Hindsight is 20/20, and as much as we’d like to go back in time and do a few things differently, it’s better to have messed up, and learned something from it, than to have never learned at all. Financial literacy is no exception to this rule.
Whether it’s student loan debt or that one summer you balled out on a $10,000-limit credit card you had no business owning, there’s never a wrong time or situation to correct your financial course.
So, to help, we’ve put together a collection of financial planning tips to keep in mind before you spend your next dollar. That right there is a good look.
Rainy Days Will Happen. Plan Accordingly
Emergencies happen. Car maintenance, medical issues, that last-minute trip to Atlanta; they can all put a dent in your bottom line and cause you to spend more money than you anticipated. That’s why it’s crucial to create a saving fund that you contribute to regularly.
Experts say to put away anywhere from three to six months of your take-home pay a year, but we know there could be other financial obligations that can keep you from reaching that, so the suggestion is this: in a year’s time, save enough to cover all of your monthly expenses for as long as it’d take you to find a new job if you lost your current one. Depending on your industry, that could be a couple of months or up to six. Your monthly budget will help determine the actual timeline. (Learn more about navigating thru financial literacy from Bevel CEO/Founder, Tristan Walker, on the Yo Business Podcast.)
Built a Budget With Wiggle Room
Speaking of which, your budget will become your best friend, if you treat it right. Everything from rent and utilities to groceries, transportation costs, and shopping habits need to be factored into a monthly budget that you can then track. There are a few good budgeting apps, like Mint and NerdWallet, that connect to your bank and investment accounts to help you keep track of every penny you spend and earn, but if you’re old school like us, a simple spreadsheet template works just as well.
Before you get too rigid about spending your money, know that budgets are meant to be bent, at times. A new Off-White collab dropping in the summer? Budget it out. There should always be room for fun things, things that you want, so long as you factor them into your overall budget.
Diversify Your Bonds…
Investing can sound intimidating, especially if you have no prior experience, or family members and friends that can help you through the process. Luckily, there’s apps nowadays that can help you out, and many major banks also provide basic investing services for their members, at little to no cost.
A thing to know about investing in stocks is that there’s no set way to do it. Invest as much or as little as you’re comfortable with until you get more acclimated to how things work. Investing is a great way to boost your retirement funds and provide a passive revenue stream that doesn’t require nearly as much of your time as another job would. A little bit every month or so goes a long way, fam.
Don’t Fear the 401k
First job out of college? Sign up for your company’s 401k plan ASAP. The sooner you start putting away money for retirement, the less you’ll have to worry about when it finally comes time to retire. Most companies have a matching policy where they’ll make a contribution to your retirement fund that matches your personal contribution up to a certain percentage, meaning you can save money twice as fast.
For those of you who don’t have a company 401k plan, there are still plenty of options. Private IRAs and other retirement programs are readily available but know that you may have to contribute more to them, as you won’t have a company matching what you put in.
There’s no magic formula for finding financial freedom, but there are ways in which you can better achieve the stability you want. These suggestions are just the tip of the iceberg but remember: if all else fails, it never hurts to talk with a trained financial advisor who can help you out of a dire situation.