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If schools actually prepared students for the real world, Personal Finance 101 would be required. Since it’s not, we put together a quick guide to personal finance with the lessons based on funny financial memes.
Find out the basics of personal finance with a fun twist.
1. Debt Is No Joke
Something we learned the hard way was how high student loan interest rates are and how difficult it makes it to pay off. If you have debt right now, take a look at your interest rates and how much money you’re throwing away in interest. Get out of debt by making a debt repayment plan. List your debts by interest rate (high to low) and include the balance and monthly payment. There are several debt repayment methods, but we recommend the avalanche debt method. This method minimizes the amount of interest you pay on your debt and accumulate while paying it off. It works by paying off each debt from highest interest rate to lowest interest rate. Read our article to learn more about debt repayment strategies.
If you don’t currently have debt, do your best to keep it that way. Be aware of credit card interest rates and pay off your balance in full each month. Not all debt is bad, but you should avoid racking up debt with high interest rates.
2. Make A Budget
Whether you’re making so much money that you don’t know what to do with it or you’re wondering where your money goes after each paycheck, everyone should have a budget. Budgets help you gain control of your finances and reach your financial goals. There are many budgeting methods, but they all start with logging your expenses for the last month or 2 to understand your current spending habits. Then see where you can reduce your expenses. From there you can create a zero-based budget or utilize a simpler budgeting strategy.
3. Save For The Unexpected
You should be prepared for unexpected circumstances or expenses. You might lose your job or have a large cost pop up. This prevents racking up debt or missing payments in case of an emergency. It’s recommended to save several months of regular expenses in an emergency fund if your income is impacted. This sounds like a lot of money to save, but if you end up needing it you’ll be glad you spent the time to save. Try saving a small amount each month to fund your emergency savings (and add this to your budget). Better to be safe than sorry.
4. Monitor Your Credit Score & Credit Reports
Many people don’t check their credit reports and credit scores until they want to apply for a line of credit or they are turned down from one. Your credit scores help lenders determine your creditworthiness. About 90% of top lenders use FICO credit scores, but VantageScore is the second most common credit scoring model used. The 5 factors that contribute to your FICO credit score are payment history, credit utilization, length of credit history, new credit and credit mix. Learning more about these factors can help you understand your credit score and improve it.
You can get your FICO credit score for free from Experian. It offers access to your Experian credit report and includes credit monitoring and alerts. Experian Boost also enables you to improve your credit score by adding payments that are left out of your credit history, like cell phone, utility bills and even Netflix, to your Experian credit report. The best part is that it’s free!
You should check your credit reports from all 3 bureaus on an annual basis. The information on these reports are used to calculate your credit scores, so it’s important to check that it’s all accurate.
Check out our credit card guide to find a card suited to your credit and to learn more about managing your credit.
5. Home Buying Is A Process
For most people, a house is the biggest purchase they will make in their entire life. If you’re thinking about buying a house with a mortgage, there’s quite a lot of information out there to help you understand the process. We bought our house last year and learned SO much. It’s actually one of the reasons we started The Loaded Pig because we wanted to help others understand the ins and outs of home buying.
Your credit is a vital part of getting approved for a mortgage loan, so be responsible with it and check your scores and reports often. Start saving for a down payment and for closing costs long in advance. Find out about common mistakes of first-time home buyers and check out the home buying section of our site for more helpful info.
6. Start Saving For Retirement Early
According to a 2019 survey by Go Banking Rates, 64% of Americans have less than $10,000 saved for retirement. This includes 45.5% of people that have NO money saved for retirement. Start saving for retirement as early as possible, your future self will thank you.
If your company offers an employer match on your retirement account deposits, then you should be depositing the amount that gets you the maximum employer match. For those without a retirement account available through an employer, you can open an IRA. Read our article, Start Saving For Retirement In Your 20s, to learn more about taking advantage of compound interest and reducing your taxable income.
7. Set Your Financial Goals
We all have different financial goals, like buying a house or a car, being debt free or retiring early. The best way to reach your financial goals is to take time to think about your short and long-term goals. Decide what you want to achieve and then take the steps to accomplish it. Setting SMART goals can help you measure your progress and set you up for success. SMART is an acronym for specific, measurable, achievable, relevant and time-limited.
Find out more about setting SMART financial goals in our article.
Hopefully this was a slightly less boring than normal introduction to personal finance 101! Be sure to share it with someone you think would benefit from it.
Did anything stick out to you in our short and sweet guide to personal finance 101? Which meme did you relate to the most? Let us know in the comments!
Financial freedom begins with good habits.Rebecca & Tiago, theloadedpig.com