It’s a little ironic to hear this from a financial coach like me, but the $700 million personal finance industry thrives on the false idea that figuring out your finances is hard. We’re all able to make a living because of the consistent invention of new terms and phrases like “sinking fund” and “self-directed IRA.” The more products and techniques we can introduce to move your money around, the more overwhelmed you become. Then, the more likely you are to throw up your hands and say, “Can I please pay you to just do this for me?”
But, here’s the thing — you already know at least 90% of the information and have 100% of the internal tools you need to become wealthy.
How could I possibly know that’s true?
If you are reading this article it means you’re literate, can comprehend English and have access to the internet. Congratulations! You are a person of profound privilege and, with a little effort, we can turn that privilege into wealth.
Just like with the weight loss industry, all of the advice we have to give boils down to two key points. Them: eat smarter and move more. Us: spend smarter and save more.
That’s literally the whole story. But OK, let’s add a little nuance.
I intentionally use the phrase “spend smarter” instead of “spend less” because money is meant to flow. While many people probably spend more money than they should, it doesn’t mean that we should all just stop spending money forever. There is actually just as much dysfunction in hoarding every dime you receive as there is in spending every dime you’ve ever had.
If I can get a little woo woo with you, by indulging your inner Scrooge McDuck, you’re sending a message to the universe that you don’t trust that you will receive any more. When you turn yourself inward, fanatically checking your bank statements, you forget to open yourself up to the abundance that could come from getting that haircut that’ll make you feel like a goddess or signing up for the training that will propel your career.
On the other hand, by spending indiscriminately on every shiny thing that crosses your Instagram feed, you’re signaling that you will not shepherd your coins toward the things that create more value. When the universe does present you with new opportunities, you’re so stressed by your empty bank account and so distracted by the other thing you could spend your money on, you completely miss out.
So, what’s the alternative?
Instead of being a spendthrift or a tightwad, decide to be someone who spends their money intentionally. You are the only person who knows what is most important for you. (This is that 100% of internal tools I was talking about before.)
Maybe you truly desire the prestige that comes with ordering bottle service in a packed trendy night club. Or, maybe you need the freedom that comes with living in a house on 50 acres of land. The challenge is in sitting still enough and getting real enough with yourself to figure out what really fulfills you. Society, all the medias, your family and friends all have an opinion on what you should want in your life. And Instagram loves to suggest all sorts of things that will make your life so much better. However, when you get clear on what actually matters to you, it becomes a lot easier to shepherd your money into the “down payment on a farm account” and stop spending it on makeup subscription boxes. (Chickens don’t care if you’re wearing lashes.)
The other side of financial freedom is the “save more” side. Even if you never got an allowance growing up and even if you had adults in your life borrowing money from you as a kid, at some point you learned that in order to buy stuff you really want, you would need to save it up. You may not like it or feel like you’re very good at it, but saving is a concept with which we all have at least basic familiarity. If you want to become wealthy, all you have to do is save more. If you want to become wealthy soon, all you need to do is save more with style (aka, invest).
Now, this is where I lose about 74% of you. When I survey my clients, about 3/4 say the main thing they want is to learn how to invest. A lot of people will fight me on this, but I have a little secret. Investing is not that hard.
Here’s what you do: go to Stash and create an account. (That is my referral link. If you decide to use it, you and I will both receive a free $20 to invest.) Take the $20 they give you for free, click Invest in the menu, choose ETFs, go to Stocks Nationwide and hit “Buy VTI.” Badaboom badabing! You, my friend, are an investor.
Now, this is where I have to make a disclaimer. I am not a stockbroker or advisor and you have not hired me to trade stocks for you. I’m not actually giving you advice on how to invest your money. However, what I am doing is telling you that I personally like this ETF (Exchange-Traded Fund) because it is a collection of about 90% of the companies on the stock market and it is very cheap to own. (Besides the money you invest, there is typically a fee to own a stock. In this case, it costs about $.03 for every $1000 you have invested to own this ETF.)
With this fund, you’re essentially investing in all of the biggest U.S. businesses all at once. That has traditionally been a good thing to the tune of about 8% interest on average over the past several decades. That’s a hell of a lot better than what you’ll get with a regular savings account at the bank. It also means that unless the wheels fall off the United States completely (which is something that could happen, but hasn’t yet), by consistently parking your money into a fund like this, you can earn significant interest without spending your Saturdays reading The Wall Street Journal. As I like to call it, that is saving with style.
Get intentional about how you spend your money. Only buy the things that spark joy (Marie Kondo) or objectively improve your life (like healthy food and a high quality mattress.) And then, save the rest of it while earning as much interest as possible. Everything else is jazz.