Over the last few months, multiple friends have asked me for foundational personal finance tips. Since a lot of these tips aren’t taught in school if you take a certain path, I want to share some basic personal finance advice. I work for a bank and studied finance in college, but I’m not licensed nor paid to promote anything and won’t recommend anything specific that isn’t free. You can’t sue me for losing money and all that good stuff.
For someone who is still in college, or just out of college, here are a couple things I recommended looking into. This will cover basics and not necessarily anything deep into investing for your retirement. Consult with a paid professional for stock, mutual funds, and other investment opportunities. These are just two areas, but I’ll be sharing more tips on Instagram and Facebook (@thenormaljp) this week.
Checking accounts cover your basic transactions on a daily basis. I’m guessing everyone has some type of bank account that is used to pay for various items. You can have a checking account just about anywhere nowadays and handle non-cash deposits or withdrawals without needing to ever go to a branch. If you do like to carry cash, then it is probably best to have a bank that is in your area.
Savings accounts are opportunities to earn a little bit of interest on cash sitting for special purposes. This could be your emergency fund, extra cash, or money set aside for a big purchase in the near future. I have savings accounts for my emergency fund and for a future down payment. Savings can be a regular savings, money market, high yield savings, etc.
Often, checking and savings accounts are paired together with your bank, but there are opportunities for higher interest earned through online “high yield savings accounts.” These pay a little higher rate and are easy to connect to your current checking or savings account. You can set them up completely online and never need to go to a branch, some are even online only banks. I recommend placing excess cash that you may be saving for a large purchase in a high yield savings, so you at least earn a little bit of interest compared to a normal checking or savings account. You can easily transfer money between the accounts when you need to make any big payments or want to put more in savings. You can find them by searching “high yield savings accounts” on the internet.
Due to low Fed Funds rate and the state of the world economy, interest rates on any savings accounts right now will be super low. High yield savings interest rates are around 1.2% at the highest when they were around 2% at the beginning of the year.
Note: It is recommended to have 6 months of expenses (3 months for couples) saved in an emergency fund for various unforeseen purposes.
Budgeting is key to understanding where you are putting your money. You need to know where your money is going before you spend it, or you will miss the opportunity to save for when you need it. A great way to figure out how you should align your spending is by listing out your values. Aligning your spending with your values helps you live a consistent life, or make you realize what your values are. If you are spending more on food than savings, you probably value quality meals and convenience. There is nothing wrong with that. Just be honest with yourself.
Some of you may have no idea what you should spend on different categories. In that case, track your spending for a month and see where your money goes. In the beginning, your budget may shift every month as you realize what you consistently spend in areas like housing, food, utilities, shopping, etc.
I use the app Mint that is free on any app store. You can link all your accounts and cards into the app. From there you can see all of your transactions and create budgets for different categories. It is an easy way to show you where your money is spent every month.
If you are in college, you may not have a consistent income or spending pattern, but it is good to get an idea of where you spend your money. If you are an hourly employee, it can be tough to know exactly how much income you will have every month, I was in the same position this past year. One thing I do is set aside a percentage of leftover cash to certain savings, investments, or giving. For example, you could take any money over $1000 in a checking account and divide it up between savings, investments, or donations. At the end of the month, I would sit down and distribute money over a certain threshold in my account to different areas.
To make sure you are saving enough, you can set up automatic transfers to certain savings/investment accounts to put away money before you are tempted to spend it.
These are a few key personal finance tips that will help you get started. Check out @thenormaljp on Instagram and Facebook this week as I share more personal finance tips.
Feel free to reach out to me if you have any other questions.
I appreciate you.