Four Steps to Becoming More Financially Well
By Patricia Clark
What does it mean to be financially well?
Wellness means discipline. Wellness means less worry. Wellness means having a healthy relationship with money and understanding what it can do for you. If you are at the beginning of your career, you have a luxury others do not have—the luxury of time—and the power of compound interest, a long learning cycle and the ability to make choices and plan. The tone you set early is crucial.
Right now we are in an employee’s market, but that will not always be the case. In your lifetime, you will likely experience recessions, inflation, up-markets, down-markets, booms, busts, employment and/or unemployment. And you’ll experience life events like college, marriage, divorce, children, caring for family members, etc. You will weather all of this considerably better and with a lot less stress if you are financially well, and that means having as much control and understanding as you possibly can.
Here are some steps to help you become more financially well.
Educate yourself about money. If you don’t know what all those acronyms like 401K, HSA, ESPP, RSU’s LTIP mean, don’t be afraid to ask your employer and their partners to explain them to you—they’ll be happy to.
If financial freedom is your goal, try to get on a path early to earn your maximum worth. One way to do this is to negotiate and ask for more from the very beginning. Build marketable skills and keep upgrading them. Learn what is highly valued and highly paid and why.
It’s your money. To the extent possible, keep personal control of your finances. Financial wellness also means prioritizing the things that lower your risk. An emergency fund that you don’t touch, a budget insurance that builds your credit history and score, a will, a living will and a health care proxy—these things may seem dull, but they will become incredibly important when you want to buy a house, start a business, send the kids to college, take that dream trip and retire comfortably.
Financial wellness also means prioritizing what builds wealth. The big building blocks: real estate, investing and entrepreneurship. Wellness also means you need to track where your money goes and how it’s doing. If you like apps there are a lot of choices: Mint, Betterment, Acorns and You Need a Budget (YNAB). An excel spreadsheet works too.
Don’t go it alone. Get a team and a network to help you. You may even want formal coaches, financial advisors, a smart peer group or a money mentor. I like JL Collins and Ellevest, but you will find your people.
And don’t forget to have some fun with your money. The joyless preaching of no lattes or avocado toast is likely to backfire. The key is to understand how much of your income is truly disposable and that how you choose to dispose of it can be positive or negative.
Here’s to your financial health and wellness! Please feel free to reach out and use me as a resource.