When I started my financial planning career seven years ago, I quickly learned that the people who were financially successful were the ones who dedicated time and energy to regularly budget, manage and plan their finances. In other words, they had the discipline to get a financial education and continue to expand that education over their lifetime. A financial education is something almost no one receives growing up, yet it’s one of the primary components of financial success. If you’re new to personal finance or simply looking for ways to expand your financial knowledge, here are five easy steps to gain the financial foundation you need:
1. Schedule weekly money dates.
Millionaires spend, on average, 8.4 hours a month managing and planning their finances, according research by Thomas Stanley, business theorist and author of The Millionaire Next Door. While many people want to be millionaires, most also don’t devote the time and energy necessary to making it happen. So don’t make that mistake. Instead, set up a recurring event in your calendar for a weekly money date, and allocate at least one hour a week to your finances. During your money date, you should update your budget, review any upcoming expenses, pay bills (although you should automate those as much as possible), review your accounts for accuracy and handle any other pressing financial matters. Make your money dates as enjoyable as possible – listen to music, dance, light candles, or do anything else that makes the personal finance process fun for you. The more fun it is, the more likely you’ll continue to do it – and consistency is what counts.
2. Commit 20 minutes each week to reading about personal finance.
Don’t try to learn everything about personal finance all at once. Instead, break up your financial education into digestible chunks. Allocate 20 minutes per week (as part of or in addition to your money date) and read about personal finance topics. Choose one topic each week and read about just that topic until you understand it, then move on to something else. Some great books to start with include:
- I Will Teach You to be Rich by Ramit Sethi
- On My Own Two Feet: A Modern Girl’s Guide to Personal Finance by Manisha Thakor
- Soldier of Finance by Jeff Rose.
- Money- A Love Story by Kate Northrup
3. Talk to people you admire.
As you begin to learn about personal finance topics such as spending, saving, credit, debt, investing and retirement strategies, apply what you learn by talking about it with people you admire. I often find there is a lot of financial chatter out there, but most of what your friends and family know about money is wrong. Instead, talk to mentors and other entrepreneurs who are successful in their financial lives. Ask them about their successes and failures. Just like in business, I’ve found I can avoid a lot of financial mishaps by learning from the mistakes of others. Also, note that talking about money is still a sensitive subject for many people, so start small and work your way into more in-depth conversations. Be respectful of what people share with you, and always thank them for their advice.
4. Test out strategies in your own life.
Most entrepreneurs realize that the best way to learn if a business idea will work or not is to test it out. This same philosophy is true with your personal finances. I constantly remind my clients that different financial strategies work better for some people than others. For example, there are tons of systems and programs out there to help you budget your monthly income and expenses, but you won’t know what works best for you until you try them. I did this in my own life. I tested lots of budgeting systems until I finally realized that the good old Excel spreadsheet I custom-designed for myself works best for me. But I had to try many other options to come to this conclusion. Until you try something, you won’t know if it’s right or not for you.
5. Hire a certified financial planner.
At the end of the day, everyone needs professional help from time to time. How do you know if you need to hire a CFP?
- You have little or no experience with financial planning
- You have no inclination to do it all on your own
- You want an objective, unbiased opinion
- You have a complex financial situation and you don’t have the time to handle it all on your own.
Regardless of where you are in your financial journey, dedication and commitment to continued financial education are key. True mastery of any subject comes from constant practice, training and sharpening your craft. Make sure you continue to devote time and energy to your personal finances throughout your life.
Check out Financially Wise Women’s NEW 6-week online Money Class to help you gain the personal finance education you never received growing up. This is a great course to teach you the basics of money management and personal finance in a fun and innovative way. Head over to FWWMoneyClass.com to get all the details about this brand new course.
What financial goals are you trying to tackle?