making. I did know about more safe options but their potential earnings were not as quick as I wanted. This comes back to teaching your kids patience and they do not get everything they want immediately.

For me, it was a great lesson on the consequences of being aggressive with my money versus investing in a Van Gaurd mutual fund.

Now let’s take a look at how can you teach your kids these lessons.

Live by Example

Live your life the way you would want them to live their own. Kids look up to their parents and mimic them tremendously. This starts at a very early age. I cannot believe how much my one year old already watches me and mimics my actions. I have to watch for old habits.

Basically, you need to parent yourself to parent your kids.

These bad habits to watch out for include personal finance such as frivolous spending, waiting and saving up, as well as choosing what to buy over other items.

Have Conversations With Them

Living by example also includes having a conversation with your little one. Explain to them why you should not buy the item you wanted or why you need to save up to buy it.

You can also talk strategy with them. To get their minds going, ask them for ideas on how you could save up for that new gadget. Also, ask them what item they would buy first over others.

In the case of an emergency comes along like the furnace goes out. Talk with them about what is happening and how you are going to handle it. This will help them understand the importance of having an emergency fund and how to problem solve their own financial issues when they get older.

via GIPHY

Make a Game Out of it

When my wife was little, her parents made a game out of money. They would give her and her siblings an allowance after completing some chores. Then her mom would have a little store where the kids could buy items from. Some things were more expensive than others forcing them to learn how to save up their money when needed.

I like this concept a lot and we will implement it with my little one once he gets old enough. It will be a good lesson for him to learn how to manage and save up his money for fun toys.

You could easily use a game format to teach your kids about money.

Setting Goals for a Toy

Teaching your kids about goals will also teach them about patience. Have them shop a little bit to find a toy they want. Then help them set up the monetary goal to be able to buy that toy.

Setting a monetary goal will teach them about saving and patience.

You will need to help them stay focused on their overall goal. They will see toys they can afford now. Remind them of the big toy they really want. Make sure you walk them through the consequences if they buy the cheaper toy instead.

via GIPHY

Conclusion

For me, I look forward to teaching my little one about personal finance. It will be fun to see how he grows within the subject. Also, if I do a REALLY REALLY good job at it, maybe he can take care of my wife and I financially when we get older.

What methods do you use to teach your kids about money?

Are you looking to earn more money to help teach your kids with? Well, check out our Ways to Make Money page. This page will help you decide between different side hustles as to which one is best for you.

 

Happy Thanksgiving! Here Are Some Facts To Be Thankful For

Happy Thanksgiving (American readers)! However, if you’re an international reader, Thanksgiving in America is just a day where people are reminded to be thankful for everything we have and celebrate with eating lots of turkey and pie. Usually surrounded by friends and family.

However in this Thanksgiving post, I wanted to be reminded of how far I’ve come, and our readers, in understanding finance. Because it wasn’t long ago (only in 2015 I paid off $6,000 of credit card debt) that I knew NOTHING about finance and started learning. So I found some interesting finance facts to remind myself of how far I’ve come.

10 Fun Finance Facts

  1. Student Loans are in the trillions of dollars and two of five student loan accounts become delinquent within the first five years of making an attempt to pay student loan payments (source). I have auto-deduct on my student loans, it helps A LOT!
  2. Nearly 30% of Americans don’t have at least 3 months of money to get them by if something happens (source). Personally, my Emergency Fund has 3 months of cash I can tap before I start pulling from my investment accounts to get me by.
  3. In the days of the pilgrims (see thanksgiving themed fact) a US Dollar was called a “buck” because the pelt of a male deer was worth a dollar (source). I didn’t know this before!
  4. Did you know Walt Disney every year for the holidays gave his housekeeper stocks of Disney? By the time his housekeeper, Thelma Howard died, she amassed a $9.5 million dollar fortune (source). Be nice to housekeepers and thankful for everyone doing these thankless jobs!
  5. Don’t take investment advice from celebrities. I’m thankful I never have. The Rapper 50 Cent in 2011 started tweeting about H&H Imports (stock ticker HNHI), an investment he owns and told people to invest. Although his tweets are now taken down, he made $8.7 million from his comments on the penny stock (source). Can’t imagine his followers did as well.
  6. If you’re having a bad day, just remember Ronald Wayne. Ronald was a third co-founder of Apple along with Steve Jobs and Steve Wozniak. Ronald sold his 10% stake in Apple in 1976 for $800. That 10% stake is now worth more than $35 billion (source). I’m thankful not to have that guilt on my conscious. Remember buy/hold!
  7. I hate coins, but I’m thankful they add up! In 2015, the TSA (the people at airport security lines) collected $765,759.15 in loose change. This is the money people just left behind in those long lines and x-ray machine bins. They get to keep it all too (source)!
  8. Buy and hold stocks are a thing. As of January 2013, there were 16 people left in the world who were born in the 1800’s. If they invested (and held) in the stock market, US stocks had increased 28,000% during their lifetimes (source). I’m thankful to start buying and holding so young. I could totally live to be a hundred.
  9. 46.1% of Americans will die with less than $10,000 in assets (source). This factoid haunts my dreams. I’m thankful I  have more than this currently.
  10. In 2011, US charitable giving was $298 billion. That’s more than the GDP of all the countries in the world, except 33 of them (source). That’s pretty awesome and something to be thankful for!

