It is financial literacy month in the US of A and seeing as I am a dual citizen, I figured, why not celebrate?
I’ve put together a little list of actually helpful tips (we are not out here regurgitating bad BuzzFeed clickbait) to enhance your financial wellbeing…
So, here goes.
1) Invest your money.
I know, thank you so much Sherlock, what an original idea.
But the first thing to know about your money is that it will lose its value if you just slip it under your mattress.
Let’s say you had $20,000 sitting in a checking account last year. The inflation rate is 2%. In a year’s time, you will have theoretically lost $400 in buying power. In other words, what $20,000 would buy today is not what $20,000 would buy you next year. The cost of everything keeps rising – so your money must too.
I do not care what you do as I am not your mother, nor am I your financial advisor, but I do get second-hand anxiety from the sheer premise of losing money. Real-estate, stocks, high-interest savings accounts, TFSA, RRSP, whatever blows your hair back, it is of no matter to me – but please, invest in something.
2) Know when to splurge.
I truly believe that the splurge is a necessity for the soul. But the key to having it all (vacationing in Cannes and financial health) is knowing the when.
For example, if you are in your early 20s with no dependents or maladies, maybe you should wait on getting life insurance? (I know this isn’t a common splurge amongst the Gen Z’ers out there, but I do know a 20 year-old who has unnecessarily invested in this).
In turn, when it comes to the more boring things in life: a good mattress, pillow, office chair, etc. you should not cheap out – you are saving on definite back issues later.
If you like sparkling water, get the SodaStream – don’t just buy cases of San Pellegrino.
If you’re on your feet all day, get good shoes – physiotherapy will cost more than a new pair of Nike’s.
You get the pattern.
3) Diversify your investments.
I’ve always found investment-speak very cut and dry. You’re either risk on or risk off. But that logic doesn’t track.
As a human, I am ‘risk-on’ when cutting bangs or wearing that mesh top, while simultaneously ‘risk-off’ by opting for 4-inch booties rather than stilettos. We are at our best when balanced. The same goes for your investment portfolio. You don’t have to put all of your investments in “high-risk” or “low-risk” stocks/mutual funds. Match the glossy tech company with the banal Fortis BC. Go with mutual funds. Don’t go insane.
4) There are no dumb questions.
Rather, only dumb people in the state department of education who think it best not to teach us financial literacy.
Ignorance, in the case of your credit card debt for example, is really not bliss. And as such, we have a duty to ourselves to ask the most basic, fundamental questions – no matter how foolish they make us feel. For instance, just last week I called my union to ask about insurance. And by this, I mean I actually had to ask what insurance was. As a concept. I simply don’t understand.
5) Always eat before grocery shopping to avoid the unnecessary impulse-purchase.
Like the 5 different $10 variations of “health” chips I just bought. Do as I say, not as I do.
*This advice is truly invaluable.
6) For my youngin’s reading (proud of you): Take. Out. Student. Loans.
If you know me, you know I’ve been screaming about this for years. Student loans get a bad rap and if you are fiscally chaotic, I urge you to ignore this step. However, if you have a tendency towards frugality, this is your opportunity to earn some free money.
Your student loan will usually come as ¾ loan and ¼ grant (don’t quote me on this, as per, speaking from personal experience). I received anywhere from $2000 to $6000 of grants each year throughout my degree.
My reco is to open a savings account that you can put all of your unused loan money into. Once you graduate and your repayment period has begun, you can put all of this money back down. In other words, payback as much of the loan as quickly as possible. The remaining due, (if you’ve been thrifty), will be a manageable sum that accrues nominal interest. It also, in all likelihood, won’t rival the $13,000 or so of grant money you have gotten for free.
*After putting this in writing, it definitely feels shady, but seeing as I am a woman of the people, I will go forth no matter… This is an unofficial suggestion for parents who want to help pay for schooling, that they transfer any loan money used into that aforementioned savings account. Then, once repayment begins, you can pay off your loan in full during the grace period without losing money on interest, all the while benefiting off of the free thousands in grants. Money now, not money later!
7) In the vein of the above…Don’t be afraid to borrow money.
Borrowing money has an inherent neediness to it. However, you learn true power in the act of staring at the cookie jar and not eating from it, as opposed to not having cookies in the house entirely. Same goes with your credit card. You have to use it (“borrow”) to build a positive credit score. Or, you may need to borrow money to make a long-term investment like a house or education.
Borrowing money is only scary if you make it so.
(And only do it if you’re actually going to track what’s been borrowed and commit to those automatic payments – nobody has the time to keep tabs on that kind of thing).
8a) Open and contribute to your RRSP.
You know that feeling when you put on an old pair of jeans and find a $20 bill in the pocket? Really powerful. You feel unstoppable. Now imagine the equivalent of that in your retirement. You are having lemonade and reading Shelley on a wrap-around porch, (I don’t know why my sole image of old age is so painfully middle-America), and you suddenly remember that you have contributed to your RRSP for the past 50 years. You have just discovered $400,000 in your metaphorical jean pocket. You have won the game of life.
8b) Open and contribute to your TFSA.
I’ve said it before, I will say it again. It is the best investment a newbie investor can make. The money you make in interest or investment profit is entirely tax-free. There’s really no other explanation needed. Just do this. (Corresponding article linked below).
9) Familiarize yourself with financial lingo.
I would never dare to utter the phrase, ‘confidence is key’ (disgusting), but there is a real sense of agency that comes with knowing how to properly navigate your financial life. And luckily for you, my narcissism has declared me the provider of such knowledge. Here is a not at all subtle plug of my previous finance 101 articles to get started…
- The stock market
- Where to invest
- Funds: Mutual, Index, ETFs
- How RRSPs work
- More on RRSPs for good measure
- All things TFSA
- Credit Scores
- How to read a stock chart
- More on reading a stock chart
- Investing camps: fundamental vs. technical analysis
- Tax Guide
- How to make $ on investments
10) You should probably listen to someone else.
“That would be a good thing for them to cut on my tombstone: Wherever she went, including here, it was against her better judgment” – Dorothy Parker
Take from this what you may.
Until next week…
And again, in an act of boundless generosity, email me any and all of your financial literacy Qs at firstname.lastname@example.org