You need not be obsessed with personal finance but you do need to understand it.
Wisdom from the Internet
It’s long been said that information is power. This maxim is just as applicable to your money as it is to anything else. The more you know about your own finances, the better decisions you can make to create the life you want.
In the past few months, I’ve started following a channel on YouTube where people are interviewed about their money. They all have debt, which they say that they want to eradicate. Each of them says they want to live on their own, or start a business, or buy a house. Invariably, all of the interviewees reveal that they don’t know how much money they earn each month. Of the interviews I’ve watched to date, nearly all of the interviewees are paid hourly. Most of them have received a paycheque yet none of them know how much they bring home in a month. None of them!
It’s astonishing to me that they don’t know the most basic information about their financial lives. And it’s not an age thing. The interviewees I’ve seen have ranged in age from 19-32. These aren’t all fresh-faced high school graduates who’ve just left the nest. Most of them live with roommates, so they’ve had a taste of the adult responsibility of paying rent & making sure the lights stay on while putting a bit of food in the fridge.
If you’ve stumbled upon my blog for the first time, welcome! I hope you like it here and I hope you come back. Most importantly, I want you to know your own numbers. This is foundational knowledge. You need to have to this information when setting financial goals for yourself.
*** If you’re already a person who tracks their income, then the rest of this post might not be for you. ***
In order to build the life you want, you need to know your own numbers. I’ve written about the importance of tracking your expenses. The same importance should be placed on tracking your paycheques.
At the very least, know how much money you’re bringing home in your paycheque. This is your net income, aka: money you keep after taxes and deductions. When you spend less than your net income, then you have money to build an emergency fund and to invest for your goals. If you spend more than your net income, then you’re living in debt. This is a bad situation and it needs to be curtailed immediately. If your expenses are exactly equal to your net income, then you’re living paycheque-to-paycheque. Just like being in debt, this is a bad situation because you have no wiggle room. Any unexpected expense will push you into debt because you don’t have an emergency fund. You also don’t have any extra cash flow coming in from your investment portfolio in the form of dividends, capital gains, and interest.
I’m always baffled when people say they don’t know their net income. How can you make financial plans for yourself when you don’t know how much you have to work with?
Nearly everyone has a cell phone. They all come with calendars. Go into your phone, set up alerts to tell you when you’re getting paid. When you get your paycheque, track that amount. You can use a pen and paper, a spreadsheet, or an app. It doesn’t matter. You just need to know how much money will be in your pocket until your next paycheque.
Once you have that number, you can start subtracting your expenses from it. I would suggest that you always allocate money to your needs first. After that, every other expenses is a want. You’re human, therefore food and shelter are your top priorities. Given that you’re working for a paycheque, you’re probably not independently wealthy. So that means your next priority is paying for transportation so you can get to work. Life offers no guarantees. You need to put some money aside in your emergency fund.
Do you still have money leftover after paying for these four critical items? Great! Get busy figuring out which one of your many, many wants is the next most important to you. Cell phone or clothing? Gym membership or gifts for loved one? Pet care or charitable donation?
When your expenses have exhausted your paycheque on paper, then you stop spending. Wait! Are there still things that you want but can’t be covered by your net income?
Then you’ve learned something! You’ve discovered your shortfall amount, aka: the amount of money that you need to earn to pay for all the things you want to buy. Your next step is to figure out how to make more money to cover the shortfall. Maybe you get a promotion. Perhaps you sell some things that you no longer need or use. You could find a better-paying job or get a promotion with your current employer. Maybe you pick up a part-time job or offer your services to people who need them.
Again, information is power. It’s up to you to know your own numbers so that you can figure out what it will take to build the life you want. If you start today, then you’re one day closer to making your dreams come true.