I feel like I haven’t spoken to you all in so long even though it’s only been a week! I think it’s because without warning, I was thrown into Equinox Personal Training…training, haha and it’s totally upended my routine. Good thing I have an awesome planner to keep track of it all. If you look at the past weeks entries, a lot of stuff is crossed off and rearranged. It’s one big mess, but I made it work.
Pretty soon I’ll be sharing workout tips and maybe even some videos in my weekly posts. What do you all think? Would that be something you would be interested in? Also, any questions you have about fitness or health, feel free to email me at firstname.lastname@example.org. Even if I don’t have the answer, I have access to the top trainers in the country (they are my co-workers. How awesome is that!?) and I am constantly picking their brains.
One of the first things I’ve learned, and a standard practice for all personal trainers is how to perform a fitness assessment. This includes testing blood pressure, body fat percentage, endurance and functional movement exercises to note imbalances and weaknesses. What this does is give us a clear picture of where each client is starting from so that we can create an effective, personalized plan for them to reach their goals.
I couldn’t help realizing the similarities between a fitness assessment and my top tip for financial health.
I got a lot of enthusiastic feedback about my first money post, and I’ve been wanting to do a follow-up post.
To recap briefly, the most important step to financial health is looking at where your finances are right now. How much money are you spending each month versus how much you are earning? What percentage of your spending is going towards rent, groceries, entertainment etc? How much debt do you have and what percentage are you paying in interest?
It sounds like a full-time job just to manage all of this and find the answers to these questions, but it’s really not. The beauty of the internet is that we have amazing resources at our fingertips so there is really no excuse. Sign up on Mint.com if you haven’t already, let it do the work for you and get familiar with where you are now.
You can’t move forward if you don’t know where you are starting from. It’s that simple.
If you have that step down, excellent! Now we get to talk about emergency funds. Yay, how exciting!
You probably know that you SHOULD have an emergency fund, but do you actually have one?
An emergency fund is different than a savings account. An emergency you don’t touch unless there is, well, an emergency. A general rule is to have 3-6 months of income saved up in case you lose your job. This is also where your risk comfort level comes into play. Do you feel uncomfortable with 6 months? Maybe 8 months feels better. Do you have a job that would take longer to replace?
What if you have debt that you feel you have to pay off first? In that case, aim to put $1,000 into an emergency fund. Leave it there and then go tackle your debt. Once you are in a good place, come back to your emergency fund and build up to 3-6 months worth. If you are wondering how I came up with this technique, I didn’t. Dave Ramsey, personal money-management expert has used it to get countless people out of debt.
You want to keep your emergency fund liquid, meaning somewhere you can get to it quickly. I keep mine in an online account that earns a tiny amount of interest, (bank interest rates are virtually non-existent these days though you can find some that offer 1-2%). If I need the money I just transfer it over to my checking account. It being online makes me feel like it is separate from my checking and savings, so I never feel tempted to dip into it unless it’s a real emergency.
This is a timely subject because we are coming up on good ol’ tax season. Btw, nothing makes you feel more like an adult than discussing your taxes with your friends, am I right?
So, last year I got a rude punch to the gut when I found out how much I owed back the government. I never owed before. I always received a return, but I knew 2014 would be different and I was prepared for it, I thought. I had asked the other servers and the managers at my restaurant what I should expect to owe and they all said around $1,500-$3,000. Naturally, I hoped for the lower end of that, but when I saw what it really was, I almost choked.
After I had a full-on freak out and realized that this was indeed real, I remembered my emergency fund and thanked my lucky stars that I had enough cushion saved up to pay this enormous sum and put it behind me. I didn’t have to dip into my checking account and I didn’t have to pay it down in increments. It was relatively low stress for what was realistically a high-stress situation.
And, what I learned next shocked me even more than that number up there: no one my age I spoke to said they would be able to pay off that amount. I was baffled to learn that many people don’t even have emergency funds!
Maybe part of it has to do with living in NYC. In a place where getting an apartment without a roommate is a marker of extreme career success and your commute is over an hour because you chose to use your prepaid metro card instead of taking a 20 minute, $20 taxi, I get that saving anything can seem close to impossible.
But, it is possible. It may be hard. You may need to cut down on some indulgences. You may need to start brown-bagging your lunch, but if a 20-something waitress living in NYC can do it, you can do it too. I promise you! And your 20’s is the time to start, if you haven’t already.
This is the foundation. This is your solid financial plan on which to build your wealth. If you skip ahead or leave these steps until “tomorrow”, you will never feel secure and financially strong. You will always be building on sand.
There are so many things I want to share about money:
- The things you may be doing that you don’t know can hurt your credit
- Sneaky ways to save without sucking the fun out of life!
- How to tackle debt when you feel like you are drowning in it
- How investing doesn’t have to be intimidating. Again, if a 20-something waitress can do it, you can to 😉
- The importance of setting up your own retirement fund, even if your company provides a 401-K.
Would this be something you would be interested in? Any bullet point in particular you want me to cover? Any burning questions you have about money that I didn’t mention above?
Let me know in the comments below. Let’s start talking about money people!
Here’s to your financial health,
With so much love,