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I’m 26 and want to be financially strong. But everyone I know who is good with money is obsessed with money. They track their spending, use money apps, listen to money podcasts, and talk about budgeting. This may sound lazy, but I am by no means. My mind goes blank when I hear about investing, and I hate math. Additionally, I would rather put my time and energy into my actual career (I am a social worker) and focus on what I am good at and find rewarding. Is there a middle ground where you just set a few things and know you’re okay?
I have student loans, but they’re not that bad thanks to a bunch of scholarships (less than $10,000 and mostly from private financial institutions, so I’m still paying them off). Otherwise, you’ll be getting by on fairly low salaries (around $45,000) in expensive cities. I don’t have enough savings to tell you, but I have no debt other than student loans. I basically try to spend less than I earn each month.
I’m not trying to get rich or abuse the system. I honestly don’t think it’s possible for me. All I want to know is that I’m not actively screwing myself. I also like to keep things simple. As far as I know, the more I think about money, the harder and more stressful it seems. I don’t want to get caught up in the race to track “points”, investments, etc. Also, I don’t have any specific big goals, such as buying a house or giving birth to a child. Are there a few simple financial things that don’t require a lot of time, effort, or brain space that will benefit me in the long run?
I wish more people would ask these questions. Many of us (I’ve spent most of my life, myself included) are frightened by the effort and discipline it takes to be “good” at personal finance and think it’s not for us.
But don’t be scared. There is nothing wrong with wanting to spend money on your life instead of spending it on your life. In fact, it’s realistic and healthy. Being obsessed with money (and humbly bragging about it to your friends) is like spending all your free time at the gym. If you really enjoy it and feel good about yourself, why not continue? But ultimately, I believe that self-management shouldn’t get in the way of real life. If you spend too much time preparing, you will not be able to participate in the event.
I also like that you don’t have specific goals. Because I don’t have many goals. I felt vaguely embarrassed about this and thought it might be a character flaw. Goals give you more airtime! People love to talk about them and that’s fine, but they never seemed to motivate me. (And even if they were, I didn’t know what to do after I got to them.) Then I heard a theory as to how. Habits are more important than goals (In the words of psychologist Adam Grant, the concept is nothing new.) And it clicked. The point is that the processes you establish, the daily routines that serve as the scaffolding for your life the way you want it, are often more valuable and important than the fixed goals you’re working toward. That’s it.
Of course, you can establish habits (such as saving a certain amount of money each week or month) to reach your goals (buy something, take vacations). However, habits themselves can be worthwhile goals, and can be more manageable than chasing the benefits of the end result. Achieving big goals is fun, but developing good habits makes each day even more satisfying.
The point is, instead of stressing your goals for now, focus on establishing a few financial habits that feel doable for you. These habits don’t require a lot of thought or a major life overhaul, but they do add up.
The first important habit is to set aside time to check your money situation regularly. This can be once a week or once a month. Anything that seems doable is fine. It only takes 10 minutes. All you need to do is check your bank balances, see where your money is being spent, see if your bills have been paid, and investigate your spending to make sure you haven’t been charged in error. is. It’s also a good time to see what’s to come and consider whether you want to set aside money for it. There! You are done. As your finances change over the years, this practice may become a little more complicated, but for now, this is all you need to do.
Many financial advisors call this “money dating.” If you ever share money with your partner, it’s great to do it together. But for now, you can do it yourself (or with a friend if you want to be more responsible). Just make it cute! Setting the mood—music, coffee, comfortable clothes—can help you focus and make things easier to deal with. I spent most of her 20s treating my money like a painful bandage that had to be peeled off and dealt with when there were no other options. Now, set the timer for 15 minutes, light a fancy candle, and dive in.
Habit #2 is to save money for emergencies, not just long-term needs. There are several ways to do this, first, This beautifully simple flowchart (Thanks, Reddit) It gives you a visual indication of your priorities.
To set aside an emergency fund, decide on a small amount that you can set aside regularly without too much effort or savings. Then automate it and save yourself the hassle. See if your employer offers her a 401(k) match or equivalent for retirement savings.In that case, you should switch at least Minimum amount from salary to get the most out of the match. Again, automating this saves you from having to think twice.
if the employer does no If you provide retirement benefits, you must open an IRA. This is a type of retirement account that is not associated with an employer. (I know it sounds patient, but I promise it’s not.) Both Erebest and Vanguard This greatly simplifies the process and helps automate future IRA donations. Be careful not to erode your emergency savings by starting with a small amount that you will never forget.
That’s it for now. No need to download budgeting apps, track investments, or calculate. All you need to do is review your money regularly, spend less than you earn, and stash some of it as savings (emergency cash or retirement investments). If something changes in you, like getting a raise or paying off your student loans, increase your savings. But for now, it’s best to stick to something simple and effective and not let anyone doubt it.
The Cut’s financial advice columnist Charlotte Cowles answers readers’ personal questions about personal finance.Email us your money concerns firstname.lastname@example.org.