Money is an ever-present part of our lives. From adding our first coin to a piggy bank to the last bill we pay before passing away, we cannot escape it. A healthy relationship with money can be a starry night sky, a map to plot a course through life’s journeys like a seafarer. An unhealthy relationship can be a specter, haunting us and filling us with anxiety with every new expense. Whether you are just getting started with your own financial picture, or recalibrating your current one, here are a few tips to get started.
Make it Easy to Save and Hard to Spend
Don’t make saving money an exercise in willpower. Construct the environment to help you do what you want to do.
Think about how easy it is to buy something online. Have you ever used that “buy with one click” button? Credit cards and the internet have given us 24/7 access to a nearly unlimited selection of digital retailers. It is too easy to quickly spend money and not think twice about it. That is by design. Retailers are trying to reduce friction between you and a transaction, because friction creates an opportunity to reconsider.
Now contrast those answers with savings. How easy have you made it to save money in your life?
Here are a few tips to make it a bit harder to spend and a bit easier to save:
- Set up automatic contributions to your savings account or to an employer retirement plan.
- Set up a savings goal for future purchases. Do you want a new car? If you save a bit each month toward the car you will have given your money a future purpose, which will make saving much easier.
- Uninstall retail applications from your phone, and do not save credit card information in online portals.
- Set up credit card alerts to warn you of high balances.
Learn One Thing at a Time, and Start with a Good Base
Developing financial literacy takes time. There is an immense volume of information to digest, even if any subject isn’t overly complex. A simple question might require knowledge of several tidbits of information to resolve. Getting the best credit card for your needs, for example, requires some understanding of interest rates, annual fees, card perks, credit scores, credit limits, etc. It can easily be overwhelming if this question is your first venture into the financial world.
Developing a good knowledge base, or even having a few simple general rules, can help make the learning process more manageable. Over time, these concepts build upon one another and form a web of knowledge, reducing the amount of new information you need to digest along your journey.
Here are a few general rules to keep in mind:
- Money coming in is better than money going out.
- A dollar now is worth more than a dollar later.
- It is good to pay less interest and earn more interest.
Those three things might seem obvious, but now the credit card question from earlier becomes far less daunting. If you have the option, you can now consider:
- A card with a lower interest rate is better than a card with a higher interest rate (all else equal),
- A card with an annual fee (money out), might still be a good option if you expect to get more value in credit card perks (money in) throughout the year.
Now, you will just need to do a little research on credit limits and credit scores before making an educated choice on how to proceed.
Don’t be Afraid to Talk about Money
Most people are uneasy talking to others about money. Thus, learning about money and developing financial literacy becomes an isolated endeavor. We can often do ourselves a favor by learning from the mistakes of others. It can also be freeing to know that our mistakes can serve as a warning to help others. The more we can do to dissolve the stigma of discussing financial topics, the better we can prepare ourselves, and others, for a lifelong relationship with money.
The information provided herein is for educational purposes only, and should not be construed as advice, including, but not limited to tax, legal, insurance, investment, or retirement advice. For your specific planning needs, please seek the advice of Integris Wealth Management, your tax accountant, attorney, insurance agent, or other professional as appropriate. Investing involves the risk of loss.