Making smart money decisions is important at every stage of life. Learning how to make smart decisions is a learned skill: the earlier you start, the better and the more you practice, the better you’ll be.
Being intentional with the choices you make with your finances has the potential to create a fulfilling life and lifestyle. I think we all want to make the best money decisions we can. So, in honor of April being financial literacy month, here are 7 of the best money decisions you can make before turning 40.
Here they are:
1. Knowing your why
Knowing why money is important to you can go a long way toward informing your actions around money. Knowing your why can help prevent aimlessly misdirecting your money on whims and focus it on the areas of your life that matter to you most. With clarity of your ‘why,’ your financial decisions become clearer. Knowing your why aligns your money with your values and serves as the foundation for the financial goals that support the life you really want to live.
2. Building an emergency fund
Murphy’s Law that states, “Anything that can go wrong, will go wrong” and it’s exactly why having an emergency fund (at any age) is such a good decision. Prepare yourself against the “what ifs” in life and reduce your worry around finances with an emergency fund. With an emergency fund in place, you will have peace of mind when an unexpected expense arises knowing that you can cover it without compromising other financial goals in your life. The earlier you establish good money habits like this, the better!
3. Saving for retirement
When you start saving for retirement early, you put yourself in the best possible position to prepare for the future you want. The compounded interest alone, even on a small initial investment, has plenty of time to grow over a lifetime. Not to mention any “free” money you can receive by participating in corporate sponsored retirement plans with employer matches. As you advance in your career and earn more money, putting a percentage of your income into your retirement nest egg is one of the best money decisions you can make!
4. Understanding and properly using credit
Credit, when used properly, can offer convenience and rewards worth taking advantage of. When credit is used as cash (without the cash equivalent available) it can easily lead to financial troubles if you outspend your income and carry high-interest credit card debt. A good rule of thumb is: don’t charge it unless you can pay for it when your statement arrives. There are plenty of ways to use credit to your advantage and the earlier you learn, the earlier you safeguard yourself against high-interest debt and maximize your spending potential.
5. Living within your means
Living within your means can mean delaying certain purchases and luxuries you’d much rather not do without. But it also means that you will be working towards financial freedom. I work with my clients to put a cash flow system in place that helps them thoughtfully spend within their means. By doing so, it allows them to stay forward-focused on what they can afford while saving for goals rather than looking backwards and judging their past purchases. This is one of the best money decisions you can make before you’re forty, because it’s another smart money habit that helps you keep your money on your values and priorities.
6. Communicating about money with your spouse
Being on the same page about money with your spouse is a money decision that can positively impact the finances and your most important relationship. Taking the time to talk openly about money and both having clear roles around the household finances are conversations and decisions that are valuable at every stage of the relationship. Together, you share the financial journey that’s making the life you want to live a reality. I recommend having regularly scheduled money conversations with your spouse to touch base, revisit priorities, address any concerns and celebrate the wins! Being in a true partnership with your finances helps both of you get on the same page and remain on the same page through every season of life.
7. Seeking financial knowledge
You don’t know what you don’t know, and that can be very costly! Making the decision to get more involved in your personal finances and expanding your knowledge is one of the best choices you can make. Ask questions, read books, scan headlines and dig into some finance blogs. Having financial knowledge is useful to you so you can make better financial decisions for yourself and your family. It makes you more aware of what’s possible and gives you greater control over your future.