Did you know that April is Financial Literacy Month? Financial Literacy Month is a national campaign designed to bring more financial education to children and adults.
Whether you're a financial wiz or just learning the ropes, so many ways exist to improve your financial literacy. Here are four to get you started.
Make a Monthly Budget
One of the most important steps in ensuring financial success is creating a monthly budget. This may sound simple, but a budget is your financial strategy's foundation.
Creating a monthly budget doesn't have to be complicated. Here's how to ensure you're setting yourself up for financial success:
- First, calculate your gross monthly income. This could include your salary, investment income, Social Security, child support/alimony, freelance work, or other income sources. Remember to calculate your net income as well, which is how much is left after taxes and other deductions.
- Speaking of priorities, consider your financial priorities and allocate your budget accordingly. In addition to your regular monthly expenses, you might decide to increase your general savings or earmark money toward a large purchase such as a home or car. The important point is to decide what's important and to make sure your budget reflects those values.
- Finally, create expense categories for where your money is spent and track each and every expense. It's important to differentiate between wants and needs. You need to pay the rent or mortgage payment, but you want a new pair of shoes or a nice dinner out. By tracking your spending, you can determine whether your budget is aligned with your priorities or if you should make adjustments to meet your goals.
Check Your Credit Score
If it's been a while since you checked your credit score, now is a great time to see where you stand. Your credit score is an important metric when considering your financial health and will play a larger role when you apply for loans, especially mortgages and car loans. If you have a higher credit score, you may qualify for lower-interest debt, which will save you money.
Reviewing your credit report is important to ensure there aren't any mistakes or incorrect accounts assigned to you. If you notice something on your credit report that doesn't look accurate, such as a loan or credit card you don't remember opening, contact your financial institutions immediately. You can also file a dispute with the credit reporting agencies to report any false information you find.
Understand Your Investment Options
As you become more financially literate and feel comfortable talking about finances, you may consider looking into investments that are aligned with your goals. There are so many different types of investments and working with a financial advisor can help you understand your options. You should also educate yourself on some of the most common investment types, including:
Don’t Be Afraid to Ask Questions
Talking about finances can be intimidating, but we all must start somewhere. This Financial Literacy Month, make it a goal to learn one or two new facts about finance and contact an expert who can help. You can turn to financial advisors and financial publications to get your questions answered without feeling naive or silly. There's no such thing as a dumb question when it comes to becoming more financially literate and secure.
Financial literacy doesn't come from making big leaps but rather from taking one step at a time. Pick one of the options above and start yourself on the path to become financially savvy.
There is no lack of knowledge to gain in the financial world. I can say that, for me, the longer I work in the industry, "the more you know, the more you don't know" phrase certainly rings true. I am grateful for programs and initiatives that help encourage people to grow their understanding and knowledge base as more financial education is needed in our society today! Even though we can't know everything, God gave our minds the ability to grow and be empowered to take on challenging or overwhelming tasks. This pursuit process is what will then increase our understanding and stretch our skillset to comprehend difficult concepts or ideas that we might not have been able to before.
There are a couple of passages which I think shed a wonderful light on this concept: Proverbs 18:15(NLT) states, "Intelligent people are always ready to learn. Their ears are open for knowledge." The second is Hosea 4:6(NKJV): "My people are destroyed for lack of knowledge." I think it's pretty obvious that we are instructed to increase in knowledge! Moreover, we can see in Hosea that there are consequences if we don't pursue greater knowledge. The good news is the reward is worth the cost. Knowledge can lead us in into areas of greater wisdom, which is the ability to apply that knowledge to difficult situations that we will face in our financial journey. Imagine being able to apply knowledge you've gained to make a big decision without second-guessing yourself. What a great feeling! Take the next step. Before you know it, you'll end up much farther than you think from where you started.
Evergreen Financial Group is a Fee-Only Financial Planning and Investment Firm located in Billings, MT serving clients in Montana, Wyoming and virtually across the country. Evergreen Financial Group specializes in working with Christian families, including young professionals, Current and Future Retirees and Church Staff Members.
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