Have a great day everyone!

First Time Home Buyer? Here is What You Should Know Before You Buy!

First Time Home Buyer? Here is What You Should Know Before You Pull the Trigger

Last week I had a friend on Facebook ask a really important question for anyone that is going to be a first time home buyer.

She asked, “Things you wish people would’ve told you before you bought your first house.”

The responses she received were really good and I thought were also very important for any of you considering to buy your first house.

Some responses were not as helpful but were just hilarious.

So let’s dive into some of the best responses.

Inspect Expensive Appliances and Other House Features

Here is the scenario.

You just move into your beautiful new home after paying all of those expensive closing fees. Your savings account is basically at zero now. Dinner time comes so you venture into the kitchen to grab something out of the fridge to only find everything lukewarm.

The fridge has already burnt out.

While you are inspecting the house, you should consider the age of the furnace, appliances, hot water heater, roof, and windows. All of these items can create a major expense at some point in the homes life but we do not want them happening right away when you are already recovering from some major bills.

Now, sadly, bad luck does hit so not everyone will be able to avoid it but increase your luck by not buying a home with a hot water heater that is 15 years old.

Do NOT Get Hung Up on Cosmetics

Many people get overly worried about the small things in a house.

Do not fall into this trap.

The paint in the living room can be changed. The landscaping can be updated. Floors can be replaced. And cabinets can be refinished.

All of these projects will cost money but can be done in phases as you save up for each one, not going into more debt. You will have enough of that as a first time home buyer.

via GIPHY

Be Picky About What You CANNOT Change

To follow up on the little things you should not get hung up on as a first time home buyer, you should get hung up on the things you CANNOT change.

These include the location, house layout, neighbors, lot size, and so on. Once you buy the house, these things are yours now. There is no going back until you sell the house.

Be very observant and picky about anything you cannot change to the home. Do your research about what you want in these things.

For my wife and I, location was a big deal. We did not want to live in the cookie cutter suburbs. We wanted to be 15 minutes from downtown, 15 minutes from the mountains, and close to work. Also, we wanted to be close to awesome restaurants.

The only thing we really did not get from our house was a basement but that has been surprisingly nice not to have (less to maintain).

Observe the Area at All Times

When my wife and I were in the process of buying our home, we made sure that we drove by at all times of the days. We even stopped, rolled down the windows, and listened to the neighborhood sounds.

I suggest you do the same thing. Even after you are under contract (you usually can still call it off).

We actually saw our future neighbor fighting with his son during one of the visits. We talked with another neighbor to find out that it was a one-off thing. Both were just having a bad day.

This could have gone the other way, were they fought every day. That would not be fun to live next to.

via GIPHY

Check for Cell Service

With younger generations ditching landlines, it is crucial for any first time home buyer to make sure they get cell service in all parts of the new house.

It would really suck if you cannot lay in bed talking to your best friend who lives in Maine on the phone.

While visiting your future home for the first time make sure to check how many bars you have while walking from room to room.

If things are looking bad, there are ways around bad reception. Check with your cell provider to see if they will give you a signal booster.

Really Plan out Your Budget

When you are looking to become a first time home buyer, you really need to know your finances in and out. This is when having an awesome budget comes into play.

Need help making a budget? Check out Mint. To me, this is the best budgeting application out there. Period.

Go ahead and download Mint to create your budget.

You will want to account for every expense to figure out how much of a mortgage payment you can afford. It is best to even do some research on how much your utilities will be for your future home.

To start you off, see if you are making any of these bad spending habits that could be killing your budget.

via GIPHY

Landscaping

Landscaping is something that can be easily changed. Do not believe me? Check out what I was able to accomplish this past Spring.

There are things you need to inspect though because somethings will be harder to change.

Is there a sprinkler system? If so, inspect the valves for leaks. Check for soggy spots in the yard, this may signal a leak in the piping.

How is the grading around the house? Does it flow away from the house or towards the house? Look beyond your future property to make sure water will not be flowing towards your house.

