As soon as you decide that you want to be better with money, you should start making changes.
At Stash Wealth, we’re big believers in momentum. We prioritize the things that we have already started over the things that we “want to do” in the future. In other words, if you don’t start now, who knows when you actually will? If you want to be better with money, do something today to start changing your behavior and shifting your money mindset.
Here are 6 things you can do today that will improve your financial situation and the way you think about money.
1. OPEN AN ONLINE ACCOUNT
If you could pay $144/year or make $21/year, which would you choose? You’d want to earn that $21, right?
So ditch that mainstream bank and switch to an Internet-based bank instead. Big banks have to pay rent for all of their physical locations, which means they have less money to pay you in interest and they typically charge you more fees. Internet-based banks, on the flipside, don’t have to pay for brick and mortar locations and are able to pass those savings along to you. On top of that, FDIC insurance makes both types of banks equally safe for deposits up to $250k.
Back to our example, one of my clients had a savings account with a $2,000 balance. She was being charged a monthly maintenance fee of $12 ($144/year) just to keep the account open and was only making a pathetic 0.01% APY in interest.
We switched her account to an Internet-based bank that doesn’t charge any monthly fees and has an interest rate of 1.05% APY. So instead of paying $144/year just to have a savings account, she is now pocketing $21/year in interest.
If you’re interested in making the switch, two of my favorites are Ally Bank and Synchrony Bank. Both currently have an interest rate of 1.05% APY and don’t charge any monthly maintenance fees for savings accounts.
2. START INVESTING
If you’re not investing, you’re actually LOSING MONEY.
The average historical rate of inflation in the U.S. is more than 3%. That means the price of everything you buy will double every 20 years or so. If you want to maintain your purchasing power, you need to grow your money at a rate that’s higher than the current inflation rate. Investing is the most common way to do it.
But where do you start? Thanks to technology, roboadvisors make it really simple and easy for anyone to start investing. They’ll ask you a series of questions and based on your answers, they’ll decide what you should invest in and they’ll actually do the investing for you.
Two of our favorites are Betterment* and Wealthfront*. They both have a solid track record in the industry and have sleek apps that make it effortless to check on your investments. If you need help deciding between the two, here are factors that could help you make your decision.
- Cost: They charge a 0.25% annual fee for all balances ($12.50 per year on a $5k balance)
- Account Minimum: No minimum balance
- App Store Rating: 4.5 Stars
- Key Feature: Goals-based Investing
- Cost: They will manage your first $10,000 for free and there’s a 0.25% annual fee after that
- Account Minimum: $500
- App Store Rating: 4.5 Stars
- Key Feature: Tax Efficiency
The exception: If you have high-interest credit card debt. In most cases, I’d suggest clearing out any consumer debt before starting to invest. Create a realistic repayment plan for paying off your credit card debt and then revisit investing later.
3. SET ASIDE A F*CK-OFF FUND
The first step here is to open the account. Ideally, your emergency fund should be held in an entirely separate account at a different financial institution than where you do your day-to-day banking. There will be times when you’re tempted to spend your emergency fund cash, and making it inconvenient to access will force you to think before you spend.
Now, set up an automatic deposit. Even if it is just $5/month. You need to get in the habit of paying yourself. Savings shouldn’t be an afterthought at the end of the month. If saving doesn’t come easy to you, don’t feel bad about it. 47% of Americans have less than $400 in savings — but there is really no excuse for that.
If you want help saving money for your emergency fund, sign up for a service like Digit* or Qapital* that will automatically transfer money from your checking to your savings depending on your available balance and spending habits. Now you are saving and don’t even have to think about it.
4. CUT OUT ONE EXPENSE FROM YOUR LIFE
I am sure that there are many expenses you could do without, but let’s start with one.
“I need everything.”
Really? I don’t think so. Log in to your checking account or look at your statement and go through your transactions line by line. You like ALL of that stuff? Everything you purchase you use? The things you spend your money on are bringing great value to your life?
Cancel that subscription box that has more *meh* items in it than great. Cancel your ClassPass and start taking the free classes at your gym. Stop eating Chipotle 5x a week and go to the grocery store and buy some rice and beans.
There is one thing in your life that you can change that will free up some of your money to put towards something you value more (or need, like that emergency fund!).
5. FIND WAYS TO INCREASE YOUR INCOME
Do you feel that your current salary is allowing you to live the lifestyle you want and prepare for the future? If the answer is no, then you need to find a way to increase your income.
This may be possible to do with your current employer. Are you overdue for a raise? Is there a higher level position open that you could apply for? It is completely possible that you could increase your income by simply asking for a raise or qualifying for a more advanced role. It is shocking, but less than half of working Americans ever ask their employer for a raise.
If you have just started working in your current role or have recently received a raise, asking for more money or applying for a different position within your company may not be appropriate. You also may be a freelancer or work for yourself. If this is the case for you, you will need to be more creative.
I usually suggest a side hustle as a first step to increasing income. Side hustles can range from driving for Uber a few hours each week to starting an e-commerce business.
Once you have decided the way in which you are going to increase your income, write it down on a piece of paper. Then write down what you need to do to achieve that and give yourself a deadline. For example, if you’re going to ask for a raise, you need to prepare for that meeting. Your paper may look like this:
Ask for a $5,000 raise by July 31st.
- Provide my performance report
- Be prepared to discuss three major accomplishments I have had in the past 12 months
- Set up a meeting with my manager
6. THINK OF IT AS A SAVINGS GOAL
If retirement or buying a house doesn’t excite you, what does? I guarantee that whatever your goals are, they require money. Some goals require more money than others. A good exercise to do is to imagine your life in 10 or 20 years. If money was no object, where would you be? Who would you be with? What would you be doing?
From now on, when you are saving money, think of that goal. Not about the money. The money is just the tool that is making the life you want a reality.
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