April is Financial Literacy month, which allows government, private sector, and non-profit organizations to highlight their efforts in personal finance education. Here at The San Diego Financial literacy Center (SDFLC) we believe financial literacy should be a year-round discussion, but the month of April is a great place to start.
For many, this is the time of year when we look back at last year’s finances, with April 15th being the tax filing deadline. The information you have from last year’s finances can be a good tool to set up a budget for this year and beyond.
Below are four steps to take this month on a personal level, and we hope you continue your efforts well after financial literacy month has ended. Let us know how we can help!
Below are four steps to take this month on a personal level, and we hope that you continue your efforts well after financial literacy month has ended:
1. Create and Follow a Budget – A budget doesn’t have to be complex or technical, just accurate and up-to-date. Even keeping a simple budget on a sheet of paper can go a long way in improving your financial situation. There are websites and Internet tools that can keep track of everything for you, including alerting you when bills are due.
2. Don’t Be Afraid to Talk about Money – If your personal finances are combined (or will be soon) with a significant other, have the money talk. Consider this quote from a recent New York Times article, “Research shows that money is the number one reason couples fight and a main reason marriages split up.” Like many other things in relationships, communication is essential. Take some time out of your schedule to sit down and work on your finances together. Having a good idea of your budget, as well as spending and saving priorities will help avoid issues going forward.
3. Pay Down Debt – Paying down debt has countless benefits, including relieving stress and reducing finance charges. Take into consideration this quote in a WebMD article on financial stress, “Debt or money is such a pervasive and difficult kind of stress because it’s so interconnected with other areas of our lives,” said Kelly McGonigal, Ph.D., a psychologist and researcher at Stanford University. Regardless of what caused the debt, paying it back is not always easy. Be sure that you know all of your options, and don’t get discouraged. It may seem like a long journey, but it will be well worth it in the end.
4. Start Teaching Money Management Early – If you have kids, start talking to them about money early. It’s not necessary for your five-year-old to understand the difference between hard and soft inquiries on a credit report. Yet, explaining to a young child why they need to save money if they want to buy new toys is a good place to start. Try starting with a money counting game. As children grow, introducing them to the entire spectrum of personal finances can help them have a better financial future. Saving and borrowing habits can be established long before they become adults, so teach good habits early and often.
Understanding your personal finances is a year-round task and it should not be limited to the month of April. In fact, financial education is a lifelong project. But, the principles are the same. The goal? Spend less than you make, decrease debt, and increase your net worth. Sounds simple, but often it’s not. If you have the knowledge, you have the power to move in the right direction.