Lastly, look up. What is the condition of the trees around the house? Are they trees healthy or are they going to fall on the house in the next storm?

Also, make sure those trees are not going to be super messy trees for you. Some varieties will drop pods or seeds all times of the year. That is a lot of maintenance!

via GIPHY

See if you qualify for First-Time Buyers Assistance

There are a lot of grants for first time home buyers. These grants are meant to help people buying their first home a lot easier by providing assistance with the down payment.

Upfront, this sounds amazing but might not be right for you.

Talk with your lender to hear about all the options. Be aware of particular clauses that might make the loan unfavorable.

For my wife and I, we only qualified for these grants if the interest rate was higher or we carried the private mortgage insurance (PMI) throughout the entirety of the loan.

PMI

This brings me to the last thing to watch out for, private mortgage insurance.

Watch out for this insurance that usually adds on about $100 to your monthly mortgage payment.

You will need to pay this insurance on conventional loans until you reach 20% of your loan paid off.

Other loans types such as the FHA loan will require you to carry the insurance for the entire lifespan of the loan.

Now you can always refinance your loan to get out of it, but that could cost you several thousand dollars to complete.

Conclusion

Buying a home for the first time can seem like a very daunting task but it does not have to be if you plan properly. Go into buying a home with your finances in line, a plan with what you are looking for, and your vigilant eyes on.

Now there are so many other things to watch out for in a home such as a possum dean under the deck but these are big ones that were most talked about.

What advice would you give to a first time home buyer?

Looking for some more money to help support projects at your new home? Well, check out our Ways to Make Money page. Here we walk through some side hustles we have personally tried out so you can find one that works best for you.

 

8 Personal Finance Moves I Wish I Knew Before Turning 30

8 Personal Finance Moves I Wish I Knew Before Turning 30

THIS POST MAY CONTAIN AFFILIATE LINKS. PLEASE READ OUR DISCLOSURE BELOW FOR MORE INFO.

I am now 32 and I am sadly just starting to mature with my personal finance moves. I guess better late than never but I still get a knot in my stomach every time I think about the time I wasted.

Today I want to talk about 8 personal finance moves I think every twenty-something should do right now. I am going to talk about what I wish I knew when I got out of college. That being said, this article will be extremely personal as I will share examples of the mistakes I made along with a couple right moves.

If you feel like you are following my twenty-year-old self, it is time to make some changes in your life.

My goal is that anyone, young or old, learns something about personal finance that they might be missing. It is your turn not to do what I did in the past!

1. Plan for your future major expenses

Boy did I fail hard on this! I was too caught up with living in the moment. I think a lot of us can be like this when we are in our twenties and it is something we should keep an eye out.

Where did this hurt me? Purchasing a home. I should have been more aggressive in saving up for that downpayment when my wife and I moved out to Colorado. Instead, I focused on materialistic items and experiences during our first four years out here.

Why did this hurt me? Prices shot up like none other in Denver. We could have bought our dream home three or four years ago. Now don’t get me wrong, we live in a very nice home in a pretty decent area but it is not the area we would LOVE to be in. If I focused harder on getting that down payment when we first moved out here, then we would be in that dream home.

Plus, we probably would have made about $100k off of that dream home by now. Our current home has gone up $30k in value since last year.

Yep, the Denver market is just that crazy.

As lame as it sounds, I would create a roadmap for yourself and those major expenses you have coming up. Those purchases could be anything you know is coming for you such as home, car, masters degree, trips overseas, and so on.

With the roadmap, you should lay out how many years out you want to make the purchase and how much you need for each purchase. These measures will allow you to make a priority list as well as how much you need to put away each month for these.

2. Have an emergency fund

The emergency fund is there for when life throws you a curveball. This curveball could include something horrible going wrong with your health, major car expense, something going wrong with your house, or even losing your job.

Many experts believe that you should calculate three to six months worth of essential expenses in your emergency fund in case you lose your job.

These expenses include (according to Vanguard):

  • Housing (Rent or mortgage)
  • Food
  • Healthcare (Medication, insurance, and so on)
  • Utilities
  • Transportation
  • Personal Expenses
  • Debt payments

But Suze Orman (another financial expert) argues against the three to six-month number. She thinks you should save past the normal recommended number. In her interview with CNBC, she stats, “You need to know that you are going to be secure.” This is why she recommends having eight to twelve months worth of expenses saved up.

I agree with Suze. Just out of college during the Great Recession, I struggled to find work. It took me nearly eight months to find a job that would somewhat support myself. Luckily, I was able to lean on my parents during this time. I couldn’t imagine going through that without an emergency fund or without anyone to help me.

Sadly, I did not learn from this experience. I continued on in my twenties without an emergency fund.

