Raise your hand if you want to get your finances right. *Raises hand.* It’s a great goal. But how do you actually achieve it? Turns out, before you even break out a budgeting spreadsheet, you need to understand your relationship with money. Here, Tonya Rapley, a certified financial education instructor and the founder of My Fab Finance, and a financial educator for EarnIn, shares the steps you need to take to make your “getting better with money” dreams a reality.
What are the first steps for getting better with money?
Sixty percent of Americans are living paycheck to paycheck [according to a LendingClub survey published last year], so you’re not alone if you want to get better at managing your money. Learning how money works is a great place to start. Create goals for where you want to go, but focus on mastering where you are. If that is getting caught up on your bills and making more money, start there. If it is getting better at your budget and anticipating expenses, start there.
What is a money story, and how can I change mine?
A money story is your history with money. It’s how you’ve experienced it, interacted with it, made decisions related to it. What did you learn about money from your parents? What are some of the beliefs you learned about money through the wins and trials of adulthood? Our money story is and can be ever-changing, just like our life story. When I first started investing, I didn’t feel like I fit the profile of a typical investor. I wasn’t making a significant amount of money and opened my first investment account with $1,500. Part of reframing my money story was believing that I had to be at a certain place to start, instead of starting where I was and with what I had access to.
How can I stop feeling bad about my past financial decisions?
It starts with giving yourself grace. No one is perfect. Even the smartest, most knowledgeable people make bad decisions with their money. I recently was part of a scam that cost me $3,000 in November, and I consider myself to be scam-savvy. The goal is to commit to learning from your mistakes and making better decisions as it relates to your money each and every day. If you made a purchase you regret and can return it, do so. You have the right and option to change your mind in your best financial interest.
What can I do to improve my financial literacy?
Access resources. There’s so much reliable information available through podcasts and YouTube series from credible companies and media outlets. I don’t necessarily recommend social media as a financial literacy resource because that information isn’t always fact-checked. However, starting with places that give you credible advice, while having an accurate picture of your finances, is a great place to begin.
What are some signs I should seek financial help, and where can I get it?
Seek help when you have financial anxiety or feel overwhelmed. But also remember you don’t have to be in a bad place to ask for help. You can also get help if you feel comfortable and just want more guidance on your next best steps. I have a guide that can help if you’re looking for more information.
This interview has been edited and condensed for clarity.
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