Laid out In order of urgency.
Hang in there… This is like 15 years of testing and best practices I’ve nerded out on condensed into a single page.
Put away at least $1k
- Somewhere safe
- as an emergency fund
- forget about it unless you are totally out of $$$.
- Add to this as possible
- Replenish as needed.
- This should not be your only savings.
Money Envelope system (Dave Ramsey)
Write everything down that you pay for monthly/quarterly/bi/yearly.
- Or… Attached a spreadsheet to help.
If you deal mostly with cash…
Literally budget your cash dollars into envelopes.
- Rent/mortgage, Savings, fuel, car repairs, car licensing, taxes, fun money, etc. down to the walking cash in your pocket.
I use, and highly recommend, software to handle budgeting (YNAB); but I started writing everything down and it works just fine.
Your liquid money(Not emergency, Not Investments); This is the long game.
Start Saving Now.
Start by trying to save to cover 1 month of bills.
- Use the numbers from your monthly budget.
Try to get your savings to at least 6 months of your monthly/quarterly/bi/yearly bills.
- This will help weather you through any job changes or big emergencies.
- This does not include your Emergency savings of at least $1k
Balance your Savings with Investments.
This helps getting away from living paycheck to paycheck seriously reduces monetary stress.
You will need a bank of some sort to transfer money around to do investing/build credit.
Wealthfront might be a good option, they offer nearly free checking/savings/investing
Local credit unions are usually pretty good. Vantage was good, but they require like $3k in some form (credit/savings/checking)
Some big banks still offer free checking
- I can’t really recommend any, every one I’ve tried always ended up screwing me over.
Put away at least $1k in banked checking/savings (similar to emergency cash, forget about it)
- Now you should have at least a couple grand set aside to buffer any emergencies.
- Automate as many bills as possible with some buffer in your account, you should never miss a payment. This is probably the most important bullet point. Automations free you from stress.
Ok. This really the most important section. Don’t use debit cards unless they’re at your bank. Period. Get a couple low balance credit cards. Treat your debit card as if it were your bank balance.
Debit cards are tricky. It’s your “real” money attached to that card.
- If possible, use your Debit card only to with withdraw cash from your bank.
- Do NOT use a debit card for online purchases. (See Credit below)
- Avoid using your Debit card for daily purchases. (See Credit below)
Dave Ramsay - Debt snowball
- Figure out your spare $$$ budget each month,
- Put all of that into your lowest balance debt. Roll all to the next highest debt.
E.g. Spare $ per month = $250
- Bill 1 = $500 total 35 monthly ( $250+the usual 35 payment)
- Paid off in 2 months; you have freed up $35 monthly.
- After Bill 1 is paid off, Focus on Bill 2; you now have $285 spare cash each month.
- Bill 2 = $1000 total 100 monthly ($250+ $100 monthly payment + the 35 from Bill 1)
- Paid off in 3 months and freed up another $100; Now you have $385 to put toward your next highest debt.
- Repeat until you have everything paid off (or you are down to only Mortgage payment)
Once you are debt free(or only a mortgage);
Put spare cash to Savings or investments.
Always keep a bank balance higher than your CC balance.
Set your credit card to pay off the monthly balance. You may earn “rewards” for your spending as well as avoid fees/interest charges.
Use for online purchases or any time you need to swipe a card
- If someone tries to steal from it, it’s not your real money yet and you can easily dispute the theft.
To start building up your credit score, get a lower max ($500-$1000) card.
- Use it to pay for gas and pay it off monthly.
- Always pay off Credit monthly.
- Never, never, never carry a balance; See Debt section. Do what you need to do to stay at 0 debt.
Other things to build credit
Get a couple cards with higher balances.
- Use them, paying them off monthly.
Utilities in your name
Finance something you have the cash to pay for.
- Probably best to do something with 0% if possible
- Do not miss a payment or fail to pay it off. They will hit you with huge interest bills.
After setting up a credit card. Freeze your credit https://www.consumer.ftc.gov/articles/0497-credit-freeze-faqs#place
You may need to unfreeze in the future if you want to apply for loans or do any kind of credit check.
Expect this money is not available for a long time; It’s like a trust fund for old people.
- Betterment(similar to wealthfront, less options)
They both use investment robots to handle everything. Low fees. Good return.
2 ways to invest:
A little bit regularly
- I’d recommend doing this now, whatever is comfortable
- $100ish per month is a good starting place, more if you are comfortable with it.)
- You can put up to $500/month into a RothIRA.
Wait for an economic downturn and invest heavily
- I’d recommend waiting to invest big chunks of money when other people are freaking out and the market plunges.
Taxes are always wacky with investments, consult professionals(I’m not one) before investing.
Roth IRA (earnings are only available after 59.5 or buying a house)
“Roth IRAs also allow tax-free withdrawals of earnings on contributions after a five-year holding period under certain conditions. Those conditions include reaching age 59½, being disabled, or using the funds for first-time home buying expenses.”
You can put up to $6k per year into a RothIRA.
A 401k is nice if your company matches contributions. otherwise not really necessary.
- 401k is pre tax money, you have to pay taxes on it when it’s withdrawn
- An IRA is similar
- RothIRA you pay Income taxes and withdrawn money (within the guidelines) is not taxed.
Before buying, take friends that will tell you all of the shitty things about the place.
Save and wait for a housing bubble burst.
- Just a guess, we will probably see a huge wave of foreclosures in 21-22
Actual cost of owning a house is about double your mortgage. (Bills, maintenance, etc.)
Try to avoid PMI by having enough of a down payment.
- PMI is a fee us poor people have to pay if we don’t have enough of a down payment.
Expect that whatever you put into individual stocks could go away.
It’s literally just gambling.
No day trading - Buy and Hold for years.
Fun to play with, but not good for investment, unless you have time to manage it and a lot of money and luck.
I’ve only put a couple thousand into stocks; over like 20 years. I’ve been both lucky and unlucky. Far better returns with a robot managed plan mentioned above.
You can invest in specific stocks with services like Robinhood or Acorn. But that’s complicated to give advice on… If it’s a company you really like; go for it, but plan to keep it for many years if not decades.
Financial blogs and sites
- Dave Ramsay
- Ramit Sethi - He has some good advise, but always feels a little scammy
- J.D. Roth - Get rich slowly
- Interview with wealthfront CEO/Co-Founder(Good info on why not to pick your own stocks): https://podcast.kevinrose.com/building-wealthfront-and-benchmark-capital-andy-rachleff/
- Credit card Breaches: https://krebsonsecurity.com/category/data-breaches/