As someone whose career is training and development, I pay attention to any fundamental skill, trait, need, or tools people need to accomplish a task. Being part of the Beyond Finance team has taught me several things about managing debt and how to help those struggling with it.
Every April, we acknowledge “Financial Literacy Month” to share tips and tools with our clients. The more education and training they have, the more equipped they’ll be with managing their finances. Yet, having financial literacy is a year-round need. Many of our clients are going through our program, determined to get out of debt and stay that way. Imagine if we only helped them once a year?
That’s why understanding the fundamentals of financial literacy is so important. Whenever a client asks the question for someone to summarize how to manage finances, I want to have the answers ready to share and easy to understand.
I’d encourage you to either bookmark this page for a loved one or grab a pen and paper. These are simple tips to help prevent complex problems associated with financial stress. Here are the five fundamentals for financial literacy.
Let’s start with the one thing people want to discuss the most these days–making money. As we learn to navigate inflation, we can’t take what we earn too lightly. It should be managed and remain accounted for because that is how our paychecks can last a little longer.
- Do you understand what you are paid and why?
- Are you paid fairly among industry averages or your industry peers?
- How much is disposable income left over each month?
- Will the benefits you signed up for be enough to provide for you and your family?
You can’t manage a thing unless you understand a thing. The same is true when it comes to your money. Think about your current financial situation and what you could do with additional monthly savings.
You never know how vital a savings account can be until you need one the most. What happened the last time your car broke down or needed immediate medical attention? If you are one of the 58% of Americans living paycheck-to-paycheck, you were taken off-guard and left looking under the couch cushions for spare change.
Furthermore, think about retirement. When it’s time to retire, the last thing you need is a sizable amount of debt, reminding you that you can enjoy that retirement. The time is now to get on the path to financial freedom to enjoy your retirement. If you have a retirement goal in 10 years, get out of debt in four, so you can start saving.
As a cardinal rule in financial literacy and management, you should have three to six months of your income in the bank. It sounds like a large pile of cash, but you can do it if you are disciplined not to touch the savings account. The best defense against a financial emergency is feeling like you don’t have one.
And now, for the reason you probably don’t have an impressive savings account–you have to spend your money. At some time during your journey to get out of debt, you have heard about making a personal budget.
Understanding how you pay is a critical skill in financial planning. Yes, it’s a skill. It requires practice. You can achieve financial goals, but there is a formula to help you out:
It’s known as the 50/30/20 rule:
- 50% of your income should be spent on your needs
- 30% of your income should be used for your wants
- 20% of your income should be saved and not touched
Another note in how much you spend is your “debt-to-income ratio,” which is your monthly debt payments divided by your gross monthly income. Unfortunately, it’s math, so to simplify, think like this: if you are “borrowing” (i.e., spending money that’s not yours on credit cards or BNPL services) more than you have available to spend, that’s not good.
This number is big way lenders measure your ability to manage the monthly payments to repay the money you plan to borrow. Track your spending. Save receipts. Use an app. Pay attention to what you buy, from where, and how much is not yours. Any of these things will help you spend properly and more efficiently.
Using credit cards is one of the best ways to build your FICO score, but it’s also one of the easiest ways to ruin it. There are tips everywhere on the best usage of credit cards, but it boils down to one common denominator–responsibility.
Credit cards can give someone the wrong impression that it’s “free money.” You use a card to buy something you don’t have in the bank to cover. Without the responsibility of knowing you have to pay back every dime you borrow (with a great interest rate), you could lose track of all the money spent. Interest rates are actual. Fees seem even more tangible. If you’re not careful, they could contribute to your financial tailspin.
Easily, one of the most misunderstandings of personal finance is how to protect it. Hackers evolve with growing trends in technology better than anyone. Their knowledge of understanding technology rules enables them to break them easily. Kiplinger has a four-step system that could help you–or anyone else–better reinforce the security around your personal information.
- Identify risk – Learn how to guard your personal information against data breaches or some nosy neighbor in line learning your PIN for your debit card.
- Upgrade protection – When did you check your credit last? Monitoring a FICO score and shielding your personal identifiable information could help you from becoming a victim of identity theft.
- Guard finances – Banks and credit unions are proactive with SMS alerts or even freezing your account when specific patterns look like cybersecurity. Sign up and pay attention.
- Fortify defense – Did you know some insurance companies have policies against identity theft? Your holder may offer that support without your knowledge. Look into it.
There are several ways to help you save and secure money. Many of our clients now understand the perils of not being responsible for savings or credit. Wherever you are in your journey of personal finance, it is our goal that we don’t have to help you.
If you need help, we are a five-minute assessment away from the calls stopping and scares from happening. However, learning the fundamentals and literacy will follow.