14 personal finance tips you were never taught
1. Take a day to think about large purchases to avoid impulse buys
“Delaying your purchases for a day gives you time to think about whether or not you really need the items, and it curbs regrettable impulse buys,” advises Marc Diana, CEO of MoneyTips. “Sale items may be an exception to this rule, but even then, question how badly you need the item compared to saving or investing the money you would use to purchase it. When times are tough, and you’re cutting expenses, would you rather have a rarely worn $300 pair of shoes or $300 cash?”
2. Budgets are freeing, not constricting
Says financial educator Tiffany Aliche, “Keeping a budget allows you to say yes to your goals in a strategic way. If you have a budget, you can save for the holiday, house or car you want to get. You can look at it as ‘No dining out,’ but I see it as ‘Yes to a trip to Paris.’ A budget is not a NO plan, but a YES plan with actual steps towards achieving your goals.”
3. Budget with the 50/20/30 rule
Lynn Toomey, co-founder of Your Retirement Advisor, suggests following this easy budgeting rule:
Use 50 per cent of your income for non-discretionary necessities like food, rent/house payment, utilities, and transportation.
Put aside 20 per cent of your income for an emergency fund (three to six months’ salary is a good target), retirement, savings, and to pay off any debts.
Use 30 per cent of your income for discretionary (non-essential) spending such as entertainment, holidays and gifts.
4. Penny pinching is not the road to wealth
Spending less doesn’t mean you’ll have more. Saving is a good way to stabilise your finances, but you still need to invest. “Pretend there are two islands,” advises Aliche, who is also known as The Budgetnista: “Financially Stuck Island and Wealthy Island.” She says that your savings can be like a car – you can’t drive off Financially Stuck Island without a bridge. Investing is the bridge to financial success. “To get from one island to another, you need to get in your savings car and drive it over your investment bridge.”
5. It's okay to put yourself over your kids
Many people want their kids to go to university, says Aliche, “but it’s more important for you to save enough for retirement. Because the best gift you can give your child is not a free ride to school, but rather not to be a financial burden on them when it’s time to start their own family. Kids can get student loans; no one is going to lend you money without collateral when you’re retired.”
6. Financial advisors aren't only for wealthy people
Millions of people have trillions invested in stocks, bonds, mutual funds and other stock exchange investments, but just because you can easily make trades yourself doesn’t mean you should. “Why not do what you do best to earn money and let a trained professional invest it for you?” asks Brian Saranovitz, president of Your Retirement Advisor. “A recent Vanguard Investments study indicated that integrating proper retirement strategies can add as much as 3 per cent efficient return to a retirement portfolio.”
Adds Aliche, “You need to purposefully seek out knowledge. If you break a leg, you know that you need to go to a doctor. With personal finance, people have got the notion that they could just fix it themselves. When it comes to investing, don’t be afraid to seek professional help.”
7. Get a clear picture of yourself at 80
Barring tragedy, you will live to a ripe, old age. Aliche recommends naming your 80-year-old image of yourself. “Mine is Wanda. I imagine Wanda sitting on the front steps in her yard. People feel disconnected from their older self. The more you can picture her, the better. I don’t want to see her mopping floors at 80. When I’m making a decision, I think, ‘How will this affect Wanda?’ If I dip into my retirement funds to buy an expensive car, that’s going to hurt Wanda.” If it’s easier, pretend you’re living with your grandfather or grandmother. “You’re not going to tell Granny, ‘You have to go to work. We need the money,’” she says.
8. You can never have too much retirement savings
Says Lynn Toomey, co-founder of Your Retirement Advisor, “Life is good. Retirement is better, if you are prepared.” She points out that retirement is laden with potential costs, such as healthcare, longevity, market volatility and inflation. “Even if you think you’re saving enough and have assets, it still may not be enough. The earlier you start saving and investing, the longer compound interest can work its magic to help you achieve a successful retirement.”
9. Don't blow your tax refund
“What are you planning on doing with your tax refund?” asks financial advisor Mike Zaino. “If you’re like most people, the world of instant gratification is beckoning. It could be extremely damaging to your retirement account, however, especially given the time value of money and what Albert Einstein called ‘The eighth wonder of the world” – compound interest.”
10. Ask current lenders for a better rate
“Banks, credit unions and other lenders are keenly aware of their competition,” says Diana of MoneyTips.com. “If your credit score qualifies you for a better rate from another credit card issuer or lender, ask them to match the rate. There’s no downside to asking; the worst they could do is refuse.”
11. Asking for your credit limit to be raised can improve your credit score
Keep your credit utilisation – the amount of credit you use compared to your credit limit – low to boost your all-important credit, advises Diana. “You can borrow less, or you can ask for a raise in your credit limit.” A recent study from CreditCards.com found that only 28 per cent of respondents have never asked for an increase in their credit limit. However, a whopping 89 per cent of those who asked for a credit limit increase received one.
12. Unless they have a high annual fee, don't close old credit cards
“The longer your stable credit history, the better it reflects on your credit score,” explains Diana. “The age of accounts is averaged over all of your credit accounts, so closing an older account that is infrequently used actually harms your credit score in two ways: it lowers your credit limit, which raises your credit utilisation; and it lowers your average account age. If you have an old card with a decent credit limit, use it at least annually to keep it open. But don’t forget to pay the bill on time!”
13. Don't ever co-sign a loan
“Co-signing a loan isn’t just vouching for someone’s character,” explains Toomey. “Understand that if the borrower doesn’t pay, then you’re responsible for every single missed payment. If they don’t pay, it’s your credit that will be ruined.”
14. Being debt free should not be your goal
Says Aliche, creator of the Live Richer Challenge, “People focus on getting out of debt. If they use that money to grow wealth instead of getting rid of debt, they could be debt-free faster. Do you pay off your student loans to get debt-free, or invest money in your business to grow and secure wealth for yourself? If you focus on being debt-free, that’s all you’ll be. If you focus on building wealth, then you can be wealthy and debt-free.”
This article originally appeared on Reader's Digest.