I’m going to be real with you. My knowledge of savings and retirement was non existent for longer than I’d like to admit. I had no idea what a 401k was, much less any information on how to participate in the sheer act of real saving. Sure, I knew it was important to have a savings account, a rainy-day fund as I like to call it. I never really had anyone in my life telling me specifics on what to do with my money, how I can make my money work for me, and the importance of saving as early as possible.
I always worked hard, dating back to my middle school days. I started working at my sixth-grade teachers seafood market, making a whopping $5 an hour! I don’t know what I did with that money back then. I do remember my mom used to wash my earnings because it smelled like seafood! I probably used my extra cash to fund my love for clothes or to highlight my hair.
It was when I started my first job real job and my employer asked me if I wanted to contribute into a 401k. In all efforts of candor, I was 22 years old and wasn’t making much money then. Truthfully, my mindset was that I did not need to save for retirement yet, surely I had time! I decided to opt out of the program, just because of where I was in my life. I was just stepping into the working world, buying a new boss lady wardrobe (all funded by retail credit cards which I DO NOT recommend), and did not have a grasp on my ingoing and outgoing finances.
You might be reading this thinking, “well isn’t it inappropriate to talk about money and finances?” I would agree that it is definitely out of line to share with the world what your pay check and bank account looks like. However, what is not inappropriate is teaching all people about concepts of money and the importance of saving.
Small tips, Big impacts
For 2020, I made it a goal for myself to have a stronger handle on my finances. As women, there is data to support that we are smarter investors and make better financial decisions then men. Typically, male are the leaders in a relationship to take hold of the financial portfolio, leaving the women to smile and nod to the notion they “are being taken care of.” As females, we can no longer smile and nod without knowing what the hell is going on.
I made it a personal goal this year to take financial courses to understand the fundamentals of saving, investing, and planning for retirement. I want to know exactly where all of our money is going and how it is going to work for us. In case something happens, we as women must know where our finances lie so we are not taken advantage of or in a position where we do not know what to do.
I am not an expert in finances by any means, but I do feel compelled to share the small ways you can save, which will make huge impacts throughout your lifetime. If there is anyone else out there like me(which is OK to admit!), you may feel hopeless or disconnected with what your finances look like or what you can do to build your savings. It is never too late to start saving, no matter how much, and I want to share a few of the lessons I’ve implemented in my own life to take me from clueless to knowledgeable about my money, honey!
1 // Pay yourself first.
I got this tip from one of my favorite financial non-fictional books The Latte Factor. Side bar: I highly recommend anyone and everyone to check out this quick, yet informative read. It’s an engaging and relatable story focusing on a young adult going through her own journey of how to afford the things she dreams of and simple ways she adopted saving.
I love the idea of this concept “pay yourself first,” because who are you working for? Many of us have families to support, bills to pay, food to put on the table, and more. Even if you can only pay yourself $5 per paycheck or maybe its $5 per hour that you work, that money will begin to grow over time to become something large.
Think about the concept of paying yourself first. I started to think about this specifically in the aspect of shopping. When I began to focus my mind on how much an item is worth versus how much of a portion of my check I should save per month to “pay myself,” I began to realize if frivolous material items were as necessary as I thought they were. I began to realize I work very hard for the cost of an item and is it worth it to blow that dollar amount immediately? That amount could equate to a certain amount of hours I work and is it worth all of that time I work to earn the money to spend it so quickly on something I just randomly picked up at the mall?
2 // Create a hidden side savings account.
One of my mentors at work told me she had a dream house project she was wanting to do for years. I remember telling her that I have dream goals I’d love to save money for too. However, the problem for me is that if I see that dream money hanging out in my everyday bank account, then I will in fact spend it!
Coincidentally, my friend had the same problem as I and she developed a solution. She set up an online bank account, separate from her standard account, with a higher than average interest rate (which is super smart by the way) and set up a small percent of her bi-weekly paycheck to auto draft into that separate account.
