No one is born with expert-level financial literacy, and no one gets it overnight. But that’s not to say that becoming financially self-sufficient requires years of intensive study, far from it. Here’s what you can do, right now, to begin or advance your own personal finance journey.
The first step on your journey toward financial literacy is self-knowledge.
Yes, as your financial and personal circumstances change, so will your principles, objectives, and priorities. But that shouldn’t deter you from establishing a frame of reference in the here and now. Among other things, consider:
- Your Time Horizon. What stage of life are you in? Younger consumers’ priorities naturally differ from older consumers’.
- Personal Values. Consider any deeply held beliefs or values that may affect your financial behaviors. Some consumers aim to avoid debt at all costs, for instance. Others orient financial decisions around environmentalism, precluding luxuries like car ownership.
- Goals and Objectives. What are you spending and saving for? Where do you want to be in five, 10, 20 years?
- Risk Tolerance. Use a risk tolerance assessment to inform your investing decisions before you begin putting your money to work. The University of Missouri’s risk tolerance questionnaire is one of many examples.
Check the Source of Financial Information & Advice
Financial literacy requires voracious information consumption. Alas, not all financial information and advice is equally valuable. Alwaysconsider the source of anyfinancial information you consume, including information published on personal finance blogs like Money Crashers. Yes, we strive to be unbiased and informative, but our content is written by a diverse roster of authors with diverse credentials, whose writing is informed by a combination of in-depth research and personal experience. Always consider information in light of its applicability to your situation and goals.
Understand the Fundamentals.
Turn to unbiased resources, including MoneyCrashers, to learn about foundational concepts such as compound interest, bank account types, account fees, deposit insurance, investment diversification, and the time value of money.
Take Classes or Courses
Look for free or cheap personal finance classes and courses that you can take in your spare time.
Don’t Try to Walk Before You Can Crawl.
Never overestimate your financial literacy. If you’re struggling to understand a particular financial product or behavior and can’t find easy, unbiased answers, steer clear until you feel more comfortable. For example, don’t open a margin account and start day trading before you understand how equity markets work; that’s a recipe for financial disaster.
Don’t Be Afraid to Ask for Help
Rather than overestimate your financial literacy, seek guidance from people and organizations that know more than you.