Personal finance management isn’t widely taught through the education system in our society. According to the Council for Economic Education only 14 states require high schools to offer a personal finance course for students. Offered is of course different from mandatory, so who knows how many students actually take advantage. Some colleges offer personal finance courses, but they’re usually optional and/or non-credit. So what happens … adults with poor financial management skills.
Most people do not realize or acknowledge they have a serious problem with finances until the symptoms start piling up. Most financial woes are symptoms of the main issue. Debt, overspending, running out of money during the month, not knowing where your money is going, no savings, etc. are all symptoms. The real issue or cause is lack of financial management know-how and skills. Think of it like this, when you have a cold you experience sneezing, headache, coughing, runny nose etc. Those are the symptoms. The real cause is the virus that got past your defenses.
In order to treat the symptoms and cure the main cause of your financial woes, do the following.
1) Increase your financial literacy. You’re already off to a great start as you visited this site and are reading this article. However, ramp it up. If you’re a DIY type of person then continue to read awesome personal finance blogs, but also dive into books and podcasts. Read and learn as much about managing and growing your money as you can. Create a list of personal finance books, blogs and podcasts that address budget planning, budget management, using credit, paying down debt, tracking and monitoring spending, saving strategies, and investing. If you’re the do it with me type and want someone there to hold you accountable and give feedback specific to your situation then look into hiring a financial coach, consultant or advisor (yes these are different) or if you’re ready then an investment advisor. Get the information and resources that you need to do better with your money.
2) Implement what you learn. It’s great to acquire the knowledge, but you have to use it. Design a budget and use all the tips and tricks you’ve learned to stick to it. Design a debt reduction strategy that will help you eliminate your debt and conquer the debt-credit cycle. There are tools free and paid that you can use to help you implement good personal finance behaviors. There are many articles that cover them. However, let’s say you don’t want to use pen and paper or excel to track your spending, try an online system. There are numerous apps with different features. Do your research and pick the one that best suits your needs.
3) Review your data. Once you’ve started organizing your finances and have designed a money strategy to manage and grow your money, don’t forget to review your financial data. How will you know how much progress you’re making if you don’t check back? Check how well you’re staying within your budget, how much extra money you can throw at your debt, how streamlined are your expenses, and how your savings strategy is going. You have to check back in so you can optimize as necessary. As the symptoms clear up, consider this to be similar to your yearly physical exam.
If you’re waiting for a sign that it’s time to make a change, consider this it. Money Therapy may be just what you need to break through your financial blocks and release your money guilt and shame.