April is Financial Literacy Month. Here are some things to brush up on.
It’s April, which means that it’s Financial Literacy Month. While it’s never a bad idea to hone our financial literacy skills, a dedicated month seems like the perfect time to do some spring cleaning on our finances. Let’s go over a checklist of things that you might want to learn about, implement or review.
- Your Budget
A proper financial plan always starts with a budget or a clearly defined document tracking all of your sources of income and all of the places you want it to go. A proper budget can help you determine which of your expenditures are necessities and which are luxuries. While we aren’t advising that you completely cut the luxuries, your budget is only effective if you can support a comfortable lifestyle while saving for future goals like retirement. Necessities or fixed expenses include things like rent or mortgage, utilities, food, transportation, insurance, and loan payments. Once you get to that number, you can determine how much you’re able to spend on optional items, like entertainment, material goods, subscriptions, travel and other things that can make us smile. With interest rates, cost of living and inflation all on the rise, now is the perfect time to review your situation because it may have changed in the past few months.
- Checking Accounts
Your checking account is a great place to start when examining and taking inventory of your finances in order to create your budget. It can show you exactly how much you spend and where and allows you to keep tabs on money that you actually have. Whether you’re curious about how your fast-food drive-throughs have been adding up, or how making your coffee at home has allowed you to build your savings account, your checking account is a complete outline of the ins-and-outs of your money.
- Savings Accounts
After your checking accounts you may want to check in on your savings accounts. With 64% of Americans living paycheck to paycheck , it can be a good idea to open at least one savings account and build it up for a potential future rainy day. Without trying to induce anxiety, what happens if your car breaks down or you need to pay the deductible on your health insurance? You can relieve stress by placing some of your money into a savings account that’s liquid and easy to access when there is an emergency. While it might be a good idea to keep it out of sight and out of mind, it’s also smart to take a look once in a while to ensure that you have enough built up to handle those everyday emergencies without breaking your stride.
- Retirement Accounts
Given that they can fluctuate heavily, it’s not a great idea to live and die by your retirement account balance, especially while you are still working and accumulating funds. Looking every single day to see how each tick in the market takes a toll on your finances can cause endless stress. At the same time, initiating and contributing to those retirement accounts can help you build for your future. That could mean accounts like traditional and Roth IRAs, employer-sponsored 401(k) plans or permanent life insurance policies. Sixty million Americans contributed to 401(k) plans in 2021, and simply having and contributing to one puts you ahead of the curve. If you don’t have a 401(k) account, it may be a good idea to consult your employer as you could be missing out on advantageous matching plans and tax-deferred options that will ideally help you call it a career someday. Otherwise, you can open your own Individual Retirement Account (IRA). Reach out to a financial advisor for help with adhering to the IRS rules which govern different types of IRAs, like traditional or Roth.
- Credit Accounts
Credit accounts can be important, especially early on in your financial career. They can help you build credit, later helping you qualify for loans for life’s necessities—as long as you have your spending and payments under control. Checking your credit balances can give you a more complete picture of your financial situation. It can show how much money you owe and what interest rates you are paying on each account. Keeping watch over your credit accounts can also help you devise a battleplan for your debt. Some have been lucky enough to avoid debt, but those who have incurred necessary debt could take a huge weight off their shoulders simply by having a plan to pay it off.
- Your Skills
If you haven’t lately, now could be a great time to take internal inventory. Maybe it could even be a great time to get a list of your skills down on paper or on your resume. It’s possible that you now have the experience to take on a new or different job, or the financial skills you’ve acquired since your last personal assessment might open new doors for investment opportunities. It’s also possible that experience has allowed you to become a stronger budgeter or a stronger planner, helping you determine how to efficiently allocate your money to your most necessary financial obligations. If you haven’t picked up any new skills lately, let this serve as your reminder that you can always expand your horizons. You can check out a new book, dive deeper into research or speak to your financial professional to see how to train your brain.
- Your Future
Everything you’re doing right now from a financial perspective is in preparation for the future. Whether you’re contributing to your retirement accounts, budgeting, planning to repay your debt, making payments on loans or learning to invest in new assets, it should be with a goal in mind. It’s important to live in the present, but you also want your future self to be well taken care of. Why not commit to that while you still have the power to make changes? While not impossible, it’s much more difficult to adjust your financial position once you enter retirement and forego consistent income from employment. The best practice is to prepare yourself while still in the workforce by monitoring and planning for your future self. Even if it makes you uncomfortable right now, “retired you” will be grateful to “current you.”
Celebrating financial literacy doesn’t have to end there. The learning never stops, and you can keep up by consulting a financial advisor, continuing research and staying informed about current legislation. With the proper level of commitment, the possibilities for growth are endless.
If you have questions about how you can assess your unique situation and improve your financial literacy, give Sylvan Financial Advisors a call at (201) 282-5332.
Keep in mind, this article is for informational purposes only and not to be construed as financial or investing advice, nor is it a replacement for real-life advice based on your unique situation. Investing and retirement account rules are constantly changing, and it is recommended that you work with your IAR or financial professional to assess and invest based on your unique situation.
All securities offered through The Investment Center, Inc. Bedminster, NJ- Member FINRA/SIPC. Advisory Services provided through IC Advisory Services, Inc.-An SEC Registered Investment Advisor. Sylvan Financial Advisors is not affiliated with The Investment Center, Inc. or IC Advisory Services, Inc.