Luckily, during my twenties, I did not have any curveballs thrown my way because I did not have an emergency fund. This was a very silly mistake by me because I had a high-deductible health plan that had a $5,000 deductible. If I had been in a skiing, car accident or needed my appendix taken out, I would have been in some financial trouble.

If one of these expenses comes up and starts to drain your emergency fund, it is time to start filling it back up to that comfortable stage. Below is how Andrew pictures this to go. Almost like a waterfall effect.

 

You also might enjoy reading about Andrew’s thoughts on emergency funds, My Emergency Find, Why I Keep $2,000 for Emergencies.

3. Budget

Your personal finance cannot be successful without a strong budget. Budgeting has become so easy with amazing apps such as Mint (see Andrew’s review here) or Personal Capital. There really is no excuse for you not to be keeping a budget.

Setting up a proper budget will require way more time than what we have but we can take a 30,000-foot overview of it today. Basically, the goal is not to spend more money than what you make each month. You will want to lay out your net income along with your monthly expenses, and savings goals. Those savings goals along with any concrete monthly expenses that you cannot skip out on such as mortgage or utilities are the highest priority. From there you need to adjust those other expenses so your total does not go above your net income.

The difficult part, at least for me, is to stick to that budget (we will talk about this next). I am a foodie that lives in a foodie city so it is very easy to lose focus and go over budget on the ‘Eating Out’ budget line. I need to follow Andrew’s Peanut Butter & Jelly Theory when I am feeling the need to eat out.

4. Live within your means

It is so easy to spend on frivolous things nowadays. Man, there are some awesome materialistic things to purchase out there! You should see my shoe collection from when I worked in retail after deciding to leave landscape architecture. What a waste of money those purchases were!

This is where the budget comes handy. You know how much you will make, save, and spend each month. Live within this budget, stay focused on this budget, and you will live within your means.

If you are feeling the urge to spend on frivolous things ask yourself this question. “Do I want or need this item?” Most of the time the answer will come back that you want the item, not need it.

5. Start your retirement fund now!

In the first couple of years outside of college, I was the victim of the immature thinking, “I’m young! Retirement is so far out! I do not need to save for that yet!”

Please do not be that person! Start saving now if you have not already!

Fidelity says that by the time you turn 30 you should have saved up what half of your annual salary is (Investopedia). So if you are making $50,000 a year, you should have $25,000 saved up for retirement.

My wife and I did get back on track once we moved to Colorado when I got my first ‘big boy’ job and my wife got her teaching position.

Image Credit: http://time.com/money/4258451/retirement-savings-survey/

6. Start paying off those student loans

I put off paying my student loans as long as I could. Almost 10 years later I still have that original debt plus interest. How silly was that? I keep seeing friends on Facebook posting about how they just paid off the last bit of their student loans. Boy, do I envy them.

Get those student loans paid off as soon as possible to free up all of that interest money you are sinking into them. That interest money you save could go towards your retirement, your financial freedom.

7. Build up that credit score

Now, this is an area that I excelled at. I was able to start building up credit back in college with student loans as well as an emergency credit card. Then when my wife and I moved out to Colorado, I was able to continue to build on top of this foundation. Over the last 12 years since starting my credit building I have only missed a handful of payments and now carry no credit card debt or car debt. All of this has led me to have an exceptional score!

There are some people who argue that a credit score is pointless if you shoot to be debt free. This is a statement I can agree with if you either plan to never own a home or you have enough cash to buy a home outright. For most of us though, our credit score will be very important for us to buy that home.

Image Credit: https://www.creditsesame.com/blog/credit/credit-score-range-for-experian-transunion-equifax/

8. Keep learning everyday

You should never stop trying to learn about personal finance. There is always something new to learn. This is why you should try to read a couple books each year about personal finance or just finance in general.

Either way, life is boring when you are not learning new things every day. Might as well make those new things something that will get you to financial freedom sooner.

Don’t like to read? I hate it as well!

Want to know my secret? I bought myself an Amazon Kindle. I read every night now because of that bad boy. You can even connect it with your local library (if they provide the service) to check out free ebooks.

Time to Make Your Personal Finance Moves!

All of my friends call me the old man, mainly because I am the oldest of us all. Well, it is your turn to learn from this old man and the financial mistakes he has made.

If you feel like you are making any of these mistakes, like I did, it is time for you to make a change with your personal finances. Do not waste away the time like I did as you will not get that time back. Time will just keep moving forward, leaving you behind.

If you are looking to earn some extra money and need some ideas on how to do that, then check out our Ways to Make Money page. Here Andrew and I provide 70, yes 70, ways you can make money outside of your 9 to 5 job. We even test these out for you so you can easily figure out what side hustle is best for you.