Financial Advice From Someone Who Has No Official Education On The Subject But Seems To Be Doing Okay

No, there are no affiliate links. I just want to help people.

Let’s talk finances. For some reason, speaking of money makes people uncomfortable. Perhaps it is the idea that a person’s value is based upon their net worth and everyone is afraid to look like “less of a person” when they aren’t the richest in the room. However, it is only through discussion that we learn and grow! Don’t be selfish with your money knowledge! Let’s talk about some of the ways I have found to save money/grow money. No, it is not all inclusive but it is a start. Not all of these may be applicable to you, but check it out anyway:

FOR EVERYONE

-Check to see if you are owed any money by companies by searching your name in every state you have ever lived for “unclaimed property”. Companies have to report funds that they owe their customers to the state comptroller and when it isn’t claimed, the money goes…? No idea, but this is legit and safe. Check for your family members (even deceased!). Quite a few people I know received a windfall from this tip. Personally, I was owed $60 and I am expecting the check within the week. Some work may be required to claim your money, like proving who you are, but duh…this is money that is literally yours. Go get it. And check once a year for newer accounts. Companies are shady. Don’t let them not pay you.

-Ask for lower APRs on your credit cards once a year. This will save you money if you do have debt that you are paying off.

-Ask your credit card company to increase your credit limit once a year. This helps your credit score. This doesn’t mean use that extra credit; just lower your credit to debt ratio by increasing how much money you COULD spend.

-Link all of your accounts together to be viewed in one place. USAA does this easily. I have 23 accounts that I manage; I separate them into “Banking”, “Debt”, “Savings”, “Investments”, and “Insurance”. This allows me to see everything at the same time with no guessing about accounts at other banks. Link everything: loans, savings, credit cards, checking, TSP, 401k, IRAs, etc.!

– Look at the statements of every account religiously. Challenge anything that looks out of place. Make sure you cancel any automatic charges that you see that you aren’t using anymore. When I walked one friend through this step of financial welfare, he found that he had been paying Sirius XM for a car he had sold over a year ago. WHAT?!

-Automate all of your bills. It’s 2018. Come on. Besides saving money on stamps and saving the trees, this prevents any bills from being paid late.

-Because accidents happen, set up backup accounts for every account that pays your bills. This prevents overdraft fees because your bank will automatically dip into your backup overdraft account when your original account can’t keep up with your expensive coffee habit. Some banks (like Navy Federal Credit Union) actually allow you to open a small line of credit as an overdraft account. Other banks may ask you to use your savings account. Either way, you have a good buffer in case some asshole company accidentally charges you twice and sends you into overdraft fee area. (Beware, that line of credit will cost you interest if you don’t pay it off immediately, but that won’t happen to you, right? You know to check your accounts religiously.)

-This bullet is going to be huge. Everyone says to write out a budget. Oh yeah, that’s a great idea. Of course it is. Pull up Microsoft Excel and write out a line item list of your budget. Identify every source of income and every expense. I suggest making each tab at the bottom of the spreadsheet its own month. Here is what mine looks like:

Budget

There are a few equations I’ve built into the spreadsheet to calculate totals. When a source of income comes in, I mark it green; when a bill is paid, I mark it green. I have identified every due date (automatic payments, my friend) as comments on the bills. “Other Deductions” and some of the investments are automatically withdrawn from paychecks so I don’t give them a color.

Separating into 1-15 and 16-31 columns allows me to see how evenly my bills hit my accounts. You can call up companies to move your bills to another date within the month to spread the pain over the month a bit.

The BIGGEST game changer for me was creating a new line in the budget for “Yearly Expenses.” I don’t know about you but every huge annual bill seemed to hit at the exact same time for us (probably because we tend to make huge life decisions at the same time every year when the military moves us.) During this month, I would see savings accounts drain to cover bills like vehicle registration, ball tickets, insurance, and Amazon Prime. So I took every yearly fee and listed it on a separate tab. I identified its due date and how much it costed yearly. I added up every yearly charge, and then divided it by 12 (for months in the year, doofus). This was my new line item in the budget. As time went on, I expanded this line item to include $2000 a year in vehicle maintenance (think oil changes, paying for parking, and new windshield wipers). So when I needed new tires, I didn’t even flinch. It was already covered in this “Yearly Expenses” account.

I also identified every outstanding issue for finances (don’t we all have those?) to keep an eye on. For example, I have been fighting the VA for a ton of money since 2016. That is on my list and will be until they GIVE ME BACK MY MONEY. Other things on the list include known financial variables such as guaranteed raises and when they will happen, getting multiple vehicle discounts on your insurance when the vehicles are insured in the same state, etc. Think of that tab as a financial forecast for you to know what is coming (good and bad).

Let me know if you want me to send you a copy of my full budget spreadsheet. I have been doing this for five years and it has given me serious peace of mind.

-There are free National Parks Days. Use them!

-Everyone should aim for these financial milestones:

-Three to six months’ worth of savings that will cover EVERY bill in case something goes wrong.

– No debt

– 15% of your income into retirement. Some companies match up to 5%, which is FREE MONEY!

– Everyone should also have the following:

-Life insurance

-Medical insurance

-Dental insurance

-A will

-Possibly a power of attorney if you think you can handle someone else making financial decisions when you are in a coma. Haha!

-Other good tips:

-Housing shouldn’t cost more than 28% of your income.

-If you lend money to friends and family, don’t expect it back. I’m not saying not to give it to them, but understand that once it leaves you, it is gone. If they surprise you and give it back, hey, it’s a nice windfall.

FOR MILITARY MEMBERS

-Sign up for active duty checking through Navy Federal Credit Union. You can get this while you are active duty and continue to receive the benefits, such as $20 back a month in ATM fees from any ATM in the world, for the rest of the time your account is open, even if you are no longer active duty. When ATMs charge you ridiculous fees to access your own money, I see this as a win.

-Sign up for the Navy General Library Program and download Overdrive onto your phone. With your military email account, you can access millions of audiobooks and e-books FOR FREE. Don’t pay for Audible; if the Navy Library doesn’t have the book, you can request it. This is an amazing resource.

-Realize that you get free access to National Parks and Monuments for free while you are active duty.

-Notary services are free at all legal offices.

FOR VETERANS

-Get rated by Veteran’s Affairs (VA), EVEN IF YOU HAVE NO INJURIES. California allows any child of a United States veteran to attend any state college or university TUITION FREE with a disability rating of 0%. Do you realize how huge this is??! That alone is worth my entire enlistment.

-Veterans with a verified disability can receive a pass for free access to all National Parks and Monuments. America is beautiful, guys. Go see it for free.


Let me know if you have any questions or want that spreadsheet:

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