Yes, you’re smart, hardworking and reasonably good with your money. But you can be better.
No, I’m not going to advise you to cut coupons or trade in your sportscar for a sensible, low-mileage used sedan. You work for your money, and therefore you should reward yourself whenever possible. But in a smart way.
Give Yourself an Allowance
Why are we starting with play money? Because this is what people usually leave for last. They figure they’ll pay bills first, the mortgage, the groceries.
But what happens every payday? You realize how many bills you have to pay, need a mental break, and end up spending your money elsewhere.
For example, maybe you like fine dining and decide to go out for an expensive meal. Or maybe you do some window shopping that turns into making purchases.
Maybe you like betting on sports or playing casino games. Both are easily accessible these days, thanks to the rise of real money online gambling, and that comes with downsides as well as advantages.
Yes, it’s great that you can gamble at your own convenience whenever you want, but it can be very easy to blow through some money pretty quickly. It’s very important to stick to a budget.
If you think I’m going to advise you against those pastimes, you’re incorrect. These are all valuable, enjoyable ways to spend your money. But there needs to be a limit, if you are going to spend every month getting a little more ahead and feeling a little more secure.
How does this make money, you ask?
Invest in the Easiest Way Possible
You’ve been thinking about starting an investment portfolio. You know all the benefits of doing so and doing it early. But you never seem to have extra cash in the month, so you put it off.
If you follow the “discretionary income budgeting” (aka “allowance”) advice listed above, you’ll find out you have more money than you realize. If you budget your play spending, you may end up with the equivalent of one evening out left in your account at the end of the month. If that works out to about $150, it’s enough to start your portfolio.
“But there are so many brokers! And products. Funds, IRAs, Roths…” You hang your head, overwhelmed.
Not to worry. Yes, there are a million ways to invest. But you only need one to start. Choose a broker. It can be an online presence, such as E*Trade or Ameritrade, or an in-person option, such as Charles Schwab. Open an account and choose ONE balanced mutual fund.
What’s balanced, you ask? Well, don’t go for a fund that’s full of small, cutting-edge companies who specialize in experimental tech. You can do that in the future, once you have a stable platform.
Start with one fund that has several solid, well-known companies contained within it. Companies such as GE and Sony and Johnson & Johnson are going to provide steady, boring returns. That’s exactly what you want for your first investment. These will pay off when you need to cash out, hopefully far in the future.
In a year or two, when you have extra, extra cash, and want to see what’s happening with cannabis and AI stocks, then fine. Go there. But start by putting just a little money in the experimental pots, even if they are doing very well. Any stock that can climb 1000% in a week, can fall 1000% in a week. Example: dating a moody, wild person can be fun for a while, but do you want to count on this person to have your back in the long-term? Exactly.
Seek Professional Help Every Three Years
No, not a psychiatrist. Unless you need one, of course. I am talking about visiting a financial planner for one visit every three or so years. It doesn’t need to take more than an hour, and you won’t be buying any products from this person.
Just schedule a visit with a fee-based financial planner, tell them what you’re paying in rent or mortgage, what you have invested, and ask them if it seems sane an healthy. It’s as easy as that.
The pro may advise you to refinance your home (if you own) which could net you an extra $500 per month. They may suggest a mutual fund as stable as your own, but with better returns. The result? More money. See? You’re practically wealthy already.
Getting your finances in order does not take one giant, overwhelming step. It takes small decisions, like knowing your budget and investing the equivalent of a restaurant bill. Once in a while, check in with a pro. That’s all. Having your financial house in order is not harder than living the other way, it’s easier, because you’ll be able to relax, knowing you are giving yourself the best chance for a well-funded future.