I didn’t know much about money when I was in my 20’s.
I knew how to work, I knew how to buy stuff, and I was smart enough not to run up my credit cards.
Other than that, I didn’t really know much. The fact is money and finance is a subject which you either love or you hate.
Most of us try to avoid the subject of finance because most of our parents avoided the subject.
However, I believe now that it’s something every parent should teach their children and it’s a subject every adult should be interested in.
If I could go back in time and teach myself a few things when I turned 20, here’s what it would be.
Time Value of Money
The time value of money is a concept which states money in your pocket today is worth more than that same money in the future. Another way of looking at it is that if you have $10 in your pocket today, tomorrow it will be worth less than it was today.
That’s because money can be invested and multiplied. So, $10 today could be $11 next year if you invested it. So, getting $10 next is worth less than getting $10 today because of your ability to invest.
This applies to all of your money, including debts. So, paying off a debt today is worth more than paying it off next year.
If I understood how much my student loans would accumulate (because I deferred them) over my years of college, I would have worked harder to pay them down before leaving college. Or, at the minimum, I would have paid the interest every year.
Inflation is closely related to the time value of money. It is another reason that every day your money is worth less.
50 years ago, $10 was worth a lot, however, these days it can barely buy you anything at all. Inflation is an important thing to consider because you will need to think about your future.
If you are saving a retirement fund for yourself, you may need to save a lot more due to the increasing costs of goods as time goes on.
So, not only is investing early important to make your money worth more, you need to pay attention to inflation so it isn’t worth less!
I did learn about this in college, so I can’t say that I’d have taught myself something I actually was taught. But, it was so important that I want to reiterate it.
A sunk cost is any money you’ve spent that you can’t get back. The idea is that sunk costs should not influence future behavior.
Do you sit and finish it since you already paid?
The answer is no. You can use those 2 hours to do something more fun. There is no reason to suffer through the rest because those sunk costs should not influence your behavior.
Asset allocation simply means how you allocate your investments. Traditionally, it is suggested to spread your investments out across different investments. The idea is to lower your risk of losing the money you put into it.
But on the flip size, the more diverse you are, the lower your potential returns. That’s because the more investments you have, the more likely one of them will be a failure.
Think about it this way, if you invest in one thing, it could be a crazy success or a total failure. If it’s a huge success you make a ton of money.
But, if you got it wrong, you could lose your investment.
Diversifying makes it so you’ll probably get one or two awesome investments but you’ll also get one or two failures. So, you’re potential returns go down, but your potential losses decrease as well.
Net worth is something I only started tracking in the last couple years.
Your net worth is the total value of your assets minus all of your obligations.
Net worth is important because it represents how well you are financially. If your net worth goes down, you are making some bad decisions while if it continually goes up, you are making good decisions.
It’s important to track this, even at a young age. Every month look to see if you go up or down in value and make adjustments accordingly.
The only thing more important than your net worth is your cash flow.
Every investment you make should create some sort of cash flow (unless you earn so much that your income just doesn’t matter anymore).
In theory, it doesn’t matter what the investment is worth, as long as it provides the cash flow you need to support yourself.
So, if all of my properties lost half of their value, as long as the cash flow is the same then I’m happy.
Here are a bunch of ways to create $10,000 per month in cash flow.
Five C’s of credit
When a lender evaluates you for a loan they will look at several different factors: character, capacity, collateral, capital, and conditions. All of these are the parameters which you will be measured against for a loan.
You can also think about your credit rating and whether you are deemed financially stable enough to take on a large sum of money and pay it back on time.
Bad credit can be very smashing to your future and you can change it by using a bad credit loan to prove you are trustworthy enough to take on a new loan.
DIY: Your 5-Step Financial Planning Guide
If you’re starting out to plan your financial future, it can get overwhelming. While many opt for a financial advisor to take care of the entire process, you can always handle your financial planning all by yourself (it’s simple, really) if you’ve got the right tools.
For starters, here’s what you need:
1. Set Goals!
Chalk out your goals—it can be short term, like paying off your card payment bills or long term, to meet expenses like retirement and your kids’ education.
Take a step back and do a reality check. Where do you stand now? How are your cash flows? How soon can you meet your expenses? Create a timeline to achieve these targets (and ensure you meet them!)
2. Do The Math
Calculate your total assets, after deducting the debts—and budget smart. Ditch your debt to stay away from piling on more to your list of financial risks. If you’ve got way too many debts to clear and it’s becoming increasingly difficult to keep track of them, here’s a great tool that comes in handy.
3. Build An Emergency Fund
Uncertainties can be hard, more so if they have a significant financial impact—be it an illness, job loss, or even global downturns.
