So, you want to learn more about finances. You care about your financial well-being and want to make sure you’re making the right money moves. That’s great news! It should be easy enough to find answers in our overly connected world since a quick internet search can pretty much lead us to resources for anything we’re curious about. However, leveraging the internet to solve some of your problems can quickly escalate into information overload as you probably know by trying to fix any career, health, or money problem you’ve come across through the input of strangers. In order to guard you from the overwhelm of options available, and since April is financial literacy month, I thought now would be a great time to give some pointers on how you can take the reins of your financial literacy. Here are some immediate steps you can take in building your financial knowledge:
· Ask Questions
The first step to taking control of your finances is to ask yourself some important questions. The most important one to start with is “Why”? Why are you are ready to take the reins of your finances? Are you trying to overcome debt? Make sure you have a sound savings strategy? Trying to reach a very specific money goal? What are those pressing financial questions you have and why are they important? – These are the types of questions that will help you find the right answers for you and your situation. Once you’ve determined your “why,” start asking questions of your financial habits, of the decisions that have lead you to where you are and also ask questions of any professionals you work with.
· Grab a Few Books
Having sound resources handy will go a long way in providing you with the information you need to gain more understanding around important financial subjects. A few good financial books can offer clear explanations of complicated topics, advice on how to approach your finances, where to start, examples of concepts and real-life stories, and even helpful worksheets and resources that go along with the topics the book covers. The good news is that books about personal finance are getting better! They aren’t all boring text-book style anymore. In fact, you can get your hands on my new book: Work Your Wealth: 9 Steps to Making Smarter Choices with Your Money (shameless plug!) that I wrote as a useable resource that cuts through the crap, lays out an organized plan of attack, breaks down your financial steps into specific homework assignments along the way, and leaves readers with clarity and confidence in their financial life. I definitely recommend hopping over to Amazon.com to skim personal finance best-sellers for more book options!
· Seek Online Resources
We are lucky having so much information available to us on the internet and online is a great place to go for continued learning. Between continuously updated blog sites like gogirlfinance.com and larger media companies like U.S. News & World Report and Yahoo! Finance, you can get your eyeballs on plenty of helpful articles on anything you may want to know more about by skimming the latest headlines. Other sites, like mint.com, provide tons of information and also make it easy for you to organize all your financial information in one place. Mint is an app that helps you effortlessly keep on top of it all and provides a lot of advice and guidance along the way.
· Have Money Conversations
There really is a tremendous amount of learning that happens when we open up and talk to other people about finances. Whether it’s having money conversations with your spouse, financial advisor or even your boss – it’s important that you feel comfortable talking about money and asking questions. The more money conversations you have, the more comfortable you will become and the more you gain to learn about finances in general, as well as about what’s important to you. You will even learn how you value your time and talents when you talk with employers about compensation and other work benefits. Never pretend you know something when you don’t. Ask your CPA, your boss, your attorney, your financial planner or whomever you have money conversations with for clarifying answers and information. Money conversations serve as a conduit for greater understanding and clarity around your finances.
· Do Money Dates
These can be as fun as they sound if you let them! A money date is a time when either you by yourself or you and your spouse get together for an hour or two to review your finances and have an open and honest conversation about what is going on in terms of spending, savings and goal progress. Put your money dates on the calendar the same day every month and set it as a recurring meeting. Take the date seriously, but try to enjoy the transparency of what money dates provide: the ability to keep a pulse on how things are going so you stay on track and reach those important goals. P.S. no one said your money dates couldn’t include a glass of wine!
· Check-in Every 6 Months
Being intentional about your financial education is the secret to your success. It’s what will keep you mindful about your money and always alert to powerful questions that help you become more informed to make the best financial decisions for you. Be sure to check-in with yourself every 6 months. This is intended to help you take stock in where you started, what you’ve learned in the last several months, the progress you’re making and new questions you may have about finances. Taking the reins of your financial literacy is a choice you make and one that takes courage and dedication, and I’m so excited for you if you decide to take control in this important area of your life. Here’s to you and a successful financial journey.