Did you know that April is Financial Literacy Month? Financial Literacy Month is a national campaign designed to bring more financial education to children and adults.
Whether you're a financial wiz or just learning the ropes, so many ways exist to improve your financial literacy. Here are four to get you started.
Make a Monthly Budget
One of the most important steps in ensuring financial success is creating a monthly budget. This may sound simple, but a budget is your financial strategy's foundation.
Creating a monthly budget doesn't have to be complicated. Here's how to ensure you're setting yourself up for financial success:
- First, calculate your gross monthly income. This could include your salary, investment income, Social Security, child support/alimony, freelance work, or other income sources. Remember to calculate your net income as well, which is how much is left after taxes and other deductions.
- Speaking of priorities, consider your financial priorities and allocate your budget accordingly. In addition to your regular monthly expenses, you might decide to increase your general savings or earmark money toward a large purchase such as a car or a vacation. The point is to decide what's important to you and to make sure what you are setting aside each month truly reflects those values.
- Finally, create expense categories for where your money is spent and track. There are APPS that will help you automate this process. It's important to differentiate between wants and needs. You need to pay the rent or mortgage payment, but you want a new pair of shoes or a nice dinner out. By tracking spending, you can determine whether your budget is aligned with your priorities or if you need to make adjustments. Spoiler alert: you will inevitably need to make adjustments each year.
Check Your Credit Score
If it's been a while since you checked your credit score, now is a great time to see where you stand. If you have a higher credit score, you may qualify for lower-interest debt, which will save you money in the long run. You can check your credit for free or you can request a free annual credit report from the Federal Trade Commission. Reviewing your credit report is important to ensure there aren't any mistakes or incorrect accounts assigned to you. If you notice something on your credit report that doesn't look accurate, such as a loan or credit card you don't remember opening, contact your financial institutions immediately. You can also file a dispute with the credit reporting agencies to report any false information you find. To learn more, visit annualcreditreport.com. If you find inaccuracies, make sure to correct this information.
Understand Your Investment Options
As you become more financially literate and feel comfortable talking about finances, look into investments that are aligned with your goals. There are so many different types of investments and working with a financial planner can help you understand appropriate options. You should also educate yourself on some of the most common investment types, including:
Don’t Be Afraid to Ask Questions
Talking about finances can be intimidating if you're new to this (or even if you've been dealing with your own finances a while), but we all start somewhere. This Financial Literacy Month, make it a goal to learn one or two new facts about finance and contact an expert who can help. You can turn to financial planners and financial publications to get your questions answered. There's no such thing as a silly question when it comes to becoming more financially literate, secure and working towards elevating yourself and your loved ones.
Financial literacy doesn't come from making big leaps but from taking manageable, consistent steps throughout your lifetime.
This content is developed from sources believed to be providing accurate information. It may not be used for the purpose of avoiding any federal tax penalties. Please consult legal or tax professionals for specific information regarding your individual situation. The opinions expressed and material provided are for general information, and should not be considered a solicitation for the purchase or sale of any security.