To evade being stranded, ensure that you’ve built an emergency fund (a good start would be to keep aside six months’ worth of expenses), along with solid insurance coverage to back you up.
4. Hire The Right Agents
Apart from the general power of attorney, also ensure you lay out a directive in case a medical emergency comes up (if you’re incapacitated—we know, it’s not the best of thoughts to ponder over). To ensure you plan right, avail the services of an accountant, a real estate planning authority, and a medical power of attorney.
5. Earn Money On Your Money
The final step is to make sure you earn returns off your money. How’d you go about this? To start with, educate yourself. Read, read and read some more—research about what stocks, bonds, mutual funds, ETFs and other financial instruments do. Understand their risks, costs and how you can work on diversifying your investment.
It’s important to invest in something you understand.
Post this, set up your accounts to meet each of your goals—through monthly contribution plans, 401(k)s, low-cost index funds, IRAs or other savings plans. If all these details get you dizzy (or overwhelmingly hard), you’re better off with a financial planner who can do the research and investment planning for you.
INFOGRAPHIC: 12 Quick Ways To Save Money Every Month
5 Questions With Financial Expert Kara Stevens: Building The Right Money Mindset
Believe it or not, becoming a millionaire doesn’t take much capital. It mainly a mindset shift as it pertains to money.
In order to unpack how to do just that, we spoke to financial expert, journalist and author Kara Stevens from TheFrugalFeminista.com.
In this Q&A, we discuss money management, the emotional aspect of money, and why you must heal your relationship with it first before you can learn to have more of it.
Let’s just talk about it out the gate. What’s the biggest money challenge you see in the people you work with?
I see so many things when it comes to money challenges—from fear of looking at bills to avoiding having important yet difficult conversations with their family members about money. I’d say the underlying challenge is an ambivalent relationship at best and a harmful relationship at worst with money.
We walk around usually unaware of our thoughts about money so our decisions are on autopilot and unexamined. This becomes a problem when you have goals of wealth but your actions and thoughts work in opposition to those goals.
You mentioned “financial dysfunction” and bad money habits being passed down from generation to generation. What are some that you see and how do you break them? (feel free to incorporate own experiences here)
Some of the habits that I see include living beyond one’s means and using credit cards and payday loans to subsidize lifestyles.
That’s a tricky one.
I also see the other side. People who hoard money in fear of being poor and who ironically keep their money in a low-yield savings account that will eventually erode its purchasing power.
Or inflation, which literally eats your money alive. So how do you break the money dysfunction?
Breaking free of money dysfunction begins with awareness. You have to acknowledge that you have a problem and commit to change. Even when there are setbacks.
I think the next step is seeking help whether through reading and educating yourself if you’re a self-starter or seeking support from a professional or a mentor that can guide you through your goals and offer feedback and accountability.
And finally, I think creating simple plans and goals that can be easily achieved and tracked helps you stay committed and motivated to improve your relationship with money.
You talk about “the link between self-worth and net worth.” What do you mean by that?
Usually when people hear that, they think I mean that more money makes you better or feel better. That’s not what I mean. When I say there’s a link between self-worth and net worth with respect to how we treat money. In other words, when you realize that you are enough, so you don’t have to overspend anymore or hoard money because you’ve reached a level of financial security.
Almost like being at peace with who you are financially?
Yes. How you manage your money—meaning what decisions you make around spending, saving, giving, and investing. This message is specifically those of us with money management issues and not income issues. Money management is for those of us that have enough to meet our needs, but our spending decisions keep us from making progress in our finances.
In other words, building wealth.
Right. Income issues and issues around generating wealth stem from structural inequalities. For instance, gender-based pay gap, race-based pay gap, predatory lending and so on. There is definitely an overlap when the discussion is that they don’t have enough income to manage.
Your book is called Heal Your Relationship With Money. What is it that people need to heal and why 28 days?
I think people mostly need to heal their past financial trauma from childhood, across the board. Whether you lived in poverty or privilege, there may have been beliefs passed down to you that make it hard for you to overcome financial self-sabotage.
This comes in so many forms from buying the cheapest foods because you don’t want to spend the extra money, to believing that the opposite sex is your best financial plan.
Healing can happen in a short period of time—like 28 days—when there are actionable steps and accountability. The book offers the space to engage in deep metacognition—meaning thinking about your thinking—while simultaneously offering bite-sized and tangible action steps.
What’s the biggest piece of money advice you can give someone who’s starting from scratch and doesn’t know where to go?
I think the first place to begin is to take inventory of your money mindset. Assess and examine your thoughts and subsequent decisions that stem from that train of thinking.
In doing so, you’ll be able to cultivate financial self-awareness which you’ll need to replace those thoughts and actions with ones that align with your financial goals.