If You Only Do 6 Things to Protect Your Financial Future, Do These!
As Rich Bitches, we love to plan: our outfits, our weekends, and (of course) our killer career moves. But we’re not always as on-the-ball about planning for our finances down the road. Luckily, you don’t even need to get into a 401(k) debate (in fact, I argue that those aren’t for everyone!). Just try these 6 easy peasy things to protect Future You…now:
- Create a spending plan that you can (actually) stick to. Budgeting does not mean having less fun. It means making conscious decisions about how you’re going to deploy your money based on how you want to live. It means more choices, not fewer: your finances are a lot less scary when you know exactly where you money is going. Things like buyer’s remorse become things of the past because you’re accounting for what you’re spending. And however modest your paycheck might seem, develop a system to stash some of it every month. I like the automatic savings plans offered by many banks because they drop a preset amount of your paycheck into your savings account every month! It’s hard to miss what you can’t even see.
- Break your spending plan into the Three E’s. I like to break down all expenses into 3 E’s: Essentials (spending to live now – 70%), Endgame (spending for the future – 15%), Extras (spending for fun – 15%). Check in with your LBD (Little Budget Diary) at the end of each month and see where you can reallocate some funds. For example, if you’re saving on gas by taking public transportation, can you move some of that money over to make a dent in your rent, or put it toward your Endgame?
- Get that debt monkey off your back…for good. When it comes to tackling debt, you need to “prioritize to pulverize.” Repeat after me: not all debt is created equal. Pay off credit cards before ANY other debt, since they have the highest interest rate. Next is a car loan, followed by a mortgage. Student debt is the last to get pulverized. Come up with a debt plan (like I did when I found myself in an overwhelming $5,000 of debt) and start creating an “emergency fund” with 6-9 months of savings in the bank. If you have a more precarious job (real estate agent, actress, etc.), then aim for one year of expenses in your “emergency fund” vs. 6-9 months. This is your “break in case of emergency fund.”
- Rethink your retirement options. First of all, it’s not gospel that you should invest in a 401(k). To clarify, that doesn’t mean it’s not for you; just know that you don’t have to participate just because a 401(k) is offered to you. If your employer doesn’t match contributions, or if there are high fees involved, or if the plan doesn’t come with the right investment choices for you, you might want to rethink where you put your money…like maybe looking into an IRA, or “individual retirement account.” You can open one with money you don’t pay taxes on until you use the money when you retire. 59 is the earliest you can take it out without a penalty–the same as with a 401(k). But unlike a 401(k), an IRA is not offered through an employer; you set it up yourself and keep that account no matter where you work throughout your career.
- Start saving NOW. You know you should get going on saving for retirement, but you think there’s time. Well…maybe. But that depends on what kind of life you want to live when you retire. Want to take that trip to Fiji? Or are you good doing crossword puzzles while living at your grown kid’s house? Remember: your 20s and early 30s are your peak saving years, laying the foundation for your future. I’m not going to go on and on about why it’s never too early to start saving for retirement, I’ll just give you a little example. A twenty-year-old woman who puts a one-time $5,000 investment into a retirement account will have $160,000 by the time she retires. However, if she waits until she’s forty-years-old to invest the same amount, she’ll have only $40,000 by the time she retires. Let’s say, however, that this woman puts in $5,000 per year starting at age twenty. By the time she retires she will have almost $2 million! The magic ingredient to making yourself an amazing retirement feast isn’t money, it’s time. The more time, the more your interest compounds, the more your balance rises and the more money you have to enjoy when you retire. Remember that quote from Einstein, marveling at the power of “compound interest?” Embrace the genius of it.
- Make more money! Because the more you make, the more you can save and the less you have to worry. I’m all about the side hustle! Into sports? Ref high school games on weekends. Wanna make it as a writer? Try your hand at paid online reviews or on freelancing sites like eLance. Like to get your craft on? Sell your homemade jewelry on Etsy. These are great ways to indulge your passion projects while making a little extra coin on the side.