When she told me this concept, I’m not going to lie, I got really excited! To me, it seemed like such a smart, effective way to save money without even knowing it. That is what appealed to me so much about this method. I took her advice and set up my own account with Ally (their interest rate has substantially lowered due to the pandemic, but still higher than average big banks). You can do some research to find which online banking organization works best for your needs.
I did not check this account regularly, nor did I have a debit card associated with it. I check it every couple months or so and amazed at the progress since the last time I previously checked on it. I have used this fund multiple times for different things I want to accomplish, such as paying off my car in full, going on vacations, funding our dream wedding and honeymoon, and more.
3 // Layout all of your expenses.
Many people struggle with this reality. I won’t lie and I will admit there are times in my life where I do not want to face the facts of where my dollars are flying away to. It is a tough reality and pill to swallow to digest your personal finances and see where your money is going. The reality of the situation is, if you do not have a handle on where your money is going then you are setting yourself up for failure.
Drew and I do an exercise every few months to review our finances. We have a spreadsheet that details every recurring bill we expect for a year, as well as guess-timates on miscellaneous bills such as doctor visits, maintenance on our home and cars, travel for visiting our family, and more. We try to plan conservatively, which we may overestimate, but I’d rather have an unexpected cushion instead of finding myself short.
This activity is also quite beneficial for people to evaluate how many active monthly subscriptions they have. Think about it. Netflix, Disney+, Hulu, Amazon, Fabletics, Young Living, and any other random subscription you can imagine may be a part of your monthly budget! Those different buckets of recurring expenses can add up and it may be time for you to reduce and consolidate the amount of subscriptions you are committed to.
There are apps out there to help you keep check on your incoming and outgoing expenses. One of my favorites is Mint.com.
4 // Contribute to a retirement plan.
When I started my formal job with my now company, I was surrounded by intelligent co-workers, who thankfully became my close friends. Lucky for me,these friends looked out for me and encouraged me to start putting money into my 401k. I remember sitting with them and going through the 401k options.
I felt really silly for not knowing a lot about this. It took a lot of vulnerability to admit that I needed help in this area and letting my guard down. It is impossible to know the answers to everything and there are times of our life where it’s okay to accept we need help! My friends at work walked me through the different advantages of a 401k, how to build a strong, diverse portfolio,and ensured I at least contributed the same amount of the employer match. It is basically free money coming straight to you!
Unfortunately, not every single company gives their employees the opportunity to invest money into a 401k program. A few programs that are available to review are the traditional IRA or roth IRA programs. These programs are quite different than the 401k, with different requirements and benefits. Make sure you review the options to see what is best for you!
What I love about starting retirement programs at a young age is the beauty of compound interest. The earlier you begin to save, the longer you have time for your investments, plus interest, to compound and grow. It is never too late to contribute to any of these programs and watch your money grow for you. Be sure to review all of the regulations around each retirement program because there are restrictions in how much money you can put in per year!
5 // Spruce up your knowledge with financial resources.
For 2020, I made it a goal to become more involved in finances and learn more about investing. Everyone’s personal goals and financial journeys are different, so it is important to fulfill your own needs with material that is going to help you succeed.
As I started getting more curious about money, there were a few books and podcasts that helped me become more comfortable and confident about finances.
Books and Authors
The Latte Factor by David Bach
The 30 Day Money Cleanse by Ashley Feinstein Gerstley
Smart Women Finish Rich by David Bach
Anything by Dave Ramsey
@thefiscalfemme – love Ashley’s online courses, too!
Do you have any favorite resources you’d like to share that’s helped your financial journey? I am always looking for fresh ideas and perspectives on how to save or what to do with money! I hope you enjoyed reading this post and able to take away an idea or two that you can start in your life right now! Don’t forget, it is never too late to save, no matter how old or young you are! Also don’t forget, us women have the power to make strong financial decisions and we are deserving to know all of the details of our financial situations!