Let’s Get Literate
Way back in the day, before I was in school, there used to be a class called home economics. Now, most people picture this as the opposite of wood shop where young women learned how to bake and wash dishes and make a man happy.
But it was far from that. Sure, there was some cooking and some cleaning, but the real lessons learned in home economics had little to do with gender roles or baking sheets.
Children learned exactly what the class’ name would suggest: the economics of the home. How to open a bank account and balance a checkbook. How to set a budget for bills and make sure they’re all paid on time. How to save for retirement, college, emergencies, and vacations.
Home economics taught people financial literacy, not how to bake cookies.
But it’s a thing of the past. Bloated school budgets aren’t big enough to teach kids the value of a dollar anymore. That’s probably good, because if they knew about value, they probably wouldn’t vote for the people who killed home ec.
But it’s led to something else: financial literacy month. It’s not a whole semester or school year of learning about money, but it’s more than kids would get without it.
This month just happens to be financial literacy month in the U.S. And it’s not just kids who can benefit from becoming more literate in the financial sense.
So today I’m going to talk about a few things you can do to help get your finances in the best health possible…
Build a Foundation
The first thing you need to do is to make a commitment to change. You’ve already taken a big step forward by subscribing to Wealth Daily and getting access to some of the brightest minds in finance.
But that’s not enough. You need to really make a commitment to change the way you live. Just like when you’re trying to lose weight, a short-term diet isn’t going to cut it.
You may lose a little weight, but as soon as you go back to your old eating habits, it’s all coming right back. You have to change your lifestyle if you want to make long-term changes.
You need to change the way you make financial decisions. Do you base them on reason or emotion? Did you buy that new car because you needed a new car or because your neighbor’s new car was really pretty? Do you really need that new iPhone or will yours work for another year or two?
You’ve got to be willing to commit to a budget too. You can’t save money if you’re spending it all as soon as you make it.
So you need to take a look back and see what your expenses are. Which are recurring (the same every month, quarter, or year)? Which are necessary and which are extraneous?
Figure out how much you need each month to cover your obligations and set that aside. These are things like food, rent or mortgage, insurance, utilities, etc.
Then take a look at how much you’ve been spending on non-essentials like trips to bars or restaurants (maybe bad examples after the year we’ve been through), ice cream sundaes, and cigarettes.
Those aren’t things you need. They’re extra. And they can be cut out or at least diminished some.
Once you’ve got a budget, you’ll have a better idea of what’s left over to put to work. And that’s another commitment you need to make.
It’s easy to see a big balance in your checking account at the end of the month and decide to splurge on that special thing you’ve been wanting. But that’s not getting your financial situation to optimal health.
You need to commit to saving that extra money if you ever hope to be able to become financially independent.
And that leads to the next step in the process. You can’t just “save” — you have to invest.
Make Your Money Work for You
Most of us spend the majority of our lives working for our money. But some lucky few have figured out that the true path to financial success is the opposite.
You’ve got to get that money to start working for you. It’s a trite phrase you’ve probably heard often. But trite or not, it’s true.
If your money isn’t working for you, then the only money you’ll ever see is the money you worked for. And you can only work so much. So that means you can only earn so much.
But if your money is working for you, then your earning potential is practically limitless.
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And when I say you need to make your money work for you, I mean you need to be investing it. You just can’t hope to have a bountiful financial future if you’re not doing that one thing.
But you’ve also got to make some decisions. Sure, you need to figure out where to invest, but you also need to figure out how much to invest.
You’ve already got a budget. And there’s a good chance that includes debt payments.
But what kind are they? Are they low-interest payments on a mortgage? Or are they high-interest payments on a credit card? Or are they in between, like a school loan?
The rate you’re paying on that debt should determine how much money you put toward it and how much you invest.
I’ve got a mortgage. But I’ve got a pretty low rate on that mortgage because I got it post-2009. So I can reasonably expect to earn a higher rate of return in the stock market than I’m paying in interest on that loan.
That leads me to invest my extra money instead of putting it toward paying off the loan.
But if I had, say, a 27% interest rate on a high credit card balance, you’d better believe every extra penny I have would be going to pay that off as fast as possible.
You see, historically, the stock market gains about 8%–10% a year. That’s more than double the rate I’m paying on my mortgage, but it’s less than half the rate I’d be paying on that credit card.
So it makes more sense to pay off the credit card before investing in the stock market. You pay off the high-interest debt first because it costs you the most.
Once you’re down to just low-interest debt, it becomes more of a personal question: Do you want to invest in the stock market or do you want to pay off the mortgage?
My decision was to invest. I’ve got friends who’ve decided to pay off the house first. Neither of us is doing it wrong.
But if you’ve got a high-interest balance on a credit card or a payday loan and you’re not using every extra dollar to pay that off, you’re doing it wrong.
So now you know what money you have to put to work. And thanks to your subscription to Wealth Daily, you’re getting daily advice on where to invest.
And if you’re not sure how to invest, the experts here can help with that too.
In fact, I recently created a tutorial section for my investment advisory service, The Wealth Advisory, that walks you thorough the process of opening a stock trading account and placing your first trade. It even shows you how to close an investment when you’re ready to cash out.
But there’s one more step in the process of reaching true financial health. And that comes back to the first step: commitment.
In It for the Long Run
You’ve got to commit to your commitment. You’ve got to stick with it. Like that flash diet, it’s not going to stick if you just do it for a little while.
This has to be a lifestyle change. This has to be your new normal. You’ve got to keep moving forward.
But thanks to your stellar judgment in signing up for Wealth Daily, you’re already much further down the road to financial health than many.
And you’re improving your financial literacy every day, not just one month a year.
So keep at your plan and keep reading our commentary. And if you’re interested in a little extra help, do yourself a favor and check out our premium advisory services like Energy Investor, Bull and Bust Report, Technology and Opportunity, and of course, mine, The Wealth Advisory.
Our goal is to help people like you take control of your finances and attain the future you’ve always dreamed about. We’re not compensated by assets under management or number of transactions, and we’re not paid to recommend companies.
We’re in this for you and you alone. And that’s why we give the best financial advice around.
To your wealth,
After graduating Cum Laude in finance and economics, Jason designed and analyzed complex projects for the U.S. Army. He made the jump to the private sector as an investment banking analyst at Morgan Stanley, where he eventually led his own team responsible for billions of dollars in daily trading. Jason left Wall Street to found his own investment office and now shares the strategies he used and the network he built with you. Jason is the founder of Main Street Ventures, a pre-IPO investment newsletter, and co-authors The Wealth Advisory income stock newsletter. He also contributes regularly to Wealth Daily. To learn more about Jason, click here.
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