April showers are known to bring more than May flowers. It is also the official month for financial literacy awareness. Julia Rock is the career coach behind Rock Career Development, and the millennial thought leader that runs the finance department of a Fortune 500 company. Below, Rock breaks down tried and true methods that will help you close the financial literacy gap.
Know where you are!
This is two-fold. Create your own personal income statement. In business, an income statement helps a company understand how much profit they have at the end of the day. Similarly, a personal income statement gives you insight into how much disposable income you have once you account for all the money you have coming in and going out.
- Write down all of your income including but not limited to: salary, side hustle revenue, child support, alimony, etc.
- Write down ALL of your expenses. This includes your recurring bills (rent/mortgage payment, car note, cell phone, etc.), living/maintenance expenses(groceries, gas, personal care, etc.), and debt payments(credit card payments, student loans, medical bills, etc).
Once you have these numbers, you can subtract your expenses from your income to determine how much money you have to work with each month for saving or investing, or if you're truly even making enough to support your lifestyle.
Secondly, understand your credit picture. Pull your credit report from each of the credit bureaus, Equifax, TransUnion, and Experian. By law, you are entitled to one free credit report from EACH bureau every year. Reviewing your credit report will help you understand your credit history, which accounts are open in your name and their status. This gives you a full picture of what accounts are impacting your credit, which ones are current, which ones are past due, which old accounts are in collections or charged off (the credit "skeletons"), etc. You should also pull your credit score at the same time (there are both free and paid options) to better understand how your various credit accounts and their status are actually impacting your credit rating.
Get Your Money Plan Together!
Now that you have a clear financial picture, and you fully understand your income, expenses, and credit standing, you can now set your money goals and develop a plan to achieve them. For example, if your goal is to buy a house, you can create a budget to help you prepare for that big purchase. You can create a budget based on your current expenses, identifying bills/expenses you can reduce in order to save more money towards your down payment. Or if you found that your debt is too high and/or there are accounts dragging down your credit score, part of your budget can include setting aside money to pay off those accounts in order to be ready for your mortgage application.
Invest in Your Future!
Too often we focus on the "right now" when it comes to our finances. As women, research shows that our retirement account savings fall far short of male counterparts, and therefore are underprepared when we reach retirement age. So it's important to think about your future and how you will be able to provide for yourself and your family when you are no longer working full-time. If your company offers a retirement savings account with a matching program(which means they will match your contribution up to a certain percentage), make an effort to contribute at least the minimum amount that will allow you to obtain the match. If your company doesn't offer a retirement program, research other retirement programs that you can begin on your own, such as a Roth IRA(IRA= Individual Retirement Account).
As we all know, the future is female. We are building businesses, running companies, and making major money moves. Let’s secure our financial future in a major way by closing the gap on financial literacy once and for all.