Are your bills keeping you up at night? Can’t rest wondering how you’ll ever come up from under all that debt? Worried about how you’ll save up enough money to take that vacation or buy your first home? If so, you are not alone. In fact, one study shows that six out of 10 people lose sleep on a regular basis due to "financial stress” – that is pressure or tension associated with “money problems.” That same study revealed a list of the most pressing financial stressors, and ranked the following as people’s top three: 1. Living beyond their means, 2. Living in debt, and 3. Not having an emergency fund.
Basically, our past commitments, current spending and future plans, require more capital than we can come up with. Perhaps, it’s because we inhabit a society that promotes good living but doesn’t always pay a good living wage. Or, is it because we want to enjoy the finer things in life even when we’re working super hard just to make ends meet? Both arguments may have some validity, but there is one other pretty compelling truth… Most of us just aren’t very good at managing our finances. In fact, according to the results of a survey by the World Bank, Gallup, and George Washington University, approximately two-thirds of the world's population is financially illiterate. And while that statistic does seem deplorable, I would argue that it’s really nothing to be ashamed of, just something to actively work on.
Financial literacy is simply just not a skill set that is taught or offered to the masses. I mean, where do you even go to learn how to budget better? Who teaches you how to invest? Add to that, the difficulty of understanding interest and compounding interest on our savings. Not to mention that it’s hard to make the time or learn the know-how to look for sales, deals and discounts. Then there’s the ever-burning question: how do we earn more? Let’s face it, managing money can be a really hard thing to do; one that few of us are ever formally taught to do well. And yet it is an incredibly important task, with dire consequences, and one which we are expected to master early on in adulthood.
So how does one get it right? Answering that question is likely to be the reason why the U. S. Department of the Treasury decided to develop their Financial Literacy and Education Commission; in the hopes that having some basic financial planning skills could help families maximize their long-term financial well-being. And they’re not the only ones. The past decade has seen a surge in the popularity of financial planning services, money coaches, and educational programs aimed at increasing financial literacy.
So, what exactly is financial literacy, you ask. Well, the four most common operational definitions of financial literacy are budgeting, saving, borrowing and investing. I think most would agree that being financially literate means having a good handle on your money - how you earn it, how you spend it and how you store it, alike. It’s not easy but it is certainly doable with the right tools and techniques. And while it is a skill set seldom taught to the masses, much research has been done on sound financial practices to help guide those of us interested in improving our financial wellness. So, seeing as how April is financial literacy awareness month, perhaps this is a good time for us to review some tips and tricks that can help us to be more mindful of our money habits.
Below are the top two ways to stay paid:
1. Make more – One of the best ways to stay ahead financially is to increase your earnings!
- Go back to school. “Despite the stereotype that today’s recent college graduates are largely underemployed, the data show that this generation of college grads earns more than ones that came before it.”
- Freelance. “Freelancers now make up 35% of U.S. workers and collectively earned $1 trillion in the past year, according to the ‘Freelancing in America: 2016’ survey.” “Whether you’re thinking of starting a side business that could eventually become your full-time job or you just want to earn a little extra cash on the weekends... Use the skills you’ve already developed — maybe even those you use at a full-time job — to earn extra cash on the side.”
- Ask for a raise. “Less than half of working Americans ever even ask for a raise and close to 30% are uncomfortable negotiating salary… (however), of people who have put themselves out there to request better compensation, three quarters saw their paychecks go up: 44% received the amount they asked for and 31% got an amount that was less than they asked for.”
- Believe in abundance. You can’t make more money if you’ve convinced yourself that there is no more money to be made. A report released by Bain and Company, Inc. (2012) asserts that: “As financial markets in China, India and other emerging economies continue to develop their own financial sectors, total global capital will expand by half again, to an estimated $900 trillion by 2020.”
2. Spend less – It does you little good to make more money, if your spending increases as well.
- Pay yourself first. “Consider direct-depositing contributions to a retirement account before that money hits your checking account. And if your employer allows for multiple automated transfers, you can also have a set amount transferred into emergency savings or another account earmarked for a specific savings goal.”
- Pay on time, or if possible, in advance. In just one year, “American Express made a net interest income of approximately $5.8 billion!” That’s almost 6 billion in interest, alone! Now, that’s just one credit card company of many and credit cards are only one form of debt. Think about your car note, student loans, mortgage, etc. and add on to that what happens if we include late fees. In contrast, paying just $100/month extra on a $400k mortgage could save you more than $50,000 in interest over the life of the loan. So, you do the math.
- Use coupons. “Consumers collectively saved $3.4 billion by redeeming coupons in 2014… 42% of consumers save over $30/week using coupons; 30% save over $50/week.” We’re not just talking traditionally clipped coupons here. These days, you can get a mobile coupon or discount deal online for almost anything.
- Resist temptation. Just like believing in abundance, mindset is as important in spending less as it is in making more. Many of our purchases are made to fill a need that is often more emotional than material. We want to feel powerful, pretty, smart, active, etc. Ask yourself how much you really need or want what you are about to get and think hard about whether or not you can soothe your need in a healthy way without spending on this.
There are many ways to be eliminate money-related stress by becoming more financially literate. These are just a few ideas to get you started.
For more with Dinorah Nieves, PhD aka Life Coach, Dr.Dee... visit: http://www.DinorahNieves.com
 Financial Stress Research (Rep.). (2016). Retrieved April 19, 2017, from Financial Finesse, Inc. website: http://www.valuewalk.com/wp-content/uploads/2016/07/TT-Research-2016-Financial-Stress-Report-Final.pdf
 McGrath, M. (2015, November 20). A Global Financial Literacy Test Finds That Just 57% Of Adults In U.S. Are Financially Literate. Retrieved April 19, 2017, from https://www.forbes.com/sites/maggiemcgrath/2015/11/18/in-a-global-test-of-financial-literacy-the-u-s/#654947c158f0
 U.S. Department of the Treasury. (2014, July 18). Resource Center. Retrieved April 19, 2017, from https://www.treasury.gov/resource-center/financial-education/Pages/activities.aspx
 Taking Ownership of the Future: The National Strategy for Financial Literacy. (2006). Retrieved April 19, 2017, from https://www.treasury.gov/about/organizational-structure/offices/Domestic-Finance/Documents/Strategyeng.pdf
 Remund, D. L. (2010). Financial Literacy Explicated: The Case for a Clearer Definition in an Increasingly Complex Economy. Journal of Consumer Affairs,44(2), 276-295. doi:10.1111/j.1745-6606.2010.01169.x
 Fry, R. (2014, February 28). For Millennials, a bachelor's degree continues to pay off, but a master's earns even more. Retrieved April 19, 2017, from http://www.pewresearch.org/fact-tank/2014/02/28/for-millennials-a-bachelors-degree-continues-to-pay-off-but-a-masters-earns-even-more/
 Pofeldt, E. (2016, October 31). Freelancers Now Make Up 35% Of U.S. Workforce. Retrieved April 19, 2017, from https://www.forbes.com/sites/elainepofeldt/2016/10/06/new-survey-freelance-economy-shows-rapid-growth/#22ec8ccb7c3f
 Hoop, H. V. (2017, April 07). 29 Smart Ways to Make Money on the Side in 2017. Retrieved April 19, 2017, from https://www.thepennyhoarder.com/jobs-making-money/29-ways-to-make-money/
 Renzulli, K. (2015, January 8). Should I Ask for a Raise? | Money. Retrieved April 19, 2017, from http://time.com/money/3657524/odds-of-getting-raise/
 Bain & Company, Inc. (2012). A World Awash in Money Capital Trends Through 2020 (pp. 1-29, Report). Bain & Company, Inc. Retrieved December 19, 2016, from http://www.bain.com/Images/BAIN_REPORT_A_world_awash_in_money.pdf
 Torrieri, M. (2014, July 24). Are You Paying Yourself First? The Money Habit That Can Boost Wealth. Retrieved April 19, 2017, from https://www.forbes.com/sites/learnvest/2014/07/24/are-you-paying-yourself-first-the-money-habit-that-can-boost-wealth/#732ca823732c
 Gardon, M. (2015, November 04). How Credit Card Companies Make Money. Retrieved April 19, 2017, from http://www.thesimpledollar.com/how-credit-card-companies-make-money/
 T. (n.d.). Financial Calculators. Retrieved April 20, 2017, from http://www.timevalue.com/products/tcalc-financial-calculators/accelerated-mortgage-calculator.aspx
 Carter, B. (2017, February 14). Coupon Statistics: The Ultimate Collection. Retrieved April 19, 2017, from http://blog.accessdevelopment.com/ultimate-collection-coupon-